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Children and Families Bill

Volume 564: debated on Tuesday 11 June 2013

[Relevant documents: Sixth Report of the Education Committee, Session 2012-13, Pre-legislative scrutiny: Special Educational Needs, HC 631; Fourth Report of the Justice Committee, Session 2012-13, Pre-legislative scrutiny of the Children and Families Bill, HC 739; Sixth Report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, Session 2012-13, Reform of the Office of the Children’s Commissioner: draft legislation, HC 811; Children and Families Bill 2013: Contextual Information and Responses to Pre-Legislative Scrutiny, Department for Education, Cm 8540.]

Consideration of Bill, as amended in the Public Bill Committee

New Clause 9

Transfer of EHC plans

‘(1) Regulations may make provision for an EHC plan maintained for a child or young person by one local authority to be transferred to another local authority in England, where the other authority becomes responsible for the child or young person.

(2) The regulations may in particular—

(a) impose a duty on the other authority to maintain the plan;

(b) treat the plan as if originally prepared by the other authority;

(c) treat things done by the transferring authority in relation to the plan as done by the other authority.’.—(Mr Timpson.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 8—Support for children with specified health conditions—

‘(1) The governing body of a mainstream school has a duty to produce and implement a medical conditions policy that defines how it plans to support the needs of children with specified health conditions.

(2) The medical conditions policy must include provision about—

(a) the means by which records of the specified health conditions of children at the school are to be recorded and maintained; and

(b) the preparation of an individual healthcare plan for each child with a specified health condition which sets out the needs of that child arising from that condition.

(3) The medical conditions policy must include requirements relating to the provision of appropriate training for school staff to support the implementation of individual healthcare plans.

(4) In preparing an individual healthcare plan the governing body must—

(a) consult the parent of the child concerned and, where appropriate, the child about the contents of the plan; and

(b) there shall be a duty on NHS bodies to co-operate with the governing body in its preparation and implementation of individual healthcare plans.

(5) Local authorities and clinical commissioning groups must co-operate with governing bodies in fulfilling their functions under this Act.

(6) The Secretary of State may by regulations define “specified health conditions” for the purposes of this section.

(7) For the purposes of this section “NHS bodies” has the same meaning as in the Health and Social Care Act 2012.’.

New clause 21—Inclusive and accessible education, health and social care provision—

‘(1) In exercising a function under Part 3, a local authority and NHS bodies in England must promote and secure inclusive and accessible education, health and social care provision to support children, young people and their families.

(2) Regulations will set out requirements on an authority and its partner NHS commissioning bodies to promote and secure inclusive and accessible education, health and social care provision in its local area, in particular through—

(a) the planning;

(b) the design;

(c) the commissioning or funding;

(d) the delivery; and

(e) the evaluation of such services.’.

New clause 24—Publication of information relating to Special Educational Needs tribunal cases—

‘(1) The Secretary of State must collect information on all cases related to special educational needs which are considered by the Tribunal Service, including—

(a) the local authority involved;

(b) the cost to the Tribunal Service;

(c) the amount spent by the local authority on fighting each case;

(d) the nature of each case; and

(e) the outcome of each case.

(2) The Secretary of State must collate and publish information collected in the exercise of his functions under subsection (1) once a year.

(3) The following bodies must make arrangements to provide such information to the Secretary of State as is necessary to enable him to perform his functions under this section—

(a) the Tribunal Service;

(b) local authorities.’.

Amendment 59, in clause 19, page 18, line 22, at end add—

‘(e) the right of the parent to make their own arrangements for some or all of the special educational provision under section 7 of the Education Act 1996.’.

Amendment 39, in clause 21, page 19, line 16, leave out ‘wholly or mainly’.

Amendment 60, in clause 23, page 19, line 29, leave out ‘may have’ and insert ‘probably has’.

Amendment 61, page 19, line 32, leave out ‘may have’ and insert ‘probably has’.

Amendment 46, in clause 27, page 22, line 3, at end insert—

‘(2A) If the education and care provision provided as part of the local offer is deemed insufficient to meet the needs of children and young people under subsection (2), a local authority must—

(a) publish these findings;

(b) improve that provision until it is deemed sufficient by—

(i) those consulted under subsection (3); and

(ii) Ofsted.’.

Amendment 62, in clause 28, page 23, line 29, at end insert ‘;

(n) Parent Carer Forums.’.

Amendment 66, in clause 30, page 24, line 21, leave out ‘it expects to be’ and insert ‘which is’.

Amendment 67, page 24, line 24, leave out ‘it expects to be’ and insert ‘which is’.

Amendment 30, page 24, line 34, at end insert—

‘(f) arrangements to assist young people and parents in managing a personal budget should they choose one.’.

Amendment 68, page 24, line 39, at end insert ‘, including in online communities.’.

Amendment 69, page 25, line 7, at end insert—

‘(7A) The Secretary of State shall lay a draft of regulations setting out the minimum level of specific special educational provision, health care provision and social care provision that local authorities must provide as part of their local offer, and the regulations are not to be made unless they have been approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(7B) Once regulations under subsection (7A) have been made, the Secretary of State must—

(a) issued guidance to local authorities on how to meet these regulations, and

(b) publish information on these regulations accessible to the families of children and young people with special educational needs on the Department’s website, and in any other way he sees fit.’.

Amendment 65, in clause 36, page 28, line 21, at end insert—

‘(1A) A person acting on behalf of a school or a post-16 institution (“A”) must request an EHC needs assessment for a child or young person (“B”) as soon as A becomes aware that B has been diagnosed with epilepsy or a related condition.’.

Amendment 40, page 29, line 20, leave out subsection (10).

Amendment 44, in clause 37, page 30, line 8, leave out from ‘provision’ to end of line 10 and insert

‘required by the child or young person.’.

Amendment 41, page 30, line 13, leave out subsection (4).

Amendment 45, in clause 38, page 30, line 35, at end insert—

‘(g) an institution of higher education which the young person has accepted an offer from.’.

Government amendment 17.

Amendment 37, in clause 42, page 33, line 6, at end insert—

‘(2A) If the plan specifies social care provision, the responsible local authority must secure the specified social care provision for the child or young person.’.

Amendment 63, page 33, line 13, leave out ‘suitable alternative arrangements’ and insert

‘arrangements suitable to the age, ability, aptitude and special needs of the child or young person and has chosen not to receive assistance with making provision.’.

Amendment 42, in clause 44, page 34, line 3, leave out subsection (5).

Amendment 43, in clause 45, page 34, line 37, leave out subsection (4).

Amendment 64, page 34, line 39, at end insert—

‘(4A) A local authority must not cease to maintain an EHC plan on the sole ground that the child or young person is educated otherwise than at school in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996.’.

Government amendments 18 to 20.

Amendment 70, in clause 48, page 36, line 21, at end add—

‘(6) This section will not have effect until an Order is made by the Secretary of State, subject to affirmative resolution by both Houses of Parliament.

(7) Before making an Order under subsection (6), the Secretary of State must lay a copy of a report before both Houses of Parliament detailing findings from the pathfinder authorities established under the Special Educational Needs (Direct Payments) (Pilot Scheme) Order 2012, including but not limited to—

(a) the impact on educational outcomes for children and young people;

(b) the quality of provision received by children and young people;

(c) the value for money achieved;

(d) the impact on services provided for children and young people without EHC plans, or those for whom direct payments were not made.

(8) The Secretary of State may not prepare a report under subsection (7) until September 2014.

(9) An Order made under subsection (6) may amend this section as the Secretary of State deems necessary to ensure the effective operation of personal budgets, having had regard to the finding of the report produced by virtue of subsection (7).’.

Government amendment 21.

Amendment 38, in clause 50, page 37, line 18, at end insert ‘;

(g) the social care provision specified in an EHC plan;

(h) the healthcare provision specified in an EHC plan.’.

Amendment 47, in page 48, line 35, leave out clause 69.

Amendment 71, in clause 65, page 45, line 37, leave out ‘19’ and insert ‘25’.

Amendment 72, page 46, line 11, leave out ‘19’ and insert ‘25’.

Amendment 73, in clause 67, page 47, line 21, leave out

‘such persons as the Secretary of State sees fit’

and insert

‘publicly, for a period of not less than 90 days’.

Amendment 74, page 47, line 22, leave out ‘by them’ and insert

‘as part of that consultation’.

Amendment 75, in clause 67, page 47, line 23, leave out subsections (3) to (8) and insert—

‘(3) A code, or revision of a code, does not come into operation until the Secretary of State by order so provides.

(4) The power conferred by subsection (3) shall be made by statutory instrument.

(5) An order bringing a code, or revision of a code, into operation may not be made unless a draft order has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

(6) When an Order or draft of an order is laid, the code or revision of a code to which it relates must also be laid.

(7) No order or draft of an order may be laid until the consultation required by subsection (2) has taken place.’.

Amendment 48, in clause 72, page 49, line 46, leave out from ‘education,’ to end of line 1 on page 50.

Government amendments 22 to 25.

Part 3 of the Bill introduces a much stronger framework for supporting children and young people with special educational needs. These reforms have been widely welcomed, and I am grateful to Members in all parts of the House for their interest in and support for them. We can be sure in the knowledge that the Bill has been significantly strengthened since draft clauses were published last autumn.

We have all met constituents who have had to battle to get the special educational support that their child needs. These reforms are ambitious; they aim to ensure that in future, children, young people and their parents are at the heart of the system, and that special educational provision builds around them, instead of asking them to adjust to the system. It will not always work perfectly in every case, but the pathfinders that I have visited have convinced me that we have a really exciting reform under way—one that challenges local authorities to design a system around those who use it, rather than conform to existing structures and processes. The reforms are also ambitious as regards personal aspirations. The new system will support young people through further education and training, up to the age of 25 for those who need it, and focus much more strongly on independent living and helping them to find paid employment. The provisions extend support to younger years as well, so that children are supported as soon as their needs are identified, from birth onwards, instead of having to wait until they reach school to be assessed.

The reforms provide the foundation for a system in which children and young people’s needs are picked up early; parents know what services they can reasonably expect their local schools, colleges, local authority, and health and social care services to provide, without having to fight for the information; those with more severe or complex needs have a co-ordinated assessment built around them and a single education, health and care plan from birth to 25; and parents and young people have greater control over their support. I believe these ambitions are shared across the House.

We had a wide-ranging, constructive debate on Second Reading, and the Committee sittings were passionate, knowledgeable and helpful. I hope that today we can build on the broad consensus that has characterised the debate to date.

We have also listened carefully to the views expressed by Members of the House, parents and young people, and many of the organisations supporting them, and we have acted to improve the SEN provisions following pre-legislative scrutiny and as the Bill has made its way through the House.

The Minister may recall that he kindly met me to discuss my particular concerns about children who had suffered from cancer and perhaps missed quite a large amount of school but did not fit in with the SEN criteria. What level of support could they expect under these proposals?

I recall the constructive meeting that I had with the hon. Gentleman and he will remember that I gave a commitment then to work with him and with organisations with which he has been working with great astuteness to see what more we can do through the code of practice and other means to provide the additional support that we all want to see so that no child, particularly a child with cancer, misses out on the opportunity to fulfil their potential, and I will continue to work with him to achieve that.

Following the Education Committee’s thorough and well-argued report—another one—in December, we amended the Bill in several ways. By virtue of clause 19, we introduced a requirement for local authorities when exercising a function under part 3 to have regard to the views, wishes and feelings of a child and his or her parent, or of the young person, and the importance of them participating as fully as possible in decisions, and being provided with information and support to enable them to do so—an important set of transcending principles.

We have clearly specified the right of parents and young people themselves to request an assessment for special educational needs, to remove any uncertainty. We have ensured that young people on apprenticeships can receive support through an education, health and care plan. We have enabled independent special schools and specialist colleges to apply to be on a list of institutions for which parents and young people with education, health and care plans could express a preference. We have changed our approach to mediation so that parents and young people must consider mediation but do not have to take it up and can go straight to appeal to the tribunal if they wish without prejudicing their position.

To ensure that services are responsive to families’ needs we added a requirement for local authorities to involve children, young people and parents in reviewing the local offer and to publish their comments about the local offer and what action they will take to respond, and we made provision for the SEN code of practice to be approved by Parliament by way of negative resolution.

I apologise for missing the first two minutes of the Minister’s speech. He outlines responsibilities that have rightly been referred to various public agencies, but I find it somewhat confusing that nowhere can I find, either in the new clause or in the amendments, any reference to advocacy. I might have missed something, but what role do the Government see for advocates in the situations that we are discussing?

The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Advocacy comes in different forms. We have advocacy in relation to the legal process, and legal aid will still apply up to the point of tribunal for those who require legal advice. There is also advocacy in terms of trying to navigate the system. One thing that we are doing in relation to the pathfinders is to see who can help co-ordinate and navigate for parents and young people in a system that often has been too impenetrable, labyrinthine and drawn out. That could be through a key working role or through the work that the special educational needs co-ordinators carry out so effectively in so many of our schools. It is a practical response to the problem that we know exists while ensuring that the advocacy that is currently available for the legal process continues into the future. We set that out in Committee and I encourage the right hon. Gentleman to look carefully at what we said.

Will the Minister reassure some local authorities that the proposal will still ensure integration between the 1970 legislation, the Children Act 1989 and this Act, and make sure that there is not a silo system that does not have the integrated service that we all so want?

My hon. Friend touches on the heart of the Bill, which is to tackle the perennial problem of special educational needs, in that education, health and social care have tended to work in parallel rather than in conjunction with one another. In many of the clauses, both through the general duty to co-operate, the joint commissioning clause, and now the duty on health as well as the duty to consult parents and children themselves, there is already, with the pathfinders, a growing involvement of each of those different agencies in coming together and concentrating on the central and most important issue, which is the child. I hope he will see that the Bill gives local authorities an opportunity to nurture and grow their relationships with health and other agencies, and ensure that as a consequence they are providing better services for children in their local area.

I thank my hon. Friend on behalf of the Education Committee for taking such a positive and constructive approach to our pre-legislative scrutiny report, and implementing so many of the proposals, as he has just listed.

My hon. Friend appeared before the Committee this morning in our inquiry into school sports, and he suggested that he would consider looking at the code of practice to ensure that rather than disabled children being sent to the library while others are doing sport, as we heard in evidence sometimes happens, they have access to sport in schools, and that that is part of an overall package to meet their needs.

As ever, I am grateful to the Chair of the Education Committee for raising a crucial element for many young people with a disability, and that is access to other activities outside those of the classroom. I am mindful of that and as I told the Committee this morning have seen for myself, at a special school in Chislehurst only last week, how the integration of sport in schools, where children with both physical and other disabilities are able to participate, can have a huge knock-on effect in other areas of their life. It would not always be appropriate through the identification of the needs and therefore the support for each child in relation to their plan to have a built-in element that incorporates and encompasses physical activity, but clearly we want to provide as much opportunity for them as for any other child. The schools should be doing it anyway under the Equality Act 2010 and the reasonable adjustments for which they are responsible, but it also makes good sense, as we know. I am happy—I made this commitment to the Committee—to look at that in the context of the code of practice, but also to work with many of the organisations and charities who are already out there, through the project ability scheme and others, to see what more they can do to spread good practice in this area. I am happy to keep my hon. Friend informed of that process.

As has been mentioned, the Select Committee held a series of pre-legislative scrutiny meetings. Is the Minister satisfied that there are sufficient accountability mechanisms for agency co-operation, and that the appropriate agency will automatically take the lead? How will that work out in different cases?

Briefly to disaggregate my hon. Friend’s two points, clearly it is important that we know what is happening in schools on the delivery of SEN provision, and since September 2012 we have had a strengthened Ofsted framework that seeks to do that. I and my colleague in the Department of Health want to explore what more we can do to try to bring about a more multidimensional accountability and inspection regime for special educational needs that goes beyond the school gates and looks at it across education, health and social care, so there is more that we can do in that area. The Education Department is also looking at some of the destination measures in schools as a way of ensuring that we do not miss out on understanding the progress of children who sometimes fall below the radar because they do not count towards any of the measures of success that the school is being marked against. We need to get around that and make it more explicit that every child needs to be making progress whatever their ability, and there is no reason why all of them should not be doing so, and every school has a responsibility in that regard.

We made further changes in Committee, where I was pleased to include a specific duty requiring those responsible for commissioning health provision to secure the health care provision education, health and care plans. This is a hugely significant change and has been widely welcomed. Srabani Sen, board member of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign and chief executive of Contact a Family, when giving evidence to the Committee on 5 March, said that

“it was phenomenally good news to hear this morning about the duty on health to provide. One of the things that that helps with enormously is bringing people together to work together at a service delivery level”—

a point that my hon. Friend the Member for Hexham (Guy Opperman) made—

“but it also gives parents something solid that they can use when they are having these discussions with their service providers about how they get the right services for their child. I do not think we can overestimate the potential of what you”—

I think that means me—

“announced this morning. It is phenomenally useful.”––[Official Report, Children and Families Bill Public Bill Committee, 5 March 2013; c. 47-48, Q103.]

The new duty builds on the joint commissioning duty set out in the Bill, which requires local authorities and clinical commissioning groups, and NHS England where relevant, to assess the needs of the local population of children and young people with SEN and plan and commission services to meet them.

The Minister has referred several times to the role of local authorities, but the reality is that some local authorities give greater priority to this than others. Because this ought to be—I think that the Government agree—person-centred, considering the needs, rights and ambitions of young people, has he had an opportunity to speak with the Local Government Association, for example?

Yes, I have had a number of meetings with the Local Government Association, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and other bodies that will be responsible for delivering education, health and care plans and, more widely, SEN provision within their local area. This has been a huge consultative exercise, and one that continues through the pathfinders. One of the messages we have been clear about throughout the process is that legislation, although a key component of long-term, sustainable reform, is not the whole solution. We also need to see—this is happening through the pathfinders and starting to spread outside them as we develop the changes in the system more widely—a recognition that those bodies must play their part at grass-roots level and recalibrate the sorts of relationships that in the past have not been good enough to help deliver the required provision.

I would like to build on the comments my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke) made about the role of local authorities. The Royal National Institute of Blind People has raised specific concerns about the registration of visually impaired children—it is worried that some local authorities will do it but some will not. Has the Minister had an opportunity since that was discussed in Committee to have any further conversations with either the RNIB directly or local authorities on that issue?

I will be corrected if I am wrong, but my understanding is that there have been ongoing discussions. We are aware of the issue. As with all organisations that have expressed an interest in the Bill, we have been keen to keep an open dialogue with the RNIB to see what solutions we can find. Many of the solutions will be found at local level. We must accept that some conditions have a high incidence and some have a low incidence, and that can affect the sort of provision available right across the country. The beauty of trying to develop the local offer is that it will make it far more transparent not only in a local area, but across a regional area, so parents and young people will have a greater understanding of what is available to them, how they can access it and, if they are unable to do so, how they can make a complaint, which in the past has been quite a convoluted and impenetrable process. We must ensure that they have the power to make those decisions.

I am not sure whether I need to, but I will make a declaration: I have represented about 100 applicants for statements at special educational needs and disability tribunals, and local authorities still owe me money for some of them from before 2010. The simple question that my constituents in Northumberland would like answered, if that is possible, is this: will these proposals make it easier to gain a statement for those parents who have been trying to do so for so long, given that the process has been so convoluted and difficult over the years, as we have all found?

The short answer is yes. That is the intention of the Bill. There are a number of reasons for saying that. One of the complaints from parents about the statementing process relates less to the statement itself and more to early identification and the need for much greater effort from different agencies in co-ordinating the assessment and the plan. Everything in the Bill tries to encourage that and, in some circumstances, cajole the different bodies to come together and work with the family, rather than, as we have heard far too often, the family feeling that they are working in a different environment from those around them. By ensuring that that happens, we will reduce the prospect of conflict, misunderstanding and, therefore, the road to tribunal, which we all want to avoid. That is why we included the mediation process, albeit on a voluntary basis, to give parents and those responsible for providing services every opportunity to work together, co-operate and consult at every stage, but particularly in the early stages, in order to avoid unnecessary discord and damage further down the line.

While the Minister is on the subject of conflict between local authorities and parents, may I press him, as many of my amendments do, on home-educating parents, who all too often have been subject to misinformation and abuse of power by local authorities? Will he give serious consideration to including a provision stating that parents who home educate are not to have their children’s SEN support removed and that local authorities, despite their duty to find children with SEN, do not have their powers to demand access to children strengthened? We should reinforce the primacy of parents in deciding what should happen to their children and ensure that local authorities are the servants of families, not their masters.

I have a strong memory of spending a late night in the House a few years ago when my hon. Friend managed to get more than 100 of us to present petitions on behalf of many of those parents who decided to home educate their children. I know that he, as chair of the all-party group on home education, has been a great advocate on their behalf. Clearly we want to ensure that every child with SEN, however they are educated, during the period of compulsory age and beyond, from nought to 25, gets the support they require to meet their full potential. That should be no different in the circumstances he describes. I will be able to respond in more detail when we debate his amendments, and I am happy to continue that conversation with him outside the Chamber.

On home education and the obvious issues relating to special educational needs, what consideration has the Minister given to registration of those children who are home educated?

I am straying slightly outside my portfolio, but where it impinges on special educational needs clearly we want to ensure that those children receive the support they require. There were attempts in the last Parliament to bring about some form of registration, which was eventually put out to grass. I think we have the balance right at this stage, but of course it is something that my ministerial colleagues who are responsible for these matters will no doubt keep under review.

The new duty in the Bill relating to health commissioning also brings in joint commissioning arrangements, which must include those for securing education, health and care needs assessments and the education, health and care provision specified in the education, health and care plans. The new health duty requires health commissioners to ensure that the health elements of those plans are provided for each individual, thus providing direct clarity for parents that the support their child needs will be provided

We have taken an open approach to the Bill, listened carefully to the views of a wide range of people and made changes to improve it. I know that is the approach that my ministerial colleagues in the other place, including Lord Nash, intend to continue when the Bill makes its way to them. However, before it does we have some important business to conclude in this House today.

I will begin our consideration of the Bill’s SEN provisions by speaking to new clause 9 in a little more detail and to Government amendments 17 to 25. These amendments clarify responsibilities and make consequential amendments to legislation as a result of provisions in the Bill. With regard to new clause 9, it is important that the responsibilities of local authorities are clear when a child or young person with an education, health and care plan moves from one area to another. The new clause provides for regulations to specify those responsibilities. Regulations will make it clear that the new local authority is treated as though it had made the plan. This ensures that plans do not lapse when children and young people move from one area to another and that support for their special educational needs is maintained. I therefore urge the House to support new clause 9.

Amendment 17 to clause 41 has been tabled at the request of the Welsh Government. It would enable independent schools that are specially organised for making provision for children and young people with special educational needs, and specialist post-16 institutions in Wales, to apply to the Secretary of State for Education to be on a list of independent institutions that those with education, health and care plans can ask to be named on their plan. If independent schools in Wales wish to put themselves forward for approval, the amendment will be of benefit to children and young people who live close to the Welsh border whose needs would be best met in a Welsh independent school or those who would be appropriately placed in independent boarding provision in Wales. I urge the House to support the amendment.

On amendments 18 to 20 on personal budgets, I signalled our intention to table these consequential amendments when we debated clause 48 on personal budgets in Committee. The changes they make are necessary because of the changes we made to clause 42 in Committee by placing the duty in clause 42(3) on health commissioners to secure the health provision identified in an education, health and care plan. The amendments allow health commissioners to discharge their duty to make health care provision specified in EHC plans when this provision is secured using a direct payment. This replicates the equivalent provision on local authorities set out in clause 48(5). The amendments clarify that when parents or young people exercise their direct payment, this allows the commissioning body to discharge its statutory duty. The proposed use of the words “having been” in clauses 48(5) and 48(7) makes it clear that the duties on commissioning bodies and local authorities to secure provision are discharged only through the use of a direct payment when the child or young person has actually received the provision, in a manner in keeping with the regulations. I urge the House to support these amendments.

Government amendment 21 relates to clause 49, which inserts new section 17ZA into the Children Act 1989, giving local authorities a power to continue to provide services they have been providing under section 17 to a young person before their 18th birthday to that young person when they are 18 and over. This is a technical amendment that makes it clear that the power in section 17ZA applies only to local authorities in England.

Government amendments 22 to 25 relate to schedule 3 and make further amendments to existing legislation as a consequence of the Bill’s provisions—for example, replacing references to statements and learning difficulty assessments throughout. These are necessary changes to ensure the proper implementation of the reforms in part 3, and I therefore urge hon. Members to approve them.

It is a pleasure to debate this Bill again, this time on the Floor of the House. In Committee we had some excellent debates on this part of the Bill, in particular. A large number of amendments were tabled by hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, but we were at all times united in our ambition for the children and young people to whom the Bill applies.

It is crucial that children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities be given the support they need to access education and reach their potential, academically and in terms of their physical, social and emotional development. It is not just a moral imperative that leads us to seek those better outcomes for all children; there is also a financial imperative for the whole country. A young person who makes a successful transition to adulthood and has achieved as much as they can educationally is likely to be less in need of welfare, health and social care support and more likely to be able to work and contribute their skills to the economy and their taxes to the Treasury. We support a great many of the reforms that the Government are making to achieve these better outcomes, but we have sought at all stages to ensure that we are going as far as we can, that current rights and entitlements are protected and built on, and that children and young people, and their families, are at the very heart of the changes made and are able adequately to hold agencies to account where they do not get the support they should.

We support the introduction of personal budgets to allow families a greater degree of choice in securing the choice that their child needs. As I said in Committee, I would have greatly welcomed such an opportunity when I was trying to get my severely dyslexic son the support he needed to get through his GCSEs. However, there are serious and abiding concerns about whether they can work in the sense of improving outcomes while providing value for money for the taxpayer, and there are still questions about how the market for support that this reform will create will really look. The Government are running pathfinders in an effort to answer these questions, but they have not been answered yet. Parliament is therefore being asked to legislate for something that we do not know will work and could well be a costly failure.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the social, educational and employment needs of young people. On her point about the economy, I wonder whether she is aware that she is supported by the National Audit Office, which has said:

“Supporting one person with a learning disability into employment could, in addition to improving their independence and self-esteem, reduce lifetime costs to the public purse by around £170,000”.

