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Lords Chamber

Volume 719: debated on Monday 28 June 2010

House of Lords

Monday, 28 June 2010.

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

Introduction: Lord Kennedy of Southwark

Roy Francis Kennedy, Esquire, having been created Baron Kennedy of Southwark, of Newington in the London Borough of Southwark, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Gould of Potternewton and Baroness McDonagh, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Baroness Benjamin

Floella Karen Yunies Benjamin OBE, having been created Baroness Benjamin, of Beckenham in the County of Kent, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Dholakia and Baroness Scott of Needham Market, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale

The right honourable Jack Wilson McConnell, having been created Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale, of the Isle of Arran in Ayrshire and Arran, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Baroness Smith of Gilmorehill and Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Lord Saatchi took the oath.

Death of a Member: Lord Flowers


My Lords, I regret to inform the House of the death of Lord Flowers on 25 June. On behalf of the whole House, I extend our condolences to his family and friends.

Commonwealth Games: Delhi


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of India regarding the funding arrangements of the Delhi Commonwealth Games.

My Lords, we have maintained close dialogue with Indian officials responsible for all aspects of the Commonwealth Games. According to the chairman of the organising committee, Mr Kalmadi, the costs of the Delhi Commonwealth Games will be met by the revenues generated through the sale of broadcasting rights, sponsorship, and ticket and merchandise sales.

I thank the Minister for his reply. However, is he not very disturbed by the report of the Housing and Land Rights Network, released by a former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, showing that money which had previously been earmarked for the uplift of the poor—particularly the poorer castes—had been used to finance these Games, which have run hugely over budget? Will he, with other Commonwealth countries, raise this with the Indian Government?

Yes, my Lords, we were disturbed, and indeed the Secretary of State launched an immediate inquiry when some of these statements and allegations appeared in the media. However, although the noble and right reverend Lord is correct about the likely overrun of costs—which were estimated to be £250 million but are probably going to be considerably more than that—from our examination we are satisfied and have full confidence that the Games will be properly financed and that there will be no diversion from the very important funds that go via the Indian Government and DfID to the scheduled castes, slum clearance and other crucial issues. Therefore, we have full confidence in India’s commitment to deliver a secure and successful Commonwealth Games and to avoid the very problems that have been raised.

My Lords, the noble Lord used the word “examination” in relation to what was happening over the costs but he also said that a statement had been made on behalf of the organising authority that the costs were being drawn in the way that he described. When he used the word “examination”, did he mean that he and the Secretary of State have had the opportunity for independent verification or are they proceeding on the basis of an assurance?

My Lords, before the Minister finishes on this Question, will he return to the point that my noble and right reverend friend made about the impact on the poorest people in India? Can he say a word more about the effect on the scheduled classes, to whom he referred, and particularly on the Dalits, and whether this will be seen as an opportunity to draw people from those underclasses—the untouchables—in India into the wider civic life of the nation?

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is right to say that this should be seen as an opportunity and I hope very much that it will be. I mentioned the Indian Government’s major slum clearance programmes, which must be going in the right direction. I believe that, far from being a disadvantage for those sorts of programmes, projects such as the Commonwealth Games can be a positive opportunity for, as the noble Lord said, drawing minorities and ethnic groups more effectively into proper civil life and the civic stream in India. We have full confidence that that can be achieved.

My Lords, we will all be glad to hear the assurance given by the Minister. It is particularly important because during the passage of the Equality Bill—I wonder whether he is aware of this—the previous Government, with cross-party support, included caste discrimination as a form of unfair treatment that should be dealt with. At the time, the Indian Government made some representations against that, which I am glad to say the then Government did not heed. Would he bear that in mind in ensuring that the assurance he has given is implemented in practice?

My Lords, that is a very valuable observation. I did not know that and I am very glad that I do now. I am grateful to the noble Lord.

My Lords, at the moment, we stand as the 18th largest exporter to India, whereas 10 years ago we were the fourth largest. Will the Minister please explain, first, how we can use the Commonwealth Games to improve on that awful decline; and, secondly, why are we giving, through DfID, aid to a nation which has quadrupled its defence budget in the past three years?

My Lords, on the first point, the Commonwealth Games are part of an ever growing and stronger Commonwealth network, in which I take a particular interest. I believe that it can be of great advantage to all developing countries, including India—and to ourselves and our prosperity, exports and interests. The noble Lord is quite right on that point.

On the issue of aid, India is a country which still contains one-third of the world’s poor people, which is an enormous number. Part of our growing and enhanced relationship with India includes the immensely well targeted DfID programmes which are aimed at meeting the absolutely unbelievable poverty that still exists in India. Those programmes are, of course, greatly welcomed by the Indian Government and the Governments of the various states within India.

My Lords, have I missed something? Is India not a sovereign nation and is it really our business to tell it how much money it should or should not spend on the Commonwealth Games?

No, it is not our business. We have negligible influence on the matter and I would not presume to tell India how much it should spend. It will manage perfectly successfully and it does not need any additional comment from us, except helpful and friendly advice, which we are always ready to give.

My Lords, I am not 100 per cent sure, but I do not think it has. This is a very big and important development for India and I think they will be the biggest Commonwealth Games held so far, with many participants from all over the world.

Immigration: Refugee and Migrant Justice


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their reaction to the probable closure of Refugee and Migrant Justice.

My Lords, since this Question was tabled, Refugee and Migrant Justice has been placed into administration. The Government’s immediate concern was that the clients of RMJ should continue to receive a good-quality service.

My Lords, as other practitioners specialising in asylum cases—particularly, although not exclusively, those who operate on a not-for-profit basis—have had similar cash-flow problems to those of the RMJ, what steps are the Government taking to ensure that the LSC may be able to find providers to take on the RMJ’s 10,000 cases? Will my noble friend acknowledge that there will be serious delays in looking after those cases, first, because the new providers will have to get to know what the cases are, and, secondly, because they do not know whether they will be funded in the spending round that begins on 1 October?

My Lords, I will take the last point first. Yes, there is bound to be a certain amount of disruption if an organisation that covers 7 per cent of cases goes into administration. However, I can assure the House that the Government are giving high priority to minimise that disruption. On whether other non-profit-making practitioners are facing difficulty, it is true that there have been complaints about the change in funding and fees, which was made by the previous Administration with an eye to saving taxpayers’ money. The change is not popular but, as my right honourable friend the Lord Chancellor said in another place, the organisations are coping. Trying to balance the good work that these organisations are doing against the taxpayers’ not-bottomless pot is difficult.

My Lords, I am delighted that the Minister has praised those who worked for Refugee and Migrant Justice, which over a number of years did an excellent job. I am also delighted that the Legal Services Commission is ensuring that the existing clients of that organisation continue to have proper advice and representation. Are there estimates of the extra cost to the Legal Services Commission in ensuring that proper advice and representation from fresh providers?

There are no estimates on that. There will be an extra cost, but Ministers had to face a balance of judgment: did they take into account that RMJ was going into administration and that therefore there would be knock-on costs, or did they give it more taxpayers’ money with no guarantee that it would not again find itself in difficulty in a short time? It was a hard call but, as the noble Lord knows full well, sometimes Ministers have to make hard calls.

Will the Minister confirm that the problem faced by RMJ is the consequence of payments being made only after decisions are taken by the Home Office, or by the tribunal, in an individual immigration case, and that that can take two years or more? Will the Government therefore consider introducing a system of interim payments so that competent and efficient organisations such as RMJ are not threatened with closure?

My Lords, if the description “competent and efficient” was correct for RMJ, one asks how it managed to get itself into administration. It represents 7 per cent of cases, so organisations representing 93 per cent are coping. Again, it was a difficult decision to make and I know that there have been complaints about the tough system of paying. However, we are dealing with taxpayers’ money and there is justification for ensuring that the organisations provide value for it. It may be worth noting that, in the round of bids, double the number of law firms are bidding for this business. That suggests that RMJ is not alone and that companies believe that they can deliver the service under the present scheme.

My Lords, reports are circulating that the UK Border Agency is refusing to grant extensions to RMJ clients in order that they might find new representation. It is saying that clients can raise any issues that they have with such a refusal at the time of an appeal. That is not only terrible for clients, but it is also poor value for money, because the appeal process is extraordinarily expensive. What advice, if any, is being given to the UK Border Agency in this respect?

My Lords, the UK Border Agency has been asked to treat RMJ clients with common sense and to allow time during this period of adjustment. Therefore, according to my briefing, the right reverend Prelate’s first assertion is not true.

My Lords, RMJ says that it is owed £1.8 million by the Legal Services Commission. Is that the correct figure? The Legal Services Commission was supposed to be abolished by the noble Lord, Lord Bach. Will the coalition Government revive it, or would it not be better for it to disappear as soon as possible?

Again, dealing with the last point first, I am not even sure whether that is under review, but I certainly cannot give an answer. On the matter of money owing, a case from RMJ will be heard on Wednesday, so I am not sure how much I can comment on it, other than to say that it is the view of the Government and the LSC that no moneys are owing to RMJ. Indeed, when the books are finally balanced, it may prove to be the other way around.

My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Bach, the Minister said that he had to strike a balance. He also said that he did not know what it was going to cost. How does he strike a balance when he does not know what it is going to cost?

Because Ministers have to take a view on whether paying out money to an organisation that has gone into administration is a better deal for the taxpayer than making the adjustments necessary to give the clients—as I said at the beginning, the clients are our first priority—the legal coverage that they deserve. Of course, during this period of adjustment, we do not know the final cost, but a decision had to be made. As I said, sometimes Ministers have to make hard decisions and we made this one.

Nuclear Posture Review


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is the scope and timing of the proposed nuclear posture review announced by the Foreign Secretary on 26 May.

My Lords, the review of the UK’s nuclear declaratory policy announced by the Foreign Secretary will take place as part of the strategic defence and security review. We will re-examine all the factors that make up our declaratory policy to ensure that it is fully appropriate to the circumstances we face today and into the future. The Government expect to report their findings from the strategic defence and security review in the autumn.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. It is very helpful that that will be brought together with the other matters in this very broad security review. Can he confirm that the nuclear posture review, which is the object of my Question, will include a critical analysis of the justification for the “continuous at-sea” aspect of our present nuclear posture? Does he agree that that requirement was related to the Cold War need to deter the threat of a Soviet first strike and that, as that threat is no longer considered to exist by the NATO alliance, the grounds for maintaining the requirement of “continuous at-sea” no longer exists either?

No, I cannot confirm that. The nuclear posture review, which will be in the context of the SDSR, will include questions such as our approach to nuclear-free zones and our assurances given to non-nuclear states who have signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. The review of Trident will focus on value for money and will be separate. It will look at whether it is possible to stick to the constant at-sea deterrent system, to which we are committed, with three boats rather than four. That is what it will examine. It will be a separate review from the SDSR plus nuclear posture review, which will be plugged together.

Will the Minister confirm that the parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty undertake to enter into negotiations in good faith for nuclear disarmament and, afterwards, for a treaty on general and complete disarmament? Are the Government proposing any steps to initiate such negotiations, or at least to encourage them? If not, why not?

