House of Lords
Tuesday, 1 July 2008.
The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.
Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.
Introduction: The Lord Bishop of Lincoln
—John Charles, Lord Bishop of Lincoln, was introduced between the Lord Bishop of St Albans and the Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham.
Introduction: Baroness Manningham-Buller
Housing: Selective Licensing Schemes
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I remind the House that I am a member of a local authority in Lancashire.
The Question was as follows:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the progress made in establishing selective licensing areas for the licensing of private landlords matches their intentions at the time of the passing of the Housing Act 2004.
My Lords, the Government are satisfied with the progress that local authorities have made in establishing selective licensing schemes under the Housing Act 2004. As was expected, local authorities’ statutory duty to implement the mandatory licensing of certain houses in multiple occupation has taken precedence over discretionary licensing initiatives. To date, seven selective licensing schemes have been approved.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. I think that seven schemes have been approved in five local authorities, which in the three years since the legislation was passed does not seem very many. Does she appreciate that quite a number of local authorities would like to establish selective licensing schemes for private sector landlords in difficult areas of their districts but find that the government rules present insurmountable hurdles? Will the Government be more forthcoming about allowing local authorities to declare selective licensing areas?
My Lords, the noble Lord will probably know that the criteria stipulate areas of market failure and areas with a high incidence of anti-social behaviour. We targeted those areas because they tend to be where people are in the greatest housing distress, so we are not looking at the criteria at the moment. We never expected more than about 17 schemes, so to have seven in the first two years is creditable. However, because putting the licensing regime in place is a serious undertaking for local authorities, we must take great care to get the processes right.
My Lords, I declare my interest as a small landlord, as always. I have grave concerns about any scheme that is damaging to the amount of property that comes on to the market for people to occupy. Does the noble Baroness agree that whatever type of scheme is introduced should be fully justified and that a careful decision should be made as to whether it will be counterproductive and remove property from the letting market?
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes an important point, because we rely on the private rented sector. Its share as a provider of all our homes has increased from 8 per cent to 12 per cent since 1988, so it is an important part of the market. The point about selective licensing is that landlords in certain areas are registered by the local authority in an attempt to help them to manage their tenants and properties better; essentially it is a management tool. There are great benefits for landlords in this because a scheme raises the tenor of and attitude towards the sector, but landlords have to be able to agree to it. However, the noble Baroness is right to say that we must be proportionate in how we use tools of this sort.
My Lords, we know that in parts of the country—in university cities such as Nottingham, for example—there are big concentrations of students. Students are of terrific benefit to the local economy but, when they are concentrated together, there can also be problems for the private sector. Licensing would probably not be the answer, but we have commissioned ECOTEC to gather evidence on this to see what might work and what the extent of the problem is. We are working closely with universities and local authorities in such areas. We are looking at the accreditation of landlords and at neighbourhood management and we are consulting on the possibility of changing the use classes order to stop the proliferation of houses in multiple occupation. This is a very lively issue for us.
My Lords, the Minister talked about which should take priority, selective licensing or HMOs. However, the clear impression that I got when I looked at the CLG website yesterday was that this might well be another occasion of the Government putting down an awful lot of words on paper hoping that the words in themselves would solve the problems.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is far too cynical. We have a wonderful website and I am glad that she has found it. The point about the way in which we have done this is that we have prioritised mandatory licensing. As she will remember from the Housing Act 2004, it is in the larger houses—those of three or more storeys with five or more people in the household—that the greatest abuses occur. We anticipated that about 41,000 such houses would need to be licensed; we have actually licensed 25,000 of them in two years, which is excellent. That was the priority and selective licensing is a complementary tool.
My Lords, have the Government been talking to local authorities that appear—particularly if one listens to the noble Lord, Lord Greaves—to be somewhat reluctant to get into this scheme? Have the Government taken steps to find out the background to their reluctance?
My Lords, the seven schemes are in places such as Salford, east Manchester and Pendle—I am sorry, in Burnley. I beg the noble Lord’s pardon; I should know east Lancashire well enough by now to know the difference between Pendle and Burnley. This is quite rightly an outstanding issue in Burnley, because some of the local landlords had a problem with the quality of evidence and the quality of the consultation. We are looking to make good progress on that now. It is important to know the local circumstances. In Salford, for example, 500 properties and more than 300 landlords are involved in the scheme. There has to be a lot of local knowledge and local consultation with residents and landlords before you can successfully introduce one of these schemes.
NHS: Sixtieth Anniversary
My Lords, the Department of Health plans to mark the 60th anniversary of the National Health Service in a number of ways. At national level, activities include a service of celebration at Westminster Abbey and publication of a history of the NHS. NHS Live and the Health and Social Care Awards will also be focused around the anniversary. Locally, we expect NHS organisations to celebrate in the most appropriate way for their staff, patients and communities.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply and agree that we have much to celebrate. Does he agree that prior to 1997 the chronic underfunding of the NHS led many people to question its survival as a universal service, free at the point of use? Would he further agree that this Government’s record investments in the NHS have now put its future on a secure footing for many years to come?
My Lords, the Government’s record level of investment in the NHS coupled with reform have put the service on a firm and sustainable footing. The challenge now is to build on that investment and create a truly sustainable NHS; one that gives patients and the public more information and choice, works in partnership and has quality of care at its heart. We set out this vision in the next stage review, published yesterday.
My Lords, as it is 63 years since I graduated in medicine, I imagine that I am the only Member of your Lordships’ House who was practicing medicine before the NHS came in. When I delivered the BMA lecture in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the passage of the National Health Service Act, I said that in those 50 years I had lived through eight reorganisations of the NHS. In the past 12 years there have been 14. The Government now have the opportunity to consider in detail the interesting report that the noble Lord, Lord Darzi, has just published. When the review has been completed, may we have an assurance that there will be no further reorganisations so that the dedicated staff of the NHS can get on with their major responsibility of caring for patients?
My Lords, the report on the NHS next stage review, published yesterday, made the commitment that there will be no restructure or organisational change. That commitment is also secured with an NHS constitution which will take the NHS into the next decade.
My Lords, would not an appropriate way to mark the 60th anniversary of the NHS be for the Government to fulfil their manifesto promise to end mixed-sex wards? Would it not also be appropriate to end the scandal where people of modest means who buy their own drugs are then denied treatment by the NHS?
My Lords, this Government have made a commitment to single-sex accommodation. The report we published yesterday brings in the say of the patient. Funding will follow the patient experience. That in itself will be the strongest incentive in the system for all NHS providers to ensure that patients are in single-sex accommodation. On the funding of NHS drugs, the Government have also made a commitment to expedite the approval of drugs through the NICE process, reducing the time from two years to between three and six months.
My Lords, I cannot claim to have practiced medicine before the invention of the National Health Service but I must have been one of the first patients to have benefited from it, for which I am grateful. After 60 years of ever more exotic treatments on the NHS—presumably with at least another 60 years to come—does the Minister think that we are healthier as a consequence?
My Lords, I join many in the House in rejoicing in the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the NHS. I recognise that there are many significant challenges in the years ahead. Will the Minister assure us that the needs of those suffering from mental illnesses such as dementia and schizophrenia will remain central to the strategic policy and will be effectively resourced in the future?
My Lords, the next stage review makes a commitment through the local reviews. There are 10 regional reviews in which the vision for mental health is clearly described. We are also for the first time setting the NHS proactively to meet the challenges of the future, which include dementia and other mental health disorders.
My Lords, does my noble friend agree that one of the most welcome developments in 60 years has been the move from cure to prevention—in other words, maintaining good health, which my noble friend emphasised in his report? Will he tell the House more about the Government’s commitment to prevention as well as cure?
My Lords, the NHS aspires to convert itself from a sickness service to a well-being service, and we made four commitments yesterday: first, to create a coalition between government, the private sector and the voluntary sector in ensuring that we tackle some of the challenges facing us in preventive medicine; secondly, we will be launching a campaign about reducing the risk of the major killers such as cardiovascular disease; thirdly, we will be introducing reforms to the quality and outcomes framework to ensure that prevention is at the heart of primary and community services; and, fourthly, we will be piloting a fit-for-work scheme, which was recently announced by Dame Carol Black.
My Lords, single-sex bays, or single-sex accommodation, refers to a previously large ward that has been divided into small bays and accommodation. They are called “wards”. So far as our definition is concerned, we are committed to the provision of single-sex bays and accommodation.
My Lords, is it not time to acknowledge, in an anniversary year, that, despite the day-to-day problems that will occur and the difficulties and issues that have to be resolved, the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948 was the greatest achievement of any peacetime Government of the 20th century—and is it not worth reminding anyone with a short memory that it was an achievement of a great Labour Government?
Railways: Passenger Demand
My Lords, responsibility for maintaining the Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook lies with the Passenger Demand Forecasting Council, of which the Department for Transport is a member. A major update of the handbook is currently being undertaken and we are working collaboratively with the forecasting council to ensure that relevant findings from government-led research are captured within the revised draft.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The Passenger Demand Forecasting Handbook, which is the basis on which railway investments are made, was developed 20 or 30 years ago when the railways were in decline. It takes no account of oil shortages, rising congestion, pollution or climate change. Will the Minister assure the House that all these factors will be properly evaluated and taken into consideration?
My Lords, I do not entirely agree with the noble Lord’s description of what the handbook takes into account. It is a rather large document—650 pages, when I looked at it—and something of a holy grail for the rail industry’s investment plans. We are currently embarked on a review to update the handbook so that it provides the most up-to-date and timely information for forecasting passenger growth. Such variations as there have been in recent times tend to work themselves out over a three or four-year cycle. The handbook is in good order for the task for which it has been designed.
My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that at least one train operator has recorded a 16 per cent increase in passenger numbers in the past six months? The evidence is that that is because of the high price of oil and people are turning from road to rail. Given that the Government’s forecasts of passenger traffic are still based on $57 a barrel for oil and it is now over $140, is it not time that the new forecasts took into account the much higher price of oil that most people believe is likely to be with us for a long time?
My Lords, the noble Lord makes a timely point but I think that the general industry view is that it is too soon to know whether higher fuel prices will encourage people to switch from road to rail. There is no real evidence so far. Road and rail journeys are not perfect substitutes and, in view of how commuter traffic works, individuals discouraged from driving their cars may not necessarily make the equivalent journey shift to rail. I recognise in part the statistics to which the noble Lord refers, but the latest quarterly edition of National Rail Trends reported a 4.4 per cent increase in passenger kilometres and a 4.8 per cent increase in passenger journeys this quarter compared with 2006-07.
My Lords, fare elasticity clearly has a bearing on these things, but we have had a policy of ensuring that regulated fares increase over time by RPI plus 1 per cent. Some 50 per cent of fares on the networks are regulated and some 80 per cent are either regulated or discounted. That may account for the fact that in the past 10 years we have had a 40 per cent increase in the number of passengers travelling on the network and we project a further 30 per cent growth in the next 10 years. I would argue that that is a success story.
My Lords, given the very encouraging figures that my noble friend is giving for future demand for rail travel, will the Government give every support to Network Rail in its plans to build new high-speed lines to the north and also its proposals for electrification of more of the network?
My Lords, the noble Lord is obviously referring to recent comments by the Secretary of State about high speed. We are working with Network Rail to examine options for further growth in the longer term. That might include the new high-speed lines to which the noble Lord referred and also the capacity for increased electrification.
My Lords, on these Benches we are deeply concerned that the change in circumstances affects the forecasting. For instance, the new railway station at Alloa in Scotland was forecast to have 12,000 passengers a month but the figure in the first month was actually 35,000. The forecast seemed to be totally awry. What are the Government going to do about this?
My Lords, I will feed the noble Lord’s up-to-date information into our forecasts to make sure that they are timely and accurate. Apart from that, we keep a careful account of the projected increases, and the figures I gave earlier are a clear indication of our confidence in the projections to date. Of course we have to have flexibility. That is why we announced last year a £10 billion expenditure increase to take account of the capacity demands that we expect to see until 2014.
My Lords, the Government have to take account of these things and one of the reasons why we have had a successful rail strategy in the past few years is that we have anticipated some of that growth. We are delighted that more people are using the rail network now than at any time since 1946 and that the numbers are rising every year. We are planning for that growth and investing in new capacity and the public are clearly responding. They are increasingly using the rail network and see it as a safe, comfortable and environmentally friendly way of travelling about our great nation.
My Lords, have not the biggest increases in rail traffic in recent years occurred where services have increased, new rolling stock has been provided and there are more and better trains? In that respect, does the Minister understand that it will not increase so much on dead-end lines with dead-end services such as that between Preston and Colne in east Lancashire? In particular, do the Government support the reinstatement of the Todmorden curve to allow fast services from Burnley to Manchester?
My Lords, the noble Lord has an enviable record in making that case and I congratulate him. We are neither for nor against the reopening of lines. If an effective business case for particular lines can be made and supported and it is economical then there is a good case to reopen them. As he knows, I have my own sympathies in that direction. However, we have to marry that with the demands for increased capacity on the network as a whole. His point about increasing the quality of rolling stock is extremely good, as it will make using the trains a much more attractive option.
Police: Ethnic Minority Officers
My Lords, the policy co-ordination and monitoring of the national promotion systems for sergeant, inspector and senior ranks in the police service are the responsibility of the National Policing Improvement Agency. The NPIA uses recognised selection techniques that are designed and delivered to identify police officers with the right skills and abilities for promotion, while being fair to all candidates irrespective of their background.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. There are at present two high-profile cases where dissatisfaction is expressed by Muslim police officers. Disquiet is expressed also by their trade association. I have been told that 20 police forces were unable to send answers to questionnaires submitted by the association and a think tank. I remind your Lordships’ House of the figures for BME officers: there is one chief constable and there are eight members of ACPO out of 300 and 32 superintendents out of 1,600. Something is not quite right. Will the Government consider asking all the police forces to complete the questionnaire and undertake a review of diversity, promotion of BME officers and their appointment to specialist departments?
My Lords, the noble Lord asked a number of questions. We need to make it absolutely clear that we are committed to a police service—it is true of the military as well—that reflects the society that it defends. That is crucial. It may not have achieved that exact percentage, but we are doing a huge number of things to make it happen and work. The Association of Muslim Police used a think tank, Demos, to send out questionnaires. The police were concerned about writing back to a think tank with details of Muslim officers in their forces, which I understand. Our officials are meeting the Association of Muslim Police this week to discuss that issue, and I know that the Home Secretary is keen to meet the association next week to talk it through, because it is important. The police service needs to reflect society, but—my goodness—we have a good story to tell.
My Lords, serious allegations have been made against the Metropolitan Police Commissioner about racial discrimination. Similar allegations have been made against a senior civil servant in the Home Office and against the Metropolitan Police Authority. Would it not be appropriate to invite the Equality and Human Rights Commission to mount a formal investigation into policies on retention, recruitment and promotion of people from ethnic minorities in police forces?
My Lords, I do not feel that such a thing is necessary. We have mechanisms in place for addressing these matters. As I have stated, the numbers are not absolutely right. For example, about 8 per cent of the Metropolitan Police is BME—that is not enough. It is important that it reflects society. In New York, something like 45 per cent of the police force is made up of BME officers, which makes a huge difference on the streets. We have a number of mechanisms in place. During the past year, one in four police recruited came from a BME background. That is a huge change from three years ago. We have learnt our lessons and we are trying to do things. I do not think that another study or group looking into all of this would help. We need to concentrate on high-potential development schemes aimed at BME officers, the National Senior Careers Advisory Service and the positive action leadership programme. These are all good things and one has to work at it, because all of us in this House and in the nation realise how important it is. However, it does not happen overnight; it is difficult to achieve.
My Lords, this is not only about fairness or quotas. Does the Minister accept that, in the interests of operational effectiveness, especially in counterterrorism, it is essential that Britain’s police forces reflect Britain’s diverse communities? How many officers currently engaged in counterterrorism activity are from Britain’s minority faith communities?
My Lords, the noble Baroness makes an important point. Again, I refer back to New York, where there is amazing coverage that allows links in. Certainly, on counterterrorism, I would love to have more police officers and people in SO15 from ethnic-minority communities. I do not know the exact figure, but I will write to the noble Baroness. I could not but agree with the noble Baroness; it is absolutely crucial. We are working very hard at this, and we have to take into account the views of other people. I was interested to hear people talking about this on a radio chat show on my way here at lunchtime. Of course, other parts of the community have different views. We have to balance all those things and other perceptions. We have a good story to tell and we are working very hard at this, but we have to do better. If I were marking myself, I would say “Do better”. We are trying, and we will do so.
My Lords, perhaps I may set the Question in a slightly wider context. Can the Minister outline, for the benefit of the House, the arrangements that exist for the development of leaders in the British police service, as opposed to the development of managers, which is rather different?
My Lords, the noble Lord has gone slightly beyond the scope of the Question. We are about to produce a Green Paper, which I hope will address this issue. We have talked about it on the Floor of the House before. As noble Lords can imagine, with my background I feel strongly that one needs leadership not only in the police, the military and other such areas, but in business. Sometimes we rather forget that by going down the management chain. I shall write to the noble Lord with any detail I have, but, if I may say so, it is almost better to wait for the Green Paper.
My Lords, the Macpherson report clearly stated that there was institutional racism in the police force. One of its suggestions was that the police force should undertake awareness training. As I understand it, that has been dropped, especially among the senior officers who are responsible for promotion. Can the Minister comment on why that was left out?
My Lords, perhaps I may write to the noble Baroness on that point as I was not aware of it. I know, for example, that Doreen Lawrence is very closely involved with the NPIA on a number of developments and in making sure that we go in the right direction. I do not know the specifics, so I will have to write to the noble Baroness.
Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill
My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
Alcohol Labelling Bill [HL]
Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.
Health and Social Care Bill
Read a third time.
Clause 4 [Matters to which the Commission must have regard]:
1: Clause 4, page 2, line 27, at end insert—
“( ) views expressed by staff, and those trade unions and professional organisations representing staff, employed in activities to which the functions relate,”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, Members of the House who were present in Committee and on Report will be aware that the emphasis of some amendments was on the position, fears and concerns of consumers and whether those concerns were addressed in the Bill.
However, during Committee there was much discussion among trade unions about what some believed to be a lack of consideration of the workforce’s views. Amendment No. 1, which is grouped with Amendment No. 11, to which I also wish to speak, deals with those concerns.
During the Bill’s passage there was much debate about ensuring that the new CQC has regard to users of health and social care services. There was support from all sides of the House for amendments to ensure that the new CQC must have regard to the views and experiences of people who use health and social care services and to their family and friends. My amendment would build on previous amendments to ensure that there is a similar reference in the Bill to the health and social care workforce. It aims to ensure that the CQC works closely with staff representatives and pays similar regard to their views and experience.
As we debated, under certain conditions a deterioration of care in a care home may be more likely, for example, when there is a change of ownership, a change of registered manager or an unexplained increase in staff turnover. Often, staff in these situations have vital knowledge about when and how these circumstances are likely to arise. Their experience should play a role in developing the range of triggers for additional inspection of care homes. It is important that a way is found to harness this knowledge and to provide a way in which the CQC can regularly take on board the advice of staff in developing its methodology. Amendment No. 1 would add a consideration to the list of matters to which the commission must have regard: the views expressed by staff employed in activities to which the commission’s functions relate, and of trade unions and professional organisations representing them.
Amendment No. 11 to Schedule 1 would build on this by putting in place provisions to ensure that the views and experience of staff have a role in the centre of the commission’s governance structures. Schedule 1 refers to the advisory committee that the CQC must appoint to provide advice and information to it. It specifies that the,
“advisory committee must include persons of a prescribed description”.
However, this amendment would explicitly require that a member of the workforce sit on the committee. In Committee we debated ways of achieving this important role for users. It is also important to put in place a process by which the commission is required to take on board the experience of the workforce. Ensuring staff representation on this advisory committee would enable them to have a role in the development of the commission’s methodology for inspection and review, which is appropriate to maximise public protection. Those working with staff employed in health and social care would greatly welcome assurances from the Government about the way the CQC will be expected to use the expertise of the workforce to ensure the highest level of public protection.
I am well aware that the Government have had very little notice of this amendment and I recognise that my noble friend is in a somewhat difficult position in answering the issues that I raised. However, I would welcome any statement that she can make from the Dispatch Box to assure members of trade unions representing the workforce that their voice will be clearly heard in the conditions I set out in my amendment. The unions are keen to hear her comments on that matter. I beg to move.
My Lords, I very much appreciate the intention of my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours in tabling Amendments Nos. 1 and 11. In many ways, I wish that he had tabled them earlier in our proceedings, but I will do my best to be positive and to satisfy him. We want to ensure that the views of staff in organisations that provide or commission health and social care are properly represented in the new regulator.
We have discussed at length the importance of engaging and involving people who use services. I believe this is quite proper, given the concerns that the voice of the service user might otherwise not be heard. However, I would certainly not want to give the impression that the views of staff are not also important. We recognise the important contribution that staff in health and social care services make to the work of the Care Quality Commission. They are able to draw on their expert knowledge and experience and offer insight gained from working on the front line. Given that crucial insight and the importance of making sure that providers maintain proper working conditions, it has always been our intention for the Care Quality Commission to take account of the views of staff and their representative bodies.
I am pleased to confirm on the public record that Clause 4(1)(a) already enables the commission to take into account those views as part of the regard it must have to views expressed by the public. I emphasise that this provision is sufficiently wide to include staff, and we would certainly expect the commission to engage with them as part of its overall responsibilities. I can also confirm that this provision would cover trade unions and professional organisations, as the commission must also have regard to views expressed on behalf of the public. I hope this clarifies the issues that my noble friend has raised.
I would like to refer to several other provisions. Of particular relevance is our proposed registration requirement 17, which is about supporting workers to give people the care and treatment they need. The commission will need to engage with staff in assessing this and will be able to take action where this is not the case. We would also expect the commission, as CSCI currently does, to take into account the views of staff in gathering evidence to ensure that providers comply with all the registration requirements. Also, under Clause 24, the commission is required to consult on guidance as to compliance with requirements, and we would expect that to include providers and their staff. This is just one of a number of provisions in the Bill requiring consultation. I am sure that the commission will value staff input on many of these issues. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Young, will carefully consider the views expressed today.