She is therefore speaking very logically.

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who quantifies what we all know and believe is the crux of this issue. He has made a very important point.

Amendment 70 seeks to ensure that these reforms cannot be rolled out until such time as the pathfinders have run their course and provided sufficient evidence on the effectiveness of personal budgets that Parliament can be content in allowing the roll-out to go ahead. I hope the Minister will again take it in the spirit in which it is intended and give a commitment to the House that this measure will not be steamrollered through.

We support the switch from statements to education, health and care plans, extending the maximum age of support for young people to 25 to ensure that it covers further education courses and apprenticeships, and the ambition to encourage joint working between different agencies in drawing up those plans and providing the services described in them. However, there are still some concerns that, as worded, the Bill would give local authorities a get-out clause from providing services to enable young people between the age of 19 and 25 to carry on in education, even where they have not yet achieved to the level we might expect for young people without SENs. Those concerns are addressed by amendments 40 to 43, tabled by the hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), which we support. I, like him, would be grateful for firmer assurances that prior outcomes, not age, will be the main focus of deciding whether or not to grant or cancel a plan.

My amendments 71 and 72 would ensure that we are measuring the outcomes of young people with plans up to the age of 25 rather than 19, as is currently required under the Special Educational Needs (Information) Act 2008, which is transposed into clause 65. It stands to reason that if we are maintaining support for these young people, we should also know how well that support has helped them. I would be grateful if the Minister committed to how best that might be done within the “special educational needs in England” analysis documents that clause 65 will require the Secretary of State to produce.

Another set of information that should be published as part of the annual report relates to the special educational needs and disability tribunal. I would like parents and campaigners to have access to information on the outcomes and costs to the public purse in tribunal administration and the amount spent by local authorities on legal fees—of the cases that reach that stage—so we can see who the worst offenders are and which local authorities would prefer to pay a lawyer £20,000 to prevent a child from getting £5,000-worth of support. The Minister helpfully pointed me towards some information that was squirreled away on the Ministry of Justice’s website, but as he will know, it is not exactly what I am asking for in this amendment, and in any case the information should be much easier to find and interpret. I therefore hope that he will continue to look at this issue or tell the House why, in an age of transparency, this information should not be available to parents.

We want to reduce as far as possible the current postcode lottery, but still fear that the Government’s plans for local offers, as drafted, could lead to greater disparities in services across the country. We welcome the requirement to compile and publish local offers, but fear that without a baseline expectation from the Department of what should be in them or, indeed, any departmental oversight, they may not be worth the paper they are printed on. As the Education Committee has pointed out, getting local offers right is crucial. If we do not and the services that children and young people need are not provided, we will just see more and more requests for statutory assessments.

Our amendments 66 and 67 would therefore require local offers accurately to reflect what is actually available in the local area, rather than simply what the local authority might say it expects to be available. They would remove the wriggle room that local authorities might have and ensure that they keep the offers under constant review. I hope the issue can be explored further in the other place.

Amendment 69 would require the Secretary of State to set national standards for what the local offers should include. I am no enemy of localism, as the Minister might argue—local offers should absolutely reflect local needs and priorities and be drawn up in consultation with local parent groups. However, if we are to tackle the unwritten postcode lottery, there should surely be a baseline of services that any child or young person anywhere in England should be able to expect. I have said before that local offers may simply codify the unwritten postcode lottery, and that they have the potential to result in a race to the bottom as local authorities look at their budgets and seek to undercut the local offers of their neighbours. I want assurances from the Minister that there will be something—anything—to stop those fears being realised.

The phrase “postcode lottery” is well used in all sorts of policy areas, but does the hon. Lady accept that there is a difference between a postcode lottery and a postcode democracy? In other words, where there is democratic accountability it is not, strictly speaking, a lottery, although I accept some of the hon. Lady’s concerns.

I accept that that phraseology is probably not appropriate for this scenario, but it is important that the Government consider a baseline so that we do not end up with different levels of service that can be referred to as a postcode lottery.

Amendment 69 also refers specifically to the participation of children and young people with special educational needs or disabilities as a key outcome that local offers should be geared towards achieving. The Minister made some positive comments about this amendment in Committee, so I would be grateful if he provided an update on his work in order to ensure that the need to help these children and young people make the most of the benefits that information communication can afford them is adequately reflected in the code of practice.

We are also concerned about the lack of clarity from Ministers on what will replace the graduated response to SEN in schools—school action and school action plus—which currently provides support to 17% of pupils. Members may know that the answer will lie in the revised code of practice rather than in the Bill itself, and that is why we have tabled amendments 73, 74 and 75, which seek to ensure that the document is subject to thorough public consultation before a final version is actively approved by Parliament, rather than laid under the negative procedure. I hope the Minister will recognise why we feel that is so important, and commit to tabling Government amendments to that effect in the other place.

In addition to our own amendments, I have also signed a number tabled by the hon. Member for South Swindon. As reflected in his valuable contribution to the Committee’s scrutiny of part 3, the hon. Gentleman has a deep passion for and knowledge of the issues, and I find myself agreeing far more than disagreeing with him, despite the fact that we sit on opposite sides of the House. In particular, we are both extremely keen to see some movement from the Government on clause 69, which states that children and young people in custody should not benefit from the reforms in this part of the Bill.

I feel—and I think the Minister agrees—that this is a massive missed opportunity. Many of the inmates of young offenders institutes will have special educational needs. For example, 18% of young offenders have a statement, compared with just 2% to 3% of the general population. At least 60% will have communication problems and a similar percentage will have literacy and numeracy difficulties. Many of those special educational needs will never have been identified, despite the fact that in many cases they were probably a contributory factor to those people finding themselves in this position. As it stands, they will not be able to continue to receive the support they were already getting if they are placed in custody, and nor will they be eligible for an assessment if someone working with them in the institution thinks they need one.

This is not only counter-productive, in that it will severely limit these institutions’ ability to reduce reoffending through education, which is what we want them to do; it is also overly prescriptive—it prevents local authorities from continuing the support they want to provide to a young person in the hope that it will improve their life chances and steer them away from crime and antisocial behaviour.

I dealt comprehensively in Committee with the reason the Minister gave for why a plan is not suitable in these circumstances—the need to name an educational establishment in the plan—and I hope he has had a chance to look into the role that virtual academies and courses can play, and at the great work the Nisai Virtual Academy is already doing in this area.

Labour voted against clause 30 in Committee and will be tempted to do so again if the hon. Member for South Swindon wishes to test the will of the House, but I sincerely hope the Minister will respond positively and give us both an assurance that the Government will remove the clause at a later stage. If it is not removed, I fear it will face even tougher opposition from the noble Lords in the other place.

The hon. Member for South Swindon has also tabled amendment 37, which was one of the main bones of contention in Committee. I, like him, believe that education, health and care plans should do what they say on the tin and entitle the holder to expect all of the provisions they detail. At the beginning of this process we fear that they will be no better than the statements they are replacing, and simply provide entitlements to education provision. Ministers had said that there was no way of imposing duties on health bodies to keep up their end of the bargain, but the Minister, to his credit, quickly found a way of placing duties on them to deliver what they are expected to, and improved the plans immeasurably in doing so.

One piece of the jigsaw remains, however: the social care element. Once again, we have an opportunity in this Bill vastly to improve the rights of children and young people and their families in accessing the services they need. Amendment 37 would add the finishing touch to education, health and care plans by placing a duty on local authorities to secure the social care provision detailed within them, meaning that those plans would provide families with the certainty and confidence they need. I urge the Minister to find a way to make that happen.

I also support new clause 21, tabled by the hon. Member for South Swindon, on inclusive and accessible services, a subject on which we had a great debate in Committee; his amendment 39, on what constitutes educational support; and amendment 38, which seeks to create a single point of accountability for all three strands of provision within a plan. I look forward to hearing what he has to say about all the new clauses and amendments when he makes what I am sure will be an excellent contribution.

I also support new clause 8, tabled by the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders), which centres on provision in schools for children with medical conditions, and which I and my colleagues tabled in Committee as new clause 19. Some 29,000 children in our schools have diabetes, 1.1 million have asthma, 60,000 have epilepsy and many more have heart conditions or suffer from regular migraines or the after-effects of meningitis or cancer, as has been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mark Tami).

Those children and their parents deserve to know that their school can effectively manage those conditions while they are there; that the child will be given their medication, inhaler or whatever they need whenever they need it; that staff will know when they are being affected by their condition; and that allowances will be made for them where appropriate. We do not have a consistent approach to managing medical conditions in schools as yet, and I agree with the Health Conditions in Schools Alliance that this Bill provides an excellent opportunity for the Government to at least look at how schools support these children and, indeed, at how schools are supported to provide that support. We cannot just expect teachers and school staff to know how to do that as a matter of course. They need help from the NHS, which has the experts.

We want much stronger assurances on all the issues covered by those amendments than we received in Committee. Otherwise, they will be revisited in the other place. I look forward to hearing those assurances when the Minister gets back to his feet.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), who rightly said that the Public Bill Committee not only saw a cross-party coming together of minds, but delivered meaningful scrutiny of probably the most important Bill relating to special educational needs that we will see in a generation. It is 30 years since the Education Act 1981 broke the ground after the noble Baroness Warnock made her recommendations. We are in the unique position as legislators of being able to make a step change for the generations to come. That is why it is incumbent on us all to get the detail right.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for his constructive engagement with the debate, and not only in the Public Bill Committee. He has engaged not only with Members of this House, but with the disability sector. He has brought understanding and experience to the deliberations of the Bill, which we have enjoyed. I note with enthusiasm his willingness to improve the Bill. As has rightly been said, the Government have introduced important legal duties on clinical commissioning groups to bolt down the health elements of education, health and care plans. That good work goes on today in the form of further amendments.

To get to the meat of the matter, I will deal in turn with each of the amendments that I have tabled; my comments have been foreshadowed by those of the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West. I am grateful to her for outlining what I want to say and make no criticism of that at all. Amendment 37, which appears in my name and hers, relates to the social care element of education, health and care plans. It is, as she described it, the last piece in the jigsaw.

I enjoyed the exchange that I had with the Minister about this matter in Committee. It is correct that the groundbreaking Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 contains an important duty that can be applied to social care services for disabled children. However, there is a danger that in failing to link that existing duty with the duties that we are creating, we will not escape the silo effect of assessments. What do I mean by that? There is a danger that a wholly separate social care assessment will continue to be made, without the global approach that I and the Minister believe is the ethos behind the Bill. It would therefore be a missed opportunity if, for want of a few short amendments, we missed this trick.

We should look at this matter from the point of view of the parent of a child who comes fresh to a system of which they have no experience. Surely the thrust of our approach must be oriented around not just the child, but their family. We have heard many stories—I speak from experience—of parents having to reinvent the wheel every time they engage with a separate part of local provision. We must all seek to avoid that. That is why I commend the wording of amendment 37, which would do much to tie together the assessment process in the way that I have described.

On a related theme, and with regard to the point of view of parents and families, amendment 38 deals with the right of appeal against decisions that are made about the creation and ambit of education, health and care plans. The Bill allows the first-tier special educational needs and disability tribunal to hear appeals only about the education aspects of the plan. That means that it covers only part of the plan. I worry that we could end up with a complex and bureaucratic system in which challenges to the health and social care aspects of provision have to be conducted simultaneously through different tribunals, procedures and processes.

I noted with encouragement the Minister’s comments in Committee. I know that the draft code of practice, which is helpfully published alongside the Bill and will be consulted on later this year, states that having a single point of redress for all the provisions in an education, health and care plan would be helpful. He said in Committee that the existing complaints procedures in health and social care meant that it would be unnecessary to extend the powers of the tribunal. However, he made the important concession that a single point of reference would be desirable. That is helpful.

When the Education Committee considered that aspect of the measures during pre-legislative scrutiny, two issues arose. The first was the difference in culture between education and health. I wonder whether my hon. Friend wants to comment on that, given that we expect education and health bodies to work together and that any accountability process could be complicated. The second issue was that health would have to take the lead in some cases because it would have the overwhelming portion of the responsibility, but the Bill focuses on education.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, because he makes an important umbrella point about the difficulties that could be encountered and that—dare I say it—could be exploited by clever lawyers. I often say that and I have to remind the House that, although I am not sure that I am clever, I must admit that I am of the legal profession. It is proper to concede that point against my profession, because lawyers will be instructed by local authorities that need to conserve their resources and will increasingly look to discharge their statutory duties, but to go no further. We have to avoid the scenario of families having to wait for provision while lawyers dance on the head of a pin over costly and unnecessary arguments.

I am grateful for the huge amount of work that the hon. Gentleman has done on this subject during the passage of the Bill and elsewhere. He is making a strong argument for a unified appeals process. There is strong logic, which has been pursued by the Minister and his predecessor, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), for bringing the processes together so that families who are looking for support have one point of contact or one meeting to attend. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if the current tribunal process is not the right way to achieve that, the Government can continue to consider the matter as the evidence comes back from the pilot?

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. He makes an important point about a common entry point for families. That is a good start, but more needs to be done to build on it. To be frank, it may not be necessary to do that through primary legislation and the rules of the tribunals might be used. That would be a matter for Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service. I know my hon. Friend is liaising with counterparts in the Ministry of Justice on other matters that I shall come on to, and I sure he will also give this issue careful and anxious thought.

At the moment, clause 50(4)(a) allows

“other matters relating to EHC plans against which appeals may be brought;”

to be added to the jurisdiction of the tribunal. To be fair to my hon. Friend, there does seem to be a power within the Bill, but it would be wise to go just one furlong further and make it absolutely clear to the families we represent that simplicity is the order of the day when it comes to people’s rights to challenge decisions that—let us not forget this—will affect the life course of the young people we are dealing with.

Let me move on to a rather interesting—well, I hope so—and important matter. Having to admit to being a lawyer is not popular in this House, but words are important and if we change the meaning of something, once again the lawyers will jump all over it. In that spirit, let us consider amendment 39, which relates to the position of current case law, and the synthesis between health care provision, social care provision and education—a point that returns to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Neil Carmichael). The Government’s intention seems clear: they wish to replicate current case law when it comes to how local authorities judge their responsibility to make provision in that area. Clause 21 includes the words

“wholly or mainly for the purposes of education”,

and I share the concern that the words “wholly or mainly” set a different and higher threshold than is currently set out in case law. In the 1999 Bromley case, Lord Justice Sedley spoke about a case-by-case analysis of particular applications, rather than a general principle as seems to be suggested by the clause. We should therefore consider a spectrum or range of provision from purely medical to purely educational need. A large number of cases will fall inside that spectrum, bearing in mind the common and well-understood scenario that with a particular need often comes a co-morbid need—a special educational need will often be accompanied by a health need as well.

I strongly support the points that my hon. Friend is making eloquently and with his normal charm, especially as they relate to particular groups. I speak from my experience of working with children who have Tourette’s. That is one of the most obvious examples of co-morbidities and, for want of a better expression, people fall through the cracks in current legislation and are often failed by educational or health provision. The amendment seeks to ameliorate that difficult situation.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to him for the work he does with a very challenging condition. A lot of people think Tourette’s syndrome is a funny thing, but for those who suffer from it, it is a challenging and difficult condition that is often misunderstood by members of the public. Perhaps I should pause for a moment and pay tribute to the families and carers who, day in, day out, have to put up with ill-informed and quite frankly abusive comments from members of the public who should know better, whether those parents are taking their child to use a disabled lavatory in a supermarket or going to the cinema and trying to enjoy a film with their child who may have a special need that means they make a lot of noise or have to move about. We still have a long way to go in society to achieve general understanding among a wider section of the public about what it is like to live with a child who has special needs. It is good that an increasing number of towns offer autism-friendly cinema screenings, for example, that allow people to sit in comfort on a Sunday afternoon without needing to have eyes in the back of their head or worrying about what somebody else will say about their child. I have parenthesised a little, but I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his intervention.

I was talking about “wholly or mainly” and the concern shared by many people that we could end up with a wholly artificial argument about a particular type of provision falling between two stools. Thankfully, it has been made clear on case authority that speech and language therapy would be an educational need, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson) said, in a number of examples there will be less clarity and an ugly argument could break out between the health service and the local authority about who is responsible for what.

It has been interesting to listen to the hon. Gentleman and his expert comments. Does he accept that young people with disabilities often drift into having mental health problems at different levels, and that that group faces enormous problems? We know that there is often a lot of difficulty in the education and health services when deciding who should manage those young people.

That is absolutely correct, and I am grateful to the hon. Lady. Sadly, mental health issues are a co-morbidity that becomes prevalent if, for example, a condition such as autism is not identified at an early age. It is a tragedy that so many young people who have autism or Asperger’s-related conditions end up with a mental health problem because their condition is not diagnosed or has been misunderstood or in some cases mistreated. I pay tribute, however, to child and adolescent mental health services that do the job well, understand the needs of people with pre-existing conditions, and adapt their services accordingly. A visit to a CAMHS unit can be quite a regressive experience for a young person with autism, which is why adapting services around the child or young person is so important.

My hon. Friend makes a powerful case. Does he share my view that, as with the local offer, it is important to avoid confusion between two things—educational provision for local students and educational provision available in the local area? With some conditions, the local area simply might not be capable of providing the educational specialist provision that would be available from national providers.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who I know represents a wonderful special college in Hereford that does tremendous work, not just on a local basis but on a wider basis. He brings a different strand to some of our debates about the need to ensure that, where necessary, there will still be placements well out of the borough, county or district in which young people live. Colleges such as the one my hon. Friend admirably represents fulfil that need and gap and must be part of our provision.

I will give way one more time to my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) and then to the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke).

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way again. He is right to say that the Royal National College for the Blind is an extraordinary institution, in part because it provides, through its own specialist skills, the kind of holistic understanding of how educational and health care needs can come together. That is one reason why it is such an extraordinary and special place and why it must be preserved amid all the other things the Bill seeks to achieve.

In arguing powerfully, as he is, for a holistic approach, including for education, does the hon. Gentleman accept that that can impact on the later lives of such young people, particularly with issues such as employment?

It is a pleasure to serve in the House with the right hon. Gentleman, who has a long and honourable track record of campaigning for young people and adults with disability. He understands very well from his experience that the repercussions of decisions made at that stage in life echo down the years. We mentioned mental health and employment prospects. Only one in four young people with autism get into employment. I believe we can improve on that shameful statistic. I know there is a will among Ministers, including the noble Lord Freud, to change that, which I believe we can do.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who makes a powerful speech. I wonder whether he is right to propose removing “wholly or mainly”, because the Bill would read:

“Health care provision or social care provision which is made…for the purposes of the education or training of a child”.

Such provision does not have to be made for that purpose to be significant to the education or training of a child. I put it to the Minister that a better wording would result in provision that is significant to the education or training of a child or young person being treated as special educational provision. It would capture that which is important to deliver the education a child needs. The original motivator is not the key point.

I do not claim a monopoly of wisdom on the precise wording, but it is important to go back to the case law—London Borough of Bromley v. the SEN tribunal in 1999, in which Lord Justice Sedley stated:

“Special educational provision is, in principle, whatever is called for by a child’s learning difficulty,”

which he goes on to define. He states:

“What is special about special educational provision is that it is additional to or different from ordinary educational provision”.

In that phrase, we have a more fundamental definition. Provision is not what is significant, but whatever is necessary. I am grateful to my hon. Friend for looking at that. My hon. Friend the Minister is listening carefully. Either in this House or in the other place, we need to achieve clarity and a replication of the words of the Lord Justice of Appeal, so that we do not end up moving away from the Government’s clearly stated intention.

Does my hon. Friend share my view that, to be effective and to respect that leading judgment, the idea of a local offer must include national providers? The judgment is not delimited by location; it merely says that provision should be whatever is necessary. A national provision is sometimes the correct option for a person with special needs.

My hon. Friend is right. Low-incidence special needs can be catered for only by specialist colleges such as the one he represents—another college in Loughborough offers wonderful provision on a national basis.

I thank my hon. Friend very much for giving way. I am interested in the other end of the spectrum—pre-school children and the tension between education and health. In Stevenage, we have a nursery called Tracks, which provides education support for pre-school children with autism. The local education authority does not recognise that such children could have autism, so parents waste a year or two of normal school time while they persuade the authority that their child has autism.

I am extremely grateful to my hon. Friend, who, in effect, gives us a case study. He reminds me that I want to draw back to what we were discussing. I have a hypothetical case study before me. A young 15-year-old with Asperger’s and co-occurring mental health difficulties receives cognitive behavioural therapy. Before starting that therapy, his attendance at school was low, attending as few as two days a week, but with the help of the therapy he attends more like four days a week. His conditions have a huge effect on his home life and the quality of relations with his parents and wider family.

Under the new system, it is not clear whether that young man’s cognitive behavioural therapy would be deemed

“wholly or mainly for the purposes of…education”.

Without it, he could not access education, because he would not attend regularly. We need to answer that question. We do not want to put such people in that position, or to have artificial debates on what the law means.

My hon. Friend is making an outstanding speech on a critical issue. I want to reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman) on the importance of access to national facilities, because we must not localise provision at the expense of national organisations. Ruskin Mill in my constituency, and the National Star College in my county, provide expertise that we do not necessarily find elsewhere that is critical to young people’s futures. I want to put down a strong marker that we should ensure that national facilities are not put at risk through the funding—

Order. We are drifting now. Interventions are supposed to be short points that are relevant to the speech at the time they are made. If Members want to contribute, they can. The hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) has had the floor for some time, and other hon. Members wish to speak in this important debate. Despite his generosity in giving way, I am sure he is probably coming towards the end of what he wishes to say in this part of the debate.

I am extremely grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker. Your exhortation allows me to move on to the other amendments in my name, which I will deal with as expeditiously as I can.

Amendments 40 to 43 deal with young people over 18. The extension of legal protections for young people with SEN up to 25, which is at the heart of the Bill, is warmly welcome. However, the Bill states a number of times that local authorities “must have regard to” a young person’s age when making decisions on the support they receive after they are 18. We understand that the extension of provision to 25 does not create a blanket right to education for all young people with SEN, but we are concerned that the current drafting could give another get-out to local authorities, which could use the fact that a young person was over 18 to deny them support. Therefore, I suggest the removal of the phrase

“must have regard to his or her age”

to avoid that unintentional consequence.

Amendment 44 relates to the duty of health commissioners. As I have said, I welcome that extension, which is a significant improvement, and which breaks the problem of the silo effect on education and health care plans. However, in the amendment, I am asking whether the provision goes far enough. Clause 37(2)(d) places a duty on local authorities to include in the plans health provision that is “reasonably required” by a child or young person. With clever lawyers, arguments could arise over the meaning of “reasonably”. We should therefore delete that word.

Clause 37(2)(d) also states that health services that must be included in the EHC plan must be linked to the

“learning difficulties and disabilities which result in”

the special educational needs of

“the child or young person.”

In other words, the health provision must be linked to the specific impairment that has resulted in the child or young person being considered to have SEN. If the health need is not specifically linked, it does not need to be included. The danger is that limiting the requirement could result in confusion and, bluntly, injustice. For example, if a child with Down’s syndrome has a related heart condition, health provision needed to support their medical needs would need to be included in the EHC plan. However, if a child with Down’s syndrome has chronic asthma, which is unrelated to their Down’s and does not result in the SEN, there is no requirement to include the medical need in the plan. Such a distinction works against the Government’s intention to create a co-ordinated system. Once again, energy is being wasted on arguments about what is related to the special need. Let us try to cut the Gordian knot and deal with the issue in a straightforward way that does not create confusion and the potential for litigation.

Amendment 45 relates to our debate on the status of higher education institutions and their inclusion in the new framework. It is welcome that further education will be part of the spectrum of provision. It is right to say that many universities already meet the needs of disabled young people well, with the provision of disabled students allowance and other assistance. However, we still hear far too many stories about disabled students having to battle to get the wider support they need to access higher education and the problems they face in securing support from local health and social care services. The current proposals stop once a young person goes into higher education. Therefore, there is a concern that more needs to be done to include universities. Again, I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Minister. He rightly acknowledged the need for further discussions with universities, and I know he will look carefully at our submissions.

Amendment 46 relates to accountability for the local offer, which is one of the cornerstones of the Bill. That has to mean something for families and young people, so the question of accountability is key.

This is a particularly important amendment, among the many that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I strongly agree that this duty is extremely important in making the local offer meaningful. I hope the Government will listen to the support for the duty, as well as to the representations that I am sure will be made in the other place. In making this contribution, I draw the attention of the House to my declaration of interest.

Order. Before the hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) gets to his feet again I have to say that he has now been speaking for 32 minutes. Other Members wish to speak, so I hope he will draw his remarks to a conclusion soon—in the next 60 seconds—so we can move on to other contributions to this important debate.

I bear your strictures seriously, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I pray in aid remarks I have made in the past on the importance of the accountability of the local offer, and echo the comments made by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West on clause 69. I urge my hon. Friend the Minister to redouble his efforts with the Ministry of Justice, so that clause 69 is expunged from the Bill when it returns to this House.

May I very briefly mention new clause 21, which is part of this group? It relates to the duty to ensure that there is inclusion for children and young people. That must not just be a comfortable word that we in this place all use—it has to mean something. In transforming local services, we must stop making an assumption, even for children and young people in special schools, that there will not be times when they will want to access mainstream services. I should add that a large number of children with special needs currently enjoy mainstream education with appropriate support. We need to underpin the spectrum of provision, whether in the form of education or other local provisions, which is why I commend new clause 21, which was tabled with my colleagues on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, the hon. Members for Aberavon (Dr Francis) and for Ealing, Southall (Mr Sharma).