As the noble and learned Lord knows well because he follows these things closely, the advances and progress made at the recent review of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty pointed in that direction. The general desire, which is long-term but to be achieved step by cautious, realistic and practical step, is a non-nuclear world. That is what we all want to see, but progress towards it has to be through the kind of arrangements and protocol developments that were organised at the non–proliferation treaty gathering the other day. That was a considerable advance, and I am very glad that we were able to report our own decisions to reinforce it further with our declaration of the number of maximum stockpile warheads we would close. It is the right direction, but we have to move carefully.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is important to maintain the momentum towards nuclear disarmament? In particular, will the nuclear posture review look at the alert status of our deterrent? Obviously moving towards having a longer period in which people have time to consider their reaction is a very important part of moving the momentum towards disarmament.

I agree with the noble Baroness that this is an important part of the developments. The review conclusions were very encouraging—they were not all-embracing, but certainly took us some steps forward. I will note what the noble Baroness said.

My Lords, the United States is making its posture a legislatively mandated review. Given the sensitivity of the subject, would it not be appropriate to do so in the United Kingdom in line with our consideration of UK future declarations of war?

I am not quite sure that this relates directly to what we are discussing at the moment, but I note what the noble Viscount said.

My Lords, the Government’s approach to the future of Trident is central to any nuclear posture review, as the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, intimated. Will the Minister tell the House how the strong preference of one of the coalition partners for alternatives to Trident renewal will be taken into account in a future review scrutinising spending to ensure value for money?

There will be a review, as undertaken in the coalition agreement, and the coalition partners will be free to express their views, as they have said they will. I have no doubt that there will be a very healthy, realistic and sensible analysis of the situation, but the overarching commitment is that, however we organise the matter, there must be a constant-at-sea deterrent that works, rather than one that does not work or costs a lot more money and involves a lot more missiles, as some alternatives would.

My Lords, given that many of the most significant developments in relations between nations in the past 30 or 40 years have been unpredicted and sometimes unpredictable, is it not important, in the context of what the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said about the deterrent being focused on the Cold War period, to recognise that if we were to lose the capability, it might be very difficult to get it back again if it were to be needed?

My Lords, is it not also reasonable to assume that had neither India nor Pakistan had nuclear weapons within the past 10 years, it is probable that they would have gone to war? Because they had nuclear weapons, they thought it would be a silly idea and so did not.

My noble friend is quite right. That could be a good example of the theory of mutual deterrence working. Perhaps, if we look back over the history of the past 50 years, it has worked.

Climate Change: UN Framework Convention


Asked By

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what approach they intend to take at the next Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

My Lords, the Government are committed to working towards an ambitious global climate deal that will limit emissions. We will be working with our international partners, both in the European Union and bilaterally, to secure practical progress in tackling climate change by the time of the next conference of parties in Cancun in November this year.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that response. Will he confirm that the Government acknowledge that the scientific evidence is clear that unless we mitigate the worst impact of climate change, countries of the world face catastrophe, and therefore an international agreement in Cancun is essential?

My Lords, rarely has so much political capital been spent in trying to reach that agreement in Copenhagen, so it is a bit much to ask that it will happen in Cancun. We are optimistic that, unlike the England football team, we might get a result in South Africa in 2011, but, as the noble Lord will know, we need to be patient and realistic and to develop a dialogue with countries that do not row in tune with us at the moment.

My Lords, given that, as my noble friend’s answer implies, a unilateral UK climate policy makes no sense in scientific, economic or political terms, will he give an undertaking that should Cancun not result in an ambitious and binding global agreement to cap emissions, the United Kingdom Government will fundamentally re-examine and re-evaluate our climate change and energy policies in the light of the outcome of Cancun? If not, why not?

I thank my noble friend Lord Lawson for his question. His views are widely known, and I compliment him, incidentally, for bringing a great wealth of knowledge to this debate. However, his views are, I am afraid, not in line with the Government’s policy. This Government are committed to a green agenda. Climate change is one of the gravest threats that we face as a nation and as a world. Urgent action at home and abroad is required to tackle it. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence from a range of independent sources indicates that global temperatures are rising due to human activities, and temperatures are set to increase over the coming century. It is our duty as a Government to solve these problems.

My Lords, one of the areas in which there was almost success at Copenhagen was deforestation and the REDD programme. Even if the grand scheme is not solved in Mexico, is it my noble friend the Minister’s judgment that we will move forward in this important area and find a solution? How are the Government approaching this at the moment?

I thank the noble Lord for his question. He brings unrivalled knowledge to this subject. As he well knows, 70 countries are working very closely to firm up some of the loose agreements that were made in Copenhagen. We are very committed to that dialogue and will continue that process in earnest.

Business of the House


My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde will now make a Statement on financial provision for Members. In the light of the subject matter, it may be for the convenience of the House if the Convenor of the Cross Benches is given the opportunity to intervene in the course of the Front-Bench exchange. If required, it may also be convenient to extend the maximum time allocated to Back-Bench questions and answers from 20 minutes to 30 minutes.

Immediately after proceedings on the first Statement have concluded, my noble friend will repeat a Statement entitled, “G8 and G20”.

Financial Provision for Members


My Lords, I wish to make a Statement on future financial provision for Members of this House.

In my view, we need fundamental change. None of us wants to live through again what we lived through in the last Parliament. In a House in which the overwhelming majority of Peers have always acted on their honour, we found ourselves severely criticised. All too often, that criticism was fully justified. The parliamentary expenses regime was opened up to public view, and the public saw a system that was badly broken. Difficult questions were asked, abuses were uncovered, apologies have been made and prosecutions are pending. We could not let this continue, and I pay tribute again to the contribution made by the noble Baroness, Lady Royall. Once problems were uncovered, she acted decisively, and the House is indebted to her.

We received a report from the Senior Salaries Review Body. Building on that report, my noble friend Lord Wakeham was invited to lead an ad hoc group to consider, consult and advise on the implementation of a new system of financial support. The group has now submitted its proposals to the House Committee, and its report, entitled Financial Support for Members of the House of Lords, is now available in the Printed Paper Office.

The Wakeham group supported the SSRB’s idea of combining the current daily subsistence and office costs allowances into one daily allowance. I agree with that. But the group suggests an alternative option, a simplification of the SSRB’s approach to overnight allowances by combining that, too, into one single daily allowance, payable on attendance on each sitting day. If this were done, it would mean the abolition of the expenses regime as we know it, and in future, payment for staying overnight, taxis, meals, secretaries and research assistants would all come out of that single payment. How much Peers spend on each item would be entirely up to them. There would be no extras, no small print. The single payment would be the end of the matter.

Under the current scheme, the maximum some Members may claim per day they attend is £334. The SSRB suggested that this should be £340. If we create a single uniform daily allowance, it should be set at a figure less than these two totals. I recommend £300. This is 10 per cent less than the current maximum and 12 per cent less than the figure recommended by the SSRB. Furthermore, there will be a lower rate at which Members can claim. I suggest that this should be 50 per cent lower at £150.

This is not a salaried House. Attendance will remain the key basis for the allowance—that is what the public expect. But in order to contribute effectively to the work of the House, Peers are often involved in preparatory and other work outside the Chamber and cannot attend, for example, for long periods in Committee. However, I believe that many will consider a lower rate appropriate, for example for Peers who are able to attend the House for only part of a sitting on a particular day.

We are rightly all under scrutiny for our use of public money and the public expect Members of the House to set the same high standards for themselves as they do for others. Some may feel they do not wish to ask for any payment at all. Based on provisional statistics, last year 13 per cent of those who attended the House did not claim any allowances. I hope that they will continue not to. The Wakeham group proposals cover a number of other important issues, including travel arrangements for Members. Its proposals will continue to recognise the additional costs faced by Peers who travel from long distances.

Axing through the current complex structure of expenses would represent radical change, but I believe that that would be right. It also holds other advantages. It would be cheaper to run than any more complex arrangements, less bureaucratic and less expensive to comply with, simpler to police and far harder to abuse. The controversial rules on so-called “second homes” would quite simply be swept away. There will be no more accusations of addresses of convenience, and no more juggling of utility bills and claims forms. If you come to Westminster and work in Parliament, you will be able to claim the allowance. If you do not, you will not.

This will mean a reduction in the amount that some Peers have claimed in the past. But in the present economic climate we cannot protest against a reduction. Indeed, in my own view, with a new system, levels of payments should be frozen for the life of this Parliament. I accept that this is a scheme that will not be welcomed by all, but it will be broadly cost-neutral compared with the existing scheme. The existing expenses regime is discredited. It lacks credibility and the public have lost confidence in it. This new plan means the end of the second homes fiasco. It means the end of expenses in the House of Lords. It means a new system that is direct, transparent and accountable. It means that we are making a significant step towards winning the public’s confidence again.

So, what next? The House Committee will meet soon to discuss the details of this proposal. Before the Summer Recess, I will table resolutions for the House’s approval. This House has suffered greatly from the faults of the previous system and the misbehaviour of a small minority. Ultimately, it is a matter for the House if it wants to make this change. The Government’s view is that we need clarity, simplicity and reform—and that the time for reform is now. I hope that your Lordships will agree, and I commend this Statement to the House.

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lady Royall, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, the Leader of the House, for making this Statement on financial support for Members of the House of Lords. I am also grateful to him for his acknowledgement of the actions taken previously by my noble friend.

This House is rightly jealous of its reputation. It makes an enormous contribution to this country in the scrutiny of legislation and in holding Governments to account, and to Parliament as a whole. It is important in maintaining public confidence in the integrity of this House and its Members that it has a financial support system which is fit for purpose. I add my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and the members of his group for the great care and attention that they have given to their work.

The noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has informed the House that in addition to the detailed work undertaken by the Wakeham group on the SSRB recommendations, it has also suggested that consideration should be given to putting in place a simplified allowance to replace the daily and overnight allowance recommended by the SSRB. This will of course be a matter for the House itself to decide. But the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, has stated that he intends to support the alternative simplified system set out in the Wakeham group report. I and my noble friend Lady Royall, the Leader of the Opposition, will also give our support to that recommendation.

I believe that the arguments for pursuing a simplified allowance are persuasive. Of course it has a swings-and-roundabouts characteristic about it, and there will be some inequities, as no system is ever likely to be perfect; but the simplified system should be easy to implement, easy to administer and, above all, easy to explain to the public.

We are embarking on a period of change to your Lordships’ House in the light of the Government’s proposals for reform and the establishment of a committee to prepare a draft Bill. It makes sense to move quickly to this new and simplified system, which can always be further reviewed as part of the reform process. I would be grateful for confirmation of that from the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde.

It is necessary and important that Members have the financial support necessary to undertake their duties. Equally, we must ensure that public money is spent wisely and efficiently. I have noted the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, that this will be cost-neutral and that the maximum level set will be lower than the current level. Can the noble Lord give some indication of when the House is likely to be asked to discuss and approve the new system? Can he confirm that the new system, if approved, will be in place by the time the House returns after the Summer Recess? Can he confirm also that the necessary administrative processes can be put in place in time?

Overall, we can see a sensible way forward which can command public confidence and support Members appropriately in the fulfilment of their responsibilities to your Lordships’ House.

My Lords, I add to the thanks already expressed to the Wakeham ad hoc group for its report, which I know has taken a great deal of time and may have caused a few more grey hairs. It is particularly helpful that the proposals put forward by the SSRB have in large part been accepted, thereby holding true to the resolution in this House last December to accept the principles and architecture of that report. One or two of the more strange recommendations have been ironed out, such as the need to separate man and wife when travelling in a first-class railway carriage.