The importance that we place on engaging widely with everyone with an interest is exactly why we introduced the new requirement for an advisory committee. When establishing that committee, the commission will want to draw on a range of expertise from different sides. We have always been clear that we want the advisory committee to include a range of people with expertise relating to health and social care services, including providers of services, representative bodies and other interested observers. I expect that this will include people with front-line experience of delivering services.
I would be cautious, however, about naming a particular group in the Bill, which Amendment No. 11 seeks to do, as this goes against the concept of an independent regulator. I am confident that we can trust the commission to determine who is appropriate. If needs be—if the advisory committee were felt not to be providing the robust and representative sounding board we anticipate it should be—a power is provided for the Secretary of State to prescribe the sort of people that it must include.
As part of the wider picture, I refer noble Lords to the report launched yesterday by the Minister, my noble friend Lord Darzi, much of which is about engaging with staff about the changes they want to see to the NHS and empowering them to provide the highest quality of care. I hope that I have been able to reassure my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours that the Bill as drafted meets the intention behind both these amendments, and that the Government are serious about empowering staff to help shape their workplaces. I hope that he will withdraw his amendment.
Clause 20 [Regulation of regulated activities]:
2: Clause 20, page 9, line 17, at end insert “and the application of lessons learnt from them”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, it will be convenient also to consider further government Amendments Nos. 10 and 12.
Amendment No. 10 has been tabled in response to constructive debates in Grand Committee and on Report about how best to ensure that the commission maintains a balance in its work. I very much appreciate the attempts on all sides to find the most appropriate way of doing this. The commission will be held to account for the delivery of its main objectives and statutory functions, which we have clarified in the Bill, through the close scrutiny of this House. These include the tasks of regulating adult social care, continuing to take an overview of adult social care in England through its reviews and through the vital Mental Health Act role.
The commission cannot fulfil its statutory responsibilities if it fails to dedicate sufficient priority of resources and attention to social care or mental health. We all agree that in bringing health, adult social care and mental health regulation together, it would be wrong to “insulate them from change” as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, put it. There has been some recognition that it therefore might not be appropriate to specify in primary legislation that there should be commissioners or sub-committees with specific remits. However, we recognise that it is important, to quote the noble Earl again,
“to ensure a fair balance of disciplines in direct alignment with the commission’s key regulatory functions”.—[Official Report, 16/6/08; col. 816.]
As so many noble Lords have acknowledged, particularly in the later stages of the Bill, it is vital to secure proper representation while maintaining the flexibility for the commission itself to decide how best to deliver its statutory functions. In government Amendment No. 10 I hope we have arrived at a solution that we can all agree to. This is very much in the spirit of the amendment tabled by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, on Report. However, rather than concentrating expertise on the commission’s review functions, it would require the Secretary of State, in appointing members of the commission, to ensure that they include people with experience and knowledge relating to the commission’s key areas of business: healthcare, social care and monitoring the application of the Mental Health Act. Such knowledge and experience could, for example, include a person’s involvement with relevant stakeholder groups who represent service users or carers, or perhaps their direct experience as a service user or carer themselves. I hope that noble Lords will agree that this amendment leaves no doubt as to the importance that we place on representing all aspects of the commission’s remit at board level, while leaving flexibility for the commission to still organise itself how it sees fit and ensure that the organisation can adapt as the services it regulates develop over time.
We have also tabled Amendment No. 2 in response to debates in Grand Committee and on Report, in this case about complaints. Clause 20(1) states:
“Regulations may impose in relation to regulated activities any requirements that the Secretary of State thinks fit”.
Moreover, we have set out that the proper handling of complaints is one of the key issues that those regulations may, in particular, include. Furthermore, our recent consultation, which closed on 17 June, made clear our intention that those regulations should include requirements about acting on and learning from complaints. However, I appreciate that noble Lords felt that the Bill could be more explicit on this point to reflect the importance that we attach to it. I am happy to be able to bring forward government Amendment No. 2, which, as I hope noble Lords will appreciate, aims to do just that.
I want to refer to the letter that I sent yesterday, which many noble Lords may have seen, following my commitment on Report to make an announcement relating to the independent resolution of complaints by people who arrange and fund their own adult social care services. I am pleased to confirm that we will take the next available legislative opportunity to extend the remit of the Local Government Ombudsman so that he or she can investigate complaints by self-funders. I know that many noble Lords have expressed concerns about this issue. I therefore trust that this proposal, which is certain to make a real difference to people who arrange and fund their own care, has the support of the House.
This group of amendments contains the minor, technical Amendment No. 12. I trust that noble Lords will accept these amendments. I beg to move.
My Lords, I thank the Minister most warmly, in particular for Amendments Nos. 2 and 10 and for her welcome announcement about the future role of the Local Government Ombudsman in relation to complaints by those who fund their own care. I am sure it is extremely gratifying to Members of the House that the Government have been so responsive to the concerns raised during our debates.
My Lords, I simply add to what the noble Earl has said in thanking the Minister and her noble friend Lord Darzi. They have both been assiduous in sending us letters of reassurance during the various stages of this Bill, which have been extremely helpful. I wish that to be formally recorded because these two amendments meet many of the concerns expressed in previous discussions on the Bill.
My Lords, I echo the remarks of other noble Lords. This has been a long Bill, but the amount of work that the Ministers have done and the way in which they have listened to us and taken on board our suggestions have been exemplary. In particular, I thank the Minister for the wonderful flow chart, which she sent me yesterday, on complaints. It is a masterclass in complexity—I have not yet learnt how to make a complaint but I shall master it.
3: Clause 45, page 21, line 31, at end insert—
“( ) The Secretary of State shall make provision for the adoption of minimum standards of frequency for the inspection of the premises of social care providers.”
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may take me longer to move this amendment than I had otherwise planned. It was not until yesterday that I thought that I would be moving this amendment, when I received from CSCI a briefing paper on my contribution last week to the House. I thought that I should not leave it without response, particularly because it deals with what I believe to be an issue that is at the heart of this whole debate; that is, the frequency of inspections in care homes. I remain utterly opposed to the regime that has been established in recent years, and which I believe is of increasing concern to those who know what is going on in this whole sector of care.
CSCI sent out a briefing, which most noble Lords will have received, entitled,
“Health and Social Care Bill Third Reading, Tuesday 1 July. Briefing on the ‘Today’ programme on CSCI and the new approach to inspections”.
Members will recall that the BBC transmitted a programme making a number of allegations about conditions within the inspectorate, drawing on the statements of people within the inspectorate. Those statements have been challenged by CSCI. I asked Unison, one of the unions, for its response to CSCI’s accusations against the unions, one of them being that they were aligned with the BBC in the formulation of the questions. CSCI’s response, in my view, questions the integrity not only of the four unions involved but also of the BBC, which will no doubt wish to respond directly to CSCI.
The “Today” programme report on this vital issue—on the frequency of the ability of the inspectorate to carry out its work—was based on more than 200 questionnaire returns. The questionnaire was written and paid for by the BBC. The unions had no input; they simply sent it to their members. The wording in the questionnaire was approved by the director of political research within the BBC, who is a well respected individual in Westminster. The focus of the questionnaire was on the impact of inspection and regulation changes on service users. It was not to do with internal industrial relations issues, which is what CSCI said in its briefing. The report mirrors many of the findings of an earlier survey conducted by the joint unions, based on 250 responses. These concerns are widespread and cannot be dismissed as comments of one or two people. Again, CSCI’s report misrepresented the position in terms of the number of people who spoke to the BBC. The unions have been complaining since last year about the effects on service users of the new inspection methods. CSCI’s own 2007 staff survey, which had 1,200 responses, had a different focus.
Nevertheless, some results backed the view that there are problems within the inspectorate that should be investigated.
I have not had time to check these data: this is what the unions told me this morning. In CSCI’s own survey, only half the staff agreed that CSCI delivers a good quality of service to its customers; only 35 per cent agreed that CSCI could deliver what it has committed itself to; only 25 per cent had confidence in the senior management team; only 15 per cent agreed that change is well managed within CSCI; and only 15 per cent agreed that CSCI values its own employees. I have not seen the data, but that is what I have been told. I shall check the data myself if possible.
The budget set by the Government, and the Government’s blanket approach to deregulation, have shaped the inspection regime. CSCI has responded to these pressures, rather than designing a system that meets the particular and unique circumstances of the care sector. In other words, what is happening is Treasury-driven, and I object.
The claim that the new methodology had widespread public support does not stand up to scrutiny. CSCI commissioned a MORI poll of service users for its 2004 report, When I Get Older. It showed that 79 per cent of respondents said that services should be inspected at least twice a year and that more than a third wanted monthly inspections, yet, under the current system, many services are inspected only once every three years. Moreover, respondents said the best way for inspectors to judge the quality of care was to speak privately to service users and spend time observing what goes on. These practices were rated much more highly than talking to owners or checking paperwork. Yet we now have a system that relies on a service review, which is a desk exercise based on provider self-assessment.
Yesterday’s CSCI briefing claims that its approach works, because two years ago there were 1,500 poor services and now there are only 600. The concern of union members is that this reduction does not necessarily show that services are getting better; rather, it shows that CSCI is getting worse at identifying poor services.
The claim is made that poor performers are inspected more often. This is doubtful. Under the new system, the default is twice a year for poor performers: the same as under the old system. The fundamental concern of union members is that the systems for assessing and monitoring providers are insufficiently robust. The frequency of inspection is determined by the service rating. The whole argument relies on being confident that a good or excellent rating, first, is justified, and, secondly, can be sustained for two or three years. It is this that concerns the members of the unions involved in these inspections. Poor or deteriorating services will slip through the net.
The number of inspectors has dropped from 1,400 in 2004—I emphasise this—to just over 800 now. In addition to concerns about frequency of inspections, inspectors report that they do not have enough time to spend on each inspection visit. The pressure of meeting targets means that they no longer have time to follow up on concerns or issues. The CSCI briefing refers to evidence from a range of sources, including the provider self-assessment surveys. The unions say:
“We have raised repeatedly with CSCI that inspectors are reporting that providers are not returning these and staffing shortages mean they are not always chased up in time. Even where they are provided, there are doubts about how objective and reliable the evidence is”.
A key feature of the new methodology was to have been a new IT system known as ICAP. Cuts in administrative staffing were made on the basis that the IT system would streamline systems. This was to have been introduced in 2007, yet it still has not been rolled out.
There are some concerns about the overall rating methodology. A provider in breach of key standards, such as the safe administration of medicine, can still be rated as adequate. I do not know whether that is true but, if it is, I find that appalling. CSCI talked about unannounced inspections at any time—indeed, there was much emphasis in Committee and on Report about the need for such inspections—but it has to be asked how often they happen, given the staffing constraints. Furthermore, I emphasise that providers are tipped off about the scheduling of a key inspection by receiving the self-assessment questionnaire in advance. In the view of people involved in the inspectorate, the annual service review is a desk exercise. The briefing claims that a change of manager or owner automatically triggers a fresh key inspection, but those involved question whether that is automatically the case.
The last time we debated these issues, I said to my noble friend that those who had replied to the BBC questionnaire were lying, telling the truth or exaggerating. The more I hear, the more I think that there is an element of truth in what they are alleging. I cannot see how it is possible to leave on the record accusations of this gravity without Ministers wanting to know precisely what is happening within the organisation. We know that very often those who lead any organisation simply push the party line, although I do not mean that in a political sense. They push the case for the organisation, very often knowing that complaints are occurring but, because of all sorts of considerations—relationships, budgets and whatever—they simply peddle the same old tune.
I believe that there is something wrong within this organisation that should be addressed and that the department should send people in to find out whether there is any truth in these allegations. I hope that my noble friend will be able to deal with that specifically when she replies from the Dispatch Box. However, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, who I know is taking on a huge responsibility here, that many of these things will be left for her to sort out. I am confident that she will do so but she should have the benefit of knowing that people from outside have gone into the organisation and are able to provide her with information over and above that which may be fed up the line but which, by the time it gets to her office, may not altogether reflect the reality. I beg to move.
My Lords, I have a small rural riding centre in North Yorkshire and we are inspected twice a year. One of the inspections is done by a veterinary surgeon. It seems extraordinary to me that frail, vulnerable people in residential care should not be inspected more than my small riding centre.
My Lords, I emphasise, as I did at earlier stages of the Bill, that inspection must not be confused with regulation and audit. To my mind, the tick-boxes of regulation and audit are wholly unsuitable and unsatisfactory for the type of inspection required of these care homes. I know that my noble friend Lady Young will be going into this in some detail and I hope that, when she does, she will consult other inspectorates involved in other activities in the public sector in addition to CSCI. She will have to balance the resource issue between the needs of the healthcare, mental health care and social care commissions, which will not be easy. I recognise all the points that have been raised. Having spoken to CSCI about this, I know that it has been concerned about the impact of resources on the time that it is able to spend on essential inspections. Cutting those short is almost as bad as not doing them at all, and I therefore entirely support the wording of this amendment. I hope that the Minister will recognise it as being desperately important when the new commission takes up its post.
My Lords, because I am conscious of the Addison rules, I have had rather a self-denying ordinance on this Bill, but I have to say something on this amendment. I cannot speak on behalf of CSCI, which is a statutory body led by its own board, and I do not want to comment particularly on the issues that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, has raised about CSCI itself. I simply want to reflect on the issue from my background in regulation and from the five weeks’ experience I have had of looking at the future role of the Care Quality Commission.
My view is that regulation is a wide, embracing and generic process. It is about drawing information from a whole variety of sources to allow a regulator to take a view about the performance of an individual institution and about its managers. It needs to draw from inspection as one source of evidence, but also from a whole variety of others—including the views and verdicts of carers, families and, indeed, staff. My experience in the regulatory field is of one who shies very much away from minimum inspection frequencies because, over time, services and circumstances change and that mix of information, from a whole variety of sources, needs to be adjusted.
The problem with minimum inspection frequencies as a statutory requirement is that they are, as your Lordships know well, quite difficult to change once in a statutory process, even if in statutory guidance. As a result, they are incredibly inflexible. In my previous regulatory roles, I have experienced circumstances where everyone knew that as a result of minimum inspection frequencies we were having to do things that were, frankly, crazy and a poor use of public resource. Yet we had no means of getting the appropriate regulatory change made to allow more flexibility. I really would not like to see the CQC in that position.
The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, aptly raised a recent report from the Commission for Social Care Inspection indicating that one of the best determinants of quality for a particular group of patients was, indeed, observation. Rather than a minimum inspection frequency, understanding how staff were relating to patients—and how that institution encouraged that degree of inter-relationship—was probably one of the best determinants of quality in that setting, which was the care for people with dementia. It would really be unfortunate, then, if the Care Quality Commission had an absolute requirement on minimum inspection frequencies and none on any of the other sources of information or regulatory models that it might feel best able to deploy, over the next few years, to produce the best outcome for users, patients, carers and their families.
As one word of support for the current Commission for Social Care Inspection, I do not believe that it operates a desk-based exercise supplemented by self-assessment. It is working hard to develop models that are genuinely risk-based and proportionate, taking the best research evidence it can for the most effective set of information to find out about an institution and the care settings of individuals. I believe that we should be giving the CQC that sort of encouragement for the future, rather than setting minimum inspection standards.
My Lords, I was going to have a self-denying ordinance and not speak at this point, mainly because I did not want to get into a difficult debate with the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, for whom I have the utmost respect. I believe that his heart is solidly behind ensuring the protection of vulnerable people, but I feel that I need to support the noble Baroness, Lady Young, in her endeavour not to find herself with a set of minimum standards that will make regulation very difficult.
I just want to mention one group of people who have not been mentioned at all in this debate but who were mentioned a great deal by Members on the Benches opposite in a discussion on the previous Bill: the providers of those services, who have to deal with regulation. I spend quite a lot of time with providers and I am a provider myself; I declare an interest as the chair of Livability. I am immensely grateful that inspectors come in and do in-depth, all-round inspections, where they come to observe. There are some tick boxes—I may have a bit of a difference of opinion about terminology with my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham—but, all in all, the approach is very rounded.
I do not doubt for a minute that not every inspection is perfect. Having worked in so many large organisations, I know how difficult it is. However, I also know that service providers who feel that they have worked immensely hard to get their service to a high level of provision find it difficult to be faced with the fact that here we are considering streamlining regulation on the benefits to the vulnerable elderly so that they get more attention. One criticism made in the BBC report was that an inspector said that they did not want a poor report because it meant more work. Indeed it does mean more work, because if you get a poor report, you get the inspectors back quite a lot until you improve. One of the positive things about CSCI is that, unless the service is dangerous, in which case it is closed immediately, the organisation works hard with the provider to bring services up to the appropriate level, because the alternative—closure—is disastrous for the vulnerable elderly. Anyone with a medical background will tell you that if you move the frail elderly or vulnerable severely disabled people, the likelihood of their death is increased. I have been faced with that option myself in the past.
In thinking this through and thinking how we move forward, we should recognise that all of us—I am absolutely with my noble friend Lord Ramsbotham in this—want CSCI to have enough resources to carry out the inspections that it believes are needed, but not to be so stuck in a framework that it cannot manage that flexibly. We do not want really good providers being punished by what they may feel is overregulation because of those who do not provide the best service. I apologise for making my small intervention, despite having said that I would not speak.
My Lords, as I hope I made clear when we discussed my noble friend’s amendment on Report, there is no intention to reduce the total amount of inspection activity or to reduce the new commission’s ability to act where care providers are failing to meet the safety and quality of care that users are entitled to expect.
On Report, we heard the views of several noble Lords who, while emphasising the importance of visiting and dealing with poor services, recognise the value of focusing resources on those services rather than on those that are doing well, as explained by the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, who should never apologise for her interventions. That is why we are emphasising the benefits of unplanned rather than routine inspection and of intelligent and proportionate regulation, as explained very well by the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Old Scone, who, from her great experience, put the case for how robust regulation might take place.
I wrote to my noble friend yesterday following up on our previous debate, including responses from the Commission for Social Care Inspection to the points that he raised. Again, I cannot emphasise enough the importance that we place on keeping providers on their toes. However, as I hope I made clear before, although it will not be necessary in most circumstances, Clause 61 already gives the Secretary of State the power to set the frequency of inspection in regulations, should that be required in particular circumstances. I feel like the referee who cannot take much action, in this case between the BBC, CSCI and the concerns expressed by my noble friend. However, if I can help in any way to clarify and reassure him about what has happened, I will be happy to do so.
On the point about CSCI getting worse, we have no evidence to suggest that its performance is changing for the worse or that standards are slipping, but I understand my noble friend’s concerns and I undertake to follow this up further.
I hope that my noble friend will appreciate that we are committed to establishing a proportionate regulator that focuses its attention where it is needed most to get the greatest safety and quality benefits for patients and service users. While drawing on the best experience of the current commissions, we intend to leave those vital inspection decisions to the discretion of the commission, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, indicated. It will be the commission’s job to set specific frequencies if they are required, so I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
My Lords, I have listened carefully to what my noble friend has said and to the comments of other noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said that there was a need to draw a clear distinction between regulation, audit and inspection and the approach of ticking boxes. I hope that the successor organisation has that clearly in mind when it sets out to undertake its task.
The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has sought to reassure me. I wish her good luck in the task that she is to undertake. However, “risk-based and proportionate” inspection frightens me, because I know, as will other Members of the House, what that means. It means that some will get through that should be sorted out, but they will not be sorted out because they will slip through under that regime. However, if we are to proceed by introducing and using the reserve power to which my noble friend referred, then so be it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, referred to flexibility in inspection in her support for the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I understand perfectly where she is coming from, because she has made a number of contributions to which I have listened closely during the various proceedings on the Bill.
Finally, the Minister said that she undertakes to follow this up further. We could read a lot into that. I certainly want to do so, as long as following this up further is based on taking evidence not only from but through CSCI. If the information that my noble friend seeks comes from the senior management of CSCI, it will only reiterate the case that CSCI has made repeatedly in recent months that almost everything is all right. I do not accept that. If she means that she will seek evidence from a wider cohort of people—one that does not necessarily include the group that I have just referred to—I wish her the best of luck and I think that we will find where the truth lies. I hope that at some stage in the future I can table a Question to which she can give us far more up-to-date information than the information that is currently available. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
4: After Clause 112, insert the following new Clause—
“Registers of healthcare professionals: non-practising members
(1) The Secretary of State must, if so requested by a regulatory body, make regulations giving power to that regulatory body to enable non-practising professionals to qualify for registration in a register of non-practising professionals.
(2) The regulations shall make provision for a reduced fee to be payable by non-practising professionals.
(3) In this section—
“non-practising professional” means a person who would otherwise be qualified for registration in the relevant register of the regulatory body, but who is, for a reason other than having been erased from that register, not currently practising;
“regulatory body” means—
(a) the General Medical Council,(b) the General Dental Council,(c) the General Optical Council,(d) the General Osteopathic Council,(e) the General Chiropractic Council,(f) the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain,(g) the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, or(h) any regulatory body within the meaning of Schedule 3 to the 1999 Act established by an Order in Council under section 60 of that Act.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I brought forward this amendment twice before when it covered only dentists, but at the Report stage on 24 June it became clear that this situation affects all healthcare professionals. They run the risk of finding themselves removed from registers simply because they have ceased to practise. They cease to practise for many reasons: maternity leave; illness; the wish to follow a different career for a time; or simply that they are old enough to think about giving up active practice. The amendment before noble Lords today contains a list of the healthcare professions that may be adversely affected.
The General Dental Council considers it important that a list of non-practising dentists should have some public value rather than just private or personal value. I do not disagree, but the council underestimates the importance of knowing which trained professionals were practising as well as those who are still practising. All sorts of situations can arise. There could be an epidemic in an area, a pandemic could break out or a national emergency develop when it might be extremely useful to know where all those with skilled healthcare training could be contacted to give assistance. That can happen only if their details are retained on a register. People move house, sometimes to be closer to their families. The last dental register for retired dentists who wish to continue to be listed without continuing professional development and in a non-practising category was produced in 2004. Even by this year many of those details will be out of date. Who knows how much more time might go by before any call is made on these people?