I am grateful to you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to address the House at some length. I apologise for that, but this is an important Bill. We have got to get it right.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland). For politicians these days, a few kind words go a long way. I congratulate him on his effective work on autism. The House will be pleased to hear that I do not intend to speak for long, as there is so much business today, but I wish to focus on amendments 46, 66, 67, 68 and 69. If I find myself on a different path, I am sure you will keep me in order, Madam Deputy Speaker.

I would like to pick up on comments made on both sides of the House. I thank sincerely my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), who led for the Opposition. She rightly focused on education, which is vital in bringing out the talents and abilities of children, and recognised that these issues should, at every level—for education, certainly, but also employment, health matters and so on—be person-centred. My hon. Friend will agree when I say that disabled people are one of the groups that are the furthest away from the employment market, and education has an impact on that. Disabled people are twice as likely to be unemployed as their non-disabled peers. In 2012, the Office for Disability Issues estimated that 46% of working age disabled people are in employment, compared with 76% of working age non-disabled people. My hon. Friend and other hon. Members were absolutely right to focus on the big issues that have an impact on those with learning disabilities.

I am joint chair, with Lord Rix, of the all-party group on learning disability. We have achieved a great deal, but we still have much more to do. One of the key features of the Bill, for example, under clause 19 is the move to involve young people and children under the age of 16 in decisions about their special educational needs provision. Children and young people with special educational needs, particularly those with a learning disability, have trouble reading and understanding material unless it is fully effective, and that applies to Braille and other things.

Although localism is appropriate and schools should be judged on how well they are doing, there nevertheless ought to be standards that are accepted across the whole of the UK. I remind the House, as a Scottish Member, that although these matters have been devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the annual economic and fiscal settlement has to bear the Barnett formula in mind, so it is as appropriate to discuss these issues in England as it is in the devolved institutions.

It is essential that any information for, or consultation with, people with a learning disability is accessible and meaningful to ensure effective participation and involvement. Mencap has highlighted that this means using easy read formats for blind or partially sighted people. Organisations such as Scope point out that such necessities should not be a postcode lottery, as my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West also rightly said. This is the challenge before us. I am a little envious that I was not on the Committee, because I am sure that its considerations were thoughtful and progressive, and I congratulate it on its work.

I would like to conclude on this note. On the issues that we are dealing with—education, health, care and social matters—coming back to the child and the family is vital. Before I sit down, I shall give one example. A few years ago, I was invited to an exhibition in Glasgow organised by the National Autistic Society demonstrating some of the wonderful work in art and music that young people with autism were nevertheless able to produce. The VIPs opening the exhibition stood beside a particularly impressive painting, but as we listened to the speeches we were discouraged by the noise that one of the children was making, until we realised that this beautiful painting, which we had all admired, was painted by that young woman. That is the opportunity. We can do it. We can deliver for special educational needs. I hope that as the Bill progresses through both Houses, it will be seen as a major step in that noble direction.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland) and the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr Clarke). The right hon. Gentleman’s final point was right: this is a flagship Bill. Just as the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 turned out to be an historic step forward and a great achievement by the then Conservative Government, so I think this flagship Bill will be a great achievement of this coalition Government. It is symbolic that the Minister’s predecessor was a Liberal Democrat and that he has carried the Bill forward.

I know that we have limited time but I want to make a few comments. I was a little sceptical at the beginning of this process, and I remain worried that we might create a level of expectation among parents greater than the Bill can deliver, especially in this time of austerity, not least for local government budgets, but my scepticism and doubt have been eroded over time. The way successive Ministers have worked and the way the Bill has taken shape gives me hope that it can be as significant for children with special educational needs as the Disability Discrimination Act was for those with disabilities.

I wish to speak to my amendments 59 to 64, but first I want to put on the record my thanks to the Minister for his close and courteous co-operation with my Committee. His actions to improve the Bill in response to our recommendations have been appreciated, and he was big enough to list the changes that the Select Committee had suggested and which the Government had adopted. Ministers should not be embarrassed—quite the contrary—to change their proposals on the basis of evidence and submissions from people in the Chamber and outside.

The Education Committee paid particularly close attention to part 3 of the Bill on children and young people in England with special educational needs. As I say, we welcomed many features of the Bill in our pre-legislative scrutiny, such as the introduction of integrated education, health and care plans and the fact that the new statutory framework for SEN will cover children and young people from birth all the way to age 25. We should not underestimate the significance of these changes. They will deliver a process for assessing and meeting children’s and young people’s individual needs that could be more coherent, comprehensive and compassionate. As always, however, the devil lies in the detail, so my Committee will closely monitor the impact of these changes in practice.

My amendments have a common theme: to ensure that nothing in the Bill reduces the centrality of parents in making decisions for their children. I am particularly concerned to ensure that local authorities do not use the Bill to seek to change the balance in their relationship with the parents of children with special educational needs. I wish the Bill to enhance, not diminish, the role, power and influence of parents. I have particular concerns about parents who have chosen to educate their children at home. From discussions with the Minister, I know it is not the Government’s intention to undermine the parental role, but unless that is made clear in the Bill, there will always be the risk that these things will creep in.

That is why I have proposed amendment 59. It would insert a new subsection (e) in clause 19 expressly requiring local authorities to have regard to the right of parents to make their own arrangements for their children, in accordance with the Education Act 1996. Without this, the possibility will remain that local authorities might try to steamroller home-educating parents, who are only trying to do the right thing by their children. I am not saying it will necessarily happen, certainly not in all cases, but it is conceivable. My amendment is intended to prevent the situation from arising, whether through sins of omission or of commission. That is to say, the aim is to prevent local authorities from forgetting that parents have the primary responsibility for their child’s education. My amendment would assert that responsibility and the right of families to be free to educate their children independently, if they so wish.

My concerns about unintended consequences that might be read into the Bill also prompted me to introduce amendments 60 and 61. Clause 22 of the Bill states:

“A local authority in England must exercise its functions with a view to securing that it identifies all the children and young people in its area who have or may have special educational needs.”

As worded, this might lead local authorities to believe they must insist on seeing all home-educated children to assess whether they have special educational needs. Members might think such an interpretation perverse, but I know from paying close attention to the interests of home educators over the years that perverse outcomes are not unknown when it comes to local authorities and home-educating families. The current phrasing of the Bill opens the door to it.

My amendments to clause 23 are designed to focus the authority’s attention to where it might reasonably be required, rather than inadvertently implying a duty to screen all children. They would bring this clause into line with clause 24, which employs the phrase “probably has” regarding special educational needs. That is also the phrasing in existing legislation—specifically section 321 of the Education Act—where it has functioned satisfactorily.

Amendment 62 is designed to underline the importance of parents’ and young people’s roles in developing SEN arrangements with local authorities. Clause 28 lists the local partners with whom local authorities must co-operate in developing local offers. During our pre-legislative scrutiny, the Education Committee heard compelling evidence that parents should be given a clearer mandate in this part of the Bill. This sentiment was expressed by bodies such as the National Autistic Society and the National Network of Parent Carer Forums. Brian Gale of the National Deaf Children’s Society pointed out that the list of local partners overwhelmingly represented the provider interest and did too little to give a voice to children, young people and their parents. Including parent carer forums on the list would improve the situation, so I hope the Minister will give it careful consideration.

Our inquiry heard how early evidence from pilot schemes and pathfinder work indicated that where local parent carer forums had been actively involved in planning and designing schemes, the work of the pilots had been more solution-focused and more likely to gain the support and confidence of the families taking part. In the section on parent carer forums, the Department’s draft code of practice for SEN acknowledges:

“Effective parent participation can lead to a better fit between families’ needs and service provision, higher satisfaction with service delivery, reduced service costs (as long term benefits emerge), better value for money decisions and less conflict between providers and those dependent upon services.”

If the Department knows that to be true, I would urge the Minister to add parent carer forums to the list I mentioned.

My amendment 63 is similarly designed to safeguard parents’ rights. It would amend the wording of clause 42(5). It outlines the situation where a local authority or a health commissioning body is not obliged to arrange the specified educational or health provision set out under an EHC plan. As drafted, these bodies do not have to make provision for a child if the parent has made “suitable alternative arrangements”. This “suitability” requirement implies that someone in authority will have to decide whether the parents’ arrangements are suitable. It is another feast for the lawyers. This requirement would be inherently subjective and risk introducing uncertainty, which the Government are keen to eradicate, into the system My amendment substitutes this phrasing for that of section 7 of the Education Act, which currently already requires such arrangements to be suitable for a child’s age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs. It is a much more specific formulation and will therefore avoid the definitional pitfall.

My amendment serves a second purpose, by emphasising that clause 42(2) and (3) do not apply when parents have made appropriate arrangements and when they have chosen not to receive assistance with making provision. It is incredibly important that when parents are home educating and seeking to make suitable provision, local authorities do not opt out of offering support. It is essential that they continue to provide that support. They do not have to be in overall control of the situation or in charge before they fulfil that responsibility.

Finally, my amendment 64 is designed to prevent local authorities from washing their hands of home-educating parents. Clause 45 describes the circumstances in which a local authority may cease to maintain an EHC plan for a child or young person. My amendment would ensure that the Bill expressly provided that local authorities cannot cease to maintain an EHC plan solely because a child or young person is being educated other than at school. In the absence of an EHC plan, local authorities might argue that because a child is out of the school system, they are not under a duty to provide anything and therefore the plan does not need to be maintained. Home-educating families need to be protected against any such reading of the law.

The amendment again may be accused of taking an unduly pessimistic view of how local authorities may interpret this Bill, but local authorities have a track record of interpreting the rules in ways that best suit their own purposes. They often find home education anomalous and thus something from which they would seek to remove help. Unless protections are built into the Bill, parents of children with SEN will continue to be concerned that they may lose out to unduly officious local town hall bureaucrats. My amendment would put that right and, in doing so, would put the issue beyond all doubt.

The Minister may suggest that this is a matter for the new SEN code of practice, but experience has made it clear that it is unsafe to rely on guidance where there is ambiguity within the education itself. In education, as elsewhere, one size does not fit all and the Bill should recognise that, build it into the system and provide reassurance to thousands of young people and their parents.

If I may, I will briefly touch on a couple of other issues. I welcome new clause 8 and congratulate the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders) on introducing it. Requiring schools to have a robust policy in place to safeguard and support children with health conditions such as asthma and diabetes would represent a positive step forward. Many schools have such a policy in place independently but too many do not. Last week, my office met the Crawforth family from my constituency. Their son suffers from type 1 diabetes. He is one of 29,000 children in the UK who live with the condition, yet a study by Diabetes UK in 2009 found that in only 29% of cases did school staff help with insulin injections. In 47 % of cases, someone other than a member of school staff helps the young person with blood glucose testing, including parents in 42% of these cases.

I apologise for coming in a bit late. Some years ago I had a ten-minute rule Bill on this subject and I welcome the fact that the amendment will address it. I would like to put it on record that, as far as I am concerned, this is a welcome amendment.

I welcome that intervention.

These statistics are unacceptable and reflect a situation that places unfair pressure on children, parents and teachers alike. The new clause would require schools to engage directly with parents and to co-operate with local NHS authorities in preparing and implementing strategies to head off these risks. I suggest to the Minister that its inclusion would strengthen the Bill and help end the status quo whereby the quality of support available to children and families coping with conditions such as diabetes is largely a matter of chance.

I am mindful of your strictures on time, Madam Deputy Speaker, but I would like to speak in support of amendment No. 43, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland). I am concerned that requiring local authorities to review the continuance of EHC plans for young people aged over 18 with specific regard to their age may make it more likely that support would be curtailed or dropped altogether on the basis that the young person would be deemed to have made the transition into adulthood. This concern is heightened by paragraph 231 of the explanatory notes to the Bill, which explains the thinking behind clause 45. It gives examples of potential stages at which EHC plans can be amended or replaced. These include the end of a specified phase of a young person’s education or when a young person becomes a NEET. This runs contrary to the recommendations made by my Committee in our report, where we acknowledge the particular position of NEETs and apprenticeships and the potential of EHC plans to assist young people with SEN into constructive employment. We recommended that the Bill should provide entitlement to EHC plans both to NEETs of compulsory participation age and to young people who are undertaking apprenticeships.

We heard from Dai Roberts, the principal of Brokenhurst college, who cited the case of two learners with profound deafness who were then on marine engineering apprenticeships. They had to have signers to help them with their training. These are precisely the young people who need extra support in order to follow their ambitions so they can get on and make a success of their lives. The amendment deserves support and clause 45(4) deserves to be scrapped.

My final remarks will be on the local offer. Getting that right will be essential to ensuring that the Bill overall helps young people. I am confident that those who get an EHC plan will be in a better situation than those under the previous regime of statements. In fact, it is essential to ensure not that it is easier to get a plan—the Minister, surprisingly in my view, said he wanted to make that case. I hope that there will be fewer people having plans than under statements, not because there is an effort to guide them away from them, but because local offers meet so many of the needs of parents and young people that there is not a requirement for the bureaucratic involvement that will be required even in our streamlined EHC system.

It is good to follow the Chair of the Select Committee. I hope the constructive and cross-party description that he has given of the passage of the Bill so far means that, as the Bill goes into the other House, many of the amendments that we have discussed today, which clearly need to be made, will be made.

Before he spoke, we heard two strong—including one long—speeches on special educational needs. I am not going to speak up for children with special educational needs. Instead I would like to speak up for children with specific health conditions and, in particular, to lend my support to new clause 8, which was first tabled in Committee by my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and now stands in the name of the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders).

Four years ago, I met an inspiring young woman called Emma Smith. She was 12 years old, from Dalton in Rotherham, and I was her MP. She was on a lobby for Diabetes UK to the House. I met her here, and met her and her family at home. I also met a couple of other young children and students at school in Rotherham who were suffering from diabetes. They described a lack of recognition and appreciation by staff at school of their condition and a lack of knowledge about what they had to do to manage it for themselves. They described a suspicion, sometimes, of the needles they had to use to inject insulin. Occasionally there was nowhere for them to do those injections during the school day. They also spoke of friends of theirs with similar problems who had been forbidden from eating or going to the toilet during lessons when they needed to because of their condition. I pledged my support to Emma Smith and her campaign, as I did to the ten-minute rule Bill of my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), which he introduced around that time. I thought that my hon. Friend could not be here today, which is why I am in his place, but I am glad to see that he has come into the Chamber.

My right hon. Friend is making a powerful case. Does he agree that it is not just about staff? We need to ensure that children—particularly primary school children, who can be scared if they do not know what is going on—have explained to them why a child has to be treated in a certain way. Children can be frightened and misunderstand what is happening.

My good and hon. Friend knows exactly what he is talking about and he is right. This is not simply about staff; it is about other students and pupils understanding better the conditions and health problems that some children have to cope with and, often, being supportive as a result. I know my hon. Friend speaks from direct experience of such things.

In considering the case for any new clause or amendment to legislation that the Government produce, there are three conditions that the House ought to expect to be met. By the same token, if the Government continue to resist such amendments, the House should expect them to be able to argue that those conditions are not met. Those three tests are these. Is the change necessary? Is it proportionate? Is it beneficial? Let me deal first with the question of necessity. The problem of other students, fellow pupils, teachers and staff not knowing about the conditions that many children may have makes managing those conditions more difficult. Often it also holds children back at school and it may sometimes even put their health at risk, so better provision, better support and a better policy framework are needed.

This is not just about children who suffer from diabetes. The Health Conditions in Schools Alliance has said that more than 1 million children suffer from conditions as wide-ranging as diabetes, asthma, heart disease or epilepsy, or are at risk of severe allergic reactions and anaphylaxis. This is a widespread problem that is largely hidden. Almost half the children who suffer from asthma have problems joining in fully in general lessons or even going on school trips. More than a third of children with diabetes say that one or both of their parents have had to give up work entirely or cut back their work to support them at school. Finally, almost two thirds—just under 60%—of schools that have children with diabetes have no policy in place to guide staff on the matter of injections on the premises.

My right hon. Friend will recall that, in addition to educating teachers about children’s conditions, one of the things I proposed in my ten-minute rule Bill some years ago was the creation of school clusters, which would involve somebody with medical experience from the national health service as well as teachers. They would perhaps give talks or inspect the facilities every so often to ensure that teachers were adequately trained.

I backed my hon. Friend’s Bill and I remember it. Essentially, it aimed to set standards of support that all schools should have in place and, as I recall, to require Ofsted to monitor and inspect whether they were being met.

Finally on the question of whether an amendment is necessary, the framework of legislation and guidance already in place—the “Managing medicines in school” guidance, the Equality Act 2010 or even the Children Act 1989—is often said to be sufficient, but these problems are so widespread for so many children that clearly the system as it stands is not working and something else is necessary.

That brings me to my second point: is the proposed change proportionate? It is simply indefensible to argue that parents should have recourse to invoke the 2010 Act or the 1989 Act to get support for their kids at school. That is disproportionate. New clause 8 does not propose a new policy obligation or new standards for national Government, nor would it require local authorities to act. It would not even require health bodies to act, other than to support schools. What new clause 8 proposes is that a school should have

“a duty to produce and implement a medical conditions policy that defines how it plans to support the needs of children with specified health conditions”—

no more, no less. In other words, schools should have well-judged, proportionate policies, pitched at where the challenge is greatest and the potential gain most important—that is, in the culture, understanding, practice and sympathy found in schools. We are talking about a policy developed in schools, for schools and by schools, with the support of health bodies and local authorities behind them.

I have addressed whether the proposed change is necessary and proportionate, but is it beneficial? It would be beneficial if children could go to school confident in the knowledge that those around them understood their conditions. It would be likely to make managing their conditions easier, allow them to play a much fuller part in the life of the school and fulfil more of their potential, reduce the requirement on parents to give up or reduce their work—and, arguably therefore, to step up their dependence on the state to support their kids in school—and reduce the demands on the NHS, so the proposal is beneficial as well.

Is this change necessary? Yes. Is it proportionate? Yes. Is it beneficial? Yes, and if the Minister continues to resist it, he will have to demonstrate that it is unnecessary, disproportionate and either detrimental or not beneficial. I want our children who have special health conditions to be able to enjoy school to the full, to fulfil their potential and to feel confident that those around them know what to do because they understand their conditions.

Finally, I want to leave the House with the words that I always remember Emma Smith saying to me: “I would feel a lot happier if people at school knew what to do if for any reason I was unable to treat myself.” That seems to be the very least that this House and this legislation should provide.

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), who summed up what many parents at various lobbies of this place have said over a number of years, not least last week, when children with type 1 diabetes came to Parliament to lobby their Members.

New clause 8 stands in my name and that of other hon. Members and was originally tabled by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson). It seeks to improve the consideration that schools give to students with long-term conditions, including diabetes, epilepsy, asthma and many less prevalent but equally serious illnesses. We have heard that around 29,000 children in the UK have type 1 diabetes. Through my work as chair of the all-party group on diabetes, I have become painfully aware that, despite great improvements in recent years in care for young people with diabetes, something of a blind spot remains in schools, with staff often unaware of the implications of the disease, let alone able to help children with their condition. This leads to all sorts of problems that are, at root, preventable.

At the centre is the impact on child health. A school environment that does not include basic precautions or simple awareness training can lead to complications arising from diabetes. For example, a child experiencing hyperglycemia is at risk of diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially fatal complication. More than 3,000 children experience this every year, at significant cost to the health care system and obviously considerable anxiety to parents and families, most tragically in the 2% of cases that result in death. Anything we can do to reduce this prevalence must be imperative.

There are more general problems, however. All too often, schools do not have adequate plans in place to deal with the day-to-day needs of those with long-term conditions. That leads to children being made to feel separate and neglected, leaving them more open to bullying, and can also have a detrimental impact on their education. Diabetes and other long-term conditions should have no impact on a child’s ability to learn—they do not have special educational needs—but if those conditions are not managed appropriately in the classroom, they will impede a child’s education.

Ideally, schools should acknowledge that they are looking after a wide range of pupils with varying needs, and staff should have in place a robust plan that has been agreed with parents and health care professionals to prevent the time-consuming and expensive problems that will be inevitable without this investment in planning. I fully anticipate the Minister saying that it is up to schools to decide how to achieve this, and I agree, but we also have a responsibility at national level to ensure that schools do that, and that parents have the scope to force the reappraisal of a situation if it is found wanting. The plans need to be put in place on an individual basis, however. It is striking that the subject that the public most frequently raise with me, as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on a condition that affects more than 3 million adults, is the poor level of support offered in schools to the 30,000 children who are also affected by it.

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on tabling the new clause. He will be aware that there are specialist colleges, such as Hereward college in Coventry, that would benefit from his proposals. Further down the road, some of these children will have the confidence to go into further education, and they will particularly benefit from those specialist colleges. In that context, the Government should look again at the cuts to the budgets for those colleges.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that helpful intervention. I also congratulate him on the ten-minute rule Bill on this subject that he introduced a little while ago.

Last week, I attended a diabetes event, and I heard an account from a parent from the north of England that succinctly summed up the experience of all too many parents, wherever they live. Her son was just starting primary school and, in the previous July, the diabetic specialist nurse had visited the school to put a necessary care plan in place. It was clear on the first day of school that the plan was inadequate. According to the parent, it was not worth the paper it was written on, and was certainly not suitable for a four-year-old. Importantly, it stated that the child should test his own blood levels—something he had never done before and something that no one would expect a four-year-old to have to do. The plan also had no guidelines for emergencies.

Despite the parents providing a new plan for the school, the child’s first six months of school were filled with phone calls home and teachers holding his hand throughout the day, even taking him out of the classroom frequently as though he were a ticking time bomb. This caused a massive amount of stress and inconvenience to the parents. Schools need to recognise that, beyond the health condition, these are normal children who need to be treated normally but with sensible and reasonable adjustments and awareness to maintain the normality as much as possible.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the so-called special treatment that such children get, involving missing lessons and sometimes taking days off school, can sometimes lead other children to believe that they are different, and that that perception of special treatment can lead to bullying?

Indeed; I referred to the danger of bullying earlier. Diabetic children do not need to be taken out of class; they simply need a hygienic environment in which to test their blood sugar levels during the day, and to be allowed to eat in the classroom, or go outside to eat, in order to boost their blood sugar levels. It helps everyone if the staff understand those needs and explain them to other pupils. In that way, the children can learn that many of us will have a medical condition—not necessarily diabetes—at some time in our life. There is a whole spectrum of medical conditions, and treating children who suffer from them separately is worse than providing for them within the mainstream and within the normal school settings. All that is needed is a willingness for schools to put in the effort and to look at best practice while listening to parents. A reminder in the Bill that that is important would go some way towards reassuring tens of thousands of anxious parents.

Given your previous encouragement for speakers in the debate to be brief, Madam Deputy Speaker, I will try to do so. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Torbay (Mr Sanders), who has spoken on the specific issue of diabetes in schools. I was contacted only last week by a family in Romsey whose four-year-old son is due to start school in September. They had been told that, should he feel a “hypo” coming on, it would be his responsibility to get himself to the school office, where he could be tested and the appropriate treatment administered.

I commend to the House the work of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in encouraging local education authorities to put in place protocols and care plans so that schools can be made aware of the appropriate treatment and teachers can be properly informed about addressing the problem. This is particularly important for those dealing with very young children, for whom needles and testing kits might still be a relatively strange and foreign concept. Older teenagers might have become accustomed to them.

I want to take this opportunity to mention the work of the Bill Committee, of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), and of the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson). Our discussions were always undertaken in a consensual and collaborative manner. A lot of amendments were tabled but many were not pressed to a vote because we were able to come to an agreement on them. I commend the work done by the Minister in outlining exactly what the Government were seeking to do in the Bill, so we could reach agreement on areas of particular concern to us.

I should also like to commend my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), who has done an enormous amount of work in the field of special educational needs. He illustrated earlier the depth of his knowledge and understanding, and he has done fantastic work to highlight the difficulties faced by parents and families in relation to assessment. In Committee, we often used the words “fight” and “battle” when discussing the struggles that families went through to ensure that their child had an appropriate assessment and statement to address their needs. I hope the Bill, and the education, health and care plans, will remove some of that necessity to fight, and make things a great deal easier.

In Committee, I mentioned a specific subject, and I am pleased to see that the Secretary of State has taken it up. My constituency has a significant number of military families who, by dint of their career paths, are frequently moved around the country. A disproportionate number of those families with children with special educational needs, having secured a statement in one part of the country, are then moved elsewhere through no fault of their own. This can result in their having to go back to square one in the process. I am therefore delighted that new clause 9 takes account of that in seeking to make the EHC plans far more portable, so that families who have already been through that struggle do not have to revisit it.

There are many reasons for a family moving. I have mentioned military families because of my constituency interest, but I have also done a massive amount of work with an organisation called Ambitious about Autism, which runs the excellent TreeHouse school in north London. In highlighting to me the difficulties that families face if they seek to move to a different area, it has specifically mentioned the case of one young boy, Mohammed. He is 12 years old, and has autism and complex learning difficulties.

Mohammed’s family live in Westminster and he travels every day to the TreeHouse school, which is a considerable distance away. His family were desperate to buy their own property, and as Westminster is a phenomenally expensive borough to live in, they were hoping to move to another part of London. They felt constrained from doing so, however, because they felt that if they left Westminster, where they had secured Mohammed’s statement, they would have difficulty in ensuring that their new borough would continue to provide for his education at TreeHouse school. Such was the importance to him of that school that they were not prepared to put his education at risk. Instead, they have continued to rent a home in Westminster, even though their long-term plan was to move out of the borough and further away.

I promised to keep my comments brief, and I think I have managed to speak for only four minutes. I would like to thank the Secretary of State and the Minister for having tabled the new clause. Portability and an ability to recognise care plans across different local authorities will be of critical importance to all those families who have struggled to ensure that their children get the provision they need.