I say this in anticipation of the debate which is due to be held tomorrow on House of Lords reform. Let no one say that this House does not undertake reform. In the space of less than a year we now have a stringent code of conduct, an active sub-committee on privileges and standards and greater financial transparency.

There is of course room for further adjustment, which is why the suggestion of a review in a year’s time is welcome. The Leader did not actually suggest that in his speech, but I think it is in the air. One area that continues to cause some concern is that the daily allowance is tied to presence, and this may affect disabled peers where daily attendance would in fact reduce productivity rather than enhance it. I again ask that there be some flexibility in the implementation of allowances.

The Government have now put forward a variation on the Wakeham proposals; namely, a fixed daily allowance for all attendees. As we have heard from all sides, the chief advantage of this proposal is that it would immediately lighten the burden on the finance office: no invoices, no verification measures and no end-of-term adjustments. Another advantage is that adoption of this proposal, as has also been stressed, would for ever pre-empt any accusations of fraudulent claims.

I can see the attraction of this simpler payment system and agree with the government proposal, but I also have some sympathy with those who live outside London and who stay in London for the purposes of attending your Lordships’ House. These people will be penalised to the extent of anything up to perhaps £700 per month, receiving only £300 per sitting day rather than £341 for a receipted overnight stay.

There will be those who argue that an allowance structure will inevitably invoke questions about tax. I feel that the sum of £300 per day to cover all secretarial, office and subsistence costs is not unduly generous, and that any further reduction would seriously deter some Peers from attending at all. It would be helpful for those Peers who live in more distant parts for a distinction to be made, in any publication of costs incurred, between the actual total allowances for a given month and the travel costs, since these expenses are paid directly and thus are not part of any allowance.

The stated aim of the SSRB recommendations was to restore public confidence. I suspect that public confidence will ultimately rest upon more than the size of a daily fee; it is to be hoped that this House will be judged on the work that it does in improving legislation. That said, the changes put forward in the SSRB, the Wakeham report and the noble Lord the Leader’s Statement are all to be welcomed.

My Lords, I am grateful for the broad welcome given by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, and the noble Baroness the Convenor of the Cross Benches. I understand why the Leader of the Opposition could not be in her place today, and I am glad that the noble Lord stood in for her in such an excellent manner.

I think the whole House should thank my noble friend Lord Wakeham and congratulate him on the work that he did. He took on an immensely difficult task after the debate that we had last December. It was not clear to me that anyone would be able to find their way around this particular maze, with so many different groups of people wanting different things and dissatisfied with what was being presented. It is a real credit. He did not manage to find his way through alone, though; he did so with the help of a group of individuals from all sides of the House who no doubt helped and encouraged him in his work.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, asked some specific questions, particularly about how long I anticipate this process will take and when the new regime will come into force. It is important that we move quickly to the new regime. The House Committee will therefore meet very soon and take a view on resolutions that will be proposed by me. If they are agreed they will be brought to the House. I hope that this will be done in the course of the next few weeks—certainly before the Summer Recess, because I envisage the new regime coming into force on 1 October. The current regime will continue until then.

We will need resolutions, in part to allow the authorities of the House to take them into account when they are creating the new system. I do not believe that anything I have said about the new system will give the authorities in the House of Lords any concern at all about being able to administer the scheme effectively, efficiently and more cheaply than was envisaged under the scheme proposed by the SSRB.

Turning to the points made by the Convenor of the Cross Benches, I recognise that some will be concerned about a net reduction in the amount of money they receive. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, said, this is not a perfect system—nor does it try to be. It tries simply to iron out the worst of the difficulties that we have seen in the current system and the proposed scheme, and it has taken all those things into account.

The noble Baroness was right about all the changes that have taken place during the past 12 months. We have a new code of conduct, a new independent Commissioner for Standards, and we are reviewing the attendance allowances. For the House of Lords, it is a positively revolutionary pace.

The noble Baroness mentioned taxation. That is not a matter for me; it is up to HMRC and the Treasury. However, if the previous scheme was without tax, there must be compelling arguments for this scheme also to be without tax, given that many of the expenses which Peers have are very similar.

The Clerk of the Parliaments has discretion to allow some additional expenses for disabled Members. Nothing in the Wakeham committee report seeks to change that, and there is no reason why it should not continue. The Clerk of the Parliaments has in the past demonstrated an ability and willingness to look favourably on people who need those additional expenses, and I am sure that he will want to continue to do so.

Perhaps it might assist the House if I said a word as chairman of the ad hoc committee. In carrying out our work, we stuck firmly to our remit, which was to stay within the principles and architecture of the SSRB report. However, is my noble friend aware that we found it a complex task to come up with a final solution, which is why we floated the idea of an alternative that would be simpler and cheaper to administer and easier to explain to the outside world? Therefore, I very much support my noble friend’s Statement. As a member of the House Committee, I shall certainly support his proposal.

I have already said how grateful the House should be to my noble friend. He has come up with an immensely useful and helpful report. It is now in the Printed Paper Office and I hope that noble Lords will take the trouble to read it.

Is the noble Lord aware that there was unanimity in the Wakeham committee right up to the point of our last meeting? At that meeting, the idea of a flat-rate allowance was introduced. As a result of that discussion, I entered a footnote of reservation to the Wakeham committee report, because I do not think that considering that flat-rate allowance fitted with the mandate of the House, which was to work within the structure and architecture of the SSRB report. There was no such reference in the SSRB report, hence my note of reservation. The particular reasons for there being dissent also in the detail will come out in the debate, but let it not be said that the idea fitted in with the architecture and the principles of the SSRB report. That is why there is a note of reservation.

The noble Lord is right that it did not fit into the SSRB’s original report, but that is why my noble friend’s committee chose to offer it up as an alternative—as I understand it—in the light of its discussions. If the noble Lord reads the document, as I have done, he will see a remorseless logic that took the committee from where it started to its providing this idea as an alternative. It is an alternative taken in the round, looking at the bureaucratic costs, at each Peer being treated equally and at the end of the expenses regime, which I have found attractive.

I welcome the Statement from the Leader of the House, for three separate reasons. The first is clearly spelt out—the system itself is simple to operate. It removes the complexity of the present system, which has resulted in adverse publicity in the media. Also, it has the least resource implications for administering the system. I have two questions. First, will the noble Lord explain whether there will be a built-in review procedure? The last thing that we should ever do is to determine the allowance applicable to us; we should allow an independent element to determine that. Secondly, will he establish some system of monitoring, given the concerns raised in the past about young people, women and people from ethnic minorities in the prime of their careers? Would the type of review that we are suggesting take those factors into account so that such people are not inhibited from becoming Members of this House?

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Dholakia for his broad welcome. It was important to hear a senior member of the Liberal Democrat Benches on what is, after all, a House matter and I welcome his words. I have not at this stage recommended a built-in review procedure. It is my personal view that the level that we set should be the one set for the rest of this Parliament. Last week, we saw in the Budget proposals for freezing public sector pay and many other aspects, as well as cuts in the public sector more generally. I think that it is a sensible approach to freeze these amounts. As for a system of monitoring, I should emphasise that one reason why I have recommended this proposal is that it is for the interim period between now and when we potentially pass legislation for a future reformed House. That is another reason why it is attractive. Between now and then, I am sure that many people will monitor those who arrive in your Lordships’ House—new Peers. There are reasons why people from ethnic minorities and those raising a family may find the certainty of the new arrangements rather more attractive than the old expenses regime.

My Lords, I do not want to challenge in any way the recommendations of my noble friend the Leader of the House but, for clarification, was the proposal of my noble friend Lord Wakeham accepted by the committee or was it not?

Oh yes, my Lords, the proposal was made by the committee in the report. The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, explained his position extremely well; he put in a reservation because he felt that the proposal did not fit the mandate of the committee when it was originally set out.

My Lords, the Leader of the House made reference in outlining the scheme, which he supports, to an upper and lower level at which the flat rate might be paid. Could he give some indication of what criteria would be used to determine when the upper or lower rate was appropriate? If it is to be based on period of attendance—half day versus full day, as I have seen suggested—how would half a day and a full day be defined and how would attendance be validated?

My Lords, the noble Lord asks an extremely sensible question, one which is not entirely easy to deal with. There is a perception among those outside this House that a few minutes’ attendance reaps the benefits of large sums of money. In my experience, both as a former Chief Whip and as Leader of the House, I regard these abuses to have been exceedingly small; nevertheless, there is that perception. I am also aware that there are some Peers who, because of the nature of their outside work and for other reasons, do not spend a great deal of time in the House. It was felt in the discussions that I had that we should offer an alternative—a lower sum of £150.

Ultimately, it can only be up to the judgment of each individual Peer where and how they make that claim. A Peer may spend only half an hour in the House on a given day but, if they spent the morning reading and preparing for a complicated Committee stage on the next day, how are we to judge whether that time was well spent? In the end, all these claims will be made public. I hope that, with the co-operation of the House Committee and the House authorities, we will be able to make these claims known electronically on a rolling basis so that it will be easy to attach contributions to the amount of money claimed. That will create an internal accountability, which will be useful to Peers and public alike.

My Lords, I hope that I am correct in understanding my noble friend as having indicated that the new scheme will be wholly divorced from the actual expenses incurred by Members of this House in coming here and undertaking their duties. I think that that is right—the noble Lord is nodding. Therefore, his remarks vis-à-vis taxation assume a more important light. I go back to what he started by saying, which is that this House and, indeed, the other place came under a great deal of unwelcome public scrutiny over the expenses arrangements and that the trust in both Houses was severely dented. Some may think that those wounds are not entirely healed. Would it therefore be acceptable if the noble Lord and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, and his group were to work on the basis that, whatever arrangements are come to vis-à-vis taxation, we have to accept that the allowance will now leave some Members of this place with substantial remuneration—that is to say, a return well in excess of anything incurred by way of expenses—and that it surely cannot be acceptable that this place, of all places, should expect a privilege in tax terms over any other citizen of this land? For us to say that it is much simpler to claim the entitlement and be done with it is fair enough, but that surely cannot satisfy the test that every other person has to live by, which is that, in terms of the tax charge, they can claim only those expenses actually incurred.

My Lords, my noble friend is entirely correct to point out that the reason why we are even discussing this is because trust has been dented, not just in this House but substantially in another place. Both Houses are, in their own way, trying to find their way through this to come out at the other end with a greater understanding between the public and Parliament, so that we can try to rebuild that trust. My noble friend is also entirely correct to say that this is a move away from the expenses regime. We are not asking Peers to demonstrate what they have spent. In fact, we are not hugely interested in what Peers spend their money on, in where they stay or, indeed, in whom they stay with. What we are interested in is: have they turned up? Have they made a contribution? What should the value of that be?

The SSRB suggested in its report that in due course the expenses regime that it proposed should be taxed. I take no particular view on that. I am not an accountant and it is not a decision for me. It may well be a decision for HMRC and the Treasury to take in due course. My further understanding is that, if tax were payable, that would require legislation and that, if tax were taken off, no doubt many Peers would make the case for some sort of rerating to make an allowance for taxation. These are all issues for another day.

There is another view, which I laid out a few minutes ago. We hope that there will be legislation on a reformed House. If there is a reformed, elected House, those Peers—or senators, or whatever they are—will be paid. There is then the prospect in that legislation for another independent body—perhaps IPSA itself—to look at what the recommendations should be.