I turn to the Good Samaritan issue, raised on Report by the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant. At the moment doctors can remain on a list, but that is now under threat. What would be the noble Lord’s position if he were called on to save the life of a fellow Member of this House? Would it be a case of saying, “No, I am sorry”? That reminds me of the news story about the community support officer who was told not to dive in to save a drowning child. He said, “I can’t dive in the water to save that child who is drowning because health and safety prevents me from doing so”. Good Samaritans are needed on many occasions; indeed, in France you have a duty to be a Good Samaritan, but if you are a Good Samaritan in this country you are likely to be sued if anything goes wrong. For that reason, people are a bit doubtful about offering help.
A third important issue is whether the various equivalent health defence and protection organisations are willing to protect people when they are no longer practising. People do not know whether their cover will continue. Also, why is it that healthcare professionals are disadvantaged and treated as second-class practitioners in comparison with solicitors and accountants? Their councils have no intention of dropping the lists of non-practising members. You can remain on the list as a solicitor or accountant until the day you die and you value that position. We should value it for professionals in the healthcare field.
The Minister stated on 24 June that,
“the changes proposed in the amendment could be made through existing secondary legislation”.
It is important to have that confirmed clearly, certainly as it applies to the General Dental Council. I do not intend to repeat the arguments because they are all set out in Hansard and anyone who is interested can look them up. The president of the General Dental Council said in a letter that I quoted on Report that,
“there is no immediate prospect of a legislative opportunity being available”.
On previous occasions, the Minister has kindly said that any of these medical councils would be knocking at an open door if they asked to have this amendment made, but I would like that point to be stated specifically so that I can be confident that it is true and that it will not be just written off. There are major changes ahead. I quote the Minister again. She said:
“I should also mention that the White Paper on working groups on revalidation for all professionals will need to consider the wider issues around semi-retirement, retirement, career breaks and the ability of professionals to make use of or provide expert opinions to others”.—[Official Report, 24/6/08; cols. 1381-84.]
That is another important feature because non-practising people often still write in journals or lecture to other people. It is essential that there should be a differentiation between people who have been struck off the list for malpractice and those who have had an honourable career until whatever stage they decided not to continue. The amendment would cover that point.
I look to the Minister to reassure me on this. I am one of those awful, pig-headed people who tend to divide the House over issues if they have to. I do not want to have to, so I hope that she will be able to give me the reassurances that I seek. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support my noble friend, who has argued her case extremely persuasively throughout the passage of the Bill. I was persuaded on the first occasion that she spoke to it and I am equally persuaded now. It would be helpful to hear from the Minister that she accepts the argument put forward by my noble friend and that she will use her best endeavours to encourage the regulatory bodies to take up this idea, look with favour on it and, where possible, apply for the necessary Section 60 order, which I understand is the process that would be needed for those bodies which do not have a scheme of this kind.
My Lords, I warmly support the principles underlying the amendment so ably proposed by the noble Baroness. But this is a complicated issue which raises all kinds of problems. I was very surprised on Report to learn from her that the General Dental Council was not allowing retired dentists to remain on the register. Whereas for many years retired doctors have been entitled to remain on the register, the concern that I expressed on Report was because a legal opinion recently taken by the General Medical Council now suggests that retired doctors wishing to remain on the register must pay the annual retention fee from which they have been exempt since the age of 65. It is 21 years since I had to pay a much reduced registration fee for the General Medical Council.
Another problem is that next year the General Medical Council proposes to introduce a programme of revalidation which may, if the doctor succeeds in having his or her practice revalidated, lead to the establishment of a licence to practise which will be distinct from registration. It is a complicated issue which might make it difficult for an amendment of this nature to be enshrined in primary legislation. The idea suggested by the noble Baroness that the issues involved might well be dealt with by secondary legislation has many attractions. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, said, doctors take pride in remaining on the register and dislike the thought, even in retirement, that they will no longer be registered medical practitioners.
Legally, a doctor who is qualified and who has never been erased from the register for disciplinary or other reasons would be entitled in an emergency to give medical support even if they were no longer registered, but many doctors would feel embarrassed and reluctant to do so without being on the register because of the potential fear of medical/legal complications. It is crucial that a mechanism be introduced whereby retired doctors can remain on the register. I should like to see the same for dentists and the other healthcare professionals listed in the amendment.
In principle, I warmly support the amendment, but I foresee difficulties in having it enshrined in primary legislation.
My Lords, I do not wish to try the patience of the House but I should like to make one additional point. Would it not be in all our interests for all the professions mentioned to have a list of retired members and for it to be nationally held? In a national emergency it might be extremely useful to know where all the retired physiotherapists or pharmacists are. It is a sad thing if a group of professional people from all of these specialties are just discharged when they retire, as if they are of no more use to society. We clearly know that they are. I hope that there is some device whereby the royal colleges—or whatever—can make sure that these people remain on the register.
My Lords, the noble Baroness made her arguments immensely persuasively yet again. I hope that the Minister can look at the issue, though I take the point made by my noble friend on primary legislation. I mentioned social workers when this issue was previously raised. Social workers do not have a right to appear on any of these lists because they are not defined as health professionals. Therefore, I hope that social workers will be considered too. Social workers can be members of the British Association of Social Workers, as I am, but their registration is completely separate. I am not registered at this moment—I do not get on and do the forms, not because I have not done the practice days. That is a separate issue. If the Minister is looking at the list of health professionals, it might be worth a glance at the other people in social care who seem to be missing.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, has raised this issue in relation to dentists both in Committee and on Report. As I said in my response to those amendments, she knows that I am sympathetic to her view. As a result of the debate we had on Report, the noble Baroness has widened the scope of her original amendment to provide that the Secretary of State must make regulations giving powers to a health care regulator to establish a non-practising register with a reduced fee if the regulator requests it. It does not include any provision for social care regulators—the noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, is quite right on that.
This amendment is an enabling provision. As I have said previously, we already have such a power to amend the law in Section 60 of the Health Act 1999. As the noble Baroness and my noble friend have asked, I shall put it clearly on the record again that we already have the powers to do everything the noble Baroness is asking for. We do not need another power to do this. Adding this amendment to the Bill would be duplicating what already exists. The noble Baroness knows this but is mounting a justified and effective campaign.
As noble Lords know, Section 60 orders enable changes to be made to both primary and secondary legislation. Since 1999, these orders have become the usual means by which legislation relating to healthcare professions is made and amended. Indeed, your Lordships’ House has agreed 11 Section 60 orders since 1999. In other words, I do not understand the reservations that were expressed in the letter to the noble Baroness by the General Dental Council. Importantly, Section 60 orders provide safeguards, such as requiring consultation with the professions and the public and affirmative approval by Parliament, which the amendment does not contain. Given that we already have the power to change the way regulators deal with retired members of the professions, the debate we need to have now is not whether we need another enabling power but whether we need to use the existing powers to change the system.
I understand that non-practising and retired dentists may want to keep in touch with their profession, especially—as with the two noble dentists here today—when it has been a fundamental part of their identity. There is a strong argument that those who consider themselves no longer in practice but who teach, lecture, write health-related articles or are on boards of governors or boards of companies where professional advice is required should be registered with the regulator. That model has been adopted by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.
All those issues are being considered at the moment by two of the working groups that have been set up to help implement the White Paper, Trust, Assurance and Safety. Those groups include external experts such as the regulators themselves, professional representative groups such as the BMA, and patient and consumer organisations such as Which?. We are looking at the issues raised by revalidation and the new process by which all health professionals will have regularly to show that their professional skills are up to date. The way the registers are kept by the regulators may have to change as a result. A large part of that will consist of looking at the implications of revalidation for people who may no longer treat patients but have an active professional role or are retired.
The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, may also be assured to know that your Lordships’ House will be debating a Section 60 order to enable quick re-registration of appropriately qualified professionals in the event of a emergency—for example, of retired doctors. I will be taking that order through the House on Thursday. I am happy to use my best endeavours to help the noble Baroness take forward this cause, and I have been discussing it with officials. Given the breadth of her amendment, it is legitimate that we now raise the whole issue with all the regulators. I will be happy to do so with her support, which I know she will give me.
I hope that my response has indicated that we take the issue seriously and that the noble Baroness will be sufficiently encouraged to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, which was very positive. These professions should look on that reply as being suitable encouragement to feel that we are not going to be overlooked. It may be too late for me in dentistry—I am not worried about that—but it is a much bigger issue than that, something that has become apparent in these debates. Revalidation is going to mean a dramatic change for all healthcare professionals. Whatever dividing lines there have been in the past, there will be much greater ones after revalidation comes in. There is a place for professionals to continue to be listed, and it may be desirable to have entirely separate lists for the validated ones and those who do not wish to continue practising. In fact, it is in the public interest to have them as entirely separate lists, which in the past has not been the case; doctors are still in their ordinary basic list. After revalidation, it will be better to have separate lists. The Minister has said that she will do her best to see that all the regulators looking into this and all the consultations about the White Paper will fully consider all these points.
I speak as a dentist, but also to a certain extent as one of the many healthcare professionals. We should be satisfied with what the Minister has said, because she has been very positive about this matter. Her response should be acknowledged by everyone as being very helpful and something that we can bring forward when those consultations and determinations are made. For that reason I thank her for all that she has done. Indeed, the whole House has been very patient as I have gone through this issue time after time. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
5: After Clause 140, insert the following new Clause—
“Remuneration for persons providing pharmaceutical services: appointment of determining authorities
(1) In section 164 of the National Health Service Act 2006 (c.41) (remuneration for persons providing pharmaceutical services)—
(a) after subsection (4) insert—“(4A) An instrument of appointment— (a) must be contained in regulations if it provides for the appointment of a Primary Care Trust or other person as a determining authority in relation to the remuneration to be paid to persons who provide services under section 126, and(b) if paragraph (a) does not apply, may be contained in regulations.”, and(b) in subsection (5), omit paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.(2) In section 88 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (c. 42) (remuneration for persons providing pharmaceutical services)—
(a) after subsection (4) insert—“(4A) An instrument of appointment—(a) must be contained in regulations if it provides for the appointment of a Local Health Board or other person as a determining authority in relation to the remuneration to be paid to persons who provide services under section 80, and(b) if paragraph (a) does not apply, may be contained in regulations.”, and(b) in subsection (5), omit paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall speak also to government Amendments Nos. 7 to 9, 13 and 14. I will be brief because your Lordships are very familiar with the issue: the funding of community pharmaceutical services.
Section 164 of the National Health Service Act 2006 allows the Secretary of State to authorise any primary care trust or other person to exercise the functions of a determining authority when setting or varying remuneration for those providing NHS pharmaceutical services. There is corresponding provision in the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006. As it stands, the authorisation may be, but is not required to be, set out in regulations. Noble Lords tabled a number of amendments that sought to remove this discretion in respect of payment for the essential services that all pharmaceutical services provide.
I fully appreciate the intention to ensure that we continue to support the vital role of community pharmacies. As noble Lords know, the Government have repeatedly given a commitment, both in public consultation and during the passage of the Bill, that the Secretary of State will continue to set the fees and allowances for the national elements of the community pharmacy contractual framework. However, the noble Earl, Lord Howe, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Barker and Lady Finlay, put forward persuasive arguments as to why we should look at this again and we undertook to consider whether an amendment might be appropriate. I am therefore pleased to be able to put forward Amendment No. 5. The amendment will ensure that where the Secretary of State appoints someone to be the determining authority in respect of essential services, this must be done by regulations. That will apply to services provided under both Section 126 of the National Health Service Act 2006 and Section 80 of the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006. Government Amendments Nos. 7 to 9, 13 and 14 are consequential to this change. I hope these amendments will provide noble Lords with the reassurance that they sought. I beg to move.
My Lords, it would be wrong to let this amendment pass without expressing my thanks to the Minister for bringing it forward. It will provide pharmacists and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, which has been assiduous in promoting this issue, with the added confidence and reassurance that they were seeking. I am most grateful.
On Question, amendment agreed to.
6: After Clause 147, insert the following new Clause—
“Continuity of social care support
(1) This section applies where an English or Welsh local authority (the original authority) has made a determination of need for care services in respect of a person ordinarily resident in its area under any of the social care enactments, and—
(a) has arranged or is providing such services, or(b) is making payments to such a person in lieu of care services under section 57 of the Health and Social Care Act 2001 (c. 15) or section 17A of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41); andthe person concerned becomes or intends to become ordinarily resident in a different local authority (the new authority).
(2) It shall be the duty of the original authority to—
(a) give notice to the new authority if it becomes aware that a person to whom it provides care services or direct payments intends to become ordinarily resident in the new authority’s area; and(b) co-operate with the new authority in making appropriate arrangements for such a person.(3) It shall be the duty of the new authority to provide the person concerned with—
(a) services of an equivalent type and quantity to those provided by the original authority; or(b) direct payments enabling an equivalent type and quantity of support to that provided by the original authority,for such transitional period as may be prescribed.
(4) Arrangements made under subsections (2) and (3) shall—
(a) be made with the involvement and consent of the person concerned;(b) include effective arrangements to meet any new or different needs of the person concerned; and(c) be made in accordance with regulations made under this section.(5) Regulations under this section may, in particular—
(a) prescribe the period or periods during which the original authority retains funding responsibility for a person’s care needs;(b) prescribe the period or periods during which the original and new authorities must resolve any disagreements concerning their respective funding responsibilities;(c) prescribe the period or periods by which the new authority must assume funding responsibility for an individual’s care needs;(d) provide for reimbursement by the new authority of expenditure made by the original authority whilst the authorities were resolving a disagreement as to their respective funding responsibilities; and(e) provide for the payment of interest on any sums reimbursed.(6) For the purposes of this section “social care enactments” includes—
(a) section 2 of the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970 (c. 44);(b) section 4 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation Act) 1986 (c. 33);(c) section 17 of the Children Act 1989 (c. 41);(d) section 47 of the National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 (c. 19).”
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I apologise for not being here to move this amendment on Report. Unfortunately I was in St Thomas’ Hospital with pneumonia—just across the river, so near and yet so far. I thank the House for its generosity in allowing me to move this amendment on Third Reading.
The amendment proposes a practical solution to the intolerable injustice of being, as I am, almost a prisoner of one’s local authority, unable to enjoy the same social and economic mobility and freedom of movement as our non-disabled counterparts. Once in receipt of a care package, we are to all intents and purposes required to remain in one place or risk losing the support we rely on to live if we move to another local authority. Those who do move often face agonising stress, hardship and uncertainty. It can take months and even years for the new local authority to decide what type and level of care package, if any, it will provide. Continuity of care is thrown to the wind.
I shall explain how the amendment would resolve the situation and what it would mean in practice when someone in receipt of a care package moved to a new local authority. Their original authority must notify the receiving council and work with it to effect a seamless transition of an equivalent level of support. Crucially, the original authority would retain funding responsibility for a short time until the receiving authority took over the responsibility. The receiving authority would thus be paid to maintain an equivalent level of support for a period specified in regulations. In this way, a disabled or older person would have the statutory guarantee of continuity of support, enabling him or her to maximise opportunities for employment or a better family life.
Noble Lords may think that continuity of care is already a statutory obligation under community care law. However, Luke Clements, one of the country’s leading social care lawyers, argues that it is nearly always frustrated by bureaucratic delay and maladministration on the part of the receiving authority. He argues that the Government must urgently implement specific and corrective legislation, as provided by this amendment, to make continuity of social care support a reality.
The view of the Equality and Human Rights Commission—on which I serve as a commissioner as chair of the disability committee; I therefore declare an interest—is very clear. In its opinion, the current situation could be open to challenge under the Disability Discrimination Act and the disability equality duty. Discontinuity of support negatively impacts on equality of opportunity for older and disabled people; for example, to move to take up employment or educational opportunities, as would their able-bodied counterparts.
As noble Lords will be aware, the Local Government Association has expressed concern that the amendment will put undue pressure on budgets and services. I can reassure the House that that will not be the case. No new demand for services will be created by the amendment. Against the costs to a receiving authority of taking over funding responsibility for someone must be offset a considerable range of savings, such as other service users leaving the authority, and ending unnecessary and costly bureaucratic reassessments.
The LGA also questioned whether the amendment could tie the hands of a receiving local authority and be impractical by requiring it to provide exactly the same services to the new arrival. It has been reassured by the fact that the amendment refers to support services,
“of an equivalent type and quantity”.
It does not require the same care package. The receiving authority will have great flexibility in how underlying needs are met.
RADAR, Scope, the British Institute of Human Rights, Age Concern, Carers UK, Mencap, the National Centre for Independent Living and Help the Aged are among the many other organisations which support the amendment and have been working towards it for years. Like me, they are not prepared to be told once again that a Green Paper consultation on this issue is needed. We have raised the issue during previous social care Green Paper consultations for more than a decade. Each time new social care legislation is introduced, we are told that it is not the right Bill. I believe that this is the right Bill, unless the Minister can give firm assurances that the provisions of this amendment will be very closely reflected in the Green Paper on adult social care and in subsequent legislation. This amendment will enhance the quality of care for older and disabled people at the same time as effectively creating a climate of fairness for all. Let us today pull down one of the most glaring remnant of the old Poor Law that puts disabled people at the mercy of their parish. We owe it to all British citizens to seize this opportunity. I beg to move.
My Lords, I strongly support this amendment, to which I have put my name, and which has been so persuasively presented by the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton. What an indictment of a local authority—and of its association, the LGA—to argue that it is justified in refusing to accept another authority’s judgment of a disabled person’s assessed needs. Disabled and older people do not move on a whim. It takes an enormous amount of organisation and effort. As we have heard, some people have no option but to move and throw themselves on the mercy of another authority. Is that authority then likely to decide in the end that the person has vastly different needs? What justification is there for the months of misery, cost and wastage that can currently take place while needs are being reassessed?
As a Labour Peer I am proud of my Government’s commitment to independent living and the goal of equal lives for disabled people. So many policies have been put in place to improve our social and economic well-being. We have rightly invested thousands of pounds in schemes to help disabled people out of poverty, off benefit and into employment. Yet what greater disincentive can there be to prevent someone seeking employment which is just over the boundary of their authority than forcing them to take this gamble with their care needs?
The Minister is expected to say that this problem of portability will be dealt with in the forthcoming Green Paper on adult social care. I welcome that Green Paper, but it will be many years before that policy becomes everyday practice. In the mean time, let us give disabled and older people with support needs the freedom that they desperately need: the freedom to move to be closer to their family and friends; the freedom to get the education they need; and the freedom to apply for the job of their choosing wherever that may be. I urge noble Lords to support this amendment.
My Lords, the Minister will know how vitally important this issue is for disabled people; it is an issue of literally life-changing importance. For our society to allow disabled people to feel trapped in a local authority area, and to find themselves unable to take up employment opportunities elsewhere or to be near family, is simply unacceptable. It is equally unacceptable to subject disabled people who move to another area to the insecurity, worry and bureaucracy that almost inevitably ensues.
I know that the Minister is sympathetic to the arguments that the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, has so ably put forward. However, I am aware that she is unlikely to be able to accept the amendment as it stands. What we need from her is a commitment that this problem will be sorted. I am not sure that a rather loose promise to place a set of proposals in a Green Paper is quite enough to allay the fears and worries of the disabled community. We need an undertaking that the Government will take this issue away and deal with it appropriately. If there is to be a proposal in a Green Paper, that part of the Green Paper should have very distinct white edges to it. I hope the Minister will be able to give us the reassurance that we seek.
My Lords, this amendment goes to the heart of the rights of those needing a care package to live independently. The question before us is one of principle. If people cannot move to be economically active or to be nearer relatives and other support, they are locked into dependency on the state, deteriorating health through demoralisation and thus increased social and health costs. The provision makes economic sense as well as being fundamental to equality of the right to work and the right to family life.
I fear the Minister will say that the issue will be addressed in a Green Paper and that that will solve the problem. It will not. We need to know exactly when the matter will be sorted out, which needs to be in the lifetime of this Parliament. The provision must address people of all ages, including children, and must be delivered through the legislation set out in the amendment. You cannot ask those with a disability and their families to settle for anything less or to wait any longer.
My Lords, I am somewhat horrified that this amendment has been brought before the House at such a late stage. It should have been discussed weeks ago because this matter is of such tremendous importance to the individuals concerned. It is a huge issue. All of us have only one life and if we are disabled we need enormous support to try to make it as normal as possible.
Social services departments up and down the country have varying provision for the disabled and the elderly. This is another example of our postcode lotteries. Where you live depends on all sorts of circumstances, but local authorities’ provision differs. As a former chair of social services in the London borough of Richmond, I know that if someone with a huge need, which can incur costs of hundreds of thousands of pounds a year, moves into an authority’s area, it can be very difficult financially to match the provision that that person received previously. This is a very serious issue, and with the best will in the world a social services department might want to match that provision but be unable to do so because it has a very small budget. Some local authorities will have a very low budget for social services due to their demography. The London borough of Richmond, where I was chair of social services, had a big budget because at that time we had the second highest proportion of people over the age of 85 after Worthing. We wore that badge with pride. However, provision can vary among authorities. Although I appreciate the need to sort this out, and clearly people’s needs have to be met if they move to a different area, we must also understand local authorities’ problems in seeking to make that provision.
I hope that the Minister will tell us that there is something in the pipeline, such as another discussion, a secondary regulation or a device whereby this matter can be addressed, thoroughly discussed and sorted out because it is a human rights issue for disabled and elderly people.
My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, and her colleagues on tabling this amendment and presenting it so coherently and persuasively. The need for it is paramount. It is the most important amendment for disabled people that the Government can address. Labour Peers lean over backwards to make things easy for the Government because we support them, but on this occasion we feel a bit perplexed because they do not seem to accept the powerful case for this specific provision. We have had delay so often in this area. I have been involved in politics for 40 years and there has always been an excuse why Governments cannot do this or that. Although this Government have a marvellous record on disability and other things, they have failed to rise to the occasion on this matter. We have heard Labour and Conservative Peers put their cases. What are we waiting for? All sides—Labour, Liberal and Conservative—support the amendment.