I thank my hon. Friends the Members for South Swindon (Mr Buckland), for Romsey and Southampton North (Caroline Nokes), for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart) and for Torbay (Mr Sanders) and the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) for the amendments they tabled. I thank in particular the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) for embodying in her approach the very essence of this part of the Bill, in that she has demonstrated a lot of co-operation and constructive consultation and has, I suspect, sometimes strayed into the occasional bit of joint commissioning, which I welcome. I also thank other Members who have spoken in this debate on the SEN provisions. I will do my best to respond to the amendments and the key points that have been made.

Amendments 30, 46, 62 and 66 to 69 and new clause 21 are concerned with arrangements for improving local provision. I hope I will be able to address the concerns that are behind amendment 30—as just raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Romsey and Southampton North—through regulations and the code of practice. Draft regulations under clause 48 would require local authorities to provide information, advice and support in relation to personal budgets, including information about independent organisations. Draft regulations made under clause 36 would require local authorities to provide any support they consider necessary for parents or young people to take part effectively in the education, health and care assessment, and regulations made under clause 30 would require local authorities to include in their local offer sources of information, advice and support for children and young people with special educational needs and their families. The indicative code of practice—which my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon helpfully pointed out was made available in Committee and proved invaluable as a consequence—clarifies that this should include information, advice and support available in relation to personal budgets.

I share the aim of my hon. Friend’s amendment 46, which is to ensure that education and social care provision is sufficient to meet the needs of children and young people with SEN and to promote improvements in that provision, but that should be balanced with the need to retain local decision making; that point seemed to unite the House in the debate we have just had. Local authorities, schools and other services must determine spending on provision for children and young people with special educational needs, taking account of their legal responsibilities. Clause 27(3) would require local authorities to consult a wide range of people and organisations in reviewing provision, including, importantly, children and young people with special educational needs and their parents, but placing a specific legal duty on them to improve special educational and social care provision until everyone consulted agrees it is sufficient would be impractical, as views of different people and groups would inevitably differ. Local authorities will be able to reflect the outcomes of the reviews they undertake under clause 27 in the local offer, which also requires the close involvement of children and young people with special educational needs and their parents in its development and review.

On amendments 66 to 69, I can assure the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West and other hon. Members that the local offer will not be a speculative document. It will set out what the local authority expects will actually be available. The local authority does not have control of all the services set out in the local offer, so it can only set out what it expects to be available. If it can only reflect what is currently available, that will prevent the local offer from setting out, for example, what provision it expects to become available in the near future. This could, for example, include new provision in a school, which parents or young people will want to know about in advance.

On amendment 68, I agree that online communities can be a valuable way to socialise, and perhaps that is especially true for young people with special needs. Only yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Springfield special school in my constituency. The children being educated there were keen to show me first their school’s IT suite, where they had developed some important skills in a number of innovative ways. I agree that online communities have their dangers, and that young people should be equipped to socialise over the internet safely. I repeat the commitment I gave in Committee: I will consider including a reference to online communities in the code, in the context of preparing for adulthood. I do not believe it is necessary to amend the Bill in order to achieve what Members want, but I think what I have said demonstrates the importance of this area both now and in the future.

Amendment 69 concerns minimum standards in the local offer. The key to the success of the local offer in each area will be the transparency of information, and the involvement of local parents, children and young people in developing and reviewing the local offer. Central prescription would stifle the very innovation and responsiveness we want to see the local offer trigger, and stipulating minimum standards for the local offer would weaken local accountability. They would constrain parents’ ability to influence a local authority, which could point to meeting minimum requirements to end further discussion. That is a potential “race to the bottom” that we must avoid; my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon raised that point in Committee. I hope that detail about what will be in the offer and the strength of the processes for agreeing it will reassure Members that such a potentially counter-productive minimum standard is not necessary.

Amendment 62, from my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, the Chair of the Education Committee, reflects the view expressed by his Committee about the importance of parent carer forums, whose national network I believe I am meeting tomorrow. I share my hon. Friend’s views about the importance of parents helping to shape local policies for supporting children and young people with special educational needs. The indicative SEN code of practice makes clear reference to that and to the value of parent carer forums, but as they are not legally constituted bodies we cannot include them in the list in clause 28 of organisations with which a local authority must consult when carrying out its functions under the Bill.

Provision has been made in clause 27 for local authorities to consult children and young people with special educational needs and parents of children with SEN, along with

“such other persons as the authority thinks appropriate”,

when carrying out their statutory duty to keep their special educational provision and social care provision under review. I am sure that local authorities will want to consult parent carer forums as they carry out that duty, which is reflected in the draft code of practice. The SE7 pathfinder, for example, is working closely with its local parent carer forums to develop the local offer, to ensure that it reflects the needs of children, young people and parents.

Turning to new clause 21, local authorities aim to provide services close to home, and I know how important it is for families for provision to be made locally. However, as has been said, that is not always practical for those who require specialist support that is available only in very few places. Clause 27 requires local authorities to consult children and young people with special educational needs and their parents when they are reviewing their special educational provision and social care provision. Local authorities, clinical commissioning groups and NHS England must develop effective ways of harnessing the views of their local communities, and they will undoubtedly want to engage with Healthwatch organisations, patient representative groups, parent partnerships, parent carer forums and other local voluntary organisations and community groups.

Clause 30 requires local authorities to involve children and young people with special educational needs and their parents in developing and reviewing the local offer. That will ensure a continuing dialogue between local authorities and their partners, including children, young people and families, and keep a focus on the need for local provision. I recently discussed these issues with Scope, which has a good deal of experience in this area, and undertook to consider how the guidance in the SEN code of practice could best encourage the development of services that are responsive to local needs.

Amendments 44, 37 and 39, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon, are all concerned with ensuring an integrated approach to meeting the needs of children and young people. I share the goal of amendment 44—integrated health and social care support—but cannot agree that it is the best way to achieve it. Under the Bill, the support that must be available to the child or young person is that reasonably required by his or her special educational needs.

Local authorities and health commissioners have the power to include other social and health care if they feel it is appropriate. So a child with special educational needs arising from cerebral palsy who needs a wheelchair would have that in their plan. If the child developed an unrelated minor infection, any prescribed medication would not normally be included. Amendment 44 would add unnecessary bureaucracy and hinder pragmatic decision making. I am alive to the case studies that my hon. Friend brought to the House’s attention and will look carefully at them in understanding the consequences of the point he makes. I am happy to continue to discuss that with him, but as things stand I am not convinced that his amendment is necessary.

Amendment 37 seeks a specific duty on authorities to deliver social care provision in EHC plans. As I said in Committee, existing duties in section 17 of the Children Act 1989 provide important protections. I understand concerns that this is a general, not an individual duty, but I fully expect that local authorities will provide care services to meet assessed needs. In the case of disabled children, the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 applies, and once the authority is satisfied it is necessary to provide support and assistance, it is required to do just that. I do not think it right to prioritise, as a matter of course, children with EHC plans over all other children in need, who would then risk being marginalised—I am thinking, for example, of children suffering neglect or abuse.

On amendment 39, I know that my hon. Friend has concerns about clause 21, and my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Mr Jackson), among others, has also raised this issue. Clause 21(5) fulfils an undertaking I gave during pre-legislative scrutiny of the Bill that we would maintain existing protections, including case law. The subsection was included to preserve the current position whereby, of course, there is no duty to secure the health provision in plans. Amendment 39 goes further than current case law and would define all social care and health care provision made for a child or young person with SEN as special educational provision, if it was in some way for the purposes of education or training.

I have looked again at clause 21, taking account of the views put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon and others. Under the broader, integrated assessments and plans in the Bill, decisions will be between special educational, health and care provision. Without clause 21(5) it may be difficult for a tribunal to say that although speech and language therapy is health care provision made by health care providers, it is in fact special educational provision. The clause also enables appeals to the tribunal in respect of health provision where it is defined as special educational provision, as now. However, as my hon. Friend said at the end of his excellent contribution, we want to get things right, so I am content to continue to listen to the views expressed in the House, such as the wording suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Beverley and Holderness, and in the other place.

On personal budgets, we debated amendment 70 in Committee and I repeat the assurances I gave then. As I said to the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West in Committee, we will take full account of the findings of the pilot scheme as a discrete element of the pathfinder evaluation, and learning will inform the SEN code of practice. I assure her that the cases we have seen to date do not show any negative impacts in the areas referred to in the amendment; they actually show how local authorities can work with schools to improve the quality of provision received without having an impact on the other children and young people. As I am sure she would agree, that is an encouraging picture.

Amendment 38 is a repeat of the probing amendment that my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon moved in Committee and of the proposed new clause 24 tabled by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West. In Committee, I set out the well-established complaint procedures for complaints about health and social care. Widening the tribunal’s remit would not prevent the existing mechanisms from continuing to be available. The effect of the amendment would be to add to the routes of redress, rather than to simplify them. We are preserving the right to appeal to the tribunal about health and social care provision, where that is mainly for the purposes of education and training. While strengthening the role of health and social care in the assessment process and laying a new duty to provide the health provision set out in a plan, we have maintained the focus on special educational provision in the Bill and as was set out in the Green Paper. It is therefore right that the tribunal should continue to focus on dealing with SEN appeals, where its expertise lies.

The logic throughout what the Minister has set out has been about bringing together providers to offer one point of contact with families and young people affected. If, as the pilots continue and this policy is brought into effect, it emerges that it might be preferable for there to be some kind of unified appeal process, would there be the mechanism to bring that about subsequently through secondary legislation? Alternatively, for that to happen would it need to be in the Bill?

My hon. Friend makes a point about the importance to the parents and the young person of having a single point of access into any complaints procedure. That is why we are looking at how there can be a single point of interface for them, providing them with the information and navigation they require to find themselves in the right part of that complaints process. Clearly, as my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon said, there are tribunal rules in place and there are always practical ways in which we can look at trying to enmesh more clearly together the various strands in the complaints mechanisms. We need to develop that through the pathfinders and, as we hopefully reduce the number of cases that end up in the tribunal system, see whether that has had an effect. We will keep that under close review.

New clause 24, tabled by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West, was discussed in Committee, following which I wrote clarifying what information was already published. The effect of the new clause would be that details were published by individual case. It would not be appropriate to publish information that could identify details of private cases. Clearly, we want to reduce contention. Publishing information on individual cases is likely to extend the contention beyond the delivery of the tribunal’s judgment.

Information would have to be published on the tribunal service and authorities’ costs, and that raises the question whether information would also have to be published on the relative complexity of cases to justify what may be a proportionate expense. The wish to publish information on the cost to authorities may be based on the misapprehension that authorities usually engage legal representation. The most recent figures show that authorities were legally represented at only 15% of hearings, and in most cases authorities would just be providing information on officer time costs. Publishing seemingly simple information on costs without proper context may well lead to greater confusion, therefore, but I have no doubt that the hon. Lady will want to return to that area in due course.

New clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay, and amendment 65, tabled by the hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz), both concern children with health conditions. It is right that every child with a long-term health need is entitled to a high-quality education. Their needs must be identified and addressed promptly, so that they can achieve their full potential. Imposing further statutory duties on schools to ensure that is not necessarily the answer, however.

The right hon. Member for Wentworth and Dearne (John Healey), in a powerful and passionate speech, demonstrated an acute knowledge of life as a Minister and the response that he was likely receive as to current provision. The Education Act 2002 already places a duty on the governing body of a maintained school to promote the well-being of pupils and, as the right hon. Gentleman said, schools are already under a duty through the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against pupils with long-term health problems that have an adverse effect on their ability to carry out their normal day-to-day activities. Nor should we require schools and further education institutions to request an EHC assessment for everyone with epilepsy or a related condition.

In a recent written answer to a parliamentary question, I announced that the “managing medicines” guidance would be issued this year, which will further clarify schools’ responsibilities. I am confident that it will address the right hon. Gentleman’s concerns. However, I take what he said extremely seriously and will look closely at the details of what he and others have proposed. I would be more than happy to discuss these matters with him as we consider how we can improve practice in our schools, some of which is still below the level that we should be seeing. We know from figures cited by my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay that the number of children affected by conditions that require support in school is not small, so every effort needs to be made to improve practice on the ground.

The statistics seem to show that while there are provisions in previous legislation that are supposed to work, they are not working for large numbers of children with these medical conditions. That is the point of new clause 8.

I understand the intention behind the new clause, but when the raft of legislation directly or indirectly related to the point that my hon. Friend raises is still not bringing about the required support for children in our schools, one wonders whether additional legislation is necessarily the answer. We are seeking to provide the best possible guidance to schools on managing medicines, set against the current legislative framework; and under the new Ofsted inspection of schools, safety is a key feature.

I find the Minister’s answer inadequate. It is shameful that successive Governments have gone for so many years with a significant minority of children simply not having their needs met in school. When they have a condition or a flare-up that requires action, they get sent off to hospital, or their parents get called, whereas if the school had trained someone up, it could meet that need. This is not good enough. The Minister has done so much under the Bill; this is another area where there could be an historic, positive settlement coming out of the legislation. It would be a shame if the opportunity were missed.

I had been doing so well with my hon. Friend, throughout the day. He is quite right to continue to challenge us, and schools, on this point. The question that has to go back to schools is why some are able to manage medicines effectively and others are not. That suggests to me that there is not necessarily a direct relation to the legislative framework that they are working under, and that it is down to differences in practice and to the school’s commitment to dealing with the issue. As I say, I am not stopping the discussion at this juncture. I am sure that there will be other opportunities for us to explore what more we can do. Reissuing the guidance is an important step, because it will provide very clear advice to schools on how they should approach this important issue. We will follow that up closely, both through Government channels and through Ofsted’s work in its role as inspector.

My hon. Friend tabled amendments to part 3 in respect of children who are home-educated. I know, because we have discussed the issue, that he takes a keen interest in these matters, both as the chair of the all-party parliamentary group on home education and as the Chair of the Select Committee on Education. He recently wrote to the Secretary of State about the Bill’s implications for home educators. He will receive a reply shortly. In the meantime, I reassure him that the Bill will bring benefits to all children and young people with special educational needs, including those who are home-educated. In particular, clause 19 says that in exercising their functions under this part of the Bill, local authorities have to have regard to parents’ views, wishes and feelings, which might, of course, include a wish for home education.

Parents will still have the right to educate their children at home. Where local authorities draw up education, health and care plans that say that home education is right for the child, the local authority will have a duty to arrange the special educational provision set out in the plan, in co-operation with the parents.

I was impressed by almost everything that the Minister said until he got to the words, “local authorities have to have regard to”. Does he not feel that that is rather a weak way to challenge local authorities? Is it possible that people will look at that in another place?

As to the right hon. Gentleman’s second point, I am sure that they will; that is the beauty of the process that we find ourselves in. We are content that we have the right balance. We also need to be alive to the fact that home-educated children require support—this goes to the earlier point about proportionality and reasonableness—that fits in with their education. Clearly, every child’s needs have to be assessed, and local authorities should have that in mind.

Where a child has a plan that names a school as the appropriate environment in which to receive his or her education, parents will still be able to decide to home-educate; that is an important point. If they do, the local authority must assure itself that the parents are providing an education in accordance with section 7 of the Education Act 1996—that is, a full-time education that is suitable for the child’s age, ability, aptitude and special educational needs. If the local authority is so assured, it will be relieved of its duty to make the special educational provision set out in the plan, just as it is now with regard to statements. However, local authorities will continue to have the power to help parents to make suitable provision in the home by providing support services. To take on the right hon. Gentleman’s point, I would strongly encourage local authorities to consider exercising that power when making decisions about whether the provision being made by parents is suitable.

My hon. Friend says that local authorities must assure themselves that parents are delivering the education in accordance with 1996 Act. I do not think that that is the case. They have to act if they have reason to believe that parents are not providing suitable education. They have no such overarching duty to assure themselves that every single home educating parent is doing so. The parent, not the local authority, has primacy in the education of their child. The local education authority acts only if it finds out that there is a problem. It does not have to seek it.

I hope that our differentiation is based simply on the semantics of some of the vocabulary that is being used, but clearly we need to have absolute clarity on the role of each agency in the life of a child, whether they are educated within the school sector or at home. I will write to my hon. Friend to ensure that he has chapter and verse on precisely that point.

I come now to amendments 60 and 6l. I understand from my hon. Friend that home educators are concerned that clause 23 will mean that local authorities will have to assess every home educated child to see if they have SEN, which takes us back to the previous Parliament, where we had many of these discussions. I can assure him that this is not the case. Clause 23 sets out which children and young people local authorities are responsible for under this part of the Bill. These will be children and young people who have already been identified by the authority or who have been brought to the authority’s attention as having, or possibly having, SEN. There is not that overarching forensic exercise of trying to locate each child.

Amendment 63 seeks to tie the definition of the suitability of any alternative arrangements that parents make for children with an EHC plan more closely to the definition of parents’ right to home educate as set out in section 7 of the Education Act 1996. However, this is unnecessary as the provision in the amendment is already contained within the phrase “suitable alternative arrangements”, so does not need to be spelled out in this way. Similarly, while I understand the concern that amendment 64 seeks to address, it is not necessary. Where a child has a plan that says that education provided in the home is the right provision for the child, the local authority could only cease the plan when it felt it was no longer necessary to meet the child’s needs, as set out in the legislation.

Where parents take a child out of school to home educate and are making suitable provision, as is the case now with statements, the local authority will be under a duty to review the plan annually to ensure that the provision that the parents are making continues to be suitable. The local authority could cease to maintain the plan only where it was decided it was no longer needed to meet the child’s needs. Moreover, the new duty on commissioning bodies to arrange the health provision in the plan and the greater expectation that the social care provision will be made will mean that parents can expect that these will continue to be provided. There is further scope within the code of practice to provide clarity on these issues for local authorities, and no doubt my hon. Friend will want, through his connections with the home education lobby, to contribute to that consultation, which will be happening later this year.

On amendments 40 to 43, I find myself completely agreeing once again with my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon that some young people with special educational needs require more time to complete the education that other young people have already finished by the age of 18. The Bill rightly enables them to do so, but we want to avoid the expectation that every young person with SEN has an entitlement to education up to 25—a point that I think he accepted in Committee—regardless of whether they are ready to, or have already made, a successful transition into adult life. The Education Committee recommended that we clarify whether there is an entitlement to special education provision up to age 25. The requirement to have regard to age makes it clear that there is not. However, I can categorically assure my hon. Friend that no young person who needs an education, health and care plan to complete or consolidate their learning can be denied one just because they are over 18. Local authorities must rightly consider a range of matters in coming to these important decisions.

Clause 45(3) requires local authorities to consider whether the educational outcomes specified in the plan have been achieved when it is deciding whether it should cease to maintain a plan. The indicative code of practice, at section 6.18, says:

“local authorities must not simply cease to maintain plans once a young person reaches 18”.

They should consider whether young people have met their agreed outcomes, whether continued education will help them achieve those outcomes, and whether the young person wants to stay in education. Of course, in what we hope will be rare instances, a young person may appeal against a decision to cease their plan, a step forward from the current system.

My hon. Friend also tabled amendments 45 and 48. Securing a place at university is a positive outcome for any young person, and we are right to have high aspirations for children and young people with SEN and disabilities. However, it does not follow that higher education institutions must be part of this Bill. Local authorities are not responsible for the education of young people in higher education and it would be unreasonable to hold them accountable for securing special education provision while the young person is there. As my hon. Friend has already noted, the higher education sector has its own very successful system of support in the form of disabled students’ allowance. DSAs are not means-tested, are awarded in addition to the standard package of support and do not have to be repaid. We should not seek to duplicate or replace that system when it appears predominantly to be working well. In the academic year 2010-11, DSA provided 47,400 full-time students with support totalling £109.2 million. The Government also provided £13 million to HEIs in 2012-13 through the disability premium to help them recruit and support disabled students, and in 2013-14 that figure will rise to £15 million.

However, I agree that we must improve the transition to university. Draft regulations require that when a young person is within two years of leaving formal education a review of their EHC plan must set out plans for helping them make a successful transition to adulthood. We will make it clear in the code of practice that good transition planning includes sharing the EHC plan with the university, with the young person’s consent; ensuring that the young person is aware of DSA and has made an early application so that support is in place when their university course begins, on which the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West shared her experience with the Committee; and ensuring continuity of health and care services where those continue to be required by the young person. In addition, we will work with those conducting DSA assessments to ensure that they understand the EHC plans, as well as how they can assist and inform the assessment and ensure that details of DSA are included in the local offer so that all young people thinking of applying to university are aware of the support available to them.

Under proposals in the Care Bill, which is currently in Committee in the other place, 18-year-olds with eligible needs will receive a statutory care and support plan. The new legislation will ensure that there is no gap in provision as young people make the transition from children’s services to adult services and, when they move from one local authority area to another, that the new authority continues to meet their needs until it has undertaken its own assessment.

With regard to amendment 47, I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon that all young offenders, including those with SEN, need to receive the right support and access to education, both in custody and when they return to their communities. Since our debate in Committee, I have considered the issue further and remain of the view that clause 69 is necessary, not because we are not committed to supporting young offenders, but because it prevents our legislation from coming into conflict with existing comprehensive statutory provisions governing how education support is delivered in custody, as set out in the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.

My hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon will know that the duties placed on local authorities by that legislation are currently fulfilled through the contracts held by the Education Funding Agency and that local authorities are often not involved. The Ministry of Justice, which funds that arrangement, is clear that the current system is not working, which is why it recently consulted on transformational reforms to how education and support in youth custody should be delivered in future. I have ensured that I have been kept in close contact with Justice Ministers so that the education element for children—not only those with SEN, but others in the care system and elsewhere—is being properly considered as part of the review.

Will my hon. Friend undertake to ensure that when the Bill goes to the other place a careful eye is kept on clause 69 and that the Ministry of Justice moves in a way that is properly co-ordinated so that we do not end up with the nightmare scenario of those young people simply falling through the gap?

I strongly share my hon. Friend’s view. I want to make progress on that, both in my Department and across Government. The commitment I gave him earlier will continue as the Bill moves on and other work is done by the Ministry of Justice on the consultation it has carried out, because it is important that we make as much progress on that as possible at an important stage of development in many of our institutions and within the secure estate.

Clause 69 also plays an important technical function by disapplying duties with the SEN clauses that it would be impractical to deliver while a young offender is in custody. For those reasons, I do not agree that we can simply remove the clause ahead of the significant reforms to education in custody that the Ministry of Justice is considering and the resulting changes that might need to be made to existing legislation. However, I have sought to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon and hope that provides him with some confidence as we move forward.

Turning to amendments 71 and 72, tabled by the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West, we are continuing to strengthen our understanding of young people’s post-16 educational outcomes. The Department for Education will be publishing destination data on students with SEN at key stage 4 before the summer break, and later in the year for those at key stage 5. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills already publishes data on participation and attainment in further education by students with SEN aged 19 and over, and that will continue. I do not think that it is necessary to place additional reporting requirements on the further education sector when those data are already being made public. However, as I have said previously, I am sure that she will continue to press that point as the Bill moves on to the other place.

On amendments 73 to 75, we will ensure that any code of practice laid before Parliament has been subject to proper consultation and that Parliament is given the opportunity to scrutinise new or updated versions. Clause 67(2) already ensures that the Secretary of State carries out sensible and proper consultation on the code of practice. We intend to publish a draft code of practice on the Department’s website for public consultation in the autumn of this year and to give ample time for comment, over and above the draft that we provided for the purposes of Committee. If we did not consult appropriately, there would be every reason for this House or the other place to resolve not to approve the code.

The Education Committee considered the careful balance between proper consultation and parliamentary scrutiny and keeping the SEN code of practice up to date during pre-legislative scrutiny. The Bill delivers on their recommendation that the draft should be subject to consultation and approved by Parliament using the negative resolution procedure. This brings the code into line with other statutory codes, such as the school admissions code, and enables an appropriate level of parliamentary scrutiny.

This debate has continued the good faith that has been a hallmark of the progress of this part of the Bill. Given what I have said, I hope that hon. Members will feel sufficiently assured not to press their amendments.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 9 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 10

Childcare costs scheme: preparatory expenditure

‘The Commissioners for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs may incur expenditure in preparing for the introduction of a scheme for providing assistance in respect of the costs of childcare.’.—(Elizabeth Truss.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss new clause 6—Staff to child ratios: Ofsted-registered childminder settings—

‘(1) This section applies to Ofsted-registered childminder settings.

(2) The ratio of staff to children under the age of eight must be no less than one to six, where—

(a) a maximum of three children may be young children;

(b) a maximum of one child is under the age of one.

(3) Any care provided by childminders for older children must not adversely affect the care of children receiving early years provision.

(4) If a childminder can demonstrate to parents, carers and inspectors, that the individual needs of all the children are being met, then in addition to the ratio set out in subsection (2), they may also care for—

(a) babies who are siblings of the children referred to in subsection (2), or

(b) their own baby.

(5) If children aged between four and five years only attend the childminding setting outside of normal school hours or the normal school term time, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children, provided that at no time the ratio of staff to children under the age of eight exceeds one to six.

(6) If a childminder employs an assistant or works with another childminder, each childminder or assistant may care for the number of children permitted by the ratios specified in subsections (2), (4), and (5).

(7) Children may only be left in the sole care of a childminder’s assistant for two hours in a single day.

(8) Childminders must obtain the permission of a child’s parents or carers before that child can be left in the sole care of a childminder’s assistant.

(9) The ratios in subsections (2), (4) and (5) apply to childminders providing overnight care, provided that the children are continuously monitored, which may be through the use of electronic equipment.

(10) For the purposes of this section a child is—

(a) a “young child” up until 1 September following his or her fifth birthday.

(b) an “older child” after the 1 September following his or her fifth birthday.’.

New clause 7—Staff to child ratios: Ofsted-registered non-domestic childcare settings—

‘(1) This section applies to Ofsted-registered, non-domestic childcare settings.

(2) For children aged under two—

(a) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to three;

(b) at least one member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification, and must be suitably experienced in working with children under two;

(c) at least half of all other members of staff must hold a full and relevant level 2 qualification;

(d) at least half of all members of staff must have received training in care for babies; and

(e) where there is a dedicated area solely for children under two years old, the member of staff in charge of that area must, in the judgement of their employer, have suitable experience of working with children under two years old.