My Lords, does the Leader accept that there are people around the House, including me, who may be significantly worse off under the new regime but who none the less welcome the proposal that has come from the noble Lord this afternoon? I agree substantially with the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. If we go ahead with this, we cannot expect to retain all the advantages of both the previous system and the new system and to suffer no change in how our tax status is viewed. The main benefit of the new proposal is that it ensures that the way in which your Lordships may be supported or remunerated—the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, suggested that it might amount to remuneration in future—bears some clear relationship to how people outside this House are paid for their services. As well as transparency and accountability, it feels at this moment as though we should be demonstrating not that we are so different from the rest of the world that we cannot be treated in the same way as other people, but that our work bears a distinct and reasonable relationship to what is done elsewhere and therefore we should be treated very similarly to people outside this House.

I thank the noble Baroness, particularly for her remark that she was likely to be one of those Peers who might end up with a little less money than under the old regime but still felt that this was the right way to go. That is a very sensible conclusion to come to. It also puts us on a different footing from the expenses regime. Some Members of this House will take some time to appreciate the difference in the change that has taken place. Expenses will no longer be claimed. There will be an allowance, depending on attendance. The noble Baroness is right: that brings the relationship to the general public closer. There was a time, perhaps many years ago, when the fact that Peers were unpaid and received an element of expenses was justifiable. As the years have gone by, that has become increasingly difficult to justify, which is why we need to make the change.

My Lords, one of the most attractive things that the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, has enabled the Leader to say today is that this will be cost-neutral, because the public, as they look at this, will ask, “Will there be an increase in what Members of the House of Lords receive in the future?”. However, is one of the other attractions not the simplicity of the system? It removes some of the ambiguities that many of us have felt uneasy about in the past. In responding, could the Leader return to the question that my noble friend Lady D’Souza asked about the separation of money that is claimed for travel? That is never received by any individual Peer and yet appears in the receipts of money that is claimed by Members of your Lordships’ House. There is surely a desire on all our parts to continue to encourage those of us who come from the far-flung parts of the United Kingdom to carry on coming here; we do not want to turn your Lordships’ House into a purely metropolitan establishment that draws only on Greater London. Is it not important that we show that separation? I also ask the Leader about the position of staff. Members of your Lordships’ House have research assistants or secretarial staff who are currently supported during recess with a specific payment. What will be their position in the future?

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Alton, made a straightforward case for the attractions of this in that it removes ambiguities with which many Peers have felt uncomfortable. Although they believe that they were on the right side of the line, they felt that they still had to explain themselves and to justify the position that they had taken. At a stroke, those ambiguities are removed. It is my assessment, with a little help from the House authorities, that this is cost-neutral. Potentially, there will be an added advantage of a reduction in the cost of the bureaucracy should we have had a more complex system of expenses.

Travel expenses will continue to be paid as before, although my noble friend Lord Wakeham and his committee make one or two suggestions on the SSRB’s report. There is already a different column for the declaration of travel expenses. I agree with the noble Lord that it is sometimes unfair that, because a Peer’s travel expenses are very high because they come from the far-flung parts of the United Kingdom, that puts them at the top of the list of those who have claimed expenses. Every year, we urge the media when they report on these things to take the travel expenses firmly into account. As the noble Lord has seen, they do not always listen to what I regard as wise advice.

Staff will be paid for by Members out of whatever resources they have, including the new £300 allowance. It will be up to Members to decide how best to do that over the year. There will be no extra or additional secretarial allowance paid during sitting days or recesses.

My Lords, perhaps I may reinforce the comment made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, about good employment practice with members of personal staff, particularly secretaries, who cannot be laid off in terms of good employment practice for three months in the summer and then reappointed. There may be something to be looked at further than that. On a broader point, has the noble Lord considered that, in pursuing the question of House of Lords reform and the endless question of how to deal with those Members of the House who are already here, if we abandon, as he is proposing, an expenses regime, one of the issues in principle about getting people to retire or asking them to leave will be overcome because there will be no reason why, in principle, some sort of pension should not be paid to them?

My Lords, it is typical of the noble Baroness to raise such a deeply controversial subject in the manner that she has. Tomorrow, we will spend many hours discussing all these issues. No doubt, the question of transition will come up. The noble Baroness, with all her experience, has spotted that in terms of transition there is a real difficulty about how we move from one House to the other. I can assure her that these issues are uppermost in our minds.

My Lords, in relation to the point on tax, which was raised by my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury, the noble Lord may not be aware—although obviously the Leader of the House will be aware—that in the detailed documents attached to the Budget Statement, it is said that HMRC will have to amend the rules to enshrine the long-established practice that expenses received by Members of another place are not taxable. In other words, it is proposed to retain the system whereby Members of another place are not taxed on their expenses because, as the note says, with the arrival of IPSA the determination of expenses for the House of Commons is no longer quite the same. That is being dealt with in another place.

On the more general point, it is welcome that transparency and simplicity are important and overriding considerations. There is another consideration as to whether the taxpayer will regard £300 a day as good value for money. Is it a little bit relevant that for many professions such as doctors, accountants, lawyers and others, £300 buys about one hour of their time?

My Lords, what my noble friend said about taxation, HMRC and Members of another place shows how complicated this issue is. There is already a whole variety of rules for Parliament and, as the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, if you give money to research assistants, it is almost going through individuals’ hands, and HMRC may indeed wish to take all of that into account. That is the start of a wider debate that I do not wish to continue this afternoon.

I have also wondered about the figure of £300. I am sure that some members of the public would regard that as being extremely good value, when they look at the quality of the work that they are getting from individual Peers, and others may not. It is important for us all to demonstrate that when we claim this money we are working for it and playing a full part in the legislature of which we are all members.

My Lords, we on these Benches have not taken a particular view on these matters beyond believing that any system should be fair, transparent and clearly good value for the public purse; but sitting on these Benches involves becoming very aware of, and developing a great appreciation for, the tremendous hard work on the part of all working Peers on all Benches. One is also aware of how much of that work continues beyond the House going into recess. Is there not a stronger case for looking again at the resourcing of working Peers out of the House’s sitting time to ensure that they are properly resourced to undertake their important public role and that no one is left unnecessarily out of pocket?

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate’s point about pay outside sitting days has been raised many times. This scheme will pay £300 per sitting day only, and the judgment that I and others who have looked at this matter have taken is that that amount should keep Peers going when we are not sitting. It is entirely fair enough to say that the totals do not add up to as much as full-time Peers can currently claim, but, as I said in my Statement, in today’s economic climate it is right for us who gain the most to say that we are happy to take a reduction.

My Lords, does the Leader of the House agree that a number of the questions that are being raised are dealt with in the report by the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham. We have spent a great deal of time discussing taxation. The question of additional office costs is also dealt with in the report, as are the important questions raised by the noble Baroness, Lady D’Souza, about long periods of illness. The noble Baroness’s point was not about the powers of the Clerk of the Parliaments to give additional help to noble Lords who have, for example, mobility difficulties, it was more about what happens during extended periods of illness and some of the representations that have been made in relation to them. We are starting to move into a more detailed debate.

I support, as the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, does, the thrust of the additional element brought into this report—the alternative suggestion. Of course my noble friend Lord Tomlinson is right to say that this was not included in the principles and architecture of the SSRB report. That is why the noble Lord, Lord Wakeham, explicitly states in his report that he is moving outside the architecture and principles described in paragraphs 5.56 and 5.57. That notwithstanding, it is possible to move outside it because circumstances have changed. Clarity, transparency and simplicity are what we should aim for.

My Lords, the noble Baroness has been extremely helpful. As a leading member of my noble friend Lord Wakeham’s group, she has also demonstrated that there is an enormous amount of detail in my noble friend’s report. I hope that, when read in conjunction with my Statement today and with the report of the SSRB, it will make everything considerably clearer.

I accept what the noble Baroness said: perhaps I did not answer the Convenor of the Cross Benches sufficiently well when she asked about periods of illness, particularly for Members of the House who are severely disabled. I have never opposed any attempt to find a regime for a very few special cases. We are one of the few legislative assemblies to have allowed severely disabled people to play their part. I am sure that if the noble Baroness were to invite the House Committee to re-examine these issues, she would receive a positive response.

My Lords, my question is about the word “attendance”, which sounds very simple. I spent the past week at the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, where they have changed the rules. You get your hotel paid, and a smaller amount than used to be the case for subsistence. I was in Macedonia earlier this month, where the subsistence amount was the munificent sum of €28—in addition to the hotel, which they chose. Those who serve the House away from the House, such as members of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union—are they not attending the House for the purpose of this exercise?

My Lords, it is not envisaged that the attendance rules will be changed for Peers who are working outside the House. The current rules are clear about what can be claimed when Members are outside the House, and it is not intended that that should change.

G8 and G20 Summits


My Lords, it may be a convenient moment to turn to the second Statement, which was made a few minutes ago by the Prime Minister in another place.

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a statement on the G8 and G20 summits which took place in Canada. First, I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the seven British servicemen who have lost their lives in the past week. From 40 Commando Royal Marines: Sergeant Steven Darbyshire. From 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment: Colour Sergeant Martyn Horton, Private Douglas Halliday, Private Alex Isaac. From the Yorkshire Regiment: Lance Corporal David Ramsden. From the 4th Regiment Royal Artillery: Bombardier Stephen Gilbert, who died from injuries received in an explosion earlier this month; and the soldier from 101 Regiment Royal Engineers who died yesterday. As the country marked Armed Forces Day this weekend, people did so with tremendous pride but also great sadness. We will never forget what these men and so many of their colleagues have given for us.

As I have said, I am determined that our forces will not stay in Afghanistan a day longer than necessary. I led a discussion at the G8, where we made it clear that we ‘fully support the transition strategy adopted’ by international partners. We are not after a perfect Afghanistan—just a stable Afghanistan, able to maintain its own security and prevent al-Qaeda from returning. So the G8 sent a collective signal that we want the Afghan Security Forces to ‘assume increasing responsibility for security within five years’. The presence of large-scale international forces cannot be an indefinite commitment. We need to get the job done and bring our troops home.

Let me report to the House on the main conclusions of the G8 and G20. I have placed copies of the communiqués in the Library so that people can see the details of what was agreed. The G8 is a good forum for the leading democratic economies to give proper strategic consideration to the big foreign policy and security issues. It also plays a vital role in helping the richer nations to improve the future of the poorest. In my view, these two vital functions of this forum should continue. Let me take each in turn.

On the big security issues, we discussed the Middle East peace process and agreed the importance of putting pressure on both sides to engage in the proximity talks with the aim of creating the conditions for direct talks. President Obama specifically said that he would make this his priority in the coming months.

While the changes that Israel had proposed are welcome, they do not go far enough, and the communiqué says that the current arrangements in Gaza,

‘are not sustainable and must be changed’.

On Iran, UN Security Council Resolution 1929 was welcomed. The communiqué states that all countries should “implement it fully”. Since the G8 includes Russia, Britain believes this was significant.

The UK also made the case for all members of the G8 to have positive engagement with Turkey, which could have a key role to play in resolving both the Iran issue and encouraging progress on Middle East peace. We also discussed North Korea, deploring and condemning the sinking of the “Cheonan”, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.