An absurd piece of propaganda recently stated that the amendment would tie the hands of local authorities. That is preposterous. The compassion that would flow out of the amendment should not go to well heeled local authorities, but to poor, disabled and old people. So that advice was out of touch with reality. Noble Lords who have spoken on this, including the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, and countless organisations support the amendment. Some 50, 60 or 70 of these organisations, which represent the blind, the paralysed and so on are unanimous in saying to the Government, “Please let us have this amendment”. These people are at the coal face of disability and live with these problems. They do not work in offices in Whitehall that are remote from reality. I hope that the Government will, for once, say, “Okay, we will take this back and give a commitment, not in two years or in a Green Paper. We will face this now. You want this now and you need it now”.
Although I am criticising the Government, I am aware that they have been kind to many disabled people and to me personally; but they are making a huge mistake if they fail to provide now for the measures in the amendment. I ask them to take this back and bring back a solution that will satisfy every disabled person in Britain.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Campbell was well enough to return and put the amendment so movingly. I am a commissioner on the Equality and Human Rights Commission and vice-president of the Local Government Association, which is worried about extra costs and burdens. I honestly feel that if this amendment is seen to be necessary, the Government’s role is to encourage local authorities to take it seriously and ensure that local authorities are given sufficient resources.
It is important that we enable older people and disabled people who live in this country to feel that the system is fair to them. It cannot be fair if you are caught just because you want to move from one locality to another. Everything that is said about different levels of care and service provision in different parts of the country militates against that feeling of fairness. That is quite wrong. It would cost very little in real terms and would enable disabled and older people who need services, educational opportunities and a proper family life to move without feeling that they would be terribly disadvantaged by doing so.
First, I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, that this subject was discussed at Second Reading and an amendment was discussed in Committee. The amendment would stop a disabled person being in limbo while a new local authority assessed them yet again. This can take months, if not years. Would the Minister tell us how much it costs to do an assessment, or do they differ between local authorities? This amendment might, in the long term, save rather than cost money.
My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell of Surbiton, has put her case most cogently. I am only sorry that she was not here at Second Reading. I feel that this is more of a Second Reading than a Report debate. Therefore, I beg leave to say a few more words than I would normally say at Report. That does not mean that I will speak at length; I seldom do. I simply want to make a few points.
A little while ago, we had a debate on the Floor of the House about disabled people’s needs which should have been led by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley. On that occasion, none of my friends with disabilities was able to be present. All of them were suffering from the difficulties that occur when you have respiratory problems caused by a disability. That was why the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, was not able to put her amendment at that time and why it is important that we hear all the arguments today. In that debate I mentioned a campaign that I am involved with, Freedom to Live, run by Liveability, which has identified a wide range of difficulties that disabled people face simply because our systems do not allow them to move, not only geographically but between bureaucracies.
If this amendment were pressed, however, I could not go through the Division Lobby with my good friend, and I will tell noble Lords why. This is the broader point. As the Local Government Association—of which I, too, am a vice-president—has pointed out, funding for these services has already outstripped supply. Its worries are about the implications for existing services. That seems an extremely serious position for the nation to be in. It is particularly serious as I have also read documents in which residential services are being encouraged to provide quality care while faced with a framework that pays the minimum wage to people who will not only care for some of the most vulnerable in our society, but give them the opportunities that we have. That is the perceptual difficulty, which I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Campbell, and our other campaigning friends who have campaigned extremely actively, have made us understand. Being in a wheelchair and being disabled does not mean you are disabled in terms of what you can contribute to society overall. Despite that, I find it difficult to support this amendment because of the extraordinary complexity of the services that we need to look at.
The noble Lord, Lord Low, and I did not table yet another amendment about the transfer of funding for residential care between one authority and another, but that is another aspect that needs to be looked at. I have a sheaf of papers from Ministers in replies to queries that I have raised about the problem of people moving from residential care into housing, from housing into supported housing and, possibly, back into residential care. It is impossible, if your disability improves or gets worse, to move between services. Never mind that; what about the benefits system? When you transfer from one place to another, benefits become even more complex.
One area that has been hit on is assessment. People who move between one place and another have to undergo constant reassessment. The amount of person power that it takes to decide, for the third or fourth time, what the individual actually needs, is something that the Minister in the other place, at a meeting I was at recently, has undertaken to look at. I will ask the Minister, when we look forward to the Green Paper—as the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said, these issues can be looked at even sooner—for an assurance that someone will grasp the complexity of this issue. That person should be prepared to look at the detail, not put it into the “too difficult” box—difficult as it is—and come up with some real plans, so that people such as my noble friend Lady Campbell and many others I know like her have the opportunity to live their life where they want to live it and how they want to live it without the inhibitions that we currently place on them simply by our own processes.
My Lords, we debated a similar amendment in Grand Committee. I said at that time that I have every sympathy with its intention, as the noble Baroness knows. I fully understand the reason for returning to this issue again today. I join other noble Lords in welcoming back the noble Baroness in good health to the Chamber. I commend her for the eloquence with which she and my noble friend Lady Wilkins spoke to the amendment.
Noble Lords will be aware that, throughout the passage of the Bill, the Minister and I have sought on every occasion to listen to the experience and expertise in the various areas covered by the Bill. Together—that is, noble Lords and the Government—we have created a much improved Bill to send back to the other place. In the parts where it has not been possible or practical, for various reasons, to include provisions in the Bill, we have sought to engage in constructive discussion and provide reassurance and explanation. While it is with deep regret that I cannot support this amendment, as it is currently drafted—because it seeks to place a wholly new and rather fundamental provision in the Bill—I seek, in the spirit that has applied to the rest of the Bill, to discuss how we can take this issue further. I have spoken to the Minister responsible for this area of policy and I am able to give noble Lords more positive information about continuity of care than I could in Grand Committee. I hope to convince noble Lords that the Government are determined to resolve the issue. A Green Paper with white edges, as was mentioned by the noble Earl, is the right way to express that.
First, I make it clear that the issue that lies beneath this amendment—whether care and support services should be the same no matter where a person lives, as opposed to local authorities being able to respond to local needs and provide different kinds of services—is a strong theme of the engagement activity that the Government are currently leading, in preparation for a Green Paper on the future system of care and support in this country. When looking at national standards versus local flexibility, the issue of transitional arrangements is fundamental.
The Government accept that there are great challenges within the care system and have signalled their intention for radical reform with the announcement of the Green Paper. They have, for the first time, launched a public engagement process which specifically asks people whether care and support in the future should be based on the principle of devolved control and local flexibility, or on a more national basis where a person will be entitled to the same support no matter where they live. That is at the heart of this issue.
This question is explicit in our published discussion document, is on our website and is part of our current programme of engagement events. I can also confirm that the issue of portability, which the amendment raises, is being addressed as part of the debate on the Green Paper. This is a fundamental component of the system that can be addressed only as part of a full review because of its implications for local and national accountability, democracy and control of budgets.
The Green Paper will set out options for the future funding of care and support. I can confirm for the first time—I am happy to do so on the record—that these options will address the wider issue of local flexibility versus national standards, and the difficult problems that this presents to service users, as set out in the amendment. We will then hold a formal consultation on these options and decide, in the light of the responses, what the care and support system of the future will look like. I undertake to ensure that we pursue that with rigour and speed.
Among other things, the Green Paper will be informed by the review of the eligibility criteria for fair access to care services that the Commission for Social Care Inspection is conducting for us. In January 2008, my honourable friend Ivan Lewis asked the commission, in the context of the Government’s vision for adult social care, Putting People First, to undertake a review of the eligibility criteria, their application by local authorities with social services responsibilities and their impact on people. This followed a report from the commission that highlighted major inconsistencies in the way eligibility criteria were applied in different local authorities.
The commission has been asked to submit its review by 15 September. After Ministers have received it, we expect the commission to make the review public. We cannot say at this stage what the commission will recommend, but the aim is clear: to achieve greater consistency in eligibility criteria across local authorities. This is another activity related to the wider issue raised by the amendment, and further evidence of the Government’s willingness to tackle the issue as part of a coherent review of the whole system of eligibility for social care services.
I turn briefly to the specific provisions of the amendment. It may be difficult to justify looking at these issues for people who recently moved out of a local authority without also considering those who have chosen to stay where they are. We should not tackle these far-reaching issues in a piecemeal fashion. Neither should we lightly dismiss the concerns expressed by local councils about this amendment.
There is no question that this issue must be looked at as part of a wider review of care and support services. However, I hope that the noble Baroness and other noble Lords who support this amendment will accept my assurance that the Government are not walking away; the issue is simply too far-reaching to address through an amendment to the Bill. The principles of the amendment may indeed be the future direction of social care provision. However, if that is the case, it is right that this should emerge from a review of the whole system, rather than from this single debate. Detailed negotiation and discussion with local government, and certainly time, would be required before changes were introduced.
I have one further announcement that may provide reassurance. On 11 June, the Law Commission announced that it was to draw up plans for the reform of adult social care law. This could result in the redrafting of current legislation. The aim would be to remove anomalies, contradictions and dated concepts. The review may also explore whether the current legal framework is in harmony with the Government’s policy direction. I am sure that noble Lords will be pleased to hear that my honourable friend Ivan Lewis wrote to the Law Commission on 23 June and asked it to include, within the scope of its review, consideration of whether the current legal framework contributes to the difficulties that people face when they move from one local authority to another and are unable to find out in advance what package of community care services will be made available to them in the new area. Through this action, we will bring to bear on the problem the highly respected and independent view of the Law Commission, to complement the work that is going on in preparation for the Green Paper.
Noble Lords will recognise that Ministers have tried extremely hard, throughout the debates that we have had in your Lordships’ House, to respond to concerns with positive action. We have taken every concern seriously; we take this concern extremely seriously. I assure noble Lords that I have taken it back to the department for careful thought on several occasions in the past few weeks. We have also brought forward amendments and made commitments on the record. We have clarified the role of social care within the Care Quality Commission; we have made it clear that the Human Rights Act extends to those who receive publicly arranged care in a private setting; we have addressed the issue of ordinary residence; and I have announced new proposals today. Wherever possible, we have sought to listen and respond constructively. However, I am afraid that we are not able to support this amendment. I hope that, with the reassurances that I have given, the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.
My Lords, first, I thank all noble Lords who supported this amendment; they have been tremendous. I would mention them all by name, but I might run out of puff and I will save that for the Minister, whom I thank for her reply and her sincere endeavours to be helpful. I know that she is personally supportive of equality of opportunity for older and disabled people, and has great sympathy for this amendment.
It is a tough judgment call. On the one hand, my heart is heavy. I have heard how complicated this is and how we have to talk about it more and get to grips with it; yet I have been doing this for eight or nine years and feel that I have gone over the arguments ad nauseam. Therefore, it is difficult for me to see light at the end of the tunnel. However, today I feel that we have made some progress, even perhaps within the past hour. A combination of three announcements, some enthusiasm and clarity about going forward in a positive way and, frankly, sorting this matter out makes me feel that the journey could go in the right direction.
Naturally, I and others will follow this issue forensically as it progresses. However, I feel that we have a plan and that I may not now need to take the action that I thought I would take only a few hours ago. I feel that I will probably now be free to accept that job of a lifetime in Newcastle next year and that my care package will go with me because we will have sorted it all out. With the Minister’s commitment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause 170 [The appropriate authority by whom commencement order is made]:
7: Clause 170, page 112, line 9, leave out from second “Schedule” to end of line 11 and insert—
“( ) section (Remuneration for persons providing pharmaceutical services: appointment of determining authorities) (2) (remuneration for persons providing pharmaceutical services: appointment of determining authorities in relation to Wales),”
8: Clause 170, page 112, line 19, leave out “and”
9: Clause 170, page 112, line 21, at end insert “and
( ) the repeals in the National Health Service (Wales) Act 2006 (c. 42) in Part 4 of Schedule 15 (and section 165 so far as relating to those repeals),”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Schedule 1 [The Care Quality Commission]:
10: Schedule 1, page 114, line 24, at end insert—
“( ) The Secretary of State must exercise the powers in sub-paragraph (1) so as to secure that the knowledge and experience of the members of the Commission (taken together) includes knowledge and experience relating to health care, social care and the Mental Health Act 1983 (c. 20).”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]
Schedule 5 [Further amendments relating to Part 1]:
12: Schedule 5, page 135, line 39, leave out “section 29 of”
On Question, amendment agreed to.
Schedule 15 [Repeals and revocations]:
13: Schedule 15, page 204, line 42, column 2, at end insert—
“In section 164(5), paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.”
“In section 164(5), paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.”
14: Schedule 15, page 205, line 9, column 2, at beginning insert—
“In section 88(5), paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.”
“In section 88(5), paragraph (b) and the word “and” immediately preceding it.”
On Question, amendments agreed to.
Education and Skills Bill
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
House in Committee accordingly.
[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES (Lord Brabazon of Tara) in the Chair.]
Clause 3 [Level 3 qualification]:
22: Clause 3, page 2, line 11, after “means” insert—
“( ) the Cambridge Assessment Pre-U qualification in two subjects, or( ) ”
The noble Baroness said: In speaking also to Amendments Nos. 23 to 25, 33, 212, 213 and 231, I hope I will not confuse the Committee, although I cannot guarantee that I will not. I say that because I am fully aware that Clause 3 defines a level 3 qualification, and much of what I shall say concentrates on the generalities of qualifications.
These amendments simply emphasise our belief that the Government should not be limited in their thinking about qualifications, both in terms of which qualifications count at which level and in highlighting the difference between knowledge-based and practically based qualifications. In her book, Diminished Returns, Alison Woolf says:
“No one outside the education sector and the relevant parts of the Treasury talks about a level 2, 3 or 4 qualification”.
She goes on to say:
“When journalists have to explain the usage they generally refer to level 2 as the equivalent of 5 good GCSEs … A* to C”.
This, she says, is deceptive because other qualifications, such as the NVQ2 in food processing and cooking or the AQA level 2 certificate in enterprise and employability, are also level 2 qualifications but are not treated the same by employers and sixth-form gatekeepers.
I am a great believer in parity of esteem for vocational and academic qualifications. However, we will not achieve that by pretending that a qualification is something that it is not. My honourable friend John Hayes MP was absolutely right when he said in another place:
“It is the tragedy of the Government’s unwillingness to accept the integrity of vocational learning, that, in their view, to have legitimacy the subjects must be academicised”.—[Official Report, Commons, Education and Skills Bill Committee, 26/2/08; col. 703.]
To achieve the aim of maximising the level of attainment reached by every young person, we need to be honest about the type of qualification that they are working towards. We should accept that different qualifications are just that: different.
As an aside, but an important one, we have heard today, from research undertaken at Durham University, that we cannot always compare like with like between academic qualifications. Furthermore, I simply cannot resist commenting on the story in yesterday’s Times that pupils are rewarded for using expletives in their exams if the spelling was accurate and successfully conveyed a meaning. That hardly instils confidence in the system, and I wonder whether the Minister might comment on it because I cannot tell him how widely people are talking about it.
The best way to ensure that vocational and academic qualifications achieve parity of esteem is to make certain that they lead to good jobs for which the young person has been fully trained, knows what they are doing and makes the most of it. That challenge must be met and should not be simply glossed over by saying that equality in qualifications has been reached, full stop. Our amendments on the Cambridge Pre-U and the IGCSE, on which there were long debates during proceedings on the previous Education Bill, simply flag up that there are now a number of qualifications being pursued by schools and universities and ensure that they will be recognised at the appropriate level. It seems bizarre that, among the hundreds of recognised vocational and academic qualifications, the QCA does not recognise the IGCSE—a well-regarded and established qualification.
Half of all independent schools in the country are now entering their pupils for the IGCSE: the Cambridge version is offered in 2,000 schools in 125 countries around the world. They are obviously impressed with it, which rather begs the question: “Why isn’t the QCA”? The lack of recognition not only distorts results in league tables; we are in danger of opening up a two-tier system where 93 per cent of pupils educated in the state sector will not be able to study for that rigorous exam. As Nick Cowen, the author of a Civitas study, said,
“the result could be that pupils will soon find themselves competing for university here against European candidates with better British qualifications”.
He went on to say that that was,
“one of the clearest indicators yet of a growing ‘educational apartheid”
More absurdly, however, for the purposes of the Bill, pupils from the independent sector who take the IGCSE or the Cambridge Pre-U will not be considered to be in relevant education or training.
Amendment No. 25 is intended to determine how much unfettered power Clause 3(3) is giving to the QCA by adding those words to that subsection. We would give the Secretary of State the final say on what functions may be conferred on the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to maintain departmental control over what may be classed as level 3 qualifications. Ultimately, the Secretary of State needs to be the official who takes important decisions about educational policy, because he or she is accountable to the Government they serve and to Parliament. I beg to move.
I must confess that, from these Benches, we have less sympathy for this batch of amendments. We agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Bolton, that it is extremely important that vocational qualifications should have equivalence: in fact, between them the QCA and the QAA accord a degree of equivalence between qualifications. This is no easy issue and, as the noble Baroness mentioned, the work done by Durham University in looking at the equivalence between different types of A-level has revealed differences, contrary to work done earlier by the QAA for Her Majesty’s Government, in the relative difficulty between what are sometimes regarded as the hard science A-levels—of physics, chemistry and, indeed, mathematics—and some others. The Government need to begin to take this issue seriously and consider how best to accommodate it within the university entrance system.
What worries me about introducing to the Bill mention of the Cambridge Pre-U, the IGCSE, and so forth is that they have their equivalents, but it will be very unfortunate if the divide between private and state education in this country is increased by the two sectors taking different types of examination. The more credence that we give to those alternative forms of examination, the more likely it is that the two sectors will separate. It is very important that we try to have a coherent set of school leaving examinations, if you like. From these Benches, we take the view that young people are required to go through too many tests and examinations. In the Finnish system, they stay at school until they are 18 and there is only one school leaving examination at 18. In some senses, that is a very sensible system.
We agree with Amendment No. 24 on equivalent qualifications, but we have great reservations about introducing to the Bill acknowledgement of the Cambridge Pre-U or the IGCSE.
Presumably, when the Government draw up regulations under Clause 2, they will have to accommodate examination systems worldwide, because pupils will be arriving in this country having gained all sorts of qualifications. They may have been abroad with their parents and been educated in the American system, they may have been to the Lycée or the German school here and followed those courses of education. To deal with those oddities, there will have to be an equivalence for all sorts of examinations that do not fall naturally within the British examination system.
I therefore very much hope that, whatever decisions the QCA may reach on the suitability of individual examinations, such as the IGCSE and the Cambridge Pre-U, for the state system, the Government will not seek to perpetuate the rather unfortunate collection of ruffled feathers in the Bill, which, to my mind, has a rather different purpose and where the QCA ought to be considering their equivalence because they are examinations that are widely taken, rather than in the light of any particular UK requirement.
I hope that, over time, the noble Lord will manage to settle those ruffled feathers. It seems very odd that the IGCSE should be excluded and I hope that the Cambridge Pre-U is set to come within the system. I understand that discussions have been fruitful, or at least positive in that direction. To have a system where, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, says, we are running different educational systems between private and state merely because the state, out of some amour-propre, refuses to recognise those qualifications, seems very unfortunate. If the IGCSE had just been welcomed into the fold as another way of doing GCSEs, no one would think that there was any difference. It would be just a question of what examination you took. The same applies to the Cambridge Pre-U and A-levels. It is a different board; it is a different way of doing it; it may suit different circumstances.
By keeping those examinations outside the fold, the Government are creating an image of difference and an image that state system children are allowed only second-class qualifications. That is unfortunate in itself and especially unfortunate in view of the aspiration, which I share, that one should aim for vocational and other practical examinations being valued more than they are. Creating that sort of über-class of academic examinations and giving them that added status by fighting shy of them goes very much against the Government’s best interests.
I try to prepare for everything conceivable when appearing before your Lordships, but I regret that I am not briefed on expletives. I promise to look into the issue and to return to the noble Baroness as soon as I have advice.
We entirely agree with the intention behind Amendment No. 23, which is that there should be sufficient flexibility in the system to allow for any qualification that is at level 3 to count for the purposes of this part of the Bill. I am glad to be able to tell the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, that the clause allows for this. Regulations under Clause 3(1) will enable the Government to list all level 3 qualifications that will count for the purpose of defining who is no longer required to participate. This also answers the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I can state categorically that it is our intention to list without exception all qualifications that are accredited by the QCA as level 3.
On Amendment No. 25, I similarly reassure the noble Baroness that regulations made under Clause 3 will be laid by the Government and could confer functions on the QCA only if the Secretary of State approved.
Amendment No. 24 in the name of the noble Baroness would define level 3 as the level of attainment demonstrated by the achievement of an A-level in two “knowledge-based” subjects. It is not clear to me precisely what she means by knowledge-based, and she did not seek to elucidate this in her opening remarks. If she wishes to give me examples of A-levels that are not knowledge-based, I will happily look into them and see whether any issue arises. However, I expect that my reply to any specific instances that she might wish to give me is that there is a perfectly satisfactory knowledge base behind the A-levels in question. In my experience, when the disciples of particular disciplines start to argue the rival merits of different bodies of knowledge, it is probably best for politicians to stand aside than to make value judgments, which I took the noble Baroness to be inviting me to do. I willingly stand aside from that debate.
The noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 231 would approve the IGCSE for funding and use in the maintained sector. The IGCSE is a reputable qualification, which some schools in this country clearly regard as beneficial to their students. However, it is right that we should have a process for accreditation to ensure standards. The Secretary of State already has the discretion to approve qualifications for use in maintained schools under Section 98 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, and we have published a set of principles for the use of this power. In effect, this means that there is a process for approving qualifications for use in the maintained sector, through which awarding bodies can choose to put their qualifications. To date, awarding bodies have chosen not to put the IGCSE through this process. However, Cambridge International Examinations has submitted some of the IGCSE specifications for accreditation using the title “Cambridge Certificate”. These are being considered by Ofqual, the new agency, at two levels—level 1 and level 2—which equate to the higher and lower tiers of the GCSE. There are approximately 16 subjects under consideration, including English, mathematics and science. If the noble Baroness watches this space, she may receive some positive news in due course. As I say, this is a matter for the accreditation authorities, but we do think it right that the proper processes are followed and we do not see a case for circumventing them for the IGCSE.
Let me stress, also in response to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that the Government have no aversion whatever to diversity in qualifications where our advisers are of the view that those qualifications are of high quality and are consistent with the national curriculum. The IB, for example, is available in the state sector, and we have encouraged it considerably in recent years.
The Pre-U, to which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred, has now been accredited and approved for use in maintained schools and colleges. If IGCSEs are accredited, they will come under the definition of an accredited qualification in any case, without the need to specify them in the Bill. If this happens, my department will make a decision on whether to approve them for funding in maintained institutions under Section 96 in the usual way.
Let me stress that independent schools are free to offer whatever qualifications they like, and young people taking IGCSEs or the Pre-U full time in independent schools will meet the terms of this legislation whether or not those qualifications are accredited. Specifically in respect of Clause 6, which is about part-time training undertaken alongside full-time employment, it is very unlikely that a young person will be doing IGCSEs or the Pre-U part time alongside employment, but if those qualifications are accredited, they would meet the requirements of the legislation.
I turn now to the adult skills provisions. Paragraph 6 of new Schedule 1A to be inserted into the Learning and Skills Act 2000 provides a generic description of level 2 qualifications citing five good GCSEs as the example. Amendment No. 212 inserts the IGCSE into this description. We use GCSEs as the reference point for the generic description of level 2 qualifications because they provide a widely recognised standard of education which is easily understood by potential learners. This is not the case with the IGCSE, which is not so generally well known or available, and therefore we do not think it would be appropriate at this time to include it in the legislation because it has not yet been accredited by the QCA. But as I have said, if accreditation does take place, the issue of its wider availability would then arise.
Similarly, paragraph 7 of new Schedule 1A provides a generic description of level 3 qualifications. As with level 2 qualifications, we use a widely recognised generic standard as our example, in this case two A-levels. Amendment No. 213 would insert the Cambridge Assessment Pre-U qualification into this description. The addition does not help to provide clarity, not least because the Pre-U qualification, unlike A-levels, is not a generic qualification offered by numerous awarding bodies; it is a specific qualification from a particular organisation. So, without prejudice to the virtues of either the IGCSE or the Pre-U, it would not be appropriate to insert them into the Bill in this way. However, I hope that I have reassured the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on the substance of their points about these two qualifications and how there is no discrimination against them in the Bill.
I am encouraged by what the noble Lord has said. The Government seem at last to have separated the business of accreditation from the question of whether a qualification should be funded for use in state schools, and that is very sensible. I would be delighted if the noble Lord was able to tell me, if not now then later, what timescale it is believed applies to the IGCSE. Are we likely to see it coming in this autumn or will it take longer than that? On the question I asked about overseas qualifications, children will arrive here with qualifications that are never going to be accredited in the UK system. We will have people who have gone through the French and German systems in our native schools because those curriculums are followed in some schools, but we will also have people coming in particularly with American qualifications who, while abroad with their parents, have been in American schools. Some mechanism is needed to establish whether the qualifications they hold are level 2 or level 3, so presumably that process can be gone through whether or not a qualification meets a particular set of criteria, and therefore it ought to be possible to bring in IGCSEs offered by, say, Edexcel which have not been submitted for accreditation under the net of, as it were, foreign qualifications. The purposes of this Bill will then not get too wrapped in accreditation which has been developed for other reasons.
I, too, am heartened by what the Minister said and I thank him for his detailed answer. I thank also the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, who started by saying that she did not agree with our amendments but then seemed to support quite a lot of what I said. If we can get away with that kind of disagreement, I shall be happy.
On Amendment No. 22, perhaps I may pick up on what my noble friend Lord Lucas has just said. The Minister seemed to suggest that his answer would satisfy my noble friend and that there would be a list of qualifications accredited by the QCA. I am not sure how that would answer the question of young people coming in with diverse and different qualifications.
On Amendment No. 24, I shall take the Minister’s advice and stand aside. It was perhaps not as well worded as it might have been but I have never pretended that I would ever get a job as a parliamentary draftsman.
I was pleased to hear what the Minister said about IGCSEs and will indeed “watch this space”. However, I reiterate that these were probing amendments to raise these important issues. If we can go some way towards ensuring that 93 per cent of children in the state sector are able to take these more rigorous exams, I shall be pleased. For now, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 23 to 25 not moved.]
Clause 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 [Appropriate full-time education or training]:
26: Clause 4, page 2, line 32, after “sector” insert “, at home”
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 27. These amendments are designed to provoke and explore thoughts on what form appropriate full-time education and training might take. It must not be forgotten that non-formal learning can be supportive of and complementary to formal education. We should make sure that provisions in the Bill have regard to those programmes which do not necessarily lead to an accredited qualification but which can help young people to overcome issues related to their wider family and personal life that may have had a negative effect on their ability to engage in formal education.
Non-formal education provides opportunities for volunteering and participation in youth work which can develop necessary and basic skills which had hitherto been lacking. For some young people who are currently failing in, and being failed by, the formal system, non-formal education may be more suitable. If they have already disengaged from the education system, this could be a way of re-engaging them and preventing them from disappearing from the system altogether. The important thing is not to ensure that everyone by the time they turn 18 has a piece of paper with a qualification written on it, but that they have picked up the skills they need to take control of their own lives. I beg to move.
I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 28 and 31 in this group. They are both important amendments because, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned, the Bill is targeted at the 10 per cent of school rejectors—the NEETs about whom we spoke at length in Committee previously. Many of these young people drop out of school when they are 14 or 15 having failed to have been motivated by the school curriculum. Many have minimal literacy and numeracy and many have special educational needs which have not been picked up earlier within the school system or, if they have been picked up, have not received the help and support that they need. For many of these young people, the experience of school has been a profoundly unhappy and unrewarding one and they will not be easily persuaded to re-enter the academic environment.
It may be that the various reforms to the education system—the personalised learning that we are introducing in primaries and at key stage 3 in secondaries, and the new diplomas—will have the effect of motivating these young people and that the problem with which we are now concerned will largely disappear. But we all have doubts as to whether this will really happen and Amendment No. 28 provides for the kind of programme that would be suitable for these young people. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, mentioned, basically they may be motivated by a work environment.
The Bill envisages that each person will have a personal mentor and that the programme of education and training set for each would be personalised. In the hearings held in the other place before the full committee sessions commenced, Barnardo’s, the Prince’s Trust and Fairbridge, in their evidence, made it clear that intensive work with these young people can help to get them back into education and training but that it takes time. The other day we also heard moving testimony from the Rose Trust that young people with learning difficulties can hold down jobs, which gives them confidence and self-esteem. They learn a lot from such employment, but never enough to take accredited tests or qualifications because their learning disabilities are too great to do so. It is vital that there should be a place in the Bill which recognises this.
I was heartened by the letter sent to my honourable friend the Member of Parliament for Yeovil on 13 February—I thank the Minister for circulating it —where, in the second paragraph, Jim Knights, the Minister in the other place, said:
“As I have said before, I do not believe that there should be groups of young people who are formally exempt from the duty to participate, and I have emphasised our belief that it is desirable for all young people to continue learning, wherever possible. We must put our efforts into developing suitable learning provision that is flexible and personalised enough, and providing the right support”.
Our two amendments aim to do precisely that. Amendment No. 28 seeks that regulations must provide that the appropriate “education or training” referred to in Clause 2 can take place not only in a formal educational institution but also through voluntary service or in a work environment; that it is not required to be accredited and includes personalised support for non-educational needs. Amendment No. 31 adds the rider to the “relevant training or education” in Clause 6 that, where a course is not accredited, it is part of a personalised learning programme.
Amendment No. 31 links up with two amendments we shall be discussing after Clause 10 relating to what a personalised learning programme might be and whether local authorities have the capacity to deliver such a programme. Both are important amendments and touch, to some extent, on the core of the Bill: how can we encourage back into education this 10 per cent of young people who have deserted or are deserting it? As we discussed on the previous occasion, if they are breaking the law by not attending school when they are under 16, why should we expect them to attend school when they are over 16 unless we can encourage them back in? We need to consider whether there are ways of encouraging them back in.
I hope that when the Minister replies to the amendments he will tell us that the Government already envisage a much wider spread of places in which education can take place—not least, for example, in the Youth Service, where excellent programmes are widely provided and where young people have a genuine progressive-gradient educational experience in many different aspects. This is knowledge-based in some cases as well, although I, too, think that is an interesting phrase.
I endorse what has been said about the contribution of employers, many of whom take their responsibilities extremely seriously. Although their qualifications have not been necessarily accredited by the all-powerful Ofqual or the QCA in the past—I declare an interest as having been on the advisory committee of QCA for some considerable time—they are widely respected and recognised, often internationally as well as nationally. Some of the large multinational companies provide education which is of a higher standard than the more formal—dare I say it?—public examinations that we have in this country. I look forward to the Minister’s reply and I trust that he will tell us the Government accept that.
I endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has just said. I, too, hope that this is part of the Government’s thinking. Having listened to what has been said and having read the letter from Jim Knight—to whom we are grateful for the detailed ideas—it seems that all four amendments go entirely in the right direction. They will certainly enable far more young people in a disadvantaged state to participate and gain some qualifications which will help them on their way. Some of the stories are remarkable: disadvantaged young people who have completely rejected education so far and come away with no skills or basic qualifications, can suddenly be re-inspired to join the rest of us and go on to lead useful lives. We must do everything possible for them. “Mentor” is the right word here. It is absolutely crucial in situations like this that there is a mentoring scheme.
We are back to a couple of themes we discussed on the last day. One is the need to have great flexibility for the local authority to decide what particular pattern of education is appropriate to any individual young person. You cannot specify these things from the centre. You are dealing with individual difficulty, character and circumstance. There has to be flexibility within an overall responsibility to allow the form of education provided to fit the case.
You are dealing, in a lot of circumstances, with people who are not at level 2. They are somewhere around level zero and have developed nothing but bad habits in the course of their education. They have ended up extremely averse to formal education and have great gaps and inadequacies in their knowledge. They have developed social habits which make them unemployable, like not turning up on time for anything or usage of language and methods of behaviour which would be likely to result in an early termination of employment—if they ever got any. These things have to be dealt with in the course of the two years, if these young people are to become useful members of the workforce and society and to enjoy themselves as they should. These things are not dealt with by accredited courses.
This business of accreditation has become a method of control—I know things have changed— and the QCA and related organisations control what should be taught and allowed. It comes back again to an issue I have raised previously. One of the difficulties in the Prison Service is that there are no level zero accredited programmes available for PSHE and related areas or all the work that goes on in the arts. You somehow have to graft a bit of literacy or numeracy on to your arts programme in order to get an accreditation to go with it.
There seems to be a belief that you can take these people at the bottom—they are absolutely flat on the floor—and make them employable by giving them a GSCE. First, you have to get them to take an interest in education. That will take an unaccredited course of some kind—at least unaccredited under the present system. Accreditation in terms of putting academic hurdles into the qualifications should not be there. You are not trying to evaluate what these people have done, you are just trying to get them started. Secondly, a system which is so rigid and based on accreditation is never going to work in the sort of environment that particular young people want to be in.
There are all sorts of ways to get educated when you are that age. Experience comes in all kinds of forms. As my noble friend Lady Perry has said, a lot can be provided through an employer who is dedicated to looking after the young people in their charge. They are not going to want to leap through the hoops. How long is it taking a professional organisation like Cambridge Assessment to get one of their exams through? An employer will not go through that for their own in-house experience. There has to be some way in which following such a course is allowed. The right way to do that is surely to allow a local authority discretion. It should get to know what is available locally, what the results are when young people go through that course, and that should become an available option for them. If something is much bigger than that, or national, perhaps accreditation is appropriate. One way or another, we have to approach this with great flexibility and understanding, and not try to cram these young people into a framework devised essentially for the other 90 per cent, but not them.
I have two comments on this. The amendments are interesting and I do not disagree with them in principle for trying to find ways of engaging and supporting young people, making sure that they leave this period of their lives well equipped to go into the next. I would be grateful if the Minister could respond to two issues that are on my mind.
We have to be careful not to see the 16 to 18 group as not joined on to the 11 to 16 group. There is a real danger that we are seeing two curricula. We talk about the diplomas in the new curricula being addressed to 11 to 16 year-olds, then talk about the 16 to 18 year-olds as though they are in a different world. All that has happened is that a summer holiday has gone by and they are six weeks older. The big difference is that they are not subject to the national curriculum once they are post-Year 11. That, potentially, gives the flexibility. Yet if things like this could really make a difference to this 10 per cent of most difficult young people between the ages of 16 and 18, why on earth not involve them at the ages of 13, 14, 15 or 16?
Secondly, I still have a great wish to see children and young people get accredited courses. If I were to choose a different word and say they need to get courses where their progress is recognised and recorded, would that more meet the needs? I hope that my noble friend will respond to those two points. What are the safeguards against us not having the mindset that looks to this variety of courses in Year 12 and Year 13 when we could have introduced them earlier on? Where is the continuity; how are we bridging the gap between those years when they are subject to the national curriculum and those when we have more flexibility? On the accredited courses, I would be sorry if we moved to a situation where young people did not leave this extended period of compulsory education with at least a recognition or record of the progress that had been made. I am not sure whether that is “accredited”. I would like my noble friend to respond to that.
To respond to the noble Baroness’s point, which I absolutely understand and accept, we on these Benches are arguing about the nature of the accreditation. At the moment it is so rigid it has to be through Ofqual—the QCA as was. Yet multinational companies like Microsoft, BP and British Aerospace offer a real gradient of qualifications which are not accredited by anybody but themselves. If a young person who has been through such a programme—be it McDonalds’ well-graded system, Microsoft’s or whoever—is looking for a job elsewhere, employers are going to be just as happy, if not more so, with that than with an “educational” qualification that has been through the tortuous processes of accreditation by Ofqual.
We are asking for something that bursts the rigid boundaries of Ofqual. It is a pity to vilify the new organisation, the QCA, and its tortuous processes of accreditation when there are other perfectly respectable forms of accreditation, including from those employers, which are not within its boundaries.
I am in the happy position of being able to satisfy everyone who has spoken, to some degree. I was going to say I would be able to respond entirely positively to three of the four issues but, in being negative about the fourth amendment, I am responding specifically to the point raised by my noble friend Lady Morris in a positive way. So, here comes the land of milk and honey.
In response to the first two amendments, moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, I assure her that home education and education in the workplace meet the requirements of Clause 4, but she may not have been immediately aware of that because of the way the clause is drafted. Clause 4(1) says:
“In this Part, ‘appropriate full-time education or training’, in relation to a person, means full-time education or training which is suitable for the person, having regard … to the person’s age, ability and aptitude, and … to any learning difficulty which the person may have, and is provided at a school, at a college of further education, at an institution within the higher education sector”—
and then, crucially, the two concluding words—
Those two words fully encompass appropriate full-time educational training that takes place at home or in the workplace.
Amendment No. 28, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raises the important issue of non-formal education and training. We agree with her that appropriately tailored and personalised programmes of learning will be essential to engaging some of the young people who are hardest to reach. Some of those may not take place in formal educational institutions; they may happen, for example, at a centre run by one of the voluntary organisations mentioned by the noble Baroness, although some colleges and local authority providers have also developed excellent practice in providing flexible tailored learning programmes integrated with support. Young people may not find these more formal settings appropriate to their needs; where alternative providers are able to meet those needs better, they can do so under the Bill.
In Amendment No. 31, however, the noble Baroness seeks to allow for personalised learning programme-type provision for those in work undertaking part-time training. As I have just outlined, that type of provision may be the appropriate route for some young people and will be a valid way of participating in full-time education under Clause 4. It may also be a perfectly valid activity for those who are in work and need support to engage in training or education alongside it. However, it is our view that such programmes should not, for the purposes of the law, count towards the part-time training and education requirement under Clause 6 for that reason. It is important, in our view, that young people have the opportunity to acquire accredited training and qualifications that enable them to demonstrate what they have learnt to future employers, helping them to progress in work and to adapt to changes in the labour market.
Without a requirement for accreditation in respect of part-time educational training, there would be no guarantee of the quality or the quantity of the training undertaken in the workplace, and we would create a loophole whereby employers could provide very little training, or indeed none, under the guise of personalised learning programmes or suchlike. That is part of the issue raised by my noble friend Lady Morris, who wanted to see that people are making recognised progress in their learning beyond the age of 16.
I am able to meet three of the four points raised. I am sorry I cannot meet the fourth, but it is for the reasons I have just given.
We are back to the problem of accreditation again. Why does it have to go through these Ofqual hoops to be acceptable for the purposes of the Bill, when for the purposes of life afterwards there are all sorts of other things that will do just as well but happen not to be accredited? Can we not allow local authorities the flexibility to take on board, particularly at level zero, courses that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morris of Yardley, says, give you a record of progress—a certificate of completion, fine, but not an accredited qualification? Most of these courses will do that, because if someone has gone through the courses successfully they will want the badge. Something that gets them started again and on the road to education can be an enormously important part of doing right by the children at the bottom of the pile between the ages of 16 and 18, but it will never be accredited in the way that Ofqual means. If an employer is offering something, someone must say whether it is satisfactory, but that person surely should be the local authority, which is at the appropriate level to take that sort of view, while Ofqual is just too far away to ever look at it. To clamp everyone into the formalities of an accredited qualification does not do right by those at the bottom of the pile.
The difference between us is less than the noble Lord has just set out. As I said in our previous debates on this issue, accreditation does not apply to full-time courses, where providers, by definition, will overwhelmingly be colleges or established education providers—provided that they can attract the funding from the local authority or the Learning and Skills Council, until local authorities take it over—and can be the best judge of the courses that young people want to take up, responding to demand. We are dealing here with the specific and much more limited issue of part-time courses for people in work. As I have set out, our concern is that, without accreditation, anything might go in respect of training provided by employers; it could be low quality or indeed of no quality at all.
The noble Lord, who is alive to this issue, did not say in his concluding remarks that there should be no check; he was proposing a different check from the one in place. He thinks that local authorities themselves should play the accreditation role. That is an issue for discussion. It is not a proposal I had heard before. We would be concerned about the capacity of local authorities to undertake that role, but I am happy to respond to him on that point when I have been able to consider it more fully. I would simply point out that that is effectively a different form of accreditation; it is not saying that there should be no accreditation.
Local authorities do this sort of thing all the time. They build all sorts of inspectorates, which they run very successfully. I do not see that they cannot be trusted. Most of the time they will use formally accredited qualifications, but there will be times when something else is right for an individual. Under the Bill, local authorities are focusing on individuals because they are ultimately responsible for bringing prosecutions against individual young people. They will be very focused on individuals’ needs. I do not want to see them tied to offering only courses that are clearly unsuitable to a particular young person because their needs lie outside the rather narrow spectrum of accredited qualifications that have mostly grown up to deal with the other 90 per cent of young people.
The big providers such as FE colleges can offer any course they want. Will they get funded for them, though? Most of the funding mechanisms in FE rely on the qualification being accredited. It was a hard enough battle, when the system came in of funding A-levels according to points, to allow any space within the FE funding mechanism for all the extras that sixth-form colleges had traditionally offered students. Although some funding was kept, there was noticeable shrinkage at that stage, and there is little, if any, allowance for activities outside the strict curriculum for vocational qualifications. Enrichment does not seem to be part of the funding mechanism. If an FE college wants to offer level-zero qualifications to improve people’s employability, sociability, management of money or any of the problems that young people present with, from where will it get the funding if the qualifications are not accredited?
If the full-time education is delivered by a voluntary body, such as Barnardo’s or Fairbridge, and there is no accreditation at the end of it because it is an access course helping young people to begin to learn how to learn, would it be recognised? The Minister is saying that this only applies where the young person goes into part-time work with some training off the job. I was moved and interested the other day when we had a session with the Rose project, which works closely with further education colleges to place young people with considerable learning difficulties in jobs where they would acquire skills and self-esteem but would never be able to sit down and write an examination. I know the Government are introducing the foundation tier of qualifications, but the testimony we heard indicated that these young people would find it quite difficult to meet the requirements of those qualifications yet they were learning a great deal in these placements. Could the Minister clarify the situation for young people with learning difficulties in full-time education, either in a further education college or with a voluntary organisation, and where there is placement into a job?
I can confirm that the kind of provision specified in the noble Baroness’s Amendment No. 28 —appropriate full-time education or training which is not in a formal educational institution, is not accredited and includes personalised support for non-educational needs—is within the current scope of Clause 4.
I thank the Minister for taking us back to the land of milk and honey and clarifying the term “otherwise”. As usual, he ensures that we will all go away and read word for word his response in Hansard to ascertain whether we are indeed satisfied. My noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Lucas are right that the provision required for that difficult-to-reach group with learning disabilities must be appropriate and accessible. Both my noble friends raised some questions that I do not feel the noble Lord has responded to fully.
As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, we had the pleasure and privilege of meeting some young people with learning difficulties from the Rose project who would be completely excluded from employment if they had to have paper qualifications. I hope the Minister agrees that we need to have a serious look at those young people who, whatever method we put in front of them, will not be able to fulfil the criteria of a paper qualification. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 not moved.]
Clause 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 [Full-time occupation]:
[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]
Clause 5 agreed to.
Clause 6 [Relevant training or education]:
[Amendments Nos. 30 to 34 not moved.]
Clauses 6 and 7 agreed to.