(3) For children between the ages of two and three—

(a) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to four;

(b) at least one member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification, and

(c) at least half of all other members of staff must hold a full and relevant level 2 qualification;

(4) Where there is registered early years provision, which operates between 8 am and 4 pm, and a member of staff with Qualified Teacher status, Early Years Professional status or other full and relevant level 6 qualification is working directly with the children, for children aged three and over—

(a) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to 13; and

(b) at least one member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification.

(5) Where there is registered early years provision, which operates outside the hours of 8 am and 4 pm, and between the hours of 8 am and 4 pm, where a member of staff with Qualified Teacher status, Early Years Professional status or other full and relevant level 6 qualification is not working directly with the children, for children aged three and over—

(a) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to eight;

(b) at least one member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification, and

(c) at least half of all other staff must hold a full and relevant level 2 qualification;

(6) In independent schools where—

(a) a member of staff with Qualified Teacher status, Early Years Professional status or other full and relevant level 6 qualification;

(b) an instructor; or

(c) a suitably qualified overseas-trained teacher is working directly with the children, for children aged three and over—

(i) for classes where the majority of children will reach the age of five or older within the school year, the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to 30;

(ii) for all other classes the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to 13; and

(iii) at least one other member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification.

(7) In independent schools where there is—

(a) no member of staff with Qualified Teacher status, Early Years Professional status or other full and relevant level 6 qualification;

(b) no instructor; or

(c) no suitably qualified overseas-trained teacher working directly with the children, for children aged three and over—

(i) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to eight;

(ii) at least one other member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification, and

(iii) at least one other member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 2 qualification.

(8) In maintained nursery schools and nursery classes in maintained schools (except reception classes)—

(a) the ratio of staff to children must be no less than one to 13;

(b) at least one member of staff must be a school teacher as defined by subsection 122(3) [Power to prescribe pay and conditions] of the Education Act 2002 and Schedule 2 to the Education (School Teachers’ Qualifications) (England) Regulations 2003; and

(c) at least one other member of staff must hold a full and relevant level 3 qualification.

(9) The Secretary of State may make provision in statutory guidance to—

(a) define qualifications as “full and relevant”; and

(b) define “suitable experience” for those working with children under two.

(10) If HM Chief Inspector of Education is concerned about the quality of provision or the safety and well-being of children in a setting he may impose different ratios.’.

Amendment 76, in clause 73, page 50, line 16, at beginning insert

‘If, after a consultation period of not less than three months, and the publication of a response to the consultation, the Secretary of State is satisfied with the provisions, he may make an order so that’.

Amendment 77, in page 50, line 29, leave out clause 75.

Government amendment 28.

I wish to speak to new clause 10, which introduces paving legislation to allow Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs to begin to set up tax-free child care, and amendment 28, which is a minor and technical amendment relating to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012.

First, I will comment on new clauses 6 and 7. As the House knows, we have proposals, on which we have consulted, for providers with highly qualified staff to be able to operate more flexible staff-to-child ratios, in line with best practice in leading European countries such as France, Holland and Germany. I highlight the fact that these proposals would be entirely optional for nurseries and are about empowering the front line.

The proposals received support from, among others, Sir Martin Narey, formerly of Barnado’s, and Sir Michael Wilshaw of Ofsted. I firmly believe that these flexibilities would allow nurseries to offer more choice of high-quality child care places to parents, invest additional revenue in attracting the best staff, and reduce costs for parents. However, as I made clear on the media this morning, it has not been possible to reach cross-Government agreement, so we are not proceeding with this reform.

That will not stop me working to make affordable, quality child care available to all. I am absolutely committed to this goal.

This is a matter of pressing need, and we are taking forward the following proposals: introducing early-years educator and early-years teacher qualifications; introducing tax-free child care; ensuring that more money for child care goes to the front line; increasing the supply of childminders through the establishment of childminder agencies; and making it easier for schools to take two-year-olds in their nurseries.

The current childcare system is not working for parents. The real cost of child care has risen by 77% in real terms since 2003. Families in England pay some of the highest costs in the world; some spend 27% of net family income on child care. In comparison, parents in France spend just 11% of their income on child care.

I hope that the hon. Lady does not think I am trying to be disruptive. I was enjoying what she said, but I want to get to the heart of it. She said that the Government are not proceeding with the other proposals, which should of course have due consideration. At the moment, child care in this country is too expensive, and very many women find it a great burden to be able to afford it as compared with those in other countries, especially in Europe. Will the proposals that she is left with do something about that?

I completely agree that we have very high child care costs and I will do everything I can, where we can secure cross-Government agreement, to address that. I want to outline some of our proposals.

I think there is merit in the work my hon. Friend has done and I pay tribute to her for the effort and energy she has put into it. I am disappointed that it has been brought to a halt. Will she confirm that the Deputy Prime Minister agreed to the proposals initially, only to renege on that agreement later?

I thank my hon. Friend for his point. It is true that the reason we are not proceeding with the proposals is that we have failed to secure cross-Government agreement.

As I have said, the current child care system is not working for parents and the costs are very high.

May I confirm my understanding that the Deputy Prime Minister signed up to this but later, for political or other reasons—who knows?—withdrew his support? That is shameful and it could lead to less flexibility in a child care system that lacks quality and is too expensive.

I thank my hon. Friend for his point. Other countries in Europe have flexibility and lower costs for child care. We are seeking to replicate some of their other reforms, and that is what I want to address.

One of the issues is that the UK has some of the lowest staff salaries in Europe. Child care workers here earn £6.60 an hour on average, which is barely above the minimum wage. Annual earnings are £13,000, which is well below the averages of £16,000 in France, £20,000 in Denmark and £22,000 in Sweden. We must reform the supply and funding of child care. If we do not, it will remain expensive and parents will struggle to combine work and family or find themselves cobbling together care, which is difficult and inconvenient. I know of some families where parents work alternating shifts to cover their care responsibilities. I want those families to have good alternatives.

Dual-income families are now the norm across the developed world because of our changing society and economy. In Britain, two thirds of mothers go out to work and many fathers also seek to combine family and work life. If we want parents to have good choices, we have to get better value for money for the £5 billion that the Government spend. International comparisons show that we spend the same proportion of GDP on public support for child care and early years as France and more than Germany, yet, as I have said, parents here pay double the cost that parents pay in countries such as France and Germany, and I do not think that that is right.

I would be the last person to volunteer to defend the leader of the Liberal Democrats, but perhaps he was not sure about the overall, holistic analysis of what is going wrong. We pay more, it costs more and early-years carers are paid rubbish salaries, while many settings do not have a graduate in employment, which always lifts the quality. What is the reason for that? There must be one. What do the advisers and researchers suggest?

There are, of course, various reasons, many of which relate to the history of how child care systems have developed in different countries. France, for example, has a long tradition of the école maternelle, which involves structured, teacher-led learning from an early age. That has been shown to improve outcomes for children, particularly those from the lowest income backgrounds. Our reforms seek to make sure that high quality, highly qualified professionals go into early years, and to try to adjust the differential between early years and primary school salaries. I will come on to that later.

Parents need to know that they can access high-quality care. The research is clear: high-quality early learning experiences boost children’s attainment throughout their education. There are many excellent nurseries that provide stimulating, structured learning opportunities for young children, which help them to prepare for school. However, there is much more to do.

Anyone who works with children needs a wide range of qualities, not all of which can be quantified by degrees or diplomas. However, that does not undermine the case for greater skills and better qualifications. In future, there will be two qualified roles: early years educator and early years teacher. Graduate leaders are already having a positive impact. Almost 12,000 early years professionals are trained to deliver high-quality early education and care for pre-school children. Building on that legacy, early years teachers will be specialists in early childhood development who are trained to work with babies and young children. We want to see more crossover between teachers in primary and early years so that there is a continuum of education, rather than two separate silos.

The training programme for early years teachers begins this September. Trainees will have to meet the same requirements as primary school trainee teachers. They must have a degree and will need to pass the English and maths tests. The National College for Teaching and Leadership has consulted on the new teacher standards for early years, which will be published in July.

We are extending the reach of Teach First, which has been successful in bringing talented new people into schools. From this September, it will include teaching three and four-year-olds for the first time. Teach First attracts some of the most talented and ambitious graduates in the country, many of whom might not otherwise have considered working with young children. They can make a big contribution, especially in areas of disadvantage.

We also want to raise the standards of practitioners who do not have degrees. Early years educators will be qualified at level 3. Early education qualifications have been far too diffuse and lacking in rigour, and there are hundreds of existing and historical early years qualifications. We are addressing that failure. The National College for Teaching and Leadership has consulted on new criteria for level 3 qualifications and will publish them shortly. Using those criteria, awarding organisations will develop high-quality qualifications to be introduced in September 2014. The minimum entry standard for the qualifications will be grade C at GCSE in English and maths.

Apprenticeships will offer a high-quality route to becoming an early years educator. They will last 20 months on average and combine employment with study towards recognised qualifications through various routes, including further education colleges.

Will the new qualifications, particularly those for early years educators, include training in early infant brain development and the crucial importance for childhood development of a secure early bond?

I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution. The new qualifications will include the study of early brain development and attachment theory to ensure that early years educators and teachers are up to date with the latest research and practice when they go into the profession fully.

We have just announced a £2 million apprenticeship bursary scheme for apprentice early years educators. Up to 1,000 bursary places will be available to people who aspire to a career in early education. Each bursary will be worth £1,500 and an additional £300 will be available for further training. I am encouraged by the view of David Pomfret, the principal of the college of West Anglia, that the bursaries will make it easier for people to begin a career in early education. The college has seen more people taking up such courses in recent years and we want to encourage more young people into this important profession.

In addition to improving the supply of early years educators and teachers into child care, we are reforming child care funding. The tax-free child care scheme will provide 2.5 million families with financial support towards their formal child care costs. That is an expansion on the current system and, in the majority of cases, will provide a more generous amount.

Unfortunately, under the current employer-supported child care voucher scheme, which was introduced by the previous Government, the question of who receives support is arbitrary. It is also highly inefficient, with 33% of the total amount being spent on overheads. At present, only 5% of employers offer employer-supported child care, and only a fifth of employees are eligible for it. Those who are self-employed do not have access to it, and whether a parent can or cannot get it is a lottery. Strangely, as more than one parent can claim employer-supported child care, in some cases there are two claimants for one child. That means that the costs for one child could be covered more than for a single parent with several children, and that is neither a sensible nor fair way to continue.

Our new tax-free child care scheme will resolve those anomalies. It will be available to any working family, except where one or both earners pay the additional rate of income tax. It will be on a per-child basis and include the self-employed and those on the national minimum wage. Tax-free child care means that around 2.5 million families will now have access to support. That support will be worth the same as the basic rate of income tax at 20% of costs, making child care costs effectively tax free. It will mean that the average family with two children will receive up to £2,400 each year. Those on lower incomes will continue to have 70% of their child care costs paid through tax credits and, in future, universal credit, and there will be an additional £200 million to help those in receipt of universal credit ensure that work always pays.

We are not introducing the tax-free child care scheme now. The Government have been in discussions with interested parties since the announcement of the scheme, and will launch a formal consultation document shortly. The consultation will last 12 weeks, and the Government will proactively engage with those affected by the changes to discuss the issues. New clause 10 has been tabled to enable HMRC to start developing the scheme. Although we will consult in full on its details, the basic tenets have been set out. To ensure that the scheme is in operation by the autumn 2015 target, work on its foundations must commence now.

I thank my hon. Friend for providing information on the tax-free child care system. Will that replace all forms of child care currently in the market? I am thinking particularly of employee benefits for those who receive child care as a benefit through the taxation of companies.

I thank my hon. Friend for his question and HMRC will consider that issue in its new consultation on this subject.

Much of the work required is based on IT development because we want all parents to be able to access the service online. As with paving legislation before it, the new clause will enable officials to start high-level discussions on IT and other development, and such discussions could not take place without the new clause. The provision will not affect HMRC’s current operations or impede the development or scrutiny of the tax-free child care scheme, and there is no immediate cost of the scheme that must be funded.

This is a short and self-explanatory new clause that merely allows the Government to begin preliminary work ahead of the final design of the tax-free child care scheme. The Bill is similar to those used by previous Governments, and takes no greater powers than in those cases. Furthermore, the Government are clear that any changes required in primary legislation will receive appropriate scrutiny. The new clause is minor and technical in nature, and I look for support across the House to enable HMRC to start working on one of the Government’s priorities.

In addition to reforming child care funding we must also increase the supply of quality child care. The number of childminders has almost halved over the past 15 years, limiting parental choice in a flexible affordable form of child care. Many parents want home-based care, especially in a child’s youngest years—I know my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom) is a great advocate of that. The Bill enables the introduction of childminder agencies, which I believe will help to increase the number of childminders in the market by removing barriers to entry and offering an alternative to working completely independently. Agencies will drive up quality—they will be required to support the training and development of childminders—and make it easier for parents to access childminders and be assured of high-quality and flexible provision.

Will children’s centres be encouraged to become childminder agencies? That would link two of the most critical structures available to support parents. Childminders often believe they do not have access to training or to the camaraderie of others in their field, so that could be a perfect combination.

I agree with my hon. Friend and will mention the types of organisations that could be involved in childminder agencies in due course.

Childminder agencies will be a one-stop shop, meaning that there will be a simpler process for childminders entering the profession, without the large up-front costs that put many capable people off. We are working closely with childminders and other providers, including those interested in setting up agencies, and with Ofsted, as we develop details of how agencies might operate.

I am delighted to inform the House that the Department has written to more than 60 organisations that have expressed an interest in working with us to trial elements of childminder agencies. There is a mix of organisations, including businesses ranging from nursery chains to individual childminders, and academies, maintained schools, national child care organisations, children’s centres, which my hon. Friend mentioned, and local authorities. The trials will begin later this summer. I will say more in the coming weeks about the organisations taking part and the shape of the trials. Some hon. Members seek assurances on our plans for consultation. I can confirm that, following the trials, the Department will consult fully on the key requirements to be placed on childminder agencies in regulations.

Amendment 28 is a technical amendment and introduces a transitional provision to cater for section 85 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 coming into force on or before the day on which the Bill receives Royal Assent. Section 85 is designed to bring about a change across the board in relation to the fines that magistrates courts can impose. The amendment is needed to ensure that section 85 applies to the new offences relating to childminder agencies in schedule 4 as it applies to most other pre-existing offences.

Local authorities have an important role in early education and child care. Local authorities and their local agencies—family information services or Sure Start children’s centres—have a vital part to play in helping families who need support and in championing the interests of children. For example, local authorities have made strong progress on securing early learning for two-year-olds—some 55,000 children are already benefiting from places throughout the country. I am working with the Department of Health to ensure that services are more closely integrated, and that the two-and-a-half-year-old check is in place in 2015, which will help in that regard. We need to ensure that families get the help they need, and that a seamless service is provided by children’s centres, with both the Department for Education and the Department of Health contributing.

I want local authorities to continue to work to attract high-quality providers to their area, and to encourage schools to offer more nursery places and school-based child care. At present, there is a big gap between the proportions of outstanding providers in different local authority areas. As I have said, we are supporting Ofsted with increased funds to increase the number of Her Majesty’s inspectors. Sir Michael Wilshaw has announced his intention to focus more on weaker providers. Ofsted is to trial an improvement programme with nurseries and pre-schools that are not yet “good” in three London boroughs in the next few weeks to show how this approach might work. Local authorities are also empowered to offer support and training. The intention of the clause is to get rid of unnecessary bureaucracy, so that local authorities can focus on these important functions. I want to see a shift from process and bureaucracy to focusing on what matters: outcomes for children.

Clause 75 repeals the bureaucratic requirement to produce a child care sufficiency assessment every three years. Instead, local authorities will report annually to elected Members and parents in a way that meets local circumstances—a move widely supported at consultation. I have recently published new guidance for Sure Start children’s centres, and a consultation on a proposed new funded early education guidance that reflects this approach.

I have set out a range of steps the Government are taking to meet the challenge of high-quality and affordable child care for all families.

I rise to speak to new clauses 6 and 7 and amendments 76 and 77 in my name and in the name of my hon. Friends. Notwithstanding the welcome announcement the Minister has just made on behalf of the Government—at last, I might add—we still wish to proceed with the new clauses as their premise and purpose are still valid.

The Government have got themselves into a complete shambles. With every passing week, it becomes more and more apparent that Ministers do not have a credible plan to tackle the child care crisis they have created. Under this Government, parents are facing a triple whammy: costs are rising faster than wages and even general inflation, with the average cost having risen by almost 20% since 2010; support from the Government for those on tax credits has been cut, meaning that some families are up to £1,500 a year worse off; and there is a real struggle to find places in some areas owing to the cuts in supply-side subsidies and direct provision, such as through children’s centres. Since the election, we have lost almost 900 nurseries and more than 1,500 child minders, and there are 500 fewer Sure Start children’s centres.

It is no wonder, therefore, that the Prime Minister panicked and plucked the Children’s Minister from the Back Benches to implement her ideas without even bothering to check whether they were any good. The main idea to come out of “More great childcare”—increasing the number of children each adult can look after—is the worst one, and we are pleased to hear that it has been dropped. The Minister has been told categorically, most notably by advisers commissioned by her own Department, that it was not a good idea from the start, yet still she persisted with it.

If you will allow me, Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to place on record what those advisers said. Eva Lloyd from the university of East London was commissioned, along with Professor Helen Penn, by the Department to advise on child care practice from around the world, but her report is still being sat on seven months later. She said:

“The ratio relaxation is unlikely to reduce child care costs, but may well drive down child care quality.”

Professor Cathy Nutbrown, whose excellent report on qualifications in the sector was manipulated by the Government to argue for relaxing ratios, said:

“Current proposals will shake the foundation of quality provision for young children. Watering down ratios regardless of the level of qualifications held by staff, is likely to lead to worse, not ‘great’ childcare, and will undermine intentions to provide quality early learning experiences.”

You might be forgiven for thinking, Mr Deputy Speaker, that child care providers, who in purely economic terms could stand to benefit from these plans, would back them. Well, here is what some of the leading representatives of child care providers have to say.

Neil Leitch from the Pre-School Learning Alliance, whose survey of members found that 94% did not believe they could maintain the quality of their current level of provision if staffing levels were reduced, said:

“We are absolutely appalled by this fixation to alter ratios… This is a recipe for disaster.”

In a separate release last week, he said:

“There is no doubt that relaxing ratios would have lowered the overall quality of childcare in this country. Not only would children have received less one-to-one support from childcare workers, but their well-being would also have been put at serious risk.”

My hon. Friend is highlighting all the reasons the proposal should not have gone forward, but it seems that it ended up as an internal argument on the Government Benches, rather than being based on the opinion of experts.

We would rather the Minister had come to the House sooner with a proper statement. In the time available this afternoon, that will not be possible, and obviously the House is not as well attended as it would have been for a statement. It is disappointing, then, that the announcement was not made in a statement to a full House in the usual way.

I fully understand what the hon. Lady is trying to achieve, but are these professionals and new clauses trying to say that the professionals in the sector are not professional or good enough to decide themselves what ratios they deem to be safe, rather than what she deems to be safe?

No. I will tell the hon. Gentleman what more of the professionals have said, however, and then perhaps he will think on the strangeness of his intervention.

Purnima Tanuku of the National Day Nurseries Association said:

“At the moment there is an option that nurseries can operate a 1:13 ratio for over threes, if a person with a Level Six (degree level) qualification is working directly with the children. However, few nurseries take up this option, largely because it is not practical for one person to meet the needs of 13 children doing the type of activities most nurseries offer.”

That was echoed by private nurseries and managers I have met across the country. They suggested that it can often be a struggle providing quality care when operating at the current ratios. Finally, I will quote June O’Sullivan, chief executive of the London Early Years Foundation, which runs the nursery in the House of Commons:

“It beggars belief that a junior Minister can wreak havoc on a sector that has explained the negative consequences of her actions.”

Obviously the junior Minister has at last come to the House and ditched her plans, which I am sure all the people I have quoted will be pleased to hear. Most important, though, parents will be most pleased to hear today’s announcement.

I too welcome this U-turn by the Government today, but I welcome all the more my hon. Friend’s new clauses. Parents in my constituency are actually worried about the safety of their children under the Government’s proposals and are taking that anxiety to work. Some were even considering giving up work, if it had been introduced, which would not have done our economy any good. Would support for the new clauses in fact do our economy good and remove that anxiety from parents?

I agree, which is why we are proceeding with the new clauses: we need to ensure that parents will never again face such a threat from a Minister who just brings forward a mad idea out of the blue, against all the evidence and without any support from anyone—whether professional, parent or expert—in the country.

Both Mumsnet and Netmums have officially backed the Rewind on Ratios campaign, following widespread anger among parents—anger that the Minister felt the full force of when she did a web chat on Mumsnet in February. A recent survey of parents by Bounty found that 80% would not back the changes, even if they led to significantly cheaper child care bills. Of course, that is a big if.

The Department has argued—the Minister did so again in her opening remarks—that the measure could cut costs. The modelling information that the Department was forced to reveal said that it could cut costs by up to 28%, but the modelling done to arrive at that figure was branded by providers as a “work of fiction”. The modelling made wildly unrealistic assumptions of 100% occupancy for 52 weeks of the year, which no nursery ever has—speak to the nurseries and they will say that. It did not account for any breaks, training sickness or holidays for any of the staff. In one model—the one that said that it would save parents up to 28%—staff would not even have been paid any more money, which was supposed to be the whole point of these reforms, as the Minister again said in her opening remarks.

Busy Bees, which had initially supported the plans before saying it would not be changing its ratios, calculated that it could actually cost parents more if these changes were brought in.

I thank my hon. Friend for giving way again but this issue is really important. No consideration seems to have been given to the need to change premises, for example. My granddaughter was in a three-storey property, with babies, largely, at the top. The number of children in care on that floor could not be increased without something significant being done to the building. I do not think that any of those additional costs were considered.

My hon. Friend makes a very valid point that has been raised with me many times. I know that the Secretary of State is getting a reputation for sloppy research, and I feel that this is another case of policy-based evidence from his Department.

Then, last week, we thought that common sense had prevailed and the plans had been ditched. In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister said as much. In his briefing note to journalists, he set out in black and white the complete lack of support and credible evidence that the Department for Education had for these reforms. This was a cause of great relief for the tens of thousands of parents and childcare professionals who were rightly appalled by the lack of consideration of the needs of young children in these plans. Indeed, given how out of touch with childcare practice in England the Minister appears to be, it is little wonder that, according to her own Department, she has visited just five English nurseries in an official capacity since getting the job, compared with seven settings in France.

I am not sure what those French nurseries were like, but the Minister regularly cites them as exemplars. I am sure she will have seen that the chief executive of the Pre-school Learning Alliance, Neil Leitch, commented last week on his visit to France. He highlighted staff not having the time to identify and support children with special educational needs, nursery age children having scheduled toilet breaks and long afternoon naps, and children being made to sit still at desks for so long that tennis balls had to be fixed to their chair legs so that they did not make a noise when they fidgeted. This is not what anyone with an understanding of child development—[Interruption] He has photographs. They are available on the internet. The Minister is disputing what I am saying. She can look up the pictures, and I am sure that Neil Leitch would be more than happy to meet her to discuss what he saw in France.

This is not what anyone with an understanding of child development would describe as high-quality early education. When we consider how stubbornly the Minister has refused to listen to those experts and child care bodies who repeatedly told her that that is what her plans would mean, it is unsurprising that she has met with the tiny number of organisations who support her many more times than the major sector representatives who disagree.

In view of the fact that the hon. Lady thought my last intervention a little strange, let me put it in a different way. Is she saying that the French system is much more expensive, or does it have higher ratios and so is much more unsafe than our system?

Yes, the French system is of a lower quality. That comes out in the OECD ratings of its nurseries, which are lower than those of the British system. When people meet French nursery providers, they are often asked about our system. French nursery providers look to emulate our model and cannot understand why we look to emulate their systems. [Interruption.] That is what we are told, but again, I am more than happy to hear evidence to the contrary.

Within 24 hours of the Deputy Prime Minister saying that the policy was dead in the water, both the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister’s spokesperson denied that a decision had been taken. The Department for Education said absolutely nothing for six days. We had to wait six days for a Minister to come to the House and make a formal announcement confirming that the plans are indeed dead in the water. We were grateful to hear that at long last, even though we will not have time to discuss it in detail this afternoon.

Even though the Minister has said today that the plans have been shelved, I do not have confidence that we have seen the last of them. After all, the Government are struggling to meet their target to provide free child care for the 20% most disadvantaged two-year-olds. With just three months before the policy is due to be introduced, a freedom of information survey that I have conducted shows that only 60% of councils have the capacity to provide the places, probably for some of the reasons cited a moment ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Moor View (Alison Seabeck), who is no longer in her place. The temptation for the Government just to click their fingers and increase the number of two-year-olds that each worker can care for must be great. We should be clear: all they would have to do is change statutory guidance, meaning that Parliament would have no say.

In proposing the new clauses in this group, the Opposition are giving this House a say. We have an opportunity to nip any such future reforms in the bud. We have an opportunity to send the strongest possible message to Ministers that this House has listened to the tens of thousands of parents and professionals who have been campaigning against these changes, not to mention the Department’s own experts, and to say that we will not risk the safety of children in child care settings or the quality of the early learning and development they receive by allowing any such plans to go through unchallenged.

Does that mean that the hon. Lady thinks it was wrong for the previous Government to increase ratios for three and four-year-olds in 2008?

I was not in the Department or in position in 2008, but if we raised ratios, I am sure it was done after full consultation and with the support and backing of child care professionals, which is the exact opposite to now. That is the key difference, and I am sure that people out there listening to this debate will know whether that is true and whether that case is a fair comparison.

