Clause 204

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:30 am on 26th March 2009.

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This amendment removes the definition of the “the Commission” from clause 204. This term is now defined in new clause 27.

Photo of Christopher Chope Christopher Chope Conservative, Christchurch

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following: Government amendment 537.

Government new clause 27—Parental complaints: arrangements etc. to be made by Commission.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

Amendment 535 will remove from the clause the definition of “Commission”, which is no longer required, because it is now defined in new clause 27. Amendment 537 is another technical, drafting amendment that is required due to the insertion of new clause 27. The terms “act”, “Local Commissioner” and “respondent” are used throughout chapter 2, and the interpretation clause—clause 209—defines what those terms mean in relation to the chapter.

New clause 27 makes it clear that references to “the Commission” in that clause will be to the Commission for Local Administration in England. That amendment to the interpretation clause simply provides that the same definition is applicable throughout the chapter. New clause 27 will ensure that the commission divides matters that may be investigated into appropriate categories and allocates responsibility for each category between the local commissioners.

The commission will also have to publish information about the procedures for making complaints under chapter 2 of part 10, and I emphasise that the new clause will simply replicate provisions in the Local Government Act 1974. The new clause is necessary and will simply serve to ensure that the commission can manage its cases effectively.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I want to ask the Minister more about new clause 27. It talks about dividing

“the matters which may be investigated under this Chapter into such categories as it considers appropriate”, so it is not good enough simply to cite other legislation in which a similar division of categories of complaint occurs. This legislation includes a new set of complaints from parents of pupils at school, so it would be helpful if the Minister set out for the Committee the categories of complaint that will be divided. Will there be one for behaviour, where parents or pupils complain about behaviour, and another on—I do not know—the amount of homework or the quality of education? Will he explain what categories the new clause will introduce?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

The commissioner needs to make those decisions, which are practical matters. We are making the changes to give the ombudsman the powers to do as he does in respect of his local government responsibilities. It is right that we give him that freedom. We have not agreed with him how we might organise things, but it is appropriate to give him the powers to do so.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

Will the Minister clarify whether all the local commissioners in the country will use their skills to deal with complaints from pupils and parents of children at school, or whether just some will specialise in complaints?

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

As we have heard, the arrangements will be piloted and the initial roll-out will take place in pilot areas. Then, as the programme develops, the local government ombudsman service will make decisions about how to organise things locally and how much to do more centrally. I am sure that Parliament will keep in touch with that as the pilots develop.

Amendment 535 agreed to.

Clause 204, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.