Clause 8 [Sufficient relevant training or education]:
35: Clause 8, page 4, line 25, leave out “guided learning” and insert “learning time”
The noble Baroness said: I will also speak to Amendments Nos. 37 and 39 to 48 inclusive. I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, for introducing us to the Rose project which raised issues about a group of young people who I had not thought about and who could be affected by the Bill. I encourage the Minster to find a way of looking into that.
The purpose of this group of amendments is to probe the meaning of the phrase “guided learning” and to have a debate about whether a young person’s duty to participate could be fulfilled by learning and practising for part of the time away from their instructor, whatever skill they are studying, as long as that work was specified by the instructor. If the instructor gives homework or work to be done in the library or on a building site or in a hairdressing salon, surely it might be legitimate to count that as qualifying learning.
I think there will be much confusion about what qualifies under Clauses 3 to 9. For example, is everyone going to have to add up the number of hours that they do throughout the year to know whether or not they qualify as participating? These amendments are designed to clarify the situation that might reasonably arise in the workplace so that we do not put the student outside the duties of the Bill.
I accept that all students will do homework, research, preparation—call it what you will. However, we must remember that we are not dealing with PhD students or even undergraduates but 16 year-olds who are often very disaffected and might not have stayed on in education at all had they not been compelled to do so. They may need a different kind of learning experience before they respond, perhaps being given a little more rope and responsibility for their own learning away from the instructor or out of the classroom. That might be very developing for them. Particularly where they are studying a practical skill, the tutor may deem it desirable to tell them to go away and practise by themselves without someone hanging over them. It might be better for their self-confidence to build up their skills in their own time where there is no one to see them fail, because many of the young people at whom the Bill is aimed fail over and over again. I want to make sure that the specification of what, where, when and how many hours they should study is not so tight as to eliminate the possibility of partly fulfilling the duty to participate by doing it by themselves where nobody can see them fail.
Every time we try a new skill, we fail the first time. This morning I coxed an eight on the river at Putney for the first time in my life and I did not do it perfectly. There was a bit of zigzagging going on. I am pleased to say that I did not hit anything, but I was very aware that there were eight men watching me fail. So I have sympathy with young people who are trying a skill for the first time and are perhaps a little bit self-conscious. It may help to build up their self-confidence if they are allowed to do some of the work somewhere else, as long as it is specified by the tutor and proof is given that it has been done. I beg to move.
Leaving out “guided learning” and inserting “learning time”, as the amendments would do, would allow a far more flexible approach to what is considered “relevant training or education”. Individuals may spend valuable time adding to their knowledge and skills in a way which is not possible in formal or guided learning, yet the Bill would not take that into account. The amendment recognises that preparation and private study time are important. All elements of study and learning play their part in a successful outcome. However, the implication of “guided learning” is important, suggesting that the training in question should be directed and mentored. Surely that is what we all want from the Bill. Mentoring is crucial to the success of the schemes. The young people we are talking about will not necessarily benefit from being left to their own devices; they may need someone to guide them towards achieving their potential.
Training should involve systematic training under a skilled mentor and should not end up simply as a work placement with the young person hanging around with nothing to do. Placing somebody in a workplace or training environment and leaving them to it is not the same as providing them with training or education. It is not enough to tick a box saying that another hour has been accounted for if nothing worth while takes place during it. A guided, mentored system is essential if we are to get anywhere with our aims. We hope that a balance can be struck in the Bill that recognises the importance of guidance but is not unimaginatively prescriptive about it.
I have had a meeting with the Association of Accounting Technicians, which worries that the Bill puts too much emphasis on input and not enough on output and takes insufficient account of different modes and speeds of learning. I hope the Minister will recognise that a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the most effective.
I am interested mostly in hearing the Minister’s explanation of how he will construe the phrase in question to take on board the various modes of computer-assisted learning that are available these days. Under the 280 hours-a-year rule, most courses at most British universities would fail.
After listening to this conversation I feel that both are required. Would it be too much to ask the Minister to see whether what is in the Bill can accommodate not only learning time but also guided learning? I hope it will be possible, because the flexibility which the noble Baroness’s amendment offers in allowing every form of learning and accreditation to be taken into account is important.
As the job of a cox in a rowing eight is pre-eminently one of guidance, I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, did an excellent job. I shall seek advice on whether she was providing guided learning hours—I think it depends whether the course of instruction was properly accredited. There are ways in which she can seek accreditation if she wishes it to be taken into account for her relevant qualifications in future.
The noble Baroness seeks to probe the meaning of “guided learning hours”. I am happy to be able to tell her that, unusually for legislation, it does mean what it says: it means learning hours that are guided by a teacher or instructor. The guidance can be provided online but it has to be genuine guidance. It cannot simply be the provision of a course without guidance being provided online.
Guided learning hours are currently assigned to all qualifications, providing an easy and objective way for young people, employers and local authorities to tell whether a young person is meeting the requirement. It is not our policy that private study time should count towards this requirement although, as noble Lords have said, private study will be a valuable component of any overall course. We do not wish to allow private study to count not least because it could enable employers to avoid releasing young people for any training at all by claiming that they are doing all their learning unsupervised at home in the evenings or outside the normal working day.
The noble Baroness asked whether everyone will bureaucratically have to add up their number of guided learning hours. The answer is no. That is the purpose of Clause 8(2), which makes reference to a course or courses leading to an accredited qualification which has or have been assigned enough guided learning hours. The student will be able to tell whether their course has enough guided learning hours on that basis; they will not have to count up the number of learning hours that they experience.
I understand the Minister’s difficulty with bad employers who might wish to claim that time spent at home thinking about the job qualified within the 280 hours, but I am appalled at the idea that private study is not a properly accredited part of learning. Most people in the second year of the sixth form would have much less than 280 hours of anything that would qualify as guided in the very strict sense which the Minister meant. Much of what people do in their final year in school—particularly if they are doing only three A-levels, as many young people are—is guided private study in the sense that they have been told which books to read and where to go. I speak as one who comes from the humanities rather than the laboratory end of the scale and I know that a tremendous amount of real learning—in fact, the best learning—happens when one is in private study. I am appalled by the idea that it would not count.
I taught for many years in American universities where one assumed that for every hour spent in the classroom there would be three hours of private study, leading to accreditation and credits. One did one’s teaching and lecturing on the basis that the students would have at least three hours of private study time either before or after the lecture. I am shocked at the idea that properly structured private study time will not count. Rather than excluding private study time, we need a better definition of properly structured and guided private study time.
I thank all noble Lords who have contributed. We are perhaps straying into the area of wanting to clarify exactly what we mean by “guided”, not just “guided learning”. I understood the Minister to mean that if a tutor, lecturer or teacher asked a young person to go away and do or read something, it could be regarded as “guided”—in which case private study, as long as it was sufficiently guided under the terms which the Minister used, could be regarded as “guided learning”.
The example of music students springs to mind. They may spend one or two hours a week with their teacher but they spend hundreds of hours a week practising. I suppose that if the tutor says, “These are the scales you have to practise; these are the pieces that I would like you to learn”, and the student does so, then that could be described as “guided”. But every hour that the student spends learning the instrument does not happen under the nose of the tutor, watched or assessed by him.
That is just one example that springs to mind. Despite the Minister’s attempt to clarify the issue, I am still confused by what would qualify as “guided learning”. I see that he has received another note. I wonder whether he would like to allay my confusion a little, or perhaps we should leave the matter until Report. Would he like to intervene?
I would like to intervene only to say that the words mean what I said—that guided learning must be learning that is under the guidance of an instructor or teacher. I was trying to tot up the hours in my head but have not succeeded. However, I am advised that it is inconceivable that a sixth form student of the kind that the noble Baroness mentions would not have more than seven hours’ teaching time a week, which would satisfy the hours requirement in the Bill. We can continue to bat this backwards and forwards, but the kind of sixth form course that the noble Baroness mentioned would meet the requirements even if it involved only two A-levels rather than the onerous programmes of four or five A-levels that some students take on.
My noble friend is quite right. I would not expect a student in the second year of three A-level courses to sit in front of teachers for 21 hours a week, which is what would be required. Two hundred and eighty hours a year is essentially the time it takes to do an A-level; that is the time allowance. Noble Lords mentioned accreditation and the hours that come with the course. My memory is that 280 hours is assigned as the guided learning time for an A-level. But a lot of that guidance in the second year is, “Go away and do this”. If that is what is meant by guidance then we would have far less of a problem with it than we would if it meant that they should be sitting in front of a tutor.
If you are using a computer-based learning programme, you will be sat down in front of it. The teacher will probably come back at the end of the period to review briefly what you have done and to pat you on the shoulder and say, “Well done. We’ll look at that next week”, or, “Would you like five minutes on this particular thing that is causing you difficulty?”. The teacher interaction is performed essentially by the computer, and it is done extremely well especially in mathematics. There are also some very good language courses and no doubt similar ways of doing it.
We are introducing computer-assisted learning to the Prison Service as the way in which prisoners will learn. Presumably there will be some pretty low-level courses taught through computers there, and it will not involve an interaction with teachers other than occasionally. What is happening is under guidance, because much of the guidance is provided by the programme. Much of the measurement and assessment is also provided by the programme. In a way, the teacher just supervises that. If that is guidance, we may be less worried about it than the idea that there should be a teacher, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, says, sitting there looking over people’s shoulders for seven hours a week. That is essentially what this provision requires, with a 40-week learning year, which I suspect is about what we would have. It is a question of what is meant by guidance. It affects the whole question of how this part of the Bill is understood.
When they get to university, many students will be lucky to have six hours a week in front of a teacher. Many get less, maybe four or five hours. In a 36-week university year—and that is stretching it when you take out the time allocated to examinations—there is far less than 280 hours of teaching taking place on a whole course, let alone for an individual examination. This concept of guidance needs filing down so that we understand what is meant. If the only way of establishing the number of hours is through what comes packaged with the course, we will come back to accreditation and the course having to go through some process that establishes the number of hours associated with it. Much of the education that I hope people will take under the Bill is not of that form.
In a way we are with the Minister in not wanting to impose a system that allows people to escape around the sides by being unsupervised at home yet still being educated. It has to be interpreted constructively. Something along the lines of “under the supervision of” rather than “guidance” is needed. If the cox only steered the boat for five minutes in every hour, we would be in trouble, but a teacher who has given instructions or uses a computer to help the student follow a course of instructions does not need to be there all the time. Indeed, they probably should not be there all the time. We should allow for that sort of flexibility in the way that we interpret this phrase.
I thank the Minister for that further clarification. I have to accept what he says about A-levels. I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, says about university courses, but we are dealing here with 16 to 18 year-olds, not university courses. I still worry about somebody who might want to study a musical instrument between the ages of 16 and 18, rather than stay on in some other kind of course, because they would fall foul of this specification. I tentatively suggest that the Government’s mistake is to specify a number of hours. Elsewhere, the Bill simply gives the number of hours required to provide an accredited course. I think that the word used is “sufficient”. Clearly, I will have to read this debate again and think carefully about whether I need to probe further. I am somewhat reassured by what the Minister said about “guided” meaning “guided”, because some of my concerns would be covered by a reasonably liberal interpretation of the word. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
36: Clause 8, page 4, line 25, after “learning” insert “away from the individual’s work-station”
The noble Lord said: I will speak also to Amendment No. 38, because both amendments are about the definition of education and training. This is crucial to the Bill. When we first heard about the Bill, the Secretary of State said that it would require at least one day a week, or the equivalent, of off-the-job education or training. That is why many of us were excited by, and welcomed, the Bill. Yet when one looks at its detail, one finds no reference to off-the-job education or training, nor any guarantee of one day a week or the equivalent. These amendments seek to rectify those omissions, and thus to implement the Secretary of State’s original promise. This is not a minor issue; it is central to the character of the Bill. If this is to be a landmark Bill that reduces the huge educational inequalities in our country, it has to do more than simply improve the very specific skills of those affected by it. It must also raise their general ability to think about what they are doing, to analyse a problem and to communicate in writing. In a world in which specific skills rapidly become obsolete, it is these transferable skills that are important if we want to raise the educational level of the country’s less educated people.
At present, many young people in Britain lack these skills. Interestingly, at the age of 15 our young people now do as well in literacy and numeracy as young people in France and Germany, but by the time they are 20 twice as many British people are without a decent level of skill. The reason is absolutely simple; you only have to look at the descriptions of the education systems. In Germany and France, and many other countries, people go on developing their general skills between the ages of 16 and 19. In our country, many do not. To develop those general skills of thinking, analysing and writing requires a serious amount of off-the-job learning. Of course, it should be associated with the job; that is what motivates people when they are off the job, away from their work station.
Amendment No. 36 insists that, in the case of part-time education and training, the required number of guided learning hours take place away from the individual’s work station. It may be on the employer’s premises, around the corner; in many cases that is the best possible arrangement. It must be a place separate from where the individual does his job. It must be a place where he can concentrate on acquiring the underpinning knowledge, numeracy and literacy that develop through analysing problems. That is what the amendment proposes.
We know that many employers will not like this suggestion. They will argue, correctly, that on-the-job training is as valuable as off-the-job training. They may, incorrectly, argue that you can have one without the other, and that is enough. You need both. That is the point which everybody concerned with education inequality has always stressed. We need the off-the-job element to develop transferable skills. That is why this can claim to be an Education and Skills Bill, not just a skills Bill.
We should reconsider the enforcement issues that we touched on previously. Enforcement is important. How could we know whether 280 hours of guided learning was being undertaken if some of the learning that could count was on the job? Simply by looking at somebody who was working at his work station with his supervisor near by, how could we know whether he was getting guided learning? One cannot enforce the provision of guided learning hours on the job. It seems to me that if we want the landmark Bill which the Government want, we have to tighten up the definition of guided learning to mean that which is carried out off the job. I suspect that the Minister will refer to Clause 6, which states:
“‘relevant training or education’ means training or education towards an accredited qualification provided by a course or courses”.
He may try to argue that that somehow makes it off the job. If it does, let us call it off the job. If it does not, you can easily see how some qualifications, for example an NVQ which could be studied entirely on the job, could be redesignated as courses. The meaning of words can be changed. We do not want an Act in which the meaning of words can be changed in such a way that they completely alter its purpose.
In this connection I refer to some shocking statistics. Under the modern apprenticeship scheme, which the Government fund, the apprentice is meant to be studying not only for an NVQ but for a technical certificate, which allows, typically, a day a week off the job. Two surveys have been conducted on this. The 2005 survey found that apprentices were receiving five hours of off-the-job training a week. That is not too bad and is more or less in line with what we are talking about. However, an identical survey conducted in 2007 showed that this had fallen to three hours a week. That is an appalling situation and shows how efforts to develop the transferable skills of our workforce are being undermined. If the Minister wants to retain the education element of the Bill, he will have to accept Amendment No. 36, or something like it.
Amendment No. 38 concerns the amount of education or training; that is, 280 hours of guided learning. However, Clause 8(2) contains a let-out because it states that the relevant person can be “completing” a course which would normally require those hours. I am not sure what “completing” means; it is a very peculiar word, but I assume that it means participation. Does this mean that you do not have to have 280 hours of guided learning; that you have to be involved in a designated course but do not have to do those hours? It is easy to see how a youngster could be signed up for a course that he finds so easy that he does not need to do all the hours that are normally assigned to it. What do we as education reformers think should happen? If a course is so easy that the relevant student can do it in less time than is allocated to it, he should do something more difficult or he should finish it off quickly and move on to something more difficult. This is about raising the population’s education aspirations, not getting a quick fix.
Many employers will approach the Bill in a spirit of devising what is the least they can get away with. When you read it—I am sure that the Minister and his officials read it this way—you should ask yourself how employers will try to get round its provisions. Many young people will also want to get round them. Tens of thousands of young people will collude with their employers to do the least that they can get away with rather than satisfy the Bill’s spirit, which is to extend the part-time or full-time education leaving age to 18. That is what the Bill is about. Amendment No. 38 would close that let-out. I hope that the Minister can see the risks involved in Clause 8(2). I have been told that the aim of the clause is simply to allow for occasions when the relevant person fails to complete the 280 hours due to sickness. If that is the case, let us call a spade a spade and say that rather than have the remarkable form of words to which I referred.
There is a lot at stake in both the issues raised in these amendments. We are looking to the Bill to set the parameters of the education system for the next quarter of a century. We should not be thinking about what we can get employers to accept next year. In fact, the Bill will not be fully enacted for seven years. We should be thinking reasonably ambitiously about an education system that is appropriate for this country for the next 25 years. I am sure that the Government want this to be a landmark Bill which will transform the life chances of at least a third of our young people, but it will not do that unless they make the changes which I have suggested. I beg to move.
I have considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Layard. Clearly, none of us wants to let anybody off the hook as regards doing the right thing for young people and enabling them to learn in a way that is appropriate for their age and abilities and improving their employability in the long run. I am very keen on calling a spade a spade, but parliamentary draftsmen are not very expert at doing so in language which most of us understand. Therefore, the Minister may explain that these words are required to call a spade a spade in the terms in which a Bill needs to be written and do not provide excuses to allow people to get round what they ought to be doing.
Noble Lords will be aware that we on these Benches are not happy about the compulsion element in the Bill. However, we certainly agree that it is highly desirable that young people are given every opportunity by their employers to improve their skills and expertise, and are entitled to time and input from them in order to do so. I shall listen to the Minister’s reply before I fully make up my mind on whether I think the words suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Layard, are needed to achieve his objective.
I, too, am sympathetic to the sentiments behind the amendments of my noble friend Lord Layard, for two reasons. They inject aspiration into this part of the legislation. Although it was said in an earlier debate that we were talking about the 10 per cent who are not engaged in education, training or employment, we are talking about a framework for everyone in an age group. This measure would particularly affect 16 to 18 year-olds who are in employment but are not receiving education as well. It is directed not just at those who have chosen not to engage but at those who have engaged for whom we should be getting a better deal.
The amendments that we have discussed so far today have explored the parameters of education and training. We are trying to develop the concept of education and training further than we could in our Second Reading speeches. A lot of the earlier debates concerned accredited courses. I am very sympathetic to making progress, having accredited courses and gaining certificates. However, now we are talking about another very important element of education. If you are entitled to education, you need that time to reflect on your practice, which you cannot do unless you get some time away from it. That is just as important to me as having the right to follow a course that leads to accreditation or a certificate. Being away from the concentrated efforts of doing something and having time to reflect on your practice is education not training. I know that that was not always the case, having been head of a sixth form in a former life, but private study for sixth formers is an opportunity, if they take it, to reflect on what they have been doing in a more pressurised situation with teachers.
I have sympathy with the amendments, because they provide time to reflect, evaluate, set your next targets and work out whether you have been tough or soft on yourself. Such an opportunity away from the work station, with a teacher providing guided time—I am not in favour of non-guided time—would be an important element, along with accredited courses, that would help us better to describe exactly what we mean by the entitlement that we are giving all 16 to 18 year-olds.
The words of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, certainly raised some queries that I had not previously thought about. The yearly hours are stated in the Bill, but it would be important to know how they are spread out week by week. The noble Lord’s statistic that apprenticeship time has fallen dramatically from five hours to three illustrates the problems that we will face. I am sure that the Minister can explain that the position is not what we might think and that it is all neatly taken care of, but we would like a little more explanation.
The Government are being pulled two ways on this issue. I spent time in previous debates replying on issues related to concerns about excessive regulation by requiring 280 guided learning hours or courses that have been determined as equivalents to 280 hours—as provided in Clause 8(2). We have also been criticised for requiring courses accompanying employment to be accredited. We have taken that step because we wish these courses to be genuine and we want the 280 hours to be for real.
However, my noble friend wants us to go further and to specify that the guided learning undertaken by young people in full-time work should always be away from their workstation. We are trying to hold a credible middle ground between those two positions. It is not because of an oversight that we have not specified in the Bill that guided learning must be undertaken away from the workstation. My noble friend knows better than anyone what the intentions are behind our legislation, since there is no one more assiduous in engaging with us on the plans as we draw them up. I think that my noble friend has met every Minister in the DCSF concerned with these issues apart from me; and I know that a meeting will be forthcoming after the reply I shall give him. He knows it is our policy that there should be flexibility in this regard. It is not our policy that learning should always—I stress, always—be away from the young person’s workstation. Of course, many young people will be released by their employer to undertake training somewhere else, such as a college, so all of their learning will necessarily be away from their workstation. Other young people will receive part-time training provided by their employer, perhaps at a private training provider, mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, but perhaps in their workplace also. It is appropriate that there should be that flexibility for training to be provided in those ways.
One of the principles behind the changes that we are making to the 14 to 19 curriculum and qualifications is that learning should be personalised and delivered in a way that engages the young person and suits their individual needs and interests. That theme has been raised repeatedly in our debates. Some young people learn best when they can see the immediate practical relevance and application of what they are learning, so it would not be right to specify in the Bill that for all young people learning must be away from their workstation, as my noble friend would wish.
However, we absolutely agree with him that the learning that young people undertake must be of high quality, that it must be actual, guided learning, and that young people must be learning new things, not simply doing their day-to-day jobs. That is why we were not sympathetic to earlier amendments under which informal, unaccredited, in-house training should count towards the 280 guided-learning hours requirement of Clause 8, or that simply being employed without training should count.
I hesitate to raise my next point, but I will do so and thereby guarantee a meeting with my noble friend afterwards. I am advised that recent research is equivocal on the benefits of training away from the workplace in all cases. A long research paper by researchers who are familiar to my noble friend—Andrew Jenkins, Charley Greenwood and Anna Vignoles—was published in September 2007 by the Centre for the Economics of Education, which has a relationship with the LSE: The Returns to Qualifications in England: Updating the Evidence Base on Level 2 and Level 3 Vocational Qualifications. The research concluded that for men, the wage returns to level 2 vocational qualifications are in fact strongest when those qualifications are acquired in work, as opposed to in college or other settings, which suggested that in those cases learning on the job can be the most effective way of learning. That was described on page 40 of the research paper, which I have here and will give to my noble friend afterwards, because I know that he will wish to engage with us more fully. That gives further support to our contention that there should be flexibility in how learning is provided and we should not impose a rigid straitjacket by saying that in all cases the part-time education or training should be away from the workplace.