I sincerely hope that today the Deputy Prime Minister will put his MPs where his mouth is and lead his Liberal Democrat Members into the Aye Lobby with Labour when we seek the opinion of the House on these new clauses shortly, to ensure that in future no Secretary of State can force through, against the will of the House, changes such as those that the Minister has now dropped.

Amendment 76 would require the Government to take the novel step of consulting on the formation of childminder agencies before they legislate to create them. I hope that Ministers will learn the lessons from the furore over ratios. I should say from the outset that I do not have a dogmatic objection to childminder agencies, particularly if they are voluntary. What the Government say they want to achieve through such agencies is all very sensible: greater co-operation and peer support for childminders, as well as access to training and help with gaining bursaries. Childminder agencies will also be a single point of contact for parents who might need a mix of child care solutions. These are all good things that make for a vibrant childminder sector, and are all things that local authority childminder networks and family information services should be providing at the moment. That some of them are not is perhaps down to the devastating cuts to the grant that local authorities previously received from the Department for Education to pay for them.

Since the publication of this Bill, the Department has been consulting on removing many of those duties from local authorities—such as providing training and quality improvement support—and this on top of the attempt in clause 75 to remove the duty to publish child care sufficiency reports, which our amendment 77 would block. All this seems to be a clear sign that the Government want local authorities almost completely removed from the child care equation and that agencies are therefore the preferred configuration for childminders.

Given that the Minister has said that there will be no direct funding from the Government for agencies to provide those services, the implication is that there will be a cost to the childminder. That cost will in turn have to be passed on to the parents, because most childminders do not earn the sort of money that would allow them to soak up the kind of membership fee or commission that we might expect an agency to demand. The most recent childcare costs survey from the Daycare Trust found that childminder fees were already increasing by an average of more than 5%, year on year.

Of course, as all the parent surveys tell us, cost is a secondary issue to quality, and it is the end of individual inspections by Ofsted that is the most worrying reform. Parents really value the fact that their childminder has proved their effectiveness to Ofsted. A National Childminding Association survey last year found that 80% of parents thought that individual inspections were important, and that 75% might not choose a childminder without the reassurance of an individual inspection. Childminders value the inspections too: 80% felt that moving to an agency model of inspection would have a detrimental effect on their professionalism, and they are obviously concerned that this would put parents off using them as well.

Of course we want more childminders to set up—as I said earlier, we have seen the number drop by more than 1,500 since the election—but we should not be trying to achieve that by passing legislation that has the potential fundamentally to change the market, without first consulting on it and establishing consensus. I would therefore welcome assurances from the Minister that the Government will set up such a consultation before the Bill completes its passage through the other place.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson), as it enables me to clarify these matters from the perspective of the Liberal Democrat Benches. It was also good to see the Chair of the Education Committee, the hon. Member for Beverley and Holderness (Mr Stuart), back in the Chamber, although he is no longer in his place. He led the charge on many of these issues, although I suspect that he might have been getting a bit of gyp from the old leg, as he seemed uncharacteristically bad tempered.

I shall address my remarks to the new clauses and amendments in this group, as you would expect me to do, Mr Deputy Speaker. I pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss) for the way in which she has gone into battle over the use of the taxation system to support the provision of child care. She has come up with a whole package of measures, which we will explore in the course of the debate, and it is a great achievement to have secured some cash from the Treasury. I know that colleagues in my party support her in this. She has gone out there and done this, and I pay tribute to her for her achievement. New clause 10, in putting down this marker in the Bill, represents an important step forward in showing the Government’s commitment to supporting parents who want access to good quality child care in order to allow them to go out to work, and to bring up their families in the way they aspire to.

The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West talked about the rising cost of child care, but she could have turned the clock back a bit further to when the previous Government were in power, because those costs rose hugely on their watch as well. This is nothing new; it is a trend that has been going on for some time. I therefore welcome the proposal to set out a framework for investing more public money in supporting the cost of child care for families who need it.

New clauses 6 and 7, tabled by the hon. Lady, cover an issue that has, as the Minister said, been settled for the time being. This Government now have no plans to alter the ratios. They consulted on the proposal, and those who responded to the consultation were fairly overwhelmingly against it. The Government have responded to that. The Minister clearly believes that there is a case to be made for such an alteration, however, and she will continue to make that case in the run-up to the general election if that remains Conservative party policy, but it is not the policy of the coalition Government to introduce such changes now.

That debate will no doubt continue, but I welcome the fact that, on the basis of the consultation, the Government have chosen not to go ahead with the changes. In today’s statement to the House on GCSE reform, the Chair of the Select Committee praised the Secretary of State for listening to the results of that consultation and being persuaded to take a different tack on some aspects of exam reform. The Secretary of State did it in that case, and the Government have also done it in this case. We should not criticise them for that; listening and taking action based on a consultation is the purpose of a consultation. The debate will continue and we will see whether a further case can be made. For the time being, that does not seem to have been the case. It is not only the sector that was concerned about this; parents were, too. If those two important groups are expressing concern, it is very difficult to move ahead with the policy.

The hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West is seeking to add measures that are entirely unnecessary. There are a number of things that any future Government might propose to do about child care with which we may be unhappy, but as those things are not being proposed, it is utterly pointless to say we have to have a vote on them now. We could have all sorts of amendments to stop things that are not being proposed by the Government—an amendment to prevent child care from taking place outdoors in the rain, for example—but that is pointless.

We all know what this is about. It is about the Opposition, as they are entitled to do—[Interruption.] Absolutely; it is about children, which is why the Government are not doing these things. These amendments, on the other hand, are nothing to do with children. They are about trying to add something to the Bill so the Opposition can claim some kind of victory or try to drive a wedge between the two Government parties. That is what Opposition parties do, so that is absolutely fine, but there is no need to vote for amendments to stop something that the Government are not proposing. I will be disappointing the Opposition Front-Bench team, therefore.

Liberal Democrat policy is clear. We are not convinced that the ratio change is necessary. [Interruption.] Absolutely not; we can support the Government because the Government are not making any change, so the Opposition proposal is unnecessary, as I have just set out.

Amendment 76 seeks to change the clause that enacts schedule 4 to the Childcare Act 2006, a provision that was put in place under the last Labour Government. I was therefore intrigued to note that the Labour Opposition have tabled an amendment not to enact something that was originally passed on their watch.

I understand the thinking behind Opposition amendment 77 on the duty on local authorities to provide an assessment of child care places in their locality. Having heard from the Minister about what is being proposed, however, and given the fact that the consultation has found that they would prefer to do it on an annual basis in a less bureaucratic way, I am persuaded that that is unnecessary, too.

We have therefore heard from the Government that there is no proposal to change ratios, which I welcome. They are also putting in the key change, which the Minister has gone out and fought for, of more financial support in coming years for child care, and I welcome that, too. Therefore, I will not support any of the Opposition amendments, but I am happy to support the Government new clauses.

On new clause 10, the Minister made great play of introducing tax-free child care, but she should be clearer in her closing remarks about what exactly that means, as I fear she is misdescribing something. What she seems to be proposing is that after people have passed through many hoops, including having both parents working and receiving certain levels of income, 20% is paid, which is not tax-free for the higher rate taxpayer. I want her to clarify this point: she talked about those paying additional tax not qualifying, so will she explain what tax threshold this will and will not apply to, so people who might be affected can know about that?

Amazingly, this scheme has managed to unite The Daily Telegraph and the Labour party in criticism. That is some achievement, and I applaud the Minister on it, but it shows that there is a degree of muddle. The scheme is for couples or single parents where both work, but there are many other questions about it—I look forward to the regulations being laid so we can get to the details. What about where one partner was working but is unemployed or sick and unable to work, perhaps for a long period, or is retired, which is not beyond the bounds of possibility? Does the Minister have any plans to extend this as a general policy to parents of over-fives? A chef in my constituency on £15,000 or so a year raised with me the challenges of getting child care out of hours, a situation faced by many people, both with over-fives and with under-fives. I hope that she will give us some indication of her thinking on this matter. Will she tell us when she is planning to lay regulations on this issue, so that we can all be alert in order to tackle that?

On new clauses 6 and 7, I will be generous to the Minister. She said that the fact that she has lost support—perhaps could not corral support across Whitehall—is not stopping her push for “affordable, quality child care available to all.” On that last sentence she and I are united as one, but, sadly, I disagree with her approach. If that really was what was being proposed, I would be a greater supporter of hers, but I am concerned about misrepresentation: little ideas presented as big solutions. We need a longer-term vision about child care provision for our under-fives and our older children, and we must ensure that we see that as an investment in those young people and, in particular, in women, in enabling them to work. However, this is not the time to get into that debate.

On childminder agencies, I am not going to get into the issue about ratios, because my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) raised it very effectively. The proposal was never popular. I was even stopped in the street about it in my constituency by parents and carers who were very concerned about it—it was that much of a worry. I echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham) said about that worry being something that Ministers need to think about when proposing ideas that have not been agreed properly within their own Government, let alone anywhere else.

I have some concerns about the proposals on agencies for childminders, and I have referred to the parallel with older people’s care, where private agencies came in and reduced the quality of care. That is a legacy of the late Lady Thatcher’s years in government and it has not improved in all that time. I do not want private companies to come in, cream off a profit and cut the income of the childminders, who, in my area, consider themselves as small businesses. The number of childminders has reduced because a lot were on the list for local authorities but were not active, so as soon as that list was tidied up they dropped off it. A number of those to whom that happened were poor quality and did not want to have the scrutiny of Ofsted or any other authority, because they were the “pile ’em high, stack ’em cheap” sort of childminder that the Minister seems to favour.

Hackney childminders, a very professional group, are united about the achievements that they have personally brought about and the benefits for young people in my area, and about the fact that the bad childminders have been run out of town. We do not want to go back to those bad old days. I am a mother of three and I know that I can stand here in the House now only because of my excellent child care. Over the years it has not always been so good, but there are times when one really worries, and one cannot work while worrying about children not being in a safe place.

My hon. Friend speaks passionately about childminders in Hackney. The Northamptonshire Childminding Association was also clear that it thought that this proposal would reduce quality and increase cost, so that experience is consistent with hers.

That is my worry. What exactly is an “agency”? We hear one description from bits of government and other descriptions from some of the organisations outside, including Ofsted. If the Minister is saying, as she has indicated, that some part of this move is about sharing professional experience and providing support to professional colleagues, I can tell her that my childminder network in Hackney does that very effectively in any case, so does it count as an agency? I have suggested that it thinks about setting one up. If it was to work in collaboration with the local authority or with the local Sure Start centres in smaller areas, would it then count as an agency? In the attempts to trial some of the elements, is the Minister being prescriptive or is she allowing 1,000 flowers to bloom? If it is the latter, what is to prevent the bad, rapacious private agencies from coming in, taking over, dominating in an area and becoming a local monopoly? There is a real concern about that. Will childminders have to join? The position on that is unclear, so perhaps she will give us some information on it. There is some benefit to professional experience sharing and professional support, but not at the costs that I have outlined. Will the Minister tell the House the timetable for the regulations, which she said would be coming very soon?

I will leave my comments there, but this is an important issue. My constituency is one of the youngest in the country; over a fifth of residents are under 16. I think I speak with some authority on their behalf. For them, the Bill, and these changes, make a very big difference.

We have had a wide-ranging debate on the various child care issues, but one point that I think we can all agree on is that there is an urgent need for high-quality, affordable child care in this country. At the moment, many working families are struggling to afford their child care, and I can assure the House that the Government are fully committed to improving the situation. Tax-free child care, which is the key policy that we have been promoting in the Bill, will contribute to that.

I would particularly like to thank the hon. Member for North Cornwall (Dan Rogerson) for his very constructive comments, particularly on the point about our tax-free child care scheme. I want to reassure the hon. Member for Hackney South and Shoreditch (Meg Hillier) that “tax-free” refers to the 20% that parents will benefit by. The critical point is that it is open to many more families.

I understand the hon. Members want to move on to the next debate so, without further ado, I shall finish.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 10 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New Clause 3

Regulation of child performance

‘(1) In section 37 of the Children and Young Persons Act 1963 (Restriction on persons under 16 taking part in public performances, etc.) the words “under the compulsory school leaving age” shall be inserted after the word “child” in subsection (1).

(2) After subsection (2) there shall be inserted—

“(2A) In this section, “Performance” means the planned participation by a child aged under the compulsory school leaving age in a public entertainment production, unless that participation—

(a) involves risks that are no greater than the risks faced by that child in the ordinary course of his life and does not require the child to be absent from school or requires an absence from school of not more than four days in a six month period and such absence is authorised by the school;

(b) involves the child doing that which he would do in any event in the ordinary course of his life; or

(c) involves the creation of audio-visual content where there is an overriding public interest in the child’s participation.”.

(3) Subsection (3)(a) of that section shall be repealed.

(4) After subsection (5) of that section there shall be inserted—

“(5A) Regulations under this section shall provide for the local authority to give reasons for any refusal of a licence under this section and shall specify any mitigating action which would be required to allow a licence to be issued.

(5B) A refusal of a local authority to grant a licence may be reversed on appeal.”.

(5) Subsection (6) of that section shall be repealed.

(6) After subsection (7) the following shall be inserted—

“(7A) A licence granted by a local authority shall be transferrable to another local authority if the child moves residence from one local authority area to another.”.

(7) Section 38 of the Act (Restriction on licences for performances by children under 14) shall be repealed.

(8) After section 39 of the Act, there shall be inserted—

“39A Presumption that a licence should be issued

(1) There shall be a presumption that a licence shall be issued unless there is identifiable potential harm that cannot be mitigated by any other action.

(2) For the purposes of this section—

(a) “identifiable potential harm” shall be any outcome that acts adversely against the wellbeing of the child;

(b) “mitigated” shall mean such reasonable action that secures the safety of the child from the impact on their wellbeing; and

(c) “wellbeing” includes the physical, mental and emotional condition and interests of the child.

39B Guidance

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance to local authorities on the criteria for issuing licences and the conditions which shall apply to them; and this guidance may make different provision for children falling within different age bands applicable to their development age.

(2) Guidance shall include a requirement for the local authority’s decision to be based on an assessment of the risks involved in the child’s participation in the performance.

(3) Guidance shall include the safeguarding arrangements which shall be made in regard to participation in sporting activities; and in drawing up this guidance the Secretary of State shall consult sports governing bodies.

(4) Guidance shall require the local authority, in considering the terms on which a licence is issued, to have regard to the number of days actually worked spread across a particular period.

(5) Guidance shall require local authorities to provide for on-line applications for licences, to deal with all licences in time if submitted at least 10 days before they are to come into effect, or five days in respect of a repeated application.

(6) Guidance shall provide for local authorities to inspect sites where children taking part in performances are to be accommodated, if they will be residing alongside unconnected adults.

(7) Guidance shall provide for local authorities to disregard absence in connection with licensed performances in school records for authorised absences.

(8) Guidance shall provide that local authorities shall require that matrons or chaperones shall operate under standards accepted by the appropriate advisory bodies.

(9) Guidance shall also include the circumstances in which it is appropriate to authorise a body of persons to organise a performance for which licences will not be required by virtue of section 37(3)(b) of this Act, including where the performers are of 13 years or upwards or if the body is an amateur body and has a nominated child protection person who has received appropriate training and is independent of the chaperone.

(10) Guidance under this section shall be laid before Parliament and shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament as if it were contained in a statutory instrument subject to such annulment.”.

(9) Clause 42 of the Act (Licences for children and young persons performing abroad) shall be amended by inserting after subsection (1)—

“(1A) Licences under section 25 of the principal Act in relation to performances as defined under this Act shall be issued by local authorities rather than as specified in the principal Act.”.

(10) In subsection (2) of that section the words after the word “granted” shall be replaced by the words “regardless of the age of the child”.

(11) In the Children (Performances) Regulations 1968 (SI 1968/1728)—

(a) In Regulation 8 (Medical examinations) in paragraph (2), the words “performance taking place within a period of six months from the date of the said medical examination” shall be replaced by the words “later performance”.

(b) At the end of Regulation 10 (Education) there shall be inserted—

“(6) The child’s parents or guardians must inform the child’s school of any days on which the child will be absent by reason of taking part in performances.”.

(c) In Regulation 12(3) (maximum number of other children a matron shall have charge of), “eleven” shall be replaced by “nine”.

(d) At the end of Regulation 12 (Matrons) there shall be inserted—

“(7) A matron in respect of a performance organised by an amateur body who is unpaid shall not require local authority approval provided that he or she is CRB-checked and is independent of the nominated child protection person.”.

(e) Regulation 17 (Further medical examinations) shall cease to have effect.’.—(Tim Loughton.)

Brought up, and read the First time.

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

New clause 4—Continuing support for former foster children—

‘Section 23C of the Children Act 1989 (continuing functions in respect of former relevant children) is amended by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (5).

“(5ZA) The assistance given under subsection (4)(c) shall include the continuation of accommodation with the former local authority foster parent, unless—

(a) the former relevant child states that he or she does not wish to continue residing in such accommodation, or

(b) the former local authority foster parent does not wish to continue to provide accommodation, or

(c) it is not reasonably practicable to arrange such accommodation.

(5ZB) ‘Former local authority foster parent’ means a local authority foster parent within the meaning of section 22C(12) with whom the former relevant child, as a looked after child, was placed under section 22C(6)(a) or (b).”.’.

New clause 5—Assessment and support of young carers—

‘(1) Where it appears to a local authority that a child within their area may provide or be about to provide care to an adult or a child who is disabled, the authority must—

(a) assess whether the child has needs for support relating to their caring role (or is likely to have such needs in the future); and

(b) if the child is found to have such needs, set out what those needs are (or are likely to be in the future).

(2) Having carried out an assessment under subsection (1) the authority must meet those needs for support which it considers to be necessary to meet in order to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

(3) Having carried out an assessment under subsection (1), a local authority must also consider whether the adult is or may be eligible for assessment under the Care Act 2013, and if so must ensure such an assessment is carried out unless that adult objects.

(4) Having carried out an assessment under subsection (1) a local authority must consider whether, in the case of a child who is caring for a disabled child, the child being cared for requires an assessment under the Children Act 1989 and if so shall carry out that assessment unless the person with parental responsibility for that child objects.

(5) The Secretary of State shall issue guidance in relation to the duties set out above having consulted with persons whom the Secretary of State considers to be appropriate, the said guidance to be issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.

(6) Any service provided by an authority in the exercise of functions conferred on them under this section may be provided for the family or for any member of the child’s family, and may include—

(a) services to the adult the child is providing care to meet the adult’s needs for care and support; and

(b) services to the adult to enhance their parenting capacity.

If such services are provided with a view to safeguarding and promoting the child’s welfare.’.

New clause 11—General duty of local authorities to co-operate to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children—

‘(1) The Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 22G (General duty of local authority to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children), insert the following new section:

“22H General duty of local authorities to co-operate to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children

(1) It is the general duty of a local authority to take steps in co-operation with neighbouring local authorities that secure, so far as reasonably practicable, the outcomes in subsections (2) and (3).

(2) The first outcome applies to the children defined in subsection (3) of section 22G in respect of whom the local authority are unable to secure the outcome defined in subsection (2) of that section.

(3) The first outcome is that the local authority is able to secure accommodation for those children that—

(a) is within a neighbouring authority’s area; and

(b) meets the need of those children.

(4) The second outcome applies to the children defined in subsection (3) of section 22G in respect of whom a neighbouring local authority is unable to secure the outcome defined in subsection (2) of that section.

(5) The second outcome is that the local authority is able to secure accommodation for those children that—

(a) is within the authority’s area; and

(b) meets the need of those children.”.’.

New clause 12—General duty of local authority to secure sufficient early help services—

‘(1) It is the general duty of a local authority to take steps that secure, so far as reasonably practicable, the outcome in subsection (2).

(2) The outcome is that the local authority is able to provide the children and young people mentioned in subsection (3) and their families with provision of early help services that—

(a) are within the authority’s area or a neighbouring authority’s area; and

(b) meet the needs of those children and young people and their families.

(3) The children and young people referred to in subsection (2) are those—

(a) who live within the local authority’s area, or

(b) that the local authority is looking after.

(4) In this section—

“early help services” means services to children under 6 and their families, and services to children and young people (of whatever age) and their families early in the emergence of a problem;

“young people” means people under 25.’.

New clause 13—Duty of local safeguarding children boards to undertake serious reviews—

‘(1) Section 14 of the Children Act 2004 (Functions and procedure of Local Safeguarding Children Boards) is amended as follows.

(2) After subsection (2), insert—

“(2A) Functions of review under subsection (2) shall include a duty to undertake serious case reviews at the direction of the Secretary of State.”.’.

New clause 14—Part-time independent educational institutions to have no right to give corporal punishment—

‘(1) Schedule 1 to the Education and Skills Act 2008 (Minor and consequential amendments) is amended as follows.

(2) In sub-paragraph (5) of paragraph 9, insert the following words at the end of inserted subsection (7B):

“except that it applies in relation to this section as if for paragraphs (a) and (b) of subsection (2) of section 92 of that Act there were substituted the following words “for any amount of time during an academic year, no matter how little”.”.’.

New clause 15—Return from care—

‘(1) The Children Act 1989 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 22C (Ways in which looked after children are to be accommodated and maintained), insert the following new section:

“22CA Return home support services for looked after children returning home to the care of their parents/others with parental responsibility

(1) Whenever a local authority decides that a looked after child should return to the care of its parent, the local authority must assess and monitor the support needs of the child and the parent for as long as is necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

(2) If after carrying out an assessment in accordance with subsection (1) above, the local authority decides that the child or the parent has support needs, they must provide a child in care, and, in the case of formerly-accommodated children, offer to provide, ‘return home support services’ to meet the identified support needs for as long as is necessary to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare.

(3) Whenever the local authority provides ‘return home support services’ under subsection (2) above, they must prepare a personal budget if asked to do so by the parent or the child, with a view to the recipient being involved in agreeing and securing those services.”.’.

New clause 16—Provision of further assistance to care leavers up to the age of 25—

‘(1) Section 23CA of the Children Act 1989 (Further assistance to pursue education or training) is amended as follows.

(2) At the end of the section heading insert “or for welfare purposes”.

(3) In subsection (1)(a), at the end, insert “and”.

(4) In subsection (1)(b), omit the last “and”.

(5) Omit subsection (1)(c).

(6) In subsection (4), after “training”, insert “or welfare”.

(7) In subsection (5)(a), omit the last “or”.

(8) In subsection (5)(b), after “training”, insert “or welfare”.

(9) At the end of subsection (5), add the following new paragraphs—

“(c) providing advice and support in relation to his welfare; or

(d) making a grant in exceptional circumstances to enable him to meet expenses connected with his welfare.”.’.

New clause 17—Amendments to the Health Act 2006—

‘(1) The Health Act 2006 is amended as follows.

(2) After section 8, insert—

“8A Offence of failing to prevent smoking in a private vehicle when children are present

(1) It is the duty of any person who drives a private vehicle to ensure that the vehicle is smoke-free whenever a child or children under the age of 18 are in such vehicle or part of such vehicle.

(2) A person who fails to comply with the duty in subsection (1) commits an offence.

(3) A person convicted of an offence under this section is liable on summary conviction to a fine of £60.

(4) The Secretary of State may introduce regulations to alter the level of penalty payable under subsection (3).

(5) The Secretary of State shall update all relevant regulations regarding the offence created under subsection (2) within six months of this section coming into force.

(3) In section 79(4)(a), leave out “or 8(7)” and insert “, 8(7), or 8A(4).”.’.

New clause 18—Review of impact of under-occupancy penalty on prospective adopters, prospective special guardians and foster parents—

‘Before the end of one year beginning with the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent, the Secretary of State must—

(a) carry out a review of the impact of the housing under-occupancy penalty on prospective adopters, prospective special guardians and foster parents, and

(b) publish a report of the conclusions of the review.’.

New clause 19—Arrangements to support child witnesses—

‘(1) The Secretary of State shall by order introduce arrangements to establish specialist courts in cases where a child has been sexually abused or harmed, and where the child will be required to give evidence to the court, and to be examined by the court.

(2) Arrangements made by order under subsection (1) above shall include arrangements to appoint intermediaries to support child witnesses in all court cases, and other measures to support child witnesses.’.

New clause 20—Personal, social and health education in maintained schools—

‘(1) In section 84(3) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the first, second and third key stages), after paragraph (g) there is inserted—

“(ga) personal, social and health education”.

(2) In section 85(4) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

(3) In section 74(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which (when brought into force) will substitute a new section 85 in the Education Act 2002, in subsection (4) of that substituted section (foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

(4) Before section 86 of the Education Act 2002 there is inserted—

“85B Personal, social and health education

(1) For the purposes of this Part, personal, social and health education (“PSHE”) shall include sex and relationship education, including information about same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent.

(2) The National Curriculum for England is not required to specify attainment targets or assessment arrangements for PSHE (and section 84(1) has effect accordingly).

(3) The Secretary of State for Education shall set out guidance to schools and colleges to ensure that a coherent approach to personal, social, health and economic education is developed, including between primary and secondary schools.

(4) It is the duty of the governing body and head teacher of any school in which PSHE is provided in pursuance of this Part to secure that guidance issued under subsection (3) is followed and that—

(a) information presented in the course of providing PSHE should be accurate and balanced;

(b) PSHE is taught in a way that is appropriate to the ages of the pupils concerned and to their religious and cultural backgrounds, and reflects a reasonable range of religious, cultural and other perspectives;

(c) PSHE is taught in a way that endeavours to promote equality, celebrate diversity, and emphasise the importance of both rights and responsibilities.

(5) In the exercise of their functions under this Part so far as relating to PSHE, a local authority, governing body or head teacher shall have regard to any guidance issued from time to time by the Secretary of State.”.

(5) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 (sex education: manner of provision) is amended as set out in subsections (6) to (9).

(6) In subsection (1), for the words from the beginning to “at a maintained school” there is substituted “The governing body or other proprietor of any school to which this section applies, and its head teacher, must take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that sex and relationships education is given to registered pupils at the school and that”.