On development, while the G8 has played an important role in increasing aid spending by the richest countries in the world, some of those countries have not met the commitments they set out. I stressed the importance of transparency and accountability, and the accountability report sets out what countries have done in meeting their commitments. While not perfect, it is really good progress in making sure that countries cannot make promises without being held to account for them.

Even at a time when our countries face difficult budget decisions, it is important we maintain our commitment to helping the poorest in the world. The UK is maintaining its commitment to increase spending on aid to 0.7 per cent of gross national income. This gives us the opportunity to exercise leadership. At the same time, in order to take the public with us, we also need to make sure that every penny will reach those who need it most—that means transparency and accountability. It also means that the projects we support must be deliverable, practical and measurable, addressing the causes of poverty and not just its symptoms.

The Muskoka Initiative is a case in point. Today in the UK, the chances of dying in pregnancy and childbirth are one in 8,200. In parts of Africa, it is as low as one in seven. This is something we can change—and we must change. The resources agreed, including a big contribution from the UK, could lead to an additional 1.3 million lives being saved. As the White Ribbon Alliance points out, if you save the mother, you save the family; and if you save the family, you build a stronger society and a better economy.

Turning to the G20, this is now the right forum for all the leading economies of the world to discuss the vital economic issues. The key goal of the G20 is to continue the recovery of the world economy and secure sustainable growth. The argument, proposed by some, that deficit reduction and growth are mutually exclusive is completely wrong. The whole approach underlined by the IMF for this G20 and the subsequent meeting in Seoul is all about how the world should maximise growth through the right combination of three things: deficit reduction, tackling imbalances, particularly through actions by emerging economies, and structural reform in the advanced economies. There was broad agreement on all three and this is reflected clearly in the communiqué.

On deficit reduction, the G20 agreed:

“Those countries with serious fiscal challenges need to accelerate the pace of consolidation”,

and that there was,

“a risk that failure to implement consolidation … would undermine confidence and hamper growth”.

The advanced G20 economies committed to at least halve current deficits by 2013 and stabilise government debt to GDP ratios by 2016. While we agreed that the speed and timing of deficit reduction will vary with national circumstances, the verdict of the G20 was unequivocal.

For countries with large deficits, the time to act is now. Britain has one of the largest deficits in the G20, and the summit specifically welcomed the plans set out in our Budget last week. In terms of addressing the fundamental imbalances, China’s recent decision to move towards greater exchange rate flexibility is welcome. As, in the end, growth comes only from rising productivity, we also agreed on the need to pursue structural reform across the whole G20 to increase and sustain our growth prospects.

On financial reform, the G20 agreed ‘a set of principles’ on bank levies to ensure that the financial sector makes a,

‘fair and substantial contribution towards paying for any burdens associated with government interventions to repair the financial system’.

That is very much in line with the plans for a bank levy, which we announced in the Budget. On making sure that the banks in all countries can withstand future crises, we also agreed that,

‘the amount of capital will be significantly higher and the quality of capital significantly improved’.

We agreed that new standards on the quality, quantity and transparency of capital and liquidity should be finalised by the Seoul summit in November.

Basle took 10 years and this looks like it will be completed in one. Although the drawing up of clear, robust new rules is absolutely essential, it is important that they are not implemented too quickly. We do not want a further monetary squeeze or a reduction in bank lending at this stage of the recovery. The biggest stimulus we could give to the world economy today is the expansion of trade. Although the G20 agreement to extend its pledge that no additional trade barriers should be put in place is welcome, continued failure to make progress on Doha is deeply disappointing. This has now been eight years in negotiation and there can be little confidence that, as things stand, the round will be completed rapidly.

A completed trade round could add $170 billion to the world economy. The UK led the working session on this issue at the G20. One potential way of making progress is to try to add to the benefits of the round so that all parties can see reasons for going that final mile. That was supported by President Obama. The director-general of the World Trade Organisation, Pascal Lamy, suggested that all trade negotiators should return to the table and consider both what it is they really need from the round and what it is they are prepared to offer to get it moving again. That will lead to a report at the Seoul meeting in November.

Too many people still see this as a zero sum game, where one country's success in exports is another country's failure. That is nonsense. Everyone can benefit from an increase in trade flows. We will play our part in breaking the logjam. I want this country to lead the charge in making the case for growing trade flows around the world.

On climate change, while the G8 communiqué was strongly positive on limiting the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees and on seeking an ambitious and binding post-2012 agreement, at the G20, the communiqué was more limited. This is partly because some countries do not see the G20 as the forum for discussing this issue. In discussions, it was also clear that there was widespread disappointment at the way that Copenhagen failed to deliver a legally binding global deal. We must not give up on this. We will be playing our full part in pushing for a successful outcome at Cancun.

This long weekend of summitry was a good opportunity to build Britain's bilateral relationships. Among others, I had useful meetings with President Obama, President Hu of China, Prime Minister Singh of India and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey. In building a very strong friendship with our leading European partners, I also suffered the exquisite agony of watching England lose 4-1 to Germany in the company of my good friend Chancellor Merkel and the German summit team. Although I cannot recommend the experience of watching football in the margins of a G20 summit, I commend this Statement to the House”.

My Lords, in the absence of my noble friend Lady Royall, I thank the noble Lord for repeating the Prime Minister’s Statement made in another place. I also echo the tribute he has made to servicemen who have lost their lives. We all have deep sympathy for the loss suffered by their families and friends.

Much of the G8 summit was taken up, according to the communiqué, with problems of international conflict and tensions around the world. As noble Lords will be aware, most of the economic agenda was shifted to the G20 summit, to which I shall turn shortly.

On international issues, in a widely publicised article published just before the G8 summit opened, the Prime Minister made the commitment to withdraw UK troops from Afghanistan within five years. Will the noble Lord tell us whether our allies were consulted prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement?

While the whole House will applaud the concern that the G8 summit displayed for development issues, will the Minister confirm that the G8 has reneged on the Gleneagles promise to double aid to Africa? On the important issues of maternal health, which quite properly dominated the development section of the G8 communiqué, will the Minister tell us whether the UK’s contribution of funds for this purpose will be new money, or will it be met from the existing aid budget?

I turn to the G20 summit. As the House will be aware, it dealt predominantly with economic and financial matters, building on the earlier summits in Washington, London and Pittsburgh. Those earlier summits were characterised by a remarkable degree of unity on facing up to the global financial crisis. The unity of analysis and purpose was led at those earlier summits by the British Government, with significant support in Pittsburgh from the Obama Administration. Sadly, the Toronto communiqué exhibits a quite different tone. On the balance between stimulation and fiscal consolidation, the communiqué stresses the differences between national approaches. On the banking levy, the previous universal approach has been abandoned. On regulatory reform, it is not at all clear whether other Governments will follow the US lead in banning proprietary trading by banks, or whether they will adopt US strictures on derivatives trading. Does the Minister share the widespread concern that the present communiqué does not exhibit the earlier unity of purpose?

On specific matters, the communiqué states that,

“advanced economies have committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013”.

Will the Minister confirm that the Office for Budget Responsibility has calculated that the Budget measures introduced in March by my right honourable friend Alistair Darling were indeed sufficient to achieve exactly that goal? In the Statement, the Prime Minister says that,

“the summit specifically welcomed the plans set out in our Budget last week”.

Is the noble Lord aware that that welcome does not appear in the communiqué?

The Prime Minister’s Statement also refers to the need for “clear, robust new rules” on financial regulations—not principles but rules. Will the noble Lord confirm that the coalition expects international rules to be imposed on the financial sector of the UK? Which elements of financial regulation does the Prime Minister expect that imposition to cover?

I turn to some of the specific measures in the financial section of the G20 communiqué. Will the Minister confirm that it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government to impose a leverage collar on UK banks, as suggested by the communiqué? Will he also clarify the coalition’s position on the requirements that previously over-the-counter derivatives should now be traded through central counterparties by the end of 2012, as the communiqué also states? Are the Government concerned about the consequent concentrating of risk in central counterparties, and what do they intend to do about it?

Given the considerable concern expressed by the banks about the premature implementation of higher capital requirements, will the noble Lord explain why the idea of pro-cyclical provisioning, which was prominent in the communiqués of the previous three summits, is notable by its absence here? Has the idea been abandoned? If so, what are the implications for the size of capital buffers to be held by the banks?

At several points, the communiqué refers to the need for mutual assessment by G20 countries of the implementation of agreed measures. Can the noble Lord tell us by what process that mutual assessment is to take place? Who will do it? What precisely are the criteria to be applied? Will it be done before the next summit?

Finally, although we all welcome the fact that the Prime Minister was treated to a helicopter ride by President Obama, did he also have the chance to undertake bilateral discussions with Mrs Merkel while watching the football? As is well known, the German Chancellor is having considerable difficulty holding her coalition together. Did the Prime Minister advise her on the benefits of having weak and submissive coalition partners?

My Lords, I was going to say how grateful I was that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, was standing in for the leader of the Opposition. Having heard his speech, I am not sure that that is the case. He asked a series of extremely pertinent questions that, if this were a full debate of several hours, would take me tens of minutes to reply to. I hope that he will forgive me if on some of his specific questions I answer him by way of a letter. As I know that others in the House will take what the noble Lord said seriously and with great interest, I will make sure that a copy of the letter is put in the Library.

The noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, started off with an important question about the statement by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister on Afghanistan, the so-called five-year limit and whether any discussions took place with our allies. We are in a state of continual consultation with our allies in Afghanistan. None of that statement was a surprise to them. They understood exactly the point that we were making. There is no desire in any country for its forces to remain in Afghanistan for any longer than they absolutely have to. Over the past few weeks, we have laid out a set of priorities that we believe will enable British forces to have largely removed from Afghanistan, as part of getting civil society in Afghanistan working again.

We have set ourselves new priorities on the aim of development aid. It is right that we and the G8 should do so. It is important continually to review our processes and priorities for our development goals, and the new priorities on the health of mothers, children and families speak for themselves. However, a unity of purpose does not mean a unity of means. Although it is true that Britain has maintained its commitment on funding overseas aid, other countries have found it more difficult. However, in the medium term, there is no reason why we should not get back to the original position. We do not anticipate new money coming in to deal with those priorities. It will be a change of priorities within the existing budget but, as we have explained, over time we hope to meet our target of 0.7 per cent of GDP.

On bank levies and the financial situation, as the noble Lord knows only too well, the IMF forecasts that the UK will in 2010-11 have the largest budget deficit in the G7. When he talked about the record of the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, I was not quite sure whether he took pride in the legacy that the Labour Party left this country. We must never lose sight of the lesson of the past three years: taxpayers pick up the bill not only when one of our banks fails but when Governments spend too much money. The bank levy, the concentration of risks and higher capital requirements will all be debated and discussed as quickly as possible over the next few months. There is no question of the new bank rules being imposed. They will need to be agreed by all, and we believe that there is every possibility of those new rules being agreed by everybody.

The noble Lord poked fun at my coalition colleagues, which was entirely unnecessary. I can confirm to him that we are getting along extremely well. Sometimes people say that we have a lot to learn from our European colleagues. I hope that when it comes to working with coalition colleagues, they will find that they have a lot to learn from us.