I stress again that it is not sufficient for on-the-job training and education simply to comprise skill-accreditation NVQs. Clause 6(1) explicitly states that young people must be doing “a course or courses”, which means a series of classes or lessons on a particular subject. It is not a question of simply being signed up for a qualification that can be achieved without any additional learning. A course must be involved.
I hope that I have gone some way to reassure my noble friend of the seriousness with which we take the requirement that accredited courses should comprise the learning component of part-time education and training, although I fear that we cannot go the whole way with him and require that all such courses be provided away from the workstation.
I am grateful to my noble friend for his thoughtful answer. I have a few reactions. It would be helpful for there to be a definition of “a course” in the Bill, otherwise someone else, outside the Bill, can change the definition of a course. That is one obvious point. As regards the time, I have never said that all the guided learning should be off the job; all I was saying was that there should be a minimum amount. It goes without saying that a lot of guided learning should be on the job, but it is impossible to imagine any outside authority being able to or wanting to prescribe or monitor how much training is on the job, because that is not possible. You may be able to monitor the progress, but that is not part of this Bill. This Bill is about—and we should be clear about this—participation in education and training, not about an obligation on somebody to achieve a qualification, because you cannot have such a thing.
I was keen to stress the difference between away from the workstation and away from the place of employment. It is very desirable that things happen on the employer’s premises. It makes for the best possible integration, where the off-the-job element is happening as well as the on-the-job element—both on the employer’s premises, but not in the same room. One has to be careful about that distinction. I am wondering whether the Minister could get at the presumption that there is a minimum of off-the-job learning. This could be driven through with a cart and horses unless, somehow, there is a presumption that there is an off-the-job minimum or a tight definition of the person’s course, which ensures a quite substantial off-the-job minimum element. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
[Amendments Nos. 37 to 44 not moved.]
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 [Assignment of numbers of hours of guided learning to external qualifications]:
[Amendments Nos. 45 to 48 not moved.]
Clause 9 agreed to.
49: After Clause 9, insert the following new Clause—
“Part-time education and training: funding
(1) The part-time education and training, including apprenticeships under section 2(1)(b), of young persons aged 16 to 18 shall be subject to the same levels of funding per person as that provided in relation to young persons in appropriate full-time education or training.
(2) In this section, “funding” includes, but is not limited to—
(a) funding through the provision of educational maintenance allowances and child tax credits, and(b) payments made to providers of education and training including, where appropriate, employers.(3) The amount of funding provided under this section shall be calculated on an annual basis.
(4) The Secretary of State shall lay an annual report before Parliament setting out—
(a) whether funding has been provided in accordance with this section;(b) what sources of funding have been provided, and how much;(c) why, if funding has not been provided in accordance with this section, the requirement has not been met.”
The noble Lord said: Amendment No. 49 relates to the funding of the additional education that the Bill seeks to promote. The greater part of the extra education induced by the Bill will be the part-time education or training, which is why we are spending so much time discussing it. That is aimed at people who presently do not get it. The amendment seeks to ensure that the annual funding, per person, obtained by the under-privileged group who are brought into education and training through the Bill is at least as good as the annual funding, per person, given to the more privileged people who go down the full-time route, most of whom, or their equivalent, are already going down it.
There are two arguments for the amendment, each in itself sufficient to justify it. The first is a practical one, the second a matter of principle and social justice. I shall start with the practical argument. There is really only one major problem with implementing the Bill—finding enough employer places to enable young people who do not want full-time education to have a part-time education. That is the only practical problem. If that can be satisfied, the problems of enforcement will not be a big deal because people on the whole will be quite happy to have a job with a wage. I estimate that the number of additional places, with training, to be provided by employers is of the order of a quarter of a million. This is a very serious challenge even though we have got some time. Unless we can find those places, the Bill means that we are forcing young people into full-time education who do not want it, which is a pretty explosive thing to be doing.
How are we going to find these places? It is quite clear that we will not find them unless we have a financial inducement that can be paid to employers who take on young people in a training capacity—like the payments made in many countries to employers who take on apprentices. Such payments would be entirely reasonable. I shall give a few broad facts. At present, a training provider who provides a modern apprenticeship—not normally the employer—is usually paid about the same amount as an FE college providing a full-time education to someone of the same age. So, there is parity, if you like, on the tuition payments. However, students in full-time education also attract EMAs, child tax credits and child benefit. That adds up to approximately £1.5 billion. If a student is in an apprenticeship, he does not need an EMA, a child tax credit or child benefit because he is getting a wage. However, he does need a place.
The main problem with the Bill concerns the finding of places that will give opportunities to young people. Therefore, it seems eminently reasonable to use money to provide employers with places for young people to get a part-time education, just as it is reasonable to provide EMAs to induce young people to take full-time education. These are both parallel and complementary policies for securing extra educational enrolments. That is the practical argument.
The second argument is one of social justice. If you consider most young people who are in full-time education beyond the age of 16, the great majority will get something like five years of post-16 education, including university, at major expense to the state in all of those years. Now, if you consider the people affected by this Bill, most of them get little beyond 16. As a result of the Bill, they will get an extra two years of education, but for most of them, probably not much more than that. The people we are bringing into education here are going to get two years compared to the five years of people going down the full-time route. How could we possibly justify a situation where the people going down the part-time route for that short period are getting less per year than those going down the full-time route for that longer period? However, that is what is going to happen, as sure as eggs is eggs, unless we do something about it. Therefore, there is a big social justice argument connected with the Bill. If we are going to corral these people into education, we should give them as good a deal as we are giving to the full-time people who will get so much more out of the system beyond the age of 16. We absolutely have to do that.
The amendment is necessary for two reasons. First, it is necessary to ensure that the Bill can work. Unless we can show how we can get the places, we should not pass such a Bill. Secondly, it is necessary as a matter of simple justice. I earnestly hope that my noble friend can find some way of including this principle within the Bill. I know that constitutional issues are involved. However, from the Government’s point of view, a Bill that gives no indication of how it could possibly be made to work and no guarantee of fairness to the group who are being forced into compulsory education is not the right way of going forward. I beg to move.
I support the noble Lord’s amendment. His point is a potent one. Those who enter into the part-time apprenticeship form of education, or go into education but have a part-time job, are those who lose out. One difficulty we face, as he rightly pointed out, is that while apprenticeships are probably the best way for these people to acquire education and training—because they are well-motivated when they are in a job and are motivated by that job—we nevertheless have a surplus of applicants for apprenticeships at present. Not enough companies offer apprenticeships. If you ask them, “Why are you not putting forward an apprenticeship?”, they constantly raise the problems of cost, bureaucracy and so on. I refer the noble Lord to the report last year on apprenticeships by the Select Committee on Economic Affairs. It pointed out how very satisfactory a lot of apprenticeships are. Nevertheless, there is quite a strong case for giving a subsidy to employers.
I point out to the noble Lord an anomaly that he has not mentioned; that is, under the train-to-gain scheme, which admittedly applies to current employees of a company, the company gets paid for employees training for a level 2 qualification but if it takes on an apprentice aged 16 or 17 to do a level 2 qualification, there is no subsidy for the company. In fact, it has to pay the apprentice’s wages and 50 per cent of his fees at the further education college for off-the-job training. There are positive cost disincentives to take on apprentices and a positive incentive for companies to take on people with no training whatever and put them through training subsequently through the train-to-gain scheme. This is totally absurd. The Government need to consider aligning the train-to-gain scheme with apprenticeship qualifications.
Those who stay on at school qualify for educational maintenance allowances but those who do apprenticeships do not. In terms of equity, it would seem sensible to establish a level playing field and make it clear that those who go into apprenticeships have the same rights as those in full-time education. We on these Benches support the amendment.
I support this amendment. I am reminded of those part-time-only providers, such as the Open University, that have done very badly out of some of the deals on extended education that the Government have rightly been encouraging in many other areas.
I listened only a few days ago to an employer who was providing apprenticeships at a fairly basic level and was doing very well but was complaining because, as soon as the young person on an apprenticeship had gained a qualification, experience and confidence, they were usually stolen by another employer. That trainer felt not that the money was wasted—they were doing it partly to help the individual—but very much out of pocket. It is only fair that this amendment is taken very seriously indeed. I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Layard, will have got his facts more than verified and more than right.
I am very interested in what the noble Lord proposes. I absolutely take the point that employers need some inducement to provide these places, which are desperately needed, and that that inducement could be financial. However, I cannot work out from his amendment—I am probably just being slow—quite how it would work. First, the provider of education under the new scheme will provide it, if he is an employer, part-time; the provider of education referred to in subsection (1) of the amendment would provide it “full-time”. Is there an element of pro rata here? If someone is working, as it were, for two-thirds of the time, over a year, is that equated to an equivalent number of school days below the age of 16, or does it relate to a number of college days if further education is involved? Secondly, I cannot work out what proportion is intended to go to the employer. I think I understand what the noble Lord intends but it seems that it is split in subsection (2)(b) between employers and some others who are, presumably, the people with the workstation, as it were, as opposed to the people with the hands-on job. To help me in this and to shorten what I say, could the noble Lord tell us what he thinks the quantum of the benefit to the employer in a typical case would be, and how many employees would amount to a row of beans when it came to a big employer?
On the question of pro rata, I am not suggesting that. As emerged from our earlier discussions, the teaching side of part-time courses can be quite intensive. Many vocational courses are also more expensive than college-based courses. On top of that, there are problems evaluating an NVQ. That is why, as of now, expenditure on a modern apprentice, which is paid to a training provider—typically, a training company—and the work that they do with the apprentice, including finding him an employer, is the same as the amount that is given to an FE college for a full-time student at that college. There is that parity.
I suggest that extra money needs to go to the employer to find the places, in addition to the money going to training providers who arrange the off-the-job element, the evaluation and the assessment. A total of the moneys will go to people who are going down the part-time route, some of which, as was said, will go through the training provider—or the FE college, if that is where they are doing their part-time training—and some of which will go to the employer; there is that total. Another total comes from the money spent in respect of those in full-time education; some of that is for tuition, some is the educational maintenance allowance and some involves child tax benefits and so on. The aggregation that I am talking about would involve looking at this at the national level—or it could possibly be done locally—and asking what is the total of resources going to one type of person compared with another, and for those going down the part-time, job-related route, guaranteeing the amount of resources per person: that would be no less than the amount going to the more privileged group going through the full-time route. That was my suggestion.
I support my noble friend. One of the most important points about education for the people we are concerned with here is not only gaining knowledge but gaining confidence—the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, made that point. In the UK over the past 30 or 40 years, once young people leave their workplace and go to college, there has been a marvellous transformation—they have gained the kind of social confidence that formerly I used to see visiting the United States. Britain has been transformed by this. Nevertheless, there are whole areas of Britain in which not enough people can do that. We must make this funding available and have suitable colleges that are reasonably provided with the social and other facilities that are available for people attending universities. This area of justice is important.
It also makes those people more effective when they go to work, because they have the ability to communicate. It is when they are not as effective as they might be that there is a drain on our economy. I speak as a small employer of 25 people. With my colleagues, I have seen a transformation in the quality of people coming in when they have been to college. That is what we need to invest in, and it is an anomaly that we are not investing as much as we should be in this valuable part of our society.
We have some sympathy with the noble Lord’s amendment and agree that, if the Bill is to achieve what it sets out to do, those apprenticeships must be available in the first place. The complexities of how the different funding streams will work and how they can be accessed easily by employers must be looked at. We all agree that we must do everything we can to ensure that all employers are fully engaged in providing apprenticeships. We were assured in a recent meeting with the Federation of Small Businesses that it sees apprenticeships as important to the development of business. We will need to look much more closely at what the noble Lord, Lord Layard, has said.
I completely endorse my noble friend’s remarks on the value of apprenticeships. This is why we have increased apprenticeship starts from 65,000 in 1997 to 180,000 last year, and are projecting the number of starts to grow to almost 210,000 by 2010-11. In 2007-08, we spent £624 million on apprenticeships, up from £532 million in 2002-03. That is a significant increase in funding. We project that the £624 million of 2007-08 will grow to £776 million in 2010-11—an increase of nearly 25 per cent. We are putting significant resources behind the overall expansion of apprenticeships.
On the question of remuneration, apprentices aged 16 to 17, and those who are 18 and in the first year of their apprenticeship, have minimum weekly pay set at a level designed to ensure that they receive at least the same amount as those in full-time education or approved training who are attracting the package of EMA plus child benefit and child tax credits. This is the comparison that my noble friend was making.
A recently published survey shows that, in 2007, the average net pay for apprentices was £170 per week. That is significantly more than the maximum package of support available for young people in full-time education or unwaged training, even if any reasonable wages from a part-time job are added in to the equation. However, we have asked the Low Pay Commission to review apprentice pay and the exemption from the national minimum wage. It has called for evidence on this issue and is due to report on its findings and make recommendations to Government by the end of February next year. I am sure that my noble friend will make representations himself to the Low Pay Commission, and we shall certainly draw the commission’s attention to this debate in your Lordships’ House. We would not wish to pre-empt the commission’s report by legislating in advance of that evidence and analysis.
I put it to the Minister that perhaps one problem faced particularly by small and medium-sized employers is the level of apprentice pay. It may not be very high, but, as he has indicated, it is well above the educational maintenance allowance level, and paying apprenticeship wages is a very real cost for employers. Research evidence shows that, in the short term, companies are out of pocket on apprentice pay; but, with advanced apprenticeships, they get back more over the longer term than they do in the shorter term. The level of apprentice pay is a real problem. It is much higher in this country than in Holland, Scandinavia or Germany, where regulations keep apprenticeship pay very much lower than in this country.
The issue of the supply of apprenticeships by small employers is very much on our minds. How we seek to boost that supply is an issue of great concern. I will deal with the specific point mentioned by the noble Baroness; and also with the comments that she made earlier about the direct incentive payments scheme under the LSC’s Train to Gain initiative, whereby employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are eligible for a contribution to wage costs for employees, in order to help them achieve their first level 2 qualification and/or approved skills for life qualification. This was the specific point raised by the noble Baroness; that the scheme does not extend to apprenticeships. I draw her attention, and the attention of my noble friends, to the paper World-class Apprenticeships: Unlocking Talent, Building Skills for All that we published earlier this year. It addresses this issue, and the wider issue of how we might better incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships.
Paragraphs 5.16 and 5.17 refer specifically to the Train to Gain initiative and the wage subsidies that are provided to small employers. Paragraph 5.17 says:
“We believe that this approach should be extended to employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees recruiting Apprentices … We do not propose across-the-board eligibility for this incentive payment, as the particular risks of employing 16 to 18 year-olds vary across different types of business, as do the benefits for the programme of incentivising growth in this way. It will be targeted where it is likely to bring meaningful growth (for instance, a target group might be cost-sensitive small businesses in a sector that we know to be afflicted by skills shortages), and the criteria will be transparent”.
It goes on to give other examples of incentive payments that we might make to employers to offer apprenticeships. For example, it cites third sector organisations, which, it says,
“have also got a significant role to play in the expansion of Apprenticeships … In recognition of this, the pilot scheme will also include a number of Third Sector organisations. We will set aside sufficient budget to pilot the scheme in this spending period (and to pilot a variety of approaches with different groups), with the intention of revisiting the total budget and best approach, with the benefit of the pilot’s data, in the next Comprehensive Spending Review”.
So precisely the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and by my noble friend, about how we might more directly incentivise employers to offer apprenticeships, are being addressed by these pilot schemes and by other measures set out in the world-class apprenticeships paper. We would welcome the views of the noble Baroness and of my noble friend and we hope that, when we have got the data from the pilots, they will look at them with us and help us to reach conclusions about the way forward.
I am grateful to the Minister for that. On the question of the employer subsidy, we have a situation where only 30 per cent of large firms provide apprenticeships. It is not just small firms: two-thirds of large firms are not providing apprenticeships. We should not think that a pilot scheme just on small firms will necessarily deal with the problem.
Perhaps I, too, may quote paragraph 5.18 of the world-class apprenticeships paper, which says that,
“we believe that there is scope for moderate growth in Apprenticeship numbers by offering similar direct payment incentives to large companies, so that they can recruit more Apprentices than they need to meet their requirements”.
So the paper also addresses the issue of large employers offering more apprenticeships.
I believe that that is about people training more individuals than they are required to do and being paid for it. However, my impression is that in many cases training anyone will mean the receipt of a subsidy.
This world-class apprenticeships paper is a huge step forward. We have been pootling along over this issue, redesignating some workplace training as apprenticeships but, to be honest, without a major breakthrough until now. We are now poised for a major breakthrough and there is only one reason for that, which is this Bill. Unless we can provide many more apprenticeships and satisfy the apprenticeship guarantee, we cannot possibly implement the Bill, and the Bill is incredibly important because of all the other things that follow from it.
What concerns me about my noble friend’s reply is the lack of a reference to the general principle of how this group of people should be funded compared with those who go down the full-time route. These are the underprivileged people whose educational future we are trying to lift, but all the inertia in the system will lead to full-time people being treated better than this group. I wonder whether it is possible for the Government to think of some way of tying their own hands, because that is what is required. The pressures from the full-time lobby are so strong that the part-time people will never get a deal unless the Government do that. Surely the Bill is about trying to get a new educational philosophy going. It deals with only about 30 or 40 per cent of the population, and this is the first time that we have had a Bill which is concerned only with the less privileged part of the population. With all the old pressures, the full-time route will get the focus of attention and the focus of the money.
I remind the noble Lord that we will have another Bill next year, perhaps somewhat misleadingly called, again, the Education and Skills Bill, and I believe that it will deal specifically with issues relating to apprenticeships. It will certainly deal, for example, with the demise of the LSC and the establishment of the new funding council, and I believe that the apprenticeship issue will be picked up in it.
It will of course be a very important Bill. However, in this Bill we are dealing with the two groups who are not in full-time education: the apprentices and the others. This is the time when we should not forget the others; they will be less privileged than the apprentices and there needs to be a way of ensuring that they get a good deal.
I am grateful for that intervention. I hope that it will be possible to think of some way in which this issue can be addressed in the Bill; otherwise, as I said, the Bill will convey no idea of how such funding could be implemented or how it could be justly implemented. I shall leave it at that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Terrorism Act 2006 (Disapplication of Section 25) Order 2008
rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21 May be approved.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Government agreed in our debates during the passage of what became the Terrorism Act 2006 that there should be a requirement for the annual renewal by Parliament of Section 23 of the Act, which extends the maximum period of detention of terrorist suspects from 14 to 28 days. The order before the House today therefore disapplies Section 25 of the Terrorism Act 2006 for a period of one year beginning 25 July 2008, thereby extending for another year the maximum period of pre-charge detention for terrorist suspects of 28 days.
Pre-charge detention has been the subject of considerable debate over the past 12 months, both in the context of the Counter-Terrorism Bill and in the reviews carried out by the Home Affairs Committee and the Joint Committee on Human Rights. I do not intend to go over those debates here, but it is worth reminding ourselves why Parliament agreed to the exceptional 28-day limit.
Terrorist investigations can be hugely time-consuming, and the increase from 14 to 28 days was necessary primarily as a result of the greater use of encrypted computers and mobile phones, the increasingly complex nature of terrorist networks that have to be investigated, and the increasingly international nature of terrorist networks, meaning greater language difficulties and a greater need to gather evidence from different jurisdictions abroad.
The safety of the public is of course paramount, and it is the responsibility of government and security and law enforcement agencies to protect our citizens from the threats posed by terrorism. The first priority must be to stop terrorist activity taking place, rather than dealing with its consequences. However, where we identify those who are engaged in terrorism, we need to ensure that we have the right tools to investigate and prosecute them.
In much police work, the investigation takes place after a crime has been committed. In such cases, there will often be a victim, possible suspects, witnesses to the crime and forensic material from the crime scene. The police will investigate the crime and may arrest the suspect once they have gathered a considerable amount of admissible evidence. In such cases, often very little time is needed to question the suspect before a decision is taken on whether to charge them for an offence.
Terrorism cases are different. Because of the severe consequences of a terrorist attack, the police and the Security Service need to intervene before it takes place. Critically, they may need to intervene in an investigation at a very early stage—before they have had the opportunity to gather any admissible evidence and on the basis of intelligence about who and what is involved. As Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick said recently in his evidence to the Counter-Terrorism Bill Committee:
“In some investigations, we have seen [attack-planning activity] materialise so quickly that on public safety grounds we have had to act pre-emptively before we have had the opportunity to exploit pre-arrest evidential opportunities. That places a huge burden on the … investigating officer”.—[Official Report, Commons, Counter-Terrorism Bill Committee, 22/4/08; col. 14.]
Few would disagree with the need to pre-empt such attacks. That is why United Kingdom legislation has, since 2000, provided specific powers of arrest and detention in relation to terrorism. The provisions for extended pre-charge detention of up to 28 days in the Terrorism Act 2006 take account of these practical and unique difficulties. The decision to increase pre-charge detention limits from 14 to 28 days has, I believe, been justified by subsequent events and means that we have been able to bring forward prosecutions that otherwise might not have been possible. Indeed, both the police and the DPP have made it clear that the 28-day limit is necessary. Since the power came into force in July 2006, six people have been held for between 27 and 28 days and three of them have been charged.
We accept that the Government should endeavour to provide detailed statistical information on the use of the 28-day limit in advance of the renewal debates. Once the joint Home Office/police review of pre-charge detention statistics has been completed, we expect to be able to provide more detailed information on the outcome of detention, including the charges brought.
The application for extension is a rigorous process. A CPS lawyer makes the application for an extension beyond 14 days and the senior investigating officer is present. Defence solicitors are provided in advance of each application with a written document setting out the grounds for the application. The applications are usually strenuously opposed and the hearings can last several hours. The officer may be questioned vigorously by the defence solicitor about all aspects of the case. I have attended one of those applications, and it was vigorous. The judge does not have to give another seven days. In the application that I attended, the judge told the applicant they had to get the evidence within two days. It is scrupulously done and strenuously carried out.