(7) After that subsection there is inserted—

“(1ZA) The schools to which this section applies are—

(a) maintained schools;

(b) city technology colleges;

(c) city colleges for the technology of the arts;

(d) Academies.

A reference in this section or section 404 to the governing body of a school, in relation to a school within paragraph (b), (c) or (d), shall be read as a reference to the proprietor of the school.”.

(8) In subsection (1A)—

(a) for “when sex education is given to registered pupils at maintained schools” there is substituted “when sex and relationships education is given to registered pupils at schools to which this section applies”;

(b) in paragraph (a), after “, and” there is inserted “learn the nature of civil partnership and the importance of strong and stable relationships.”;

(c) paragraph (b) is omitted.

(9) In subsection (1C), for “sex education” there is substituted “sex and relationships education”,

(10) In section 579 of the Education Act 1996 (general interpretation), in the definition of “sex education” in subsection (1)—

(a) for “sex education” there is substituted “sex and relationships education”;

(b) at the end there is inserted “but does not include education about human reproduction provided as part of any science teaching;”.

(11) For section 405 of the Education Act 1996 there is substituted—

“405 Exemption from sex and relationships education

(1) If a pupil of sufficient maturity in attendance at a school to which section 403 applies requests to be wholly or partly excused from receiving sex and relationships education at the school, the pupil shall be so excused accordingly until the request is withdrawn.

(2) The Secretary of State must in regulations define “sufficient maturity”.

(3) A statutory instrument containing regulations under subsection (2) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before and approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament.

(4) The Secretary of State must lay draft regulations before Parliament before the end of the period of 3 months beginning with the day on which this Act is passed.”.’.

New clause 22—Information sharing about live births—

‘(1) NHS trusts should make arrangements to share with local authorities records of live births to parents resident in their area, to be used by the local authority for the purposes of identifying and contacting new families through children’s centres and any other early years outreach services it may operate.

(2) The Secretary of State must, within a period of six months of Royal Assent to this Act, bring forward regulations placing consequential requirements on trusts and local authorities in exercising their duty under subsection (1), including, but not limited to—

(a) the format of arrangements made;

(b) the safeguarding of information;

(c) the circumstances in which it would not be appropriate for a trust to provide information to local authorities;

(d) the regularity of data transfers;

(e) timescales within which a local authority must contact new families made known to it; and

(f) any further requirements the Secretary of State deems necessary.

(3) Local authorities must establish a pilot scheme to trial the registration of births within children’s centres, and evaluate the effectiveness of the scheme to—

(a) identify and contact new families; and

(b) enable children’s centres to reach more families, in particular those with children under the age of two, or who the local authority consider—

(i) hard to reach, or

(ii) vulnerable.’.

New clause 25—Health bodies: duties with respect to young carers—

‘(1) In exercising their general functions health bodies must—

(a) promote and safeguard the well-being of young carers;

(b) ensure that effective procedures exist to identify patients who are or are about to become carers;

(c) ensure that effective procedures exist to identify patients who it may be reasonably assumed may be receiving care from a child or young person for whom they are responsible;

(d) ensure that appropriate systems exist to ensure that carers receive appropriate information and advice; and

(e) ensure that systems are in place to ensure that the relevant general medical services are rendered to their patients who are young carers, or to the young carers of their patients.

(2) In relation to paragraphs (1)(b), (c) and (d), the Secretary of State may by regulations further provide for the strategies to be developed.’.

New clause 26—Schools: duties with respect to young carers—

‘(1) The appropriate authorities of schools must ensure that, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, they take all reasonable steps to ensure that there is in place a policy which—

(a) identifies young carers within the school; and

(b) makes arrangements for the provision within school of appropriate support to promote the well-being and improve the educational attainment of pupils who are young carers.

(2) In discharging its duty under subsection (1), where appropriate the authority must—

(a) consult with the family of the child or young person identified, or the young person themselves;

(b) involve the local authority in which the identified pupil is ordinarily resident;

(c) refer the identified pupil to additional services outside the school;

(d) have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.

(3) The “appropriate authority” for a school is—

(a) in the case of a maintained school, the governing body;

(b) in the case of an academy, the proprietor;

(c) in the case of a pupil referral unit, the management committee.’.

New clause 27—Further and higher educational institutions: duties with respect to student carers—

‘(1) The responsible body of an institution to which this section applies must, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, identify or make arrangements to identify student carers and have a policy in place on promoting the well-being of student carers.

(2) This section applies to—

(a) a university;

(b) any other institution within the higher education sector;

(c) an institution within the further education sector.

(3) A responsible body is—

(a) in the case of an institution in paragraphs (2)(a) or (b), the governing body;

(b) in the case of a college of further education under the management of a board of management, the board of management;

(c) in the case of any other college of further education, any board of governors of the college or any person responsible for the management of the college, whether or not formally constituted as a governing body or board of governors.

(4) In discharging its duty under subsection (1), where appropriate the authority must—

(a) consult with the family of the child or young person identified, or the young person themselves;

(b) involve the local authority in which the identified pupil is ordinarily resident;

(c) refer the identified student to additional services outside of the institution; and

(d) have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.’.

Amendment 33, in clause 1, page 1, leave out line 9 and insert—

‘satisfied that C should be placed for adoption—’.

Amendment 34, in clause 2, page 1, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) In subsection (4), after paragraph (f) insert—

“(g) the child’s religious persuasion, racial origin and cultural and linguistic background, although this paragraph does not apply to an adoption agency in Wales, to which subsection (5) instead applies.”.’.

Amendment 2, in clause 3, page 2, line 22, at end insert—

‘(1A) The Secretary of State may require local authorities to make arrangements with adoption agencies to compensate them for the cost of recruiting approved prospective adopters.’.

Amendment 29, page 2, line 22, at end insert—

‘(1A) Directions under subsection (1) may not be given before May 2017, being five years after the introduction of adoption scorecards.’.

Amendment 3, page 2, line 32, leave out paragraph (c).

Government amendments 9 and 16.

Amendment 31, in clause 9, page 9, line 8, at end insert—

‘and section 23B (8A) and monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of that local authority in discharging its duties under section 23C (4B) and section 23CA and advising them on ways to improve.’.

Amendment 32, page 9, line 11, at end add—

‘(2) In the Children Act 1989, in section 23B after subsection (8) insert—

(8A) The duty of local authorities under subsection (8) to safeguard and promote the child’s welfare, includes in particular a duty to promote the child’s educational achievement.”.’.

Amendment 49, in clause 10, page 9, line 16, at end insert—

‘unless in the view of the court it is unreasonable to do so’.

Amendment 35, in clause 11, page 10, line 10, at end insert—

‘(2B) “Involvement” is any kind of direct or indirect involvement that promotes the welfare of the child. It shall not be taken to mean any particular division of a child’s time.’.

Amendment 50, page 10, line 10, at end insert—

‘(2B) Involvement shall mean, but is not limited to, direct contact with a child by any means including supervised contact, indirect contact with a child by any means including letters or telephone or receiving information about a child from the other parent or a third party.’.

Amendment 51, in clause 12, page 10, line 35, at end add—

‘(5) A child arrangements order that provides for a child to reside with a particular person is to be interpreted as granting rights of custody to that person.’.

Amendment 5, in clause 14, page 13, line 8, after ‘issued’, insert—

‘unless the court considers it necessary in order to safeguard or promote the child’s welfare to permit additional time for the disposing of the application.’.

Amendment 52, page 13, line 8, after ‘issued’, insert—

‘unless in the view of the court it would be in the best interests of the child to set a different timetable’.

Amendment 6, page 13, line 45, at end insert—

‘or, having taken into consideration the safeguarding and promotion of the child’s welfare, following evidence presented to the court relating to a planned programme of intervention, such longer time period as the court deems appropriate.’.

Amendment 36, in clause 15, page 14, line 46, at end insert—

‘(A1) Section 22 of the Children Act 1989 (general duty of local authority in relation to children looked after by them) is amended as follows.

(B1) In subsection (4), after “proposing to look after,”, insert “including when making any fundamental change to the care plan before or after a care order has been made.”.’.

Amendment 7, page 15, line 3, after ‘provisions’, insert ‘and sibling placement arrangements’.

Amendment 8, page 15, line 6, at end insert—

‘unless it deems such consideration necessary in assessing the permanence provisions of the section 31A plan for the child concerned and making the care order, taking into account the circumstances of the application and the safeguarding and promotion of the child’s welfare.’.

Amendment 53, page 15, line 6, at end insert—

‘but may do so when any matter is brought to the court’s attention by the child’s guardian’.

Government amendments 10 to 15.

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for taking up most of the remaining debating time in reading out the list of the remaining new clauses and amendments in the group. It is unfortunate that we have a large group of new clauses and amendments here, covering a very wide variety of important subjects to do with personal, social and health education, foster care continuing support, young carers, care leaver assistants, birth registration, adoption and so on, and yet we are left with barely an hour, particularly for Back Benchers who have not had the opportunity in Committee to point out things that we think are missing from the Bill or things that could be improved. On Second Reading we were time-limited in our contributions, too. I have taken a lot of time in making that point, but it needed to be put on the record.

I will speak as quickly as possible to the nine amendments and new clauses that I have tabled. In doing so, I want to signify my sympathy with new clause 4, tabled by the right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), on continuing support for foster children, which is important. I know there are various problems with the way in which the amendment has been fashioned. I support new clause 22, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for South Northamptonshire (Andrea Leadsom), on birth registration improvements. I have a good deal of sympathy, as I said on Second Reading, with improvements to the Bill to assist young carers, particularly new clause 5.

New clause 3, the lead amendment in the group, is the one I want to speak least about; in the circumstances, I will limit my comments. It relates to the performance regulations, which need to be brought into the 21st century. We did considerable work on that within the Department for Education. They are 50 years out of date. We only had to look at the “Britain’s Got Talent” finals and heats the other day to see that a number of child performers are now taking part in such talent shows. We need to be absolutely assured that children are able to perform—strut their stuff, demonstrate their talents—in a safe way that is appropriate to their growing-up stage, and are not being pushed into it.

In the new clause I have set out in some detail the amendments that need to be made to the regulations, which were drafted in the 1960s. That is the result of a lot of work, done by members of the working group that I reassembled under Sarah Thane, who produced an excellent report at the tail end of the previous Government. Importantly, my new clause 3 also gives a practical and usable definition of “performance”, which the primary legislation fails to do, and really needs to do. I commend it to the Government. Although the consultation seemed to prove inconclusive, there is a clear wish to make sure that child performance regulations are brought up to date. The revelations about Jimmy Savile have only made that more urgent.

New clause 11 is about ensuring the sufficiency of accommodation for children in care. This should be happening already under section 22 of the Children Act 1989, but it is not. Under that Act, we should be prioritising locally sourced accommodation for children in care. A number of working parties were set up last July, in my time in the Department for Education, to look at how we can improve the system. There is a real problem when 4,890 looked-after children are housed in children’s homes, 50% of which are concentrated in just three regions: the north-west, the west midlands and the south-east. Some 44% of children in those children’s homes are placed out of their placing area, 28% of them more than 20 miles away from it. The figure for all looked-after children is 12%. Little wonder that so many children—a disproportionate number—run away or go missing from many of these children’s residential homes.

We need to take the opportunity of this legislation to make sure that we have much more robust guidance and instruction for local authorities about placing children much closer to where they come from, if that is possible without affecting their welfare—closer to anchor links with extended family members or friends—and making it possible for them to stay at the same school. It is crazy that we are spending more than £1 billion on placing 9% of the in-care population in children’s residential homes. That is from a total budget of just over £3 billion.

New clause 11 would beef up the regulations for placing authorities. If they do not have economies of scale, they should look to federate with neighbouring authorities, so that they can set up or buy places closer to home—much more smart commissioning is required—rather than spot-purchasing, which makes for costly placements that are often not of the best. Too often, the placements end up in completely inappropriate areas, often in cheaper, coastal properties—my constituency of Worthing is subject to this—where there are serious concerns about the safety of the environment in which children have been placed.

At the beginning of my remarks, I should have declared my interest as set out in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests; I have done so with regard to all my amendments in this group, for safety’s sake.

New clause 12 introduces a sufficiency duty for early help services. This is not a new proposal; it was recommendation 10 in Eileen Munro’s excellent report of 2011. I have structured the new clause to mirror the sufficiency duty for children in care that I have just mentioned. In her recommendation, Eileen Munro said:

“The Government should place a duty on local authorities and statutory partners to secure the sufficient provision of local early help services for children, young people and families.”

The authorities and partners should

“specify the range of professional help available to local children, young people and families…specify how they will identify children who are suffering or likely to suffer…set out the local resourcing of the early help services”

and

“lead to the identification of the early help that is needed by a particular child”.

The reason for that is clear: preventive services do more to reduce abuse and neglect than reactive services. Co-ordination of services is important to reduce confusion, inefficiency and ineffectiveness in service provision.

We have an Early Intervention Foundation, but we do not have an early intervention grant any more, so it is all the more important that we go ahead as quickly as possible with Eileen Munro’s recommendation 10. It is two years since that recommendation was made. In their response to it, the Government said that they accepted all its principles. It is about time to get on with it, and the new clause would be a practical one in the Bill to give a clear indication to local authorities that early help is an important part of caring for vulnerable children. It is a social gain and it will be a financial gain from avoiding the costs when those children get into trouble later on if they are not given the appropriate support and care that they need at an early stage.

New clause 13 is about serious case reviews. The Children Act 1989 introduced a local authority duty to investigate when a child who lives or is found in their area is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm. The guidance produced in 1991 instructed area child protection committees to conduct investigations or part 8 reviews. They were beefed up into serious case reviews after the Laming inquiry and parts of the Children Act in 2004. Again, they were beefed up in the “working together” revisions in 2009, and in June 2010, the new Government required all future serious case reviews to be published in full, subject to various criteria and subject to anonymity and redaction. That was the right thing to do.

The problem, as I warned at the time, is that the Government and the Minister do not have the power to force local safeguarding children boards to commission those reports in the first place. They have the power to force them to publish them once produced, but not the power to commission them in the first place. I am afraid that the figures have borne out my concerns, because between June 2010 and November 2012, some 147 serious case reviews were initiated by local safeguarding children’s boards. In each of the previous two years, the number of serious case reviews was around 130 to 136, so we have effectively halved the number of serious case reviews. Alas, that is not because the number of serious incidents happening has halved. I fear there are still far too many unnecessary deaths and far too much child cruelty happening. But serious case reviews that should have been commissioned have not been.

I very much welcome the announcement last week of the setting up of a serious case review panel. I particularly welcome the inclusion of Nicholas Dann, head of international development at the Air Accidents Investigation Branch, which was an interesting analogy about how accidents/incidents happen and how we learn from them. But we need to disseminate best practice and the lessons of poor practice as well. That body should retain, monitor and approve a list of suitable authors, and make sure that their qualifications are sufficient that they can continue to be commissioned to author serious case reviews. That panel will have the power to challenge local safeguarding boards not initiating SCRs, but it does not have any statutory teeth, and this is the only opportunity we will have to give statutory teeth to the Secretary of State to be able to say, “You must commission a serious case review,” when there is an overwhelming case where an incident qualifies for one.

New clause 14 is a contentious one that I shall speak briefly on. It is traditional for any children’s Bill to have some opportunity to raise the issue of smacking, and I am amazed that no other amendments have been tabled on that subject. I am not suggesting any changes to smacking. I do not support any changes in the way that parents chastise their children, but there is a problem with madrassahs and other supplementary schools. It is a difficult problem that has been left on the back burner. It was addressed by Sir Roger Singleton when he produced a report for the last Government in March 2010, entitled “Physical punishment: improving consistency and protection”. Sir Roger was quite clear in the report:

“I am wholly satisfied that the safeguarding protection in relation to physical punishment which children enjoy in full-time schools should be extended to all the other settings where they learn, play, worship and are cared for. A straightforward ban on the smacking of all children engaged in activities outside the context of the family will be easy to understand and send an unambiguous message of what is not permitted to those organisations and settings where doubt exists or latitude is sought.”

His recommendation was:

“The current ban on physical punishment in schools and other children’s settings should be extended to include any form of advice, guidance, teaching, training, instruction, worship, treatment or therapy and to any form of care or supervision which is carried out other than by a parent or member of the child’s own family or household.”

I know this issue is fraught with problems—I battled with it, together with the hon. Member for Brent Central (Sarah Teather), in our time at the Department for Education—but given the clear examples of abuse we have seen in some madrassahs, which have been revealed in television programmes and by investigative journalism, it should not continue to fester on the Secretary of State’s desk. New clause 14 is a probing amendment aimed at getting the subject back on the radar, because it has been more than three years since those clear recommendations were made and nothing has been done about them.

Do the hon. Gentleman’s proposals relate only to the schools he referred to as madrassahs, or do they also relate to supplementary schools and weekend schools?

The new clause is very broad and could effectively cover other supplementary schools, as they are termed. I know that this subject is fraught with problems. No doubt the new clause will not be a satisfactory solution ultimately, but I think it is a working basis on which to take the matter forward, rather than continuing to ignore it.

New clause 15, which has the full support of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, relates to support services for those returning from care. There has been a big focus, rightly, on improving the whole adoption regime. The Government announced a little while ago that £150 million will be taken from what was the early intervention grant to provide adoption support services. It is really important that we have the right degree of support around placements to ensure that they stick.

We hear a lot about adoption support services, improving care homes and better training for foster carers, but 37% of children in care return to their birth parents, and too many of them then return to care after the initial intensive preparation and support because of lack of ongoing support services. In 2012 that affected 10,000 children who returned to the birth parents—treble the number of children who get adopted. We know that that instability, that revolving door going in and out of care, can be really damaging to those vulnerable children. The NSPCC has put together a very credible case. It has totted up the cost of children remaining in the care system against the cost of giving them proper support packages back with their families, where that is the most appropriate destination for them and only where it is in their best interests.

New clause 15 merits serious consideration. It would provide the right social outcome for vulnerable children in care, but it would also save an awful lot of money if we get it right. I am sure that the Minister, who has great expertise in and knowledge of dealing with different types of children in the care system, will be supportive. It is also supported by an interesting paper produced last November by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, which said:

“Returning from public care to live with a parent is the most likely ‘permanence option’ but, for maltreated children, the least successful. There are wide variations between local authorities in terms of the resources allocated to decision-making about reunification, and the quality of practice.”

Finally, I have tabled three amendments on adoption. I have mentioned why adoption needs to be a priority. Many good things have happened in the past two and a half years on adoption, and I am very pleased that the Minister is committed to carrying that work on. The number of children given the opportunity to be adopted has been increasing, although numbers alone are not the be-all and end-all; it is the quality of the placements that really matters. The adoption scorecards that were introduced a year ago lay out with full transparency how well an authority is doing compared with other authorities across a whole range of measures. We have the adoption gateway to help recruitment, we are speeding up legal proceedings for children left in limbo, we are bringing in and beefing up fostering for adoption, we have the adoption support services that I mentioned, and many other things are happening. All that amounts to a very serious structural overhaul, and it is beginning to work, so we do not want to go and mess it up. I fear that in this Bill, the Government, with the best intentions, are going too far.

On the thorny question of assessment and recruitment, many local authorities do not do it well or nearly well enough; many independent adoption agencies do it much better. However, do we really need a blanket power that threatens to take away from every local authority in the country the capacity to recruit, assess and approve the functions of adopters? There should be the underlying threat that the Secretary of State has the power to take away that capacity from individual authorities that just do not “get it”—that continue to fail to improve their adoption support services and therefore fail these vulnerable children.

However, a blanket threat to take away the right from all local authorities will disincentivise them from continuing to improve, and they may well not continue to invest in good recruitment and assessment. The voluntary sector is way off having the capacity to pick up those sorts of activities in the necessary numbers. In amendment 29, I ask for a breathing space—a moratorium of five years before clause 3 is introduced. Amendment 3 would take out the blanket provision, which is not needed at this time. It is a bit of a slap in the face for local authorities, a good number of which, though not nearly enough, are doing a good job and do “get it”. However, the Secretary of State should have the power to take that right away from those which do not.

My final amendment deals with a very practical point. One of the things holding back independent agencies from recruiting more adopters is that they do not get paid until there is an inter-agency fee when a child is placed with a couple. If we were to pay a bounty fee so that they were paid for their time and effort in training and recruiting every appropriate adopter couple who passed muster, that would enable them to go out and recruit more; many independent adoption agencies do that well. This would be a good, practical measure to recruit more adopters, whom we all know we desperately need. Please let us not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

These are practical measures that would enhance the Bill, and many things that were not included in it. It is a great pity that we have not had more opportunity to debate these matters properly.

It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who, like so many Members, is incredibly passionate about these issues and did an enormous amount to shape the Bill in its current form. Many Members here today are deeply frustrated that they have not yet had any opportunity to scrutinise some really important areas of the Bill, and I share their frustration. I will attempt to be as brief as I can so that as many of them can speak as possible while we make sure that we do this Bill and these children justice.

When we scrutinised the Bill on Second Reading, my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) and I said that it would come to be characterised as much by what was not in it as what was. That is the motivation behind our new clause 20, which would ensure that sex and relationships education is available to all children across the country. The nation has been shocked by child grooming scandals where young girls have been systematically exploited by older men—often men who they thought were taking care of them.

Research by the Children’s Commissioner has found that far too many young people—boys and girls—do not know what a good relationship looks like. Worryingly, it also found that many of them did not even understand the concept of consent. Our view is that we are failing to equip young people with the knowledge, skills and resilience they need to keep themselves safe. We must do much more to tackle child abuse, but more importantly we must prevent it from happening in the first place.

Young people are increasingly exposed to risks online. We think that the question is not whether we can afford to talk to them about issues as difficult as this, but whether we can afford not to. We think that all children should have the opportunity to access age-appropriate sex and relationships education. In a departmental report on personal, social, health and economic education, young people said that they valued the chance to express views safely and ask questions, and felt that that had improved their relationship with others. We believe that parents should retain the right to withdraw children aged 15 or under because they know their children best, but equally we know that the vast majority of parents would like their children to have access to sex and relationships education. For children whose parents do not talk to them about these issues, this could be critical in keeping them safe, especially given that a third of girls say that they have experienced unwanted touching. We are keen for the Government to support our proposed new clause 20.

Amendment 33, which stands in my name and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West, seeks to ensure that we do not put speed before getting it right for children. It would ensure that children are not placed in fostering or adoption placements either before it has been decided that adoption is the plan or, in the Minister’s words, as early as the first week in care. We debated this at length in Committee, so I will not labour the point, but that debate gave me more cause for concern, not less.

It seems to me that placing children in fostering or adoption placements before the local authority has decided that that should be the plan is more disruptive for the child. Conducting an informal matching process, possibly within a week, before placing the child and then considering their wishes and feelings about whether adoption is suitable and the placement is the right one runs the risk of putting more people off adopting, as many Members have pointed out, and of more adoption breakdowns, which plays into children’s biggest fears that this for-ever home may not be the right one. As always, when we talked to children about this, they felt strongly that their views should be heard.

I am sorry, but I cannot give way because a number of Back Benchers have sat through this entire debate and are desperate to get in. I wish the hon. Gentleman well in doing so.

In Committee, the Minister said that further statutory guidance would be provided to local authorities that are making this important decision. Although that does not alleviate all my concerns, the guidance will clearly be central to the practical effects of clause 1. Why have we not yet seen a draft of the guidance, and when will we see it?

Amendment 34, which stands in my name, relates to the consideration of ethnicity in adoption placements. The Minister expressed concern in Committee that placing ethnicity on the welfare checklist, as we are suggesting, will put undue weight on it. He said:

“As soon as one tries to specify particular elements of a child’s characteristics in an exhaustive list, one then starts to prioritise one characteristic over another.”––[Official Report, Children and Families Public Bill Committee, 12 March 2013; c. 205.]

I want him to consider briefly that the opposite may be the problem.

The Minister referred to research by Birmingham city council that looked at the experience of prospective adopters. It certainly emerged that a problem with practice—aggressive questioning, for example—and not with legislation had put people off. The research also demonstrated, however, that the majority of adopters—a staggering 90%—had expressed a strong preference to adopt a child with a similar ethnicity and that it was the failure to explore such factors with potential adopters that prevented children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds from being considered. In fact, in the one case in which a social worker did do that, the prospective parents went on to successfully adopt a child with a different ethnicity.

I reiterate that the amendment would not ensure that children were matched only with prospective adopters with the same background as them. Crucially, however, it would ensure that thoughtful consideration was given to ethnicity so that such factors were explored and we did not put off people from adopting a child who could otherwise find a loving home because they mistakenly thought that they would not be right for that child, which we think is a crying shame.

Amendment 35 is designed to ensure that we do not unwittingly create misconceptions for parents. We agree with the Government, as we said at length in Committee, that it is critical to most children to have an ongoing, good-quality relationship with their mum and dad, but we are concerned about the practical impact of clause 11.

I will not rehearse all the debates that we had in Committee, but the Minister was right to say that he did not want to be too prescriptive about what involvement meant. That is why our amendment would define what involvement is not, in line with the explanatory notes. It is important that that is put in the Bill and that no room is left for doubt, given that there have already been headlines in this country and that misconceptions have been created. I hope that the Minister will accept that amendment.

I do not need to rehearse why new clause 19 is so important, as it would prevent the harrowing and aggressive questioning of young witnesses in court. This morning, we received the welcome announcement that the Government are trialling pre-recorded cross-examination in Leeds, Liverpool and Kingston upon Thames. I am sure that the Minister appreciates the urgency of this matter as more child grooming cases are brought to trial. Will he say when the pilots will start, how they will be evaluated, whether there will be any measures alongside them to prevent the aggressive questioning that we have heard so much about and how soon they will be rolled out?