My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will support the warm tributes that the Leader of the House and others have paid to our brave military personnel. Does he accept that many of us welcome the Prime Minister’s decision to get our troops out of Afghanistan at the earliest practicable time? Does he also accept that, if that requires involving the Taliban in negotiations, that is a nettle that will need to be grasped?

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Laming, for what he has just said. He reiterates the position extremely well and with a clear understanding of what the issues are. There is increasingly an appreciation and understanding that a violent and military-directed war in Afghanistan is not a winnable proposition for anybody, least of all for the people of Afghanistan themselves. All peace processes around the world have dealt with it by, slowly but surely, bringing all sides together. That will need to be the case in Afghanistan and is increasingly the thrust of our policy.

My Lords, may we from this side join the noble Lord in the tributes that he paid to the seven soldiers who lost their lives last week?

One matter of concern is the non-action on development aid, particularly the lack of action on the targets for alleviating poverty. How do the Government plan to ensure that the decisions taken by the G8 and the G20 will be actively implemented? Furthermore, why was climate change discussed only in the G8? If there is to be a global agreement on the way forward on climate change, surely the non-G8 members of the G20 will have to play a crucial role. Finally, do the Government agree that the G8 has now become an anachronism and that it would be better if its role was assumed completely by the G20?

My noble friend is right to draw attention to development aid, a matter which very much dominated the discussions of the G8. That delivered for the first time a comprehensive accountability report which assessed transparently the G8 progress against its development-related commitments. In the communiqué the G8 leaders reaffirmed their commitments on overseas development aid, on aid effectiveness and on HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, however cynical one is—and I am not suggesting for a moment that my noble friend is cynical when it comes to these matters—about a very serious attempt to give a new priority to these initiatives, the House will recognise that there was an agreement in the Muskoka initiative which means that funding for maternal, newborn and child health will be the new priority.

On the question of climate change, I can understand why my noble friend should feel aggrieved that this could be debated and discussed with one group but less successfully with another. However, there are those at the G20 who felt that it was not appropriate for it to be discussed at that level and that it should remain with the G8. However, there is the climate change conference in Cancun later this year. An enormous amount of work is taking place between now and then to give effect to a global agreement.

My Lords, on global imbalances, the Statement referred only to the modest, although welcome, adjustment that the Chinese authorities have allowed to the exchange rate of the renminbi, but surely the Government do not think that that will be enough to solve adequately the problem that is being generated by the continuing propensity of certain major economies, notably China and Germany, to invest and export very powerfully, and the propensity of other major economies, notably that of the United States of America and our own, to borrow and consume excessively. Is it not inevitable that if we continue with these imbalances, the trade surpluses of the exporting countries will be recycled to create excessive liquidity in the economies of countries such as our own that tend to consume too much, leading to another manic and unsustainable boom followed by a miserable bust? What were the Prime Minister’s suggestions at the G20 for averting this outcome, and what response did he receive?

I could not possibly comment on the noble Lord’s direct question at the end, but the whole issue of global imbalances concentrated the minds of the G8, and indeed of the G20. The new flexibility in the Chinese arrangements is an important step in the right direction. It is the kind of flexibility that we have been looking for for some time, it will make an appreciable difference—so we all hope—and it is recognition by the Chinese authorities of China’s importance to the world economy as a trading nation and as an increasingly important currency. The noble Lord might say that this is a very small step, but it is at least a small step in the right direction.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the case for maintaining the G8 while the G20 is functioning is rather less strong than the Statement that he read out suggests? Here, I join the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia. Only by stretching the word “democratic” a very long way indeed can it be applied to the G8, which has Russia among its members. It is also surely worth remembering that there are rather better qualified democracies in the G20, such as India, Brazil and South Africa, the membership of at least some of which we support as permanent members of the Security Council. I therefore hope that the Government will reflect a little on the need for these two forums to continue to run side by side and confusing the issues that they discuss quite a lot—a confusion that I suspect will increase when they meet in different places, as presumably they will have to when the G20 goes to Mexico in 2012, as is said in the communiqué. I therefore hope that the Government will reflect on the possibility of a sunset clause for the G8.

Will the Minister also be so kind as to comment on what the Government are doing to ensure that these endlessly repeated commitments to complete the Doha round are brought to a decision in the not too distant future? The wording of the communiqué is extremely weak. I thought that the wording of the Statement was first class, if I may say so. It reflects the view of those on all sides in this House and in this country that this is a really major objective. However, there is no sign whatever that the United States Administration are putting their back into completing Doha. What strategy do the Government have for moving that ahead at Seoul and thereafter?

My Lords, my right honourable friend found the meetings at the G8 and the G20 useful. They were particularly useful because they were different, and because, as a new Prime Minister, he was able to meet different political leaders at different stages. It is impossible for me to say whether these structures will be maintained in the long term. As the noble Lord recognised, they will not be meeting together in the future.

On the Doha round, the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, said that he finds the Statement convincing but the communiqué rather less so. Frankly, we were rather disappointed by the wording in the communiqué. It is a key strategic plank of this Government to move issues forward on the whole question of the Doha trade round and we will be developing a strategy so that we turn that leadership into action by convincing different countries that it is in their material interest to see an increase in global trade. I am sure the whole House agrees with that but it will need our combined collective will, good judgment and the kind of experience that the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, possesses in order to convince other countries of that necessity.

My Lords, first, can the noble Lord shed a little more light on the Prime Minister’s thinking on withdrawing our troops from Afghanistan by 2015? It was always the view in the past, as I understood it, that giving a date for withdrawal would be like signalling to the Taliban and al-Qaeda how long they would have to hold out before they would not have any opposition on the ground. My concern is that many people will think that this gives the Taliban and al-Qaeda an opportunity to scale down what they are doing, gather their resources and armaments, bring in fresh recruits and simply re-emerge when the foreign troops have departed. I wonder if the noble Lord can help me on that.

Secondly, the Statement says that the biggest stimulus that we can give the world economy today is the expansion of trade. Can the noble Lord tell us when the Government are planning to appoint a Minister dedicated to trade promotion? I know that, among his many other duties, Mr Mark Prisk has been appointed pro tem to look at trade—but the fact is that he has many other duties. Previously, the noble Lord, Lord Digby Jones, my noble friend Lord Mervyn Davies, and indeed I myself were dedicated to trade promotion and expansion. When will the Government be able to match what they are encouraging the world to do by doing a little better at home?

My Lords, on the point about Afghanistan, I agree that the view was taken in the past that making too rigid a timetable and setting the end date too soon simply gives a target for everyone to aim at. That is not true in this case because we are in a very different situation. We have been in Afghanistan for about nine years now and we can see that this current year is extremely important in creating the right grounds for long-term peace and rebuilding civil society. In this case, I do not think that we will run into the danger of giving the Taliban a target, and after all, five years is a long time to have to hang around waiting for British troops to leave. Moreover, that would not achieve the right conditions on the ground for rebuilding civil society in Afghanistan, which is important. So while I accept the point made by the noble Baroness, it is my wish, as I know it is hers, that those conditions will not apply.

On the question of the Minister for Trade, I could not agree more with the noble Baroness that such a Minister is important and that—by her own example and that of others in this House who have held the role—it is a key role for the Government and for focusing our overseas export effort. I am delighted to say that in the past 24 hours Mr Mark Prisk has been made the Minister of Trade. I know that, aided and helped in every way by my noble friend Lord Howell of Guildford, they will make a valuable team. Moreover, my noble friend will be answering for him in this House.

My Lords, is not the answer to the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Dholakia—who, having asked his question, appears no longer to be in his place—that the G20 was unwilling to tackle the question of climate change because the major developing nations such as China, India and, to a certain extent, South Africa and Brazil quite rightly attach much greater importance to economic development and the relief of poverty, to which moves on climate change would be entirely antipathetic? Nevertheless, does my noble friend agree that there is reason to welcome the response by that distinguished economist, the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition? Although he devoted his comments largely to the minutiae of banking reform—which are important but not urgent matters; indeed, it is more important to get this right than to do it quickly—he accepted, tacitly at any rate, the urgent need for the fiscal consolidation which this Government have shown they have the courage to enter into despite some of the rumblings from the neo-Keynesian dinosaurs who appear to be around.

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Eatwell, enjoyed that in the spirit in which it was intended. I agree with my noble friend that fiscal consolidation is important. Not only have we struck the right balance but, increasingly around the world, it is seen that we have struck the right balance. On the question of the G20 and the G8, my noble friend is again correct. Different countries have taken different views of these issues, particularly the developing countries. That is not news today but has been true for some time. That is why the climate change conference in Cancun will be extremely important.

My Lords, I commend the Government on their commitment to increasing overseas aid to 0.7 per cent of GDP, as I do their renewed commitment to reducing the terrible tragedy of maternal mortality. Does the Leader of the House agree that in any new strategy which the Government might develop for reducing maternal mortality, our professional organisations will be well placed to assist in the health service reforms required? Secondly, while a reduction in maternal mortality is important, we must also not forget that we need to reduce the terrible burden of other reproductive health issues, such as the greater number of deaths—even more than through maternal mortality—that occur through cervical cancer in low-resource countries, which is a totally preventable disease; the problem of fistulas; and the number of children dying in childbirth or immediately after, which is now some 3 million.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Patel, rightly draws us back to the issue of overseas aid. The reasons for changing the priorities of the G8 were not taken lightly. Obviously, in putting this new strategy into effect, there will be wide consultation with involved parties—most importantly with the health authorities of the countries most directly involved—so that the resources spent can be used as effectively and efficiently as possible. The noble Lord is also correct to refer to the range of preventable diseases that exist and which at the moment are not dealt with sufficiently well. This issue is part of an overall programme. I do not suppose we will see all the answers come out quickly, but the direction of travel is important.

My Lords, I welcome my noble friend repeating the Statement, particularly the strong section relating to development aid. Can he confirm reports that there was a shortfall of some $10 billion in the commitment of $50 billion made at the Gleneagles G8 summit five years ago? Can he further confirm that the two countries primarily responsible for that are Japan and Italy? What conversations did my right honourable friend the Prime Minister have with them on that issue? Given that they have cited their fiscal position as the reason for not fulfilling their commitment, will my noble friend encourage the Prime Minister to give them a lesson on how to rigorously tackle the fiscal deficit while still being fair and caring about the world’s poorest?

My Lords, there are many people who will be disappointed that some of the Gleneagles aims have not been met. My noble friend referred to two of those countries. In the communiqué that was delivered this weekend, there was genuine recognition that there needs to be more transparency and accountability on the part of those countries that have promised to help but have not yet delivered.

I know that the Prime Minister draws the attention of many people, not only from overseas, to the problems that we face in this country and how we are tackling them. They may well be a beacon of light to help other countries meet the commitments that they have already made and come up with the money.

Academies Bill [HL]

Committee (3rd Day)

Clause 1 : Academy arrangements

Amendments 30 and 31 not moved.

Amendment 32

Moved by

32: Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—

“( ) the school has a curriculum which includes Personal, Social and Health Education as a statutory entitlement for all pupils;”

My Lords, Amendment 32, in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Gould, would make personal, social and health education a statutory part of the school curriculum.

We have had many debates on what children should be entitled to as part of their education. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was enthusiastic and lyrical about this last week. In fact, he reminded me of the Mock Turtle’s reflections in Alice in Wonderland about what school curriculums should contain. Pupils had,

“Reeling and Writhing … the different branches of Arithmetic—Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision … Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography: then Drawling … and Fainting in Coils … laughing and grief”,


“French, music, and washing—extra”.