Some have accused the police of holding a suspect for the maximum period simply because it is available. This is nonsense. The police investigate as quickly as possible; they must do, and would not detain anyone for longer than is absolutely necessary. That has been clearly demonstrated by the fact that only six people have been held for the maximum period since the power came into force in July 2006, and none has been held for the maximum period since the 28-day time limit was renewed last year. Indeed, when applying to the courts for an extension of detention, the police and the CPS have to present substantial evidence for it. A judge may not grant extensions of detention where he or she is not satisfied that the investigation is being pursued diligently and expeditiously. Judges can, of course, grant less than the full seven days’ extension, as I have said, or no extension if they feel further detention is unjustified. That, too, happens.
Getting the balance right between individual freedom and collective security must always be at the heart of what we do. There is no contradiction between pursuing our counter-terrorism objectives and defending our freedoms and civil liberties. Fourteen days’ pre-charge detention remains the norm and 28 days is for exceptional circumstances, but this exceptional power continues to be necessary as a result of the growing scale and complexity of terrorist investigations.
All of us, on all sides of the House, appreciate the seriousness of the terrorist threat we face and the importance of having the right measures in place to counter it. Terrorism is a huge international challenge but a particular challenge for democracies, which must strive to protect individual liberties while ensuring collective security. It is vital to strike the balance between protecting the rights of the detainee and ensuring that an investigation proceeds properly and effectively, enabling the police to deal with the complexity of modern terrorism investigations. I hope that this House agrees that the order achieves that, and I commend it to the House. I beg to move.
Moved, That the order laid before the House on 21 May be approved. 21st Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, 25th Report from the Joint Committee on Human Rights.—(Lord West of Spithead.)
My Lords, this order, as the Minister has said, is before the House because of the requirement for Parliament to renew annually Section 23 of the Terrorism Act 2006. Section 23 extends the maximum period of pre-charge detention of terrorist suspects from 14 days to 28 days. We support the order. These Benches take the terrorist threat to this country every bit as seriously as the Government do. We are debating it at a time when the Government want to extend the period of pre-charge detention to a maximum of 42 days. In this context, it is worth noting the obvious: the need for Parliament to renew Section 23 annually demonstrates that the extension from 14 to 28 days is already an exceptional power. We scrutinise it frequently because it is such a dramatic departure from normal practice.
Despite its exceptional nature, the extension to 28 days is effectively contained in the law. We should retain it unless there is compelling evidence to go beyond it. The Government have not provided that evidence. The proposals put forward for 42 days also lack the rigorous safeguards currently in place. Section 25 of the Terrorism Act, which says that the period of pre-charge detention will revert to 14 days unless it is disapplied by order each year, is a sunset clause and one of the most important of these safeguards. This is not, of course, the time to debate the merits of the proposals in the Counter-Terrorism Bill but an opportunity to review the operation of the system currently in place. To do so, Parliament must have available to it all necessary information to assess the extension on an evidential basis.
The Government undertook, as the Minister said, to provide detailed statistical information on the use of the 28-day limit in advance of the renewal debates. That was reaffirmed in another place last week, but we do not have the information. We are told that it will only be available once the joint Home Office-police review of pre-charge detention statistics has been completed. How can we, therefore, assess now—at this very moment when we are asked to renew the extension—the use of the 28-day limit? It is an extremely important issue, and not having the necessary information to hand or on time is not at all satisfactory. Can the Minister confirm when the review will be completed and when the statistical information will be provided to Parliament?
The Government also previously undertook to conduct a risk assessment on the effect of the 28-day extension on communities and, indeed, to conduct risk assessments for all terrorism legislation. That was also reaffirmed in another place last week. Can the Minister confirm what progress the Government have made on this? Despite these concerns, which relate to the Government’s handling of this order, we consider that the current arrangement recognises the seriousness of the terrorist threat and balances the security measures needed to address it with our civil liberties and democratic values.
My Lords, this debate must remind the Minister how fast a year flies by, because he took this order through last year, just after becoming the Minister responsible for terrorism, which we all welcomed because we were aware of his expertise in the area. I notice that, not unreasonably, in large part his wording this year is unchanged from last year. Having said that, given the timing of the debate on renewing this order—a short time before this House’s Second Reading of the Counter-Terrorism Bill—none of the remarks that I make from these Benches should be taken as a mini-rehearsal for that Bill, because this only renews the order.
I also want to ask what has changed since last year. It is important that we do not rubber-stamp the order simply on the presumption that extending it another year with no alteration is favourable. The Minister needs to demonstrate clearly whether the threat has indeed diminished. These Benches would certainly support a necessary measure, but it would be interesting to hear the Minister’s view. Given all his work in the past year, the budget he has been able to spend and all the work of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, does he feel that the Government are more on top of the situation than they were this time last year, and does that lessen the threat?
The changes proposed in the Counter-Terrorism Bill should help with the process, but at the end of all that will be a balance between individual freedom and collective security. I am sorry that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who contributed so forcefully to the debate last year, is not here to contribute this evening. Yet, rather as the Minister made many of the same points as last year, I think that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, would have made the same points again. My question, then, is: how have things changed in the past year in the Government’s capacity to deal with this threat? It will be impossible for the Minister to look forward to this time next year, but between now and then we will have had the new Counter-Terrorism Bill, which may have changed the picture somewhat.
My Lords, first, I appreciate the thoroughness with which my noble friend always approaches these matters and, as I was able to experience again this morning outside the Chamber, the thoroughness with which he tries to ensure that all of us who want to be can be fully informed about how the Government are handling these matters and why they are doing so in the way that they are.
I hope that we are not drifting into a situation in which the Joint Committee on Human Rights becomes a ritual formality in its reports. If we have a Joint Committee of that nature, which has high-powered legal and other specialist advice, we should take its reports very seriously. I hope that my noble friend will therefore be able to deal in a little more detail before we conclude our proceedings with some of the significant observations made in the report published on 30 June—yesterday.
The first point to make is that the committee was clearly dismayed that the report of the statutory reviewer of the Terrorism Act was not published,
“in time to allow the House of Commons and its Committees properly to consider it prior to debate on the draft Order”.
The second point, which the committee raised in the same sort of context, is that the reviewer's report did not,
“explain how the power to detain suspects for more than 14 days has been used in practice”.
The committee goes on to suggest:
“Parliament needs this information in order to improve decision-making on this issue”.
It recommends that,
“any future report should include this information and that the reviewer report directly to Parliament”.
It would be very helpful to have my noble friend’s specific observations on those points. The committee also recommends that,
“relevant statistical information and the reviewer's report should be provided to Parliament at least 28 days before debate on these draft Orders to enable meaningful scrutiny of the need for renewal”.
Again, it would be helpful to have my noble friend's comments.
The report underlines—this is very important—that:
“No suspect has been held for more than 14 days since the renewal of the power last year”.
We need to know a good deal more about why, therefore, we are renewing the order when it has not been necessary to use it in the past year. To assess how necessary it was, when it was used, to have a period between 14 and 28 days, the Joint Committee suggests that there needs to be a review. It strongly recommends,
“that such an independent review be conducted by [for example] the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate”.
In its commitment to human rights and humanitarian concerns, the committee also suggests that there should be independent advice to the Government about,
“the impact on suspects of being detained for longer than 14 days”.
It calls for such a process to be undertaken and for a report to be made to Parliament. It also questions how far the proceedings for applying for an extension can really be called “judicial” in how we have come to understand that word in the whole operation of our administration of law.
I became concerned about that matter when I was a member of the committee, not least because—at their request, as I recall—some special advocates came to give evidence to the committee. Some of the things that they said were quite startling. They went on record as saying that in what they were expected to do, they could find very little that was in keeping with all their training and all the custom which had been part of the normal administration of justice.
An issue about which the special advocates felt most strongly was the complete impossibility of having any detailed discussion with the client, the defendant, about what was going on and the reasons for it. They found a real tension there. To be honest, they were in some state of distress about the situation. We questioned them in some detail about how far they were just a group of special advocates who felt especially strongly and how far they were speaking for special advocates as a whole. They said that of course they were leading on the issue but that, in honesty, they felt that it was a concern shared by the whole community of special advocates.
We cannot take that lightly. After all, in our stand against terrorism—no one must ever underestimate the gravity, the sinisterness or the nastiness of the threat—what we are defending is a society worth having. Our administration of justice is a crucial part of the quality of that society. We also want to be very careful that we are not giving the terrorists, the extremists, a victory by beginning to dismantle what we have been used to in the face of the perceived threat. We also have to be very careful that we are not being counter-productive—I am sure that we will debate these things more fully next week—by doing things that play into the hands of extremist manipulators of the more naive, who are open to manipulation.
Those points are rather serious when we come to renew an order of this kind. I hope that my noble friend will be able to speak more specifically about the Government’s position in response to the observations of the Joint Committee. I hope that noble Lords will have realised that I very much share those views, given the work that I was able to do previously in this realm.
My Lords, I, too, am grateful to my noble friend for the presentation that he made on the order. I am sure that the whole House also agrees with the noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, in the remarks with which she prefaced her contribution: that no one in this House doubts the severity and reality of the terrorist threat that we face.
However, we should look at the order in context. The fact that there have been no cases in the past year where it has been necessary for someone to be detained for more than 14 days is by no means an argument for saying, “Whoopee—the threat has passed!”. It demonstrates that the police do not willy-nilly hold people for up to 28 days because they have the power to do so. What we have seen in the past year is that the powers have been used appropriately, not excessively. The fact that in the past year there have been no individual instances where it has been necessary to hold someone for more than 14 days tells us nothing about whether the threat has increased or diminished in that period. Obviously, there would come a time if Parliament was asked year after year to approve such an order and there had been no cases in that period where anyone had been held for more than 14 days, when people would say that perhaps it was no longer necessary. But the mere passing of 12 months does not give us any such assurance.
Anyone who has looked at the history and frequency of major terrorist attacks over the past few years will see that there is a periodicity. There are often major attacks in the summer months. Those attacks are often extremely highly organised, involving a large number of people stretching across a number of jurisdictions. Those are precisely the cases where more than 14 days—and possibly 28 days; next week we will debate whether there should be circumstances in which a further extension might be possible—may be needed. Those cases remain. In the past year, we have seen some new developments. We have seen cases of two individuals—the cases are still to come forward—where it is alleged they acted alone to try to create a terrorist act.
If there are individuals who are not obviously operating as part of a network or who are not particularly visibly inspired by particular people, that again gives rise to questions about how the terrorist threat is changing. We may be seeing a variation in terrorist tactics over time. Therefore, the fact that no major plot appears to have been uncovered in the past year that has led to a requirement to detain people for more than 14 days does not mean the threat has disappeared and the order should not go through tonight. That is the most important lesson that emerges.
The mere fact that the Joint Committee on Human Rights has looked into these matters in such detail, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said, and the mere fact that we are debating the order seriously tonight and making serious points to which my noble friend Lord West will no doubt wish to respond, demonstrates that this cannot simply be done automatically, on the nod or without consideration. Moreover, while everyone in your Lordships’ House is mindful of the risk that actions such as approving this order tonight may be used by those who want to inspire people to go down the route of violent extremism, the fact that Parliament looks at these matters so seriously and debates them so clearly is also evidence that we are not intent on doing these things willy-nilly.
Of course my noble friend is also trying to find other steps and create mechanisms that will help to prevent violent extremism, and these are a necessary part of the picture, but it would be very dangerous to hobble the police by saying that they should not have the capacity to come before a court and argue the case for particular individuals to be held for 14 days in the next year. That would be a risk too far.
My Lords, I am grateful to those who have contributed to the debate this evening. I am very conscious that the Counter-terrorism Bill is fast coming down the track, and I am very much looking forward to that. There will be considerable debate on it, so I am grateful to noble Lords for making important comments. All of us in this House appreciate the seriousness of the terrorist threat that we face and the importance of having the right measures in place. We might have different views about how that should be done, but I know that we all acknowledge it. That has been reflected in the short but excellent contributions to the debate. As I said, we will have a considerably longer debate in a few weeks.
I shall respond briefly to the specific points that have been made. The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, asked a number of questions. She was interested first in how we can ask to assess the use of the 28 days. This goes to the fact that no one has been held for more than 14 days in the past year of review. My noble friend Lord Harris absolutely correctly pointed out that that indicates a number of things. One is that this is not used willy-nilly by our police force. There is careful thought about what has to be used. He is also absolutely right about the periodicity of these sorts of attacks. We are, as the director-general of the Security Service said, monitoring a large number of plots. I have to be careful at times about what I say. However, the complexity of major plots and when they are dismantled has an impact on the progression of further plots. It is cyclical. It would not be sensible to remove this statute because there has been nothing for the past 12 months, as that could change quite dramatically in the very near future. We need this in our back pocket for all the reasons that I think everyone in the debate has accepted.
The noble Baroness, Lady Neville-Jones, also asked when the Home Office review on statistics will be completed. I agree that this has not been as rapid as it should have been. I would have liked it to have been faster. We need to pull our finger out. It will come out in the autumn. That is a slightly inflexible timeline, but I will put pressure on it.
The noble Baroness also asked when the community impact review will be complete. We are considering the scope of the review now. We hope to have the initial findings out by the end of the year, although we have not scoped it yet. That is the way forward.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked what has changed since this time last year. I have to be very careful here. I am told off when I say this, but I am afraid that I am going to say it anyway: we are safer than we were 12 months ago. I say that because we have done a lot of very good things—a whole spread of things that I will not mention. We have a great quiver full of arrows that we use, but the threat level is still severe. There could be a bomb attack as I speak. That is why one has to be so very careful about saying that, but I think that we are safer. We have done some very good things. The National Counter Terrorism Security Office has been a huge success. The focus that it has put on co-ordination across government has been good. Is it perfect? Far from it. There are lots of things that we still have to do, but there are many specific areas in which I can say that we are safer because of this. As I say, however, that does not mean that we are safe. The threat that we face is huge. Anything could happen at any moment, but we have achieved a great deal.
My answer to the noble Baroness is that we have achieved things. As I said, I probably should not have said that. I am sure that I will be told off by the media people in government for having done so, but I believe that to be the case. Given the effort made by a resource of very bright, hard-working people across government and in the police force, in SO15 and the agencies, that is only to be expected. Considerable resources have been put in, although the threat level, as I say, is still severe.
All speakers in the debate tonight are aware of the balance of rights. We are all believers in habeas corpus, and we are always balancing this terribly difficult thing—the freedom of the individual, which is so crucial to our nation and for which tens of thousands of people have died throughout our history, and the right of our population to live their lives normally as they are entitled to do. That is a very important right, too. We must balance these things, but it is not easy. There is no easy equation in a democracy to do that, but those are absolutely the right things.
On the question of taking people through the judicial process and convicting them, it is interesting that, so far in 2008, 32 people have been convicted in 10 significant terrorist cases. Of those 32, 11 pleaded guilty. We are not going far wrong in identifying people by intelligence, getting the evidence and taking them to trial. In 2007, 36 individuals were convicted in 14 significant terrorist cases, of whom 21 pleaded guilty. That is really quite an achievement.
The more we do this, the more we can get across to people—to the Muslim community—that there is a real risk and that we are trying to do things properly. That is the right way of doing things, but at times it is extremely difficult because, as I say, we have to move quickly. Some of the things that these people wish to do are just horrifying. They want to cause mass casualties among innocent people. Therefore we have to act quickly, and we have to act earlier than one would like to in collecting evidence. That is just a fact of life. I would never want to be in the position in which, because we have adjusted things, the Security Service and particularly the police say, “Let’s just leave it for a couple more days because we want to get that evidence”. If something happened in that couple of days that killed hundreds of our people, I would find that very difficult to live with. That is one of the real problems.
My noble friend Lord Judd made some very important points. We read very carefully what the Joint Committee on Human Rights says, and what it says is very important. It is certainly not taken lightly; it is very important to us. We go through the review very carefully, and it is very important that we do exactly that.
I have said on the Floor of the House that the report of the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, was not published far enough in advance. The Home Office received it on 15 June, and we published it on 23 June. That is not good enough, and we need to do better. People need to be allowed to look at it so that they can make the correct comments. We are aware of that and we must do better. We are working with the independent reviewer to ensure that these reports are published in good time in the future. The role of the independent reviewer is set out in statute, and it is open to Members of this House to propose amendments to the Counter-Terrorism Bill if they want to change it. That could easily be done.
On the judicial process and the judiciary, perhaps I am wrong in this, but I have immense faith in our judges. Having seen one of these processes at Paddington Green, I was impressed by the rigour of what went on. Perhaps it is not absolutely perfect, but my goodness, the judge went into great detail; people there were defending while others in a sense were prosecutors, and all the intelligence and other evidence was looked at. It was a thorough scrutiny. One could debate the issue at length, but overall the system is good and serves as a protection for people in this position—and we are talking about a very small number where there is a lot of intelligence that can be used against them. But, of course, intelligence is not evidence.
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way. He has emphasised how far the system goes to try to ensure fair play. When I was still serving on the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we visited Paddington Green and looked at where these proceedings are conducted. It is fair to say that none of us had realised before that sometimes the judge is not present in the room in which the proceedings are taking place, but is in video contact with it. However, the people carrying out the interrogation are sitting in the room. Can my noble friend give an assurance that that practice does not continue? I cannot speak for the committee as a whole, but I for one did not find it convincing when we were told by the police, first, that anyone who wants to go before the judge in his chambers or elsewhere could do so, and secondly, that transporting a defendant to a judge’s chambers creates a huge disruption to London traffic. That is hardly a convincing case for departing from the normal expectations in the administration of justice. It would be helpful if I could be reassured that this matter has been seriously addressed.
My Lords, perhaps I may respond to my noble friend in writing on that point because I am not sure of the exact position.
My noble friend Lord Harris was absolutely right to make the point that this should be used sparingly. I have talked about the cyclical nature of the threat in the sense that if you manage to unwind a complicated plot, it takes time for these things to be built up again through links. However, I have to be careful of what I say in order not to tread in sensitive areas. My noble friend also made the interesting point about the alleged self-starters, one in Bristol and another in Exeter. If this is a variation on terrorist tactics, it means that the issue will have to be looked at in a different way. Some interesting issues have to be teased out in this area.
Overall, it is clear that this House understands what kind of threat we face, and that it is very different from that posed by the IRA. This is a threat to our way of life made by people who do not mind dying themselves and who wish to cause mass innocent casualties. That is a very different thing and has to be taken extremely seriously. As I said, I know that we hold different views about exactly how it should be done, but we share the belief that in the final analysis we have to protect and look after our people. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions.
On Question, Motion agreed to.
Education and Skills Bill
House again in Committee.
[Amendment No. 50 not moved.]
Clause 10 [Local education authority to promote fulfilment of duty imposed by section 2]:
[Amendments Nos. 51 and 52 not moved.]
53: Clause 10, page 5, line 40, at end insert—
“( ) The duty in subsection (1) applies to all such persons who are under the supervision of the local authority youth offending team, including those in custody.”
The noble Baroness said: We now move with this group of amendments to Clause 10, which imposes a duty on local authorities to implement the main requirements of the Bill. Theirs is the responsibility to identify and chase up all those young people aged 16 and 17 who are not in school or in college, or in work with training, and to ensure that they are either in a job which includes the requisite training element or that they are helped to get back into education or a job with training. Theirs is the responsibility to find the mentors to counsel these young people with complex needs and to act as their advocates if they stray from the designated path. Theirs, too, is the responsibility to set up the individualised learning programmes to suit the needs of these young people.
Amendment No. 53 reminds local authorities that they also have the responsibility to look to the education and training needs of young people who are in the care of youth offending teams or in custody. During the passage through this House of the Children and Young Persons Bill earlier this year, we had much discussion on the needs of young people who were in custody or under the care of the youth offending teams. Indeed, many noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, were passionately concerned that they should continue to get the care from local authorities that they would receive if they were, in that particular case, looked-after young people. The need for continuing mentoring and friendship through the social services is a necessary part of their lives.
Equally, there was on the part of many noble Lords some scepticism about the degree to which local authorities had the capacity to meet these requirements; that on many occasions they rather conspicuously failed to deliver on their duties towards looked-after children and others with complex social and educational needs. This is where Amendments Nos. 58 and 65 come in. Local authorities do not deliver on their duties because often they do not have the resources to do so. Amendment No. 58 expressly concerns resources. Money for schools is now directly mandated by the Treasury and ring-fenced for this purpose in local authority budgets—the term is “passported directly to the schools”. Presumably this will also be true of the further education colleges once the LSC has been abolished. Perhaps the Minister will confirm that the 16 to 19 element of funding, which currently comes through the LSC, will be part of the schools’ budgets and meet the same rules of being passported through. The division of these sums between schools is now the job of the schools forums. Amendment No. 58 reminds those forums of the new responsibilities which fall on local authorities.
Amendment No. 65 adds the words “and reasonable” to the caveats in Clause 12. Local authorities do not have infinite resources. The cost of pursuing young people who are supposedly in their area of responsibility possibly to all parts of the planet is just not feasible. What is possible may carry a totally unacceptable cost to the taxpayer.
Amendments Nos. 57 and 67 put the onus on the local authorities to establish whether the young person has special educational needs which need to be addressed. Amendment No. 67 had been proposed to us by TreeHouse and the National Autistic Society. In their briefing, they remind us that autism is a complex condition that affects one in 100 school-age children. Children with autism represent 16.2 per cent of the children with statements of special educational needs. There are many barriers faced by young people with autism and their families in the current education system. More than 40 per cent of children with autism are bullied at school. Statistics on exclusion rates from school further indicate the problems faced: 27 per cent of children with autism have been excluded from school, a quarter of them on more than one occasion. Pupils with special educational needs are nine times more likely to be permanently excluded from school than the rest of the school population. In the past few years, there has been an increase in the number of pupils with special educational needs on fixed-period exclusions.
Despite these shockingly poor indicators of the experiences of children with autism, education is accepted as the best intervention. It is essential that the existing problems are dealt with to ensure that those children and young people already in the education system have positive experiences to ensure that they wish