As I am sure the Minister is aware, the implementation of section 28 of the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 alone will not be enough to support vulnerable witnesses. New clause 19 also proposes specialist court sittings for children who have been sexually abused, with trained judges and barristers, and the restriction of multiple cross-examinations. Will he say whether there will be a cap on the number of lawyers who may cross-examine a witness? I would be grateful if he could give more information about that.

I tabled new clause 18 notwithstanding our strong opposition to the under-occupation penalty, known to some as the bedroom tax. We are extremely concerned that that policy will put people off taking care of children whom they otherwise would have looked after because of the financial implications. We want to ensure that, at a time when Ministers share our concerns about the acute shortage of foster carers and adopters, we do not make the situation worse. We were struck by the evidence from Adoption UK about the problems for prospective adopters and special guardians, which was provided by Grandparents Plus. We are very concerned that the National Housing Federation estimates that the discretionary housing fund will fall short by £100 million.

We thought that the Minister had allayed our concerns about foster carers in Committee until it transpired the following day that the Government’s second change of heart meant that only one foster child would be covered, despite the fact that many foster carers look after more than one child. I was grateful for the Minister’s assurance that he would monitor the impact of the policy. Given that it has come into force and that he assured us in Committee that it would be monitored from April, will he say whether the Department has begun the monitoring programme, how it is going about it, whether there is any independence in the evaluation and, if so, who is conducting it? What, if any, evidence has been collected over the past two and a half months, and when does the Department expect to publish a report? Will he ensure that the report is made available to Members of the House as soon as it is published, given how important this matter is to many Members from all parts of the House and given that it affects vulnerable children in every constituency?

Finally, amendments 36 and 37 would ensure that children’s views and sibling arrangements are taken into account when courts scrutinise or change a care plan. Although we support the Government’s efforts to focus courts on the long-term aspects of care plans, we are concerned that, in the real world, the acute pressures on social workers, independent reviewing officers and guardians will mean that important aspects may be missed. Does the Minister have anything concrete to report from the discussion that he was holding with independent reviewing officers about how he will alleviate that pressure? Court scrutiny has helped social workers to ensure that they have access to resources and has changed care plans to allow sibling contact. I was grateful for the Minister’s assurances in Committee that there is nothing to prevent courts from looking at this matter, but given the pressure that family courts are under, especially after the legal aid cuts, we think that it is too important to leave to chance.

I am grateful for the opportunity to set out those points, but immensely disappointed at the lack of scrutiny that we have given these aspects of the Bill today. I would now like to give other people the opportunity to contribute.

I rise to speak to new clause 20 as a parent of two boys, one of whom is still at school and one of whom left recently. I also want to speak for the many parents in my constituency who, like me, are concerned about the provision of sex education in this country.

I am pleased that new clause 20 proposes to redefine sex education as “sex and relationships education”, although I would have put it the other way around, with the emphasis on relationships rather than sex. After agreeing on the wording, I part company with those who tabled the new clause.

I want to concentrate on one aspect of the new clause: the implications of the proposal for a centralised curriculum. In March, the current PSHE legal framework was given backing in this House by the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), when she published the results of the Government’s recent PSHE review. She stated:

“To allow teachers the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE we consider it unnecessary to provide new standardised frameworks or programmes of study. Teachers are best placed to understand the needs of their pupils and do not need additional central prescription.”—[Official Report, 21 March 2013; Vol. 560, c. 52WS.]

I believe that was right and that the curriculum centralisation that would inevitably follow endeavours such as new clause 20 would not advance the cause of PSHE or, critically, the interests of our young people. To clarify, we currently have compulsory sex education in secondary schools, but governors of primary schools are at liberty to authorise the teaching of sex education if they think it appropriate.

I understand that the hon. Lady’s concern is about a centralised curriculum. What does she make of her Government’s proposal to put gardening and composting on the national curriculum, as well as financial education and compound interest? Surely along with those two Cs we should also put consent.

I am vice-chair of the all-party group on financial education for young people and I hugely welcome that proposal. I think it is an essential ingredient of enabling our young people to mature and face society when they leave school.

At present we do not have a centralised curriculum, and I cannot support proposals for the centralisation of the curriculum as suggested by the champions of the new clause. Research demonstrates that children and young people want to receive their initial sex and relationships education from their parents and families, with school and other adults building on that later. I am not naive and I fully appreciate that many parents do not fulfil their parental duties in that respect. That is why it is essential that we have sex education in senior schools, and I do not deny the importance of that for one minute, for many of the reasons mentioned by the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy) when she introduced the new clause.

What does the hon. Lady make of the recent Ofsted report on the teaching of PSHE, which mentions its variability around the country, particularly in sex and relationships education?

I am glad the hon. Lady raised that point, because if some of the suggestions that I will come to in my speech were implemented, we would have much better sex education throughout the country than we do at present. She is right. Much still needs to be done, and I said in my introductory remarks that I am concerned about the standard of sex education in our schools, although I do not believe a centralised curriculum will improve that.

I will not take any other interventions, because it would reduce the time for other speakers.

The Department for Education’s sex and relationships education guidance honours the involvement of parents, making plain the need for parental involvement in the content of PSHE. It states:

“Parents are the key people in teaching their children about sex and relationships, maintaining the culture and ethos of the family, helping their children cope with the emotional and physical aspects of growing up, and preparing them for the challenges and responsibilities that sexual maturity brings…schools should always work in partnership with parents, consulting them regularly on the content of sex and relationship education programmes.”

The majority of respondents to the recent Government consultation on PSHE believed that parental engagement was crucial, as was providing parents with every possible and practical opportunity to interact and engage with PSHE provision.

Although we should understand the important role that sex education provides, we should not aspire for it narrowly within one context. Current procedures provide a mechanism for drawing in parents who perhaps do not talk to their children about sex and relationships, and encourage those who do to continue with that. At present, all secondary schools must provide sex education by law, and although there is no centrally determined curriculum, governors and teachers, in conversation and consultation with parents, should develop a curriculum on a school-by-school basis, according to the ethos of the school. When properly applied, that decentralised approach means that this sensitive subject can be framed in a manner that has regard for parental views and concerns.If the curriculum were set centrally, that could and probably would disappear.

Currently, a good school should always contact parents to let them know when the sex education curriculum is taught, precisely so that they can follow up with their own conversations at home. The current procedures encourage parental involvement, but new clause 20 would serve only to diminish it. I cannot agree that that is the right approach at a time when many people are concerned that we live in a society in which opportunities for parental involvement and influence need strengthening and encouraging, not reducing and diminishing. Throughout this afternoon’s debate, I have repeatedly heard Ministers and others say how important it is to take into account parents’ views with regard to other aspects of education. Surely that should apply in this critical area of a child’s education.

That does not mean that I am complacent about the current approach—far from it. There is tremendous room for improvement in our relationship and sex education, not least the fact that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the duty to consult parents and communicate clearly with them about what is being taught. Some head teachers believe they must exclusively use whatever resources are recommended by their local authority, but in fact a plethora of other good materials provided by outside agencies can be used, such as the Evaluate: Informing Choice programme. Other head teachers do not accept that the decision should be for the governing body, which has a vital role. I encourage governors actively to take up that role in all schools.

New clause 20 would be a mistake and I hope the Government firmly reject it. However, I ask Ministers to tell us what plans the Government have to make the current decentralised approach to the critical area of sex education work more effectively, so that parents are more and not less involved, as is intended, and so help our next generation to form and sustain healthy, fulfilling and enduring personal relationships and family lives.

I rise to speak to new clause 4, which stands in the name of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Paul Goggins), who unfortunately cannot be in the Chamber because of a prior commitment. He has been a tremendous campaigner, along with the Fostering Network, for allowing young people leaving care to remain with their foster carers until they are at least 21. Currently, children in care leave on or before their 18th birthday, which usually means that children in foster care must leave their foster carer. Every year, hundreds of the most vulnerable young people have to leave home at age 17, but the average age for leaving home in the UK is 24.

The statistics on outcomes for care leavers are not good. One third of those living on the streets have a background in care, and almost a quarter of the adult prison population have spent time in care. Local authorities have a duty in care planning guidance to ensure that young people leave their foster care when they are ready and not before, but in 2011-12 only 320 young people—5%—remained with their foster carers after they reached age 18. Research shows that the longer a young person can stay with a foster family, the more successful they are later.

In 2008, the Labour Government set up a “staying put” pilot to assess the benefits of allowing children to stay in care and with foster carers. The pilot reported in 2012 and found that established family relationships and stability make a positive difference to young people in care as they become adults. That is not a surprising outcome—one of the basic values of our culture is the importance of families in providing a nurturing and secure base for young people to make the transition to independence. Not only that, but foster families can become families for life. My aunt and uncle had long-term foster children. To this day, contact continues, as we would expect in other families.

However, there have been no moves to roll out that scheme. It has been left to councils to decide what provision to fund. The provision is therefore a power a council can choose to exercise rather than a duty to provide a service. In effect, it is a postcode lottery. We have taken the responsibility of parenting those children, having judged that their parents’ care is not good enough. In doing so, we have effectively said that the care system will provide better parenting.

Since 2010, the Government have stressed the importance of treating looked-after children the same as we would treat our own children. Planning for the transition of care leavers to adulthood should be founded on the principle: is this good enough for my own child?

Many young people in care have experienced poor parental care, emotional neglect and abuse, and disruptive care placements. An increasing number of young people are coming into care in their early teens, often with complex needs. The care system is failing these children. They are often the ones who run away or go missing, making them vulnerable to harm, including child sexual exploitation. It is recognised that we need to cut the number of out-of-area placements, with local authorities making placements nearer home. The provision of supported foster placements will need to be considered as an alternative to children’s home placements many miles away, so that we can have more vulnerable children in foster care at 18. Although they are adults at 18, they are still vulnerable adults, which is demonstrated by the statistics I quoted earlier. What difference have we made as parents if children in our care end up on the streets, in jail or with disabling mental health problems—another generation doomed to mirror the lives of their parents?

Why would we not let them stay with their foster carers for those important extra three years? Cost must of course be a calculation, but it is minimal. Loughborough university calculated that on average it cost only £17,500 per local authority per year. There will be a far bigger public cost in providing services to a future generation of failing parents, or in helping young people through drug and alcohol addiction. The human cost in misery is incalculable, as is the cost to society in the lost opportunities of the contribution that might have been made if vulnerable young people had been better supported into independence.

For many young people, their scarring experiences will make their life a tough one. The statistics speak for themselves: young people leaving care need more support, not less. Our amendment would ensure that they receive that continuing support by being allowed to stay in foster care until they are 21 if they want to. I look forward to a positive response from the Minister.

I am proud to be a patron of Devon Rape Crisis, which, like all of us in this House, is deeply concerned about sexual violence against women and girls. All of us in this House are particularly concerned about the extent to which young people are accessing their information about sex from violent pornography. The influence of violent pornography is to normalise distorted relationships. It teaches some young men that it is normal for women to enjoy violent sex, and to have a total lack of understanding about what constitutes consent. Disturbingly, many young women are being pressured into accepting deeply abnormal and often very violent relationships.

I completely accept that many parents wish to take on the role of delivering sensitive teaching on relationships in a home environment, but let us be absolutely clear that that is not happening for many young girls. The recent outrages in Oxford and in too many of our towns show that young women are being predated on by violent and often much older men. Young women have had no training in how to say no, or an understanding that it is okay to say no. Too often, there is no one for them to confide in. I put it to the House, therefore, that we need to have sex and relationships education in our curriculum: if it is not there, it will not happen. Too often when we teach sex in schools, it is about plumbing and prevention.

The hon. Lady’s words echo those of Ofsted, which pointed out that the secondary sex and relationships curriculum is not only too focused on plumbing but does not build on the skills that young people need to decide whether they want to enter a relationship—the skills to say no.

It is about teaching girls to say no, and teaching young men to understand that no is no. That needs to be delivered in an age-appropriate way. It is not about frightening young people or taking it out of the hands of parents. In fact, many parents feel relieved that other people are delivering it.

There are very competent peer educators out there, ready to deliver these programmes in schools, but I am afraid that if it cannot be counted, it often does not count. It is important, then, to establish the principle that these programmes should be happening; then, of course, we would need to discuss the matter further, because it would need to be delivered in an evidence-based way. I get the message from teachers that they often do not feel they have the skills to deliver these programmes. Let us make sure that this is delivered in an age-appropriate way and by the right professionals, but first let us make sure that it happens, because this is about reducing violence against women. We can send out the message that this is important and deliver it well.

I rise to speak to new clause 17, in my name and those of other hon. Members, which would provide for a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present. It is a child protection issue.

I could devote much of my time to the strong influence of the tobacco lobby in this place and knocking down the idea that the new clause is my way of expanding the nanny state, but I will not. Instead, I shall address the simple decision that the new clause invites Members to make: do we act to protect children and ban smoking in cars, or do we leave them to suffer not just the discomfort but the tremendous health problems they will otherwise encounter? In Committee, there was considerable sympathy for the intention, with some reservation about the introduction of an education programme for offenders, but the new clause is much simpler: if a person smokes in a car when a child is present, they would face a £60 fine—no awareness course, no complications, no compromise.

The principle of such a ban has gained much support from fellow Members on both sides of the House. A majority of people understand that smoking is harmful to our health, particularly the health of children, and most would not expose children to smoke in a vehicle. In a survey of 10,000 adults carried out by Action on Smoking and Health that included more than 2,000 smokers, which asked about the car people travelled in most frequently, only 6% said that people should smoke whenever they liked. Some 71% said that smoking was not allowed full stop and 9% said that smoking was not allowed if there were non-smokers or children travelling. Despite that, however, research from the British Lung Foundation found that more than 51% of eight to 15-year-olds reported exposure to cigarette smoke when confined in a car in the UK.

Public opinion is firmly on the side of change. A survey by YouGov found that 85% of adults in north-east England, where my constituency is situated, said that they would support laws to ban smoking in cars carrying under-18s. One factor that sets children apart from other groups is that they are less likely to have a say on whether they are exposed to second-hand smoke in a vehicle in which they are travelling. Given that passive smoking is particularly harmful to children, we have a recipe for a public health time bomb. With their quicker respiration rates, smaller airways, less mature immune systems and greater absorption of pollutants, children are at an increased risk from passive smoking in an enclosed space. Passive smoking increases the risk of a number of health problems, ranging from wheezing and asthma to respiratory infections and bacterial meningitis, and doubles the risk of sudden infant death.

These attitudes are backed up by survey data from the British Lung Foundation that shows that many children are uncomfortable with adults smoking around them, but feel unable to influence smoking behaviours. Some 31% of children aged eight to 15 exposed to second-hand smoke in a car reported having asked the smoker to stop. Alarmingly, however, a greater share—34%—had refrained from asking because they were either too frightened or embarrassed. As Members of Parliament, it is our duty to act in the interests of the public we serve and represent, including children and young people, and it is high time that we heeded what our young people are telling us. In the interests of preserving public health, the only way to protect completely against second-hand smoke is to make homes and cars entirely smoke free. A good starting point would be to ban smoking in cars when children are present.

The Government’s response to this developing crisis, in the form of an informative educational campaign that has just been launched, is certainly welcome, but the message about the dangers of passive smoking must be spread even wider. We must stop this sort of behaviour, so this campaign is of course welcome. Private vehicles are considered private spaces—people argue that it is their private space—but it is the young person’s private space as well, so I hope that the House will support my proposal and that the Government will accept it. Opposing a ban on smoking in private vehicles when children are present assumes that the right to smoke trumps the right of the child to be free from harmful smoke. It does not. I have stressed in the past, and do so again, that this is not just a health issue, but an issue of child protection. I hope the Government will now accept it.

I want briefly to draw attention to new clause 5, which addresses the issue of young carers and the fact that the good intentions of the Government in the Care Bill to extend new rights to adult carers have inadvertently created a gap that leaves young carers in a position where they would be less well favoured than adult carers in the future.

As a result of the new clause, tabled by a cross-party group of Members, the Government can ensure that young carers are treated in a way that is fair and appropriate for them and are not placed in a position where they are undertaking inappropriate and burdensome caring responsibilities. I hope that the Government will be able to give us a good sign of intent to deliver on this agenda. They are doing a great job for adults in the Care Bill and, in carers week, we need to do the same for young carers.

Order. Before I call the right hon. Member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd (Mr Llwyd), may I remind him that we have a very short period left and that I need to leave a few minutes for the Minister?

I would like to speak briefly to amendments Nos 5, 6, 7 and 8, which seek to introduce greater flexibility and understanding of the 26-week target for care proceedings. Nobody in this place would deny that that target is very helpful and we hope that, in most cases, we will be able to meet it. But we know—for example from the Norgrove report—that, on average, cases take up to 61 weeks: 48 weeks in family court proceedings. The Justice Committee, of which I am a member, held an inquiry into the operation of family courts. In its evidence to us, Barnardo’s made the point:

“Two months of delay in making decisions in the best interest of a child equates to 1% of childhood that cannot be restored.”

For this reason, both the all-party group on child protection and the Justice Committee welcomed the Government’s aim of reducing unnecessary delay in the care system.

Care must be taken with regard to the target as well. Clause 14 provides the starting point for courts in setting a time for cases; proceedings should come to an end within 26 weeks, as I mentioned. But there is some ambiguity as to when courts should deem an extension appropriate. As the College of Social Work and the Family Rights Group have argued, there is a genuine risk that the proposed 26-week limit could result in too much focus on procedure and not enough on the welfare of the child.

The vast majority of cases will be concluded within six months, but deciding on permanent options can take longer for some children, not always due to problems with the court process or unnecessary delay. Social workers will attest that situations can change in the course of proceedings; for example, when relatives present themselves as possible carers late in the process. The Family Rights Group has pointed out that, under the new limit, if family members are late in offering themselves as carers there may well not be enough time for the relevant assessments to be carried out.

Equally, placing a child with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins or other siblings can reinforce aspects of a child’s identity. In many cases, however, relatives will be reluctant to offer this option if they think that there is still a chance that the child will be able to be returned to his or her parents.

I anticipate that Government Members will point out that the safeguard for granting extensions to cases is robust enough to allow for complications to be ironed out. Sadly, I have it on good evidence that judges are, in some cases, already imposing a 26-week deadline on proceedings even before the limit has been introduced. It is crucial that time considerations do not supersede the welfare of the child concerned. What is more, some intervention programmes take longer than 26 weeks due to parents undergoing treatment for substance misuse issues and similar problems. The pilot boroughs—Hammersmith and Fulham, Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea—have estimated that 25 to 30 per cent. of all cases will take longer than the 26-week limit.

Intensive family programmes, such as the NSPCC’s infant and family team, are another example. The programme was developed in the United States and is now being piloted in the United Kingdom. A four-year evaluation of the programme in the US showed improved outcomes for children and adults in all groups that undertook the programme. I will be unable to address that point as fully as I should like in the time allotted, but one of the motivations behind the amendments I am speaking to—by the way, I am hugely indebted to the NSPCC for its assistance in this matter—is that some cases should be exempted from the limit from the outset. Although the Bill as drafted would allow for incremental eight-week extensions, practitioners in the field have warned that they would need to know at the beginning of proceedings how much time they have to work with the family, in order to secure the best possible outcome.

Equally worryingly, practitioners warn that social workers could be deterred from seeking extensions other than in highly exceptional circumstances, as the “specific justification” test in clause 14(7) may be perceived as a barrier in borderline cases. That is why amendment 5 would allow courts to exempt certain cases from the 26-week limit from the very start of proceedings if evidence relating to a planned intervention or programme requiring a longer period was presented to the court, or if the court considered it necessary to permit additional time to safeguard the child’s welfare.

Amendments 7 and 8 relate to clause 17, which introduces significant reforms to the way in which courts scrutinise care plans. I do not have time to go into the context; all I would say is that I, too, am disappointed that our time is limited today. These are very important matters. I have skimmed through what I was going to say—I am grateful that I was able to catch your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker—and I know that the NSPCC and many other organisations will be bitterly disappointed that we have had to truncate such important debates in this way.

This group of amendments covers a wide range of issues relating to the care and protection of children. As I will be unable to address all the points made, I will endeavour to write to all hon. Members in response to their amendments and the questions they posed, particularly the hon. Member for Wigan (Lisa Nandy), who has been very convivial and constructive during the passage of this Bill, and my hon. Friend the Member for East Worthing and Shoreham (Tim Loughton), who has raised a number of important areas of debate, particularly in making some powerful points about returning home from care. I will look at those points extremely carefully and am happy to discuss them with him on another occasion.

I want to focus on a number of issues about which I have some important points to make. They are: care leavers, young carers, fostering for adoption, child witnesses and sex and relationships education. On carer leavers, new clause 4 considers “staying put” arrangements, where care leavers live with their former foster carer after they have left care. Many hon. Members have expressed their support for new clause 4, and I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can extend those arrangements. The legislative framework relating to care leavers is comprehensive and clear. I have written to all directors of children’s services asking them to prioritise “staying put” arrangements. We have also issued practical guidance on tax and benefits issues. We are monitoring “staying put” arrangements and reviewing local progress through Ofsted inspections and feedback from care leaver groups. If no progress is being made, I will consider whether legislation is required, but I do not believe we should make that change only two years after changing the statutory framework.

On young carers, in Committee we heard heart-felt arguments about the need to do more for young carers. I promised to reflect carefully on the arguments for legislative change. Since then I have discussed the matter with the Minister for care services, my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), and we have agreed that our joint aim is to ensure that young carers are protected. We firmly believe that taking a “whole family” approach to the assessment of care needs will be the key to achieving just that. I have now given the matter careful thought and, with the changes being introduced by the Care Bill for adult carers, I am persuaded that the time is right to see what we can do to remove any barriers that may be preventing these vulnerable young people and their families from receiving the life-changing support they need.

I have asked officials to look at how the legislation for young carers might be changed so that rights and responsibilities are clearer to young carers and practitioners alike. We will also look at how we can ensure that children’s legislation works with adults’ legislation to support the linking of assessments, as set out in the Care Bill, to enable “whole family” approaches. We will ensure that interested parties, including hon. Members, are consulted on that work.

There is a strong consensus about the policy intention behind fostering for adoption: that children should be placed as early as possible in a stable placement. Amendment 33 would mean that clause 1 would bite too early for concurrent planning. I listened to the concerns raised in Committee about the impact on kinship carers, but there is no intention that kinship carers should be overlooked as a consequence of this clause. I am pleased to reassure hon. Members that I am giving consideration to amending the clause to be clearer that local authorities must first consider placing a child with relatives and friends before they consider a “fostering for adoption” placement. This is an issue that I expect to be returned to in the other place, and I know that Members will welcome that reassurance. I know that hon. Members will also be pleased by today’s announcement from the Secretary of State for Justice on child witnesses. That represents an important move forward.

On personal, social and health education, we all recognise that this is an important issue, but we do not have unanimity on what constitutes the best approach. The expectation that all schools should teach PSHE is outlined in the introduction to the framework of the proposed new national curriculum. It is not a statutory requirement, however, as we strongly believe that teachers need the flexibility to use their professional judgment to decide when and how best to provide PSHE in their local circumstances. The Government do not believe that the right of parents to withdraw their children from sex and relationships education should be diminished in the way proposed. We see no need to amend the existing legislation, which provides a clear and workable model for schools and parents. Moreover, the new provision would place a disproportionate burden on teachers, who would have to make and defend decisions on what constitutes “sufficient maturity”—

Debate interrupted (Programme Order, 25 February).

The Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair (Standing Order No. 83E), That the clause be read a Second time.

Question negatived.

The Deputy Speaker then put forthwith the Questions necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that time (Standing Order No. 83E).

New Clause 6

Staff to child ratios: Ofsted-registered childminder settings

‘(1) This section applies to Ofsted-registered childminder settings.

(2) The ratio of staff to children under the age of eight must be no less than one to six, where—

(a) a maximum of three children may be young children;

(b) a maximum of one child is under the age of one.

(3) Any care provided by childminders for older children must not adversely affect the care of children receiving early years provision.

(4) If a childminder can demonstrate to parents, carers and inspectors, that the individual needs of all the children are being met, then in addition to the ratio set out in subsection (2), they may also care for—

(a) babies who are siblings of the children referred to in subsection (2), or

(b) their own baby.

(5) If children aged between four and five years only attend the childminding setting outside of normal school hours or the normal school term time, they may be cared for at the same time as three other young children, provided that at no time the ratio of staff to children under the age of eight exceeds one to six.

(6) If a childminder employs an assistant or works with another childminder, each childminder or assistant may care for the number of children permitted by the ratios specified in subsections (2), (4), and (5).

(7) Children may only be left in the sole care of a childminder’s assistant for two hours in a single day.

(8) Childminders must obtain the permission of a child’s parents or carers before that child can be left in the sole care of a childminder’s assistant.

(9) The ratios in subsections (2), (4) and (5) apply to childminders providing overnight care, provided that the children are continuously monitored, which may be through the use of electronic equipment.

(10) For the purposes of this section a child is—

(a) a “young child” up until 1 September following his or her fifth birthday.

(b) an “older child” after the 1 September following his or her fifth birthday.’.—(Mrs Hodgson.)

Brought up.

Question put, That the clause be added to the Bill.

New Clause 20

Personal, social and health education in maintained schools

‘(1) In section 84(3) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the first, second and third key stages), after paragraph (g) there is inserted—

“(ga) personal, social and health education”.

(2) In section 85(4) of the Education Act 2002 (curriculum foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

(3) In section 74(1) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006, which (when brought into force) will substitute a new section 85 in the Education Act 2002, in subsection (4) of that substituted section (foundation subjects for the fourth key stage), at the end there is inserted “, and

(d) personal, social and health education.”

(4) Before section 86 of the Education Act 2002 there is inserted—

“85B Personal, social and health education

(1) For the purposes of this Part, personal, social and health education (“PSHE”) shall include sex and relationship education, including information about same-sex relationships, sexual violence, domestic violence and sexual consent.

(2) The National Curriculum for England is not required to specify attainment targets or assessment arrangements for PSHE (and section 84(1) has effect accordingly).