They could all have benefited from PSHE, in my view. The Mock Turtle lists all this while sobbing a little now and then. I am not sure that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, was sobbing, but there was a great deal of sobbing when, at wash-up recently, PSHE was lost as part of the statutory curriculum.

Many noble Lords spoke passionately in favour of PSHE during the recent wash-up, as I described. In particular, there was an eloquent plea from the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. My amendment seeks to reinstate the original intention of the previous Labour Government to ensure that all children have access to PSHE.

It may be worth looking at what we mean by personal, social and health education, as many terms are sometimes used rather confusingly. PSHE encompasses sex and relationships education, but it is broader—SRE is not primarily about health issues such as drugs, first aid and so on. PSHE encompasses life skills and some aspects of citizenship.

I have taught PSHE, advised on it, researched it and written about it and I want to distil some of that experience. It was inspiring to teach PSHE to children and to see their involvement and enthusiasm. If I were to list topics to be covered in PSHE, I would say that for younger children it is important to learn about staying safe; resisting pressure; friendships and other relationships; bullying; health hazards such as smoking and drugs; where to get help if in trouble; and basic facts about reproduction. Children will have their own topics. For older pupils, the topics will be added to and treated in more depth. At primary school, pupils may discuss the importance and concept of friendship. At secondary school, issues such as integrity and conflict resolution may be discussed.

Some may argue that children receive this kind of education from home and from mainstream school subjects. Sadly, that is often not the case, as young people tell us. PSHE has a particular body of knowledge and particular educational processes, such as discussion groups or role play, which make it an important part of the curriculum. Apart from the topics of PSHE that I have mentioned, young people need to develop language and communication skills and interpersonal empathy. Those skills can transfer from this area of work to life itself.

Why is it important for children to receive personal, social and health education? It is because we live in a complex world full of uncertainty and pressure on children, from the media, from the peer group and so on. Children need to have a space to think through some personal, social and health issues in a safe environment with the help of an informed adult. They need correct information about personal, social and health issues and they need to be able to explore issues such as being pressured to take drugs or bullying. It is not just about information and exhortation; it is about reaching informed decisions and resisting pressure. Young people need to be able to do that before the activity starts.

Children and parents want schools to do PSHE. Parents sometimes say that they do not have the knowledge, skills or confidence to engage their youngsters in discussions about health or personal relationships, particularly sexual relationships. The family, importantly, sets an ethos and an example of positive behaviour, but it may not be enough to prevent harmful risk-taking.

PSHE fosters confidence and self-esteem. Young people are able to learn important facts and practise communication skills and decision-making with adults and their peer group. PSHE supports academic learning. If a child is confident and has self-esteem, he or she is more likely to be able to learn. In one project in schools some years ago, the teaching of PSHE was shown to decrease truancy rates. PSHE promotes health and well-being. It promotes respect for self and others. I find it interesting that many employers now say how important it is that young people coming into the workforce should have good communication skills as well as academic qualifications.

PSHE extends into the community. Health visitors, doctors, nurses, the police, road safety officers and the fire service may be called in to discuss health and safety issues with young people. All benefit. The professionals learn about the concerns of young people and young people benefit from the advice of the professionals.

The benefits of PSHE are supported by research and experience. The Tomlinson report, the Steer report on behaviour and the Ofsted report on PSHE all speak of the importance of children and young people having life skills to help them to achieve and to gain employment. In his 2009 review of the Labour Government’s proposal to make PSHE a statutory foundation subject, Sir Alasdair Macdonald concluded that PSHE was important because of its,

“unique body of knowledge, understanding and skills”.

There is good evidence that PSHE can reduce unwanted pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections. I remember working with doctors and teachers in Kazakhstan to introduce PSHE into schools there. One head teacher reported that within two years the number of girls having abortions had reduced dramatically. In many countries, sex education has been shown to delay the onset of sexual activity. The argument that sex education only increases sexual activity is complete rubbish. Teaching road safety does not encourage people to leap in front of traffic.

A National Children’s Bureau report showed that children wanted to be able to talk about issues important for their lives such as emotions, relationships, health—including mental health—sexual health, diet and transport. According to a Populus survey, 81 per cent of parents agree that every child should have sex and relationships education as part of the curriculum, while a survey by Parentline Plus showed that 97 per cent of parents wanted drugs and alcohol education to be delivered in schools. NICE has recently recommended that all primary schools teach PSHE. The primary school where I am a governor includes discussions about bullying, exercise, relationships, diet and safety in its curriculum. Some schools do not, yet these issues are important for children now and in their future lives. They should be compulsory.

During the wash-up debate, many noble Lords expressed the wish for PSHE to be reconsidered as a statutory subject early in this Parliament. So here we are. Some have expressed concern that before PSHE is made statutory there should be enough trained teachers, but those who are trained already can train others and would be likely to do so if the subject was statutory. However, importantly, we will never have enough trained teachers unless PSHE is statutory. If maths were not statutory, I doubt that we would have enough trained maths teachers.

PSHE should be like any other mainstream subject in school; it should have a knowledge base, with information relevant to the child’s age and stage of development, and it should develop in complexity as the child matures. There should be continuity between primary and secondary schools, with a record of what has been taught and how it has been taught. No child needs to see the same film on smoking three times, but the concepts behind these health issues need to be enforced in ever-expanding ways. For example, smoking education may eventually relate not just to individual habits but to legal structures and the world economy. PSHE should have appropriate teaching materials and teachers confident in using them. There are already many excellent materials and many enthusiastic teachers. PSHE should contribute to a positive school ethos and relate to other programmes, such as the National Healthy School Standard and the UNICEF Rights Respecting School.

Having PSHE as part of the school curriculum will give it more respect, with more teachers trained and more parental attention and involvement. Parents and pupils would welcome it. Everyone would be clear on where they stood and what was to be done. It really is time that we recognised the immense value that PSHE has for schools and communities and how young people can benefit from having it in the curriculum. I beg to move.

My Lords, I have tabled my amendment for the same reason as the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, because it seemed to me that this Committee should be able to debate compulsory PSHE and sexual relationships education. Noble Lords will remember that this was debated and powerfully argued by the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Massey, but there really was no time for a proper debate during wash-up.

I open my remarks by briefly stating my position. It is a great pity that this has become a sort of battle. Whether PSHE should become compulsory is not a yes or no question. It tremendously depends on what is to be taught and who is going to teach it. We need to know not only what the government guidelines say but what is going to be taught. If I had been a pupil of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, in one of her classes, I am sure that I would be much better informed even than I am today—and I should have enjoyed it. However, it is important to know that there are enough teachers available before we start making something compulsory. Otherwise, Bloggs, the geography teacher, who is not much good, will be put on to do PSHE, partly because it is a difficult and tiresome thing to teach. That would be absolutely disastrous.

I was told only the other day that, contrary to what the noble Baroness said, recent research shows that the sort of diet of sex and condoms delivered to 14 to 16 year-olds in most schools today makes absolutely no difference at all to the number of teenage pregnancies among the group. Unless and until there is satisfactory and independent evidence that it does make a difference, there is a strong argument for considering whether we cannot improve what schools are delivering.

I am assured by a number of experts, including representatives of Ofsted, that an increasing body of evidence shows that what makes a difference is the whole-school ethos to which the child is exposed. When families are willing and able to provide supportive parenting to their child, it seems axiomatic that parents should be consulted and involved as partners, particularly in any programme of sexual relationship education. I expect that that would be the case in a great many of the academies that we are talking about today. However, when home life is chaotic, the schools step in and make up for what the family cannot give.

Whether it is learnt at home or in school, it appears that what makes a difference is learning in a secure environment where each child is valued and respected and each child is safe and loved. It is learning that the way in which you treat others matters and that you, too, can be a success in spite of a disadvantaged background. Ofsted reports show that those schools where teaching and a whole-school ethos consistently encompass those values are those that it finds to be outstanding on academic results and child well-being. Some of them are working in very disadvantaged areas.

There are two extremely good reports on 20 primary schools and, I think, 12 outstanding secondary schools working in disadvantaged areas. Perhaps I might briefly quote extracts from those Ofsted reports. First, the report on 20 outstanding primary schools says, among a great many other things:

“It is no longer acceptable to use a child’s background as an excuse for underachievement. The challenge for schools is to make a difference … Viewed in these terms, the job of the school may be construed as providing, through education and care for children’s well-being, advantage where it is lacking, mentoring and support for parenting where it is needed, and complementary provision in a school community of high ideals and aspirations … Primary schools, together with”,

other school providers,

“of education and care, are in a pre-eminent position when it comes to having a lasting impact”,

on a child’s future. Secondly, its report on the secondary schools says:

“The outstanding schools in the sample succeed for the following reasons. They excel at what they do, not just occasionally but for a high proportion of the time. They prove constantly that disadvantage need not be a barrier to achievement … They have strong values and high expectations that are applied consistently and never relaxed”.

A prerequisite for respect for others is respect for self. For children from disadvantaged and chaotic families, that may not easily be learnt at home. Excellent schools can build self-esteem and emotional intelligence right across the school in an age-appropriate way. That involves a high level of staff commitment and strong leadership. Schools that generate empathy, self-confidence and aspiration of this kind lead to fewer early pregnancies, but that is not the whole story. They also prepare young people—again, age by age and in an age-appropriate way—for the responsibilities of adult life and parenthood and so could help to break the cycle of disadvantage passed on from generation to generation in some families today.

What are the Government’s plans for PSHE and SRE? I hope that they will reject or substantially revise the guidelines produced earlier this year by the previous Government, which concentrate mainly on contraception and largely ignore the role of cementing relationships and creating a stable family. The guidelines make no more than passing reference to the importance of supportive parenting, of a whole-school ethos or of respect for others and for self. I also hope that the Government will delay making SRE compulsory until they are satisfied that there are enough well trained teachers available to deliver this sensitive coverage.

Finally, I hope that the Government will focus their resources on encouraging more schools to develop and deliver whole-school policies that support the emotional and social development of all their pupils, including the less academically able. In this context, I very much hope that the academies that we are talking about today will, in particular, be free to adopt innovative policies—including a wide range of syllabus activities that will provide opportunities for all pupils to experience success—and facilities that include, where appropriate, boarding facilities. I hope that they will try to develop a whole-school ethos which is positive and supportive and which develops emotional intelligence and respect—both self-respect and respect for others. Can the Minister give me any comfort on those issues?

My Lords, I support this amendment, to which I have added my name, following the great disappointment—the sobbing to which my noble friend Lady Massey referred—of PSHE being removed from the Children, Schools and Families Bill in the wash-up on 7 April. I do so to hear whether the Government are prepared to reconsider their previous negative approach to this issue.

In the wash-up debate, the support for the removal of the clauses from the Bill focused on two main points. First, there was the lack of trained teachers, referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. Secondly, there was the view about whether PSHE was being well taught. It certainly was in some schools but, as Ofsted said, that was in too few schools and throughout the country teaching was extremely patchy. Using the shortage of teachers as a reason for not teaching PSHE is standing the argument on its head. The PSHE continuing professional development programme, which was established by my noble friend Lord Adonis, has gone some way towards providing a pool of trained teachers. I accept that more has to be done, just as I accept that PSHE should be taught by accredited teachers. The answer is that if a subject is a statutory entitlement for pupils, it is guaranteed that it will be taught in teacher training. If it is not, there is absolutely no guarantee that that is the case. Therefore, the pool of untrained teachers will continue. As my noble friend Lady Massey said, adequate teaching materials should be provided, which is not always the case at the moment. We are talking about timing and flexibility in how the subject is taught, as long as it is taught well and covers the main issues that I will refer to.

