Clause 4 - Compliance with Orders

Part of Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 pm on 29th March 2001.

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Photo of Tim Boswell Tim Boswell Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Business, Innovation and Skills), Shadow Spokesperson (Education and Employment) 1:30 pm, 29th March 2001

I beg to move amendment No. 15, in page 5, line 6, after `order', insert

`as promptly as practicable, and in all cases'.

This is unlikely to be a long or especially contentious debate. It is consistent with our recent debates on amendments that relate to what might be called the good faith of local authorities. The purpose of the amendment is to secure not simply literal-minded compliance by a local authority with the terms of the tribunal hearing but what might loosely be termed a proactive and positive response.

As an analogy—and a confession—I am sure that we are all familiar, perhaps as a result of writing articles for the local press or working for colleagues in the House, with being up against deadlines. Most of us find them helpful, as about two hours before D-day or H-hour we suddenly realise that we had better do something about that article that we have known about for the past six months, and we do it. They are a good catalyst for action.

In saying that, I do not suggest that it is acceptable for people to go beyond the requirements of the tribunal order. However, if a local authority, whether through ineptitude or because it is resisting or has not accepted the tribunal's decision, runs right up to the wire and does nothing about an order until the last possible moment, that is unacceptable.

It is to be hoped that the tribunal's order has been realistic, and realistically the matter may not be concluded until the last possible moment. However, the amendment relates to circumstances in which the matter could have been sorted out earlier and in which the authority could quickly take action. It is designed to avoid creating a perverse situation whereby the authority has a disincentive to act until the last possible moment, rather as I jocularly described in relation to our writing articles to deadlines.

If the action required is the right action to take and the authority could take that action promptly, the authority should not wait until the deadline but make a fist of starting. The amendment involves a reasonable test of the reasonability of an authority's actions in relation to special educational needs and whether it should start the process as soon as possible rather than waiting for the last possible moment. It was tabled with that consideration in mind.