I find it extraordinary that the coalition Government—Conservatives and Liberal Democrats—can reject something that prepares young people for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life. In doing so, they reject the teaching of mutual respect; valuing each other, which the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, again referred to; loving and happy relationships; safety and health; and responsibility for oneself and others. Last week the Minister referred to the curriculum review, and the need to be innovative, be creative and respond to the needs of pupils. He will find the answer to that in the pamphlet written by his right honourable friend Iain Duncan Smith, Early Intervention: Good Parents, Great Kids, Better Citizens. I could quote most of the report in answer to why PSHE should be taught in schools, but one sentence refers to,

“the subject at the heart of this pamphlet: the need for intervention in the earliest years of a child’s life, thus ensuring that he or she fulfils their potential and is not subject to intergenerational transmission of disadvantage”.

Those are fine words and a fine concept, the fruition of which could be considerably assisted by making PSHE well taught in all schools by making it statutory. Disadvantage can be overcome if the teaching is there to do that.

If for no other reason, the teaching of PSHE makes economic sense because it is about prevention. It is about reducing health inequalities and social exclusion; safeguarding children and young people; reducing homophobic bullying and its consequences; and avoiding teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted illnesses such as HIV, and drug and alcohol misuse. It is about increasing the understanding of the short-term and long-term effects of alcohol on physical and mental health and sexual behaviour. While there is a clear need for sensitive and sensible messages on the avoidance of risk, which can lead to pregnancy or acquiring an STI or HIV, there is also a need to build the confidence—that is what it is all about—for girls to be able to resist the pressure and learn how to say no; and for all children in how to avoid exploitation and abuse.

I was interested in the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, about condoms. He is right: there is a problem in condoms just being delivered to schools. Nobody tells pupils what they are for and why they should be using them sensibly, or not using them at all if they are not having early sex. That is not taught. We are saying that we should make sure the teaching goes alongside giving condoms to young children. At a school I visited it was fascinating. Young people were issued with condoms, particularly after school. Some of the younger ones thought that they were balloons and had great fun blowing them up, but some of the older ones sat around and had that important conversation, which should take place in schools.

PSHE teaches young people to respect each other and not to pressurise others to do something that they do not want to do. Teaching children and young people about physical and mental lifestyles will save the NHS and local authorities a considerable amount of money. A further aspect of PSHE that we do not always talk about is that it underpins the employability of young people through the development of personal and social skills which commerce and industry demand in their workforces. It also identifies the necessary flexibility to deal with changing workplace and industrial situations.

PSHE is about economic well-being and financial capability. It can teach about managing money and how to avoid personal debt, and the problems that result from that debt, which sometimes mean considerable cost to the state. It prepares young people for their future roles, such as parents, employers, employees and leaders. A groundbreaking survey, which will be launched in October, asked the views of parents, teachers and governors, particularly as regards the SRE aspect of PSHE in England. It was carried out by the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, the National Association of Head Teachers and the National Governors Association, in partnership with Durex.

The results showed a high level of agreement between the three groups, with 91 per cent of parents, 83 per cent of governors and 83 per cent of teachers believing that it is very important that young people have information on practising safer sex. While the majority of parents believe that PSHE-SRE should be taught in schools, part of the programme should be to engage those parents and provide them with information and practical support to help them develop the confidence to talk to their children about relationships, sexual health, alcohol and drugs, and their responsibilities and attitudes to others.

In that way, perhaps we can break down the intergenerational transmission of disadvantage described in the Early Intervention paper. PSHE teaching is an important way of building relationships with parents. Parents need to be more involved and lessons should not end in school. In the survey to which I have just referred, 84 per cent of parents said that what is taught in schools should be followed up in the home. The dropping of PSHE from the Children, Schools and Families Bill went against the views of parents, teachers, governors, the Youth Parliament and young people. Now that the Government have the opportunity to redress that situation, I hope that they will take it to heart.

My Lords, I support a great deal of what has been said today. I shall go back rather further. In the early years of the previous Government, there was an attempt to introduce citizenship. My noble friend Lord Northbourne and I hoped valiantly that young children would be taught not just about their relationships with their parents, but about how they would bring up their children and what sort of a parent they should be. Sadly, the whole citizenship exercise disappeared into a vacuum of being taught all around the curriculum, so it was never followed through.

Following on from the Ofsted report, I wish to comment on the success that the schools mentioned had on things such as bullying. In some schools, from the moment a child enters, he or she has a mentor. It is another child’s duty to settle the new child into the school. It would be a huge help if that could be taken seriously and become part of the way in which all schools integrate the next generation.

It may not be totally fair to blame the Government—certainly not all members of it—for the way in which the previous Bill disappeared into the sand, but now that they have this opportunity to look at the situation again, I hope that they will come forward with sensible proposals.

My Lords, the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey of Darwen and Lady Gould, and my noble friend Lady Walmsley, have long been advocates and apostles of PSHE. Their difficulty has been that for a long time PSHE has been regarded as a “trendy left” view which has been dismissed on largely political grounds. Therefore, I want primarily to address my Conservative Party partners in the coalition. Three aspects of PSHE should give them pause.

The first was eloquently stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould. It is that huge threats to children, such as drugs and alcohol, need to be discussed seriously within schools at a very early age—the middle of primary school—and onwards if people are to realise their immense and devastating consequences on children. They have to counter great pressure from, on one side, teenage magazines and what one might call youth culture, and, on the other, the supermarket culture. That is not easy to do.

The second issue, which supersedes any political views and which I again ask my partners in the coalition to consider very seriously, is parenthood. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, has been famous for the way in which he has consistently argued in this House that we have neglected at our peril the parenthood of the human species, which is long in growing up. Long ago, when I was Secretary of State, I remember proposing that parenthood should be a fundamental part of sex education. In other words, the emphasis should be at least as much on the responsibilities of bringing up a child—families will devote a huge part of their energies to that process—as on sex education itself. You cannot divorce the two and in some ways we have done great harm to ourselves by doing that. We now look at what one can describe in some quarters only as an abdication of parenthood. I do not refer just to people who are economically deprived but to the many who wrongly think that money substitutes for time in the bringing up of children. There are huge lesions to be mended in our relationships with children. I strongly thank the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, and commend him on the consistency of his arguments in this field, which desperately need to be listened to.

Finally, on the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and others who said that there are insufficient qualified teachers, conceivably the coalition might think of something rather unique and announce that it is its intention to introduce compulsory PSHE—with the emphasis as I have described—in three years’ time. That would immediately attract many young people to thinking about teaching in that field. We try to do everything instantaneously. Education, like growing a tree, is a slow process, and we need to think in terms of how one can obtain responses further down the line. In this case, many young people and many others who are coming into the profession would seriously think about a responsible approach to PSHE as part of the curriculum, although it may be unwise to introduce it immediately.

My Lords, I begin by commenting on both amendments; I recognise the importance of giving children and young people access to appropriate and high-quality PSHE, for which the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, and others made such a compelling and eloquent case. However, I wish mainly to speak to Amendment 70 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. I follow the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, in welcoming the emphasis placed in that amendment on parenting and the need to make young people aware of the parenting responsibilities that come with bringing a child into the world and, again, I salute the work of the noble Lord in this area, especially in helping young men to come to terms with what it means to be a father.

However, I have a couple of concerns with the amendment. First, it is not clear how the resulting curriculum would be determined. Research suggests that aspects of PSHE that have to do with sex and relationships are most effective if parents are involved to the greatest possible extent. That is why the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, about engaging parents, were so well made. While the Church of England has not had a problem with statutory provision, not least with the impact that it has on teacher training provision, I am aware of those, particularly in other churches and faith communities, who feel that the engagement of parents would be more greatly advanced if it was stated explicitly that the curriculum would ultimately be determined, on an academy-by-academy basis, by governors in consultation with parents, so that this important subject is taught in a manner that is consistent with the ethos of the academy and parental wishes.

Secondly, although one intention of the creation of academies is to bring into being schools with greater freedom, the amendment would in this instance reduce the area of freedom. It would result in a situation where academics teaching children of primary school age would have to teach sex and relationship education, while for other primary schools this would be optional. This would put us in the curious position of creating academies to give them more freedom than other schools, but granting them less freedom in the approach to SRE. I spoke this morning to a major SRE provider that has developed specialist resources for primary schools, and it concurred. There is a good case for saying that it is best to allow primary school governors, in consultation with parents, to determine how this subject is best taught at that age.

Finally, perhaps I may seek clarification about how the amendment stands in relation to providing parents with the right to withdraw their children from sex education, which obtains in all other schools.

My Lords, I strongly support the two amendments in this group. In the past 40 years, there have been four surveys of the mental health of 15 year-olds in Britain. These show that the number of young people suffering from emotional and behavioural problems is twice as high now as it was 40 years ago. That is a shocking fact. It is terrible for young people and for the rest of us. We are talking about the health not only of young people, but also of the society that is affected by their behaviour. If we take into account the extraordinary costs for young people and for adults of the problems of young people not knowing how to live, we cannot turn our backs on the emotional and behavioural aspects of their education. We have been moving towards a disastrous situation in which our schools have increasingly become exam factories—factories for helping people to earn a living, not to learn how to live.

It is possible to teach people how to live. This can be done not only through the school’s ethos, which is extremely important—as has rightly been stressed, this could be the most important thing—but also through structured teaching of life skills. We already know a lot about how to do this, and we are learning more. For example, the Penn Resilience Programme, now used in 30 schools in this country, has been shown to reduce teenage depression markedly, and to increase school attendance, with emotional and behavioural consequences. Many other equally effective programmes cover areas such as developing altruism, learning about healthy living and avoiding risky behaviour, learning about mental health and learning about parenting—there are programmes that teach young people how to be parents, and others that cover nearly all the topics in the QCA’s excellent programme of study for personal and social well-being.

There is also plenty of evidence of the effectiveness of sex education. For example, one striking case is the comparison between our country and the Netherlands, where sex and relationship education, including parenting, begins in primary schools. There, the teenage pregnancy rate is one-fifth of the rate in this county. Therefore, we have plenty of evidence on which to proceed.

These are difficult subjects to teach and that is why I am enormously worried about the coalition Government’s approach of leaving them to individual schools. If they are difficult to teach, the most obvious thing to do is to have a concerted programme of teacher training. That can be done only at the national level but, as many speakers have already said, it will not happen unless there is a clear statement that education in life skills is a key element in the complete education of every child.

My Lords, I speak on this matter in a personal capacity and I absolutely support the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey. I also support much of the spirit behind the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, although I think that it is a bit too late to provide sex and relationships education to 14 year-olds, given the hundreds of girls under the age of 14 who get pregnant every year. Good PSHE includes all the information that young people need to lead an ordinary but successful life, or even an extraordinary life. It is not academic but what are schools doing if not preparing young people for the lives that they will lead when they leave and, indeed, the lives that they lead while they are still at school?

Much has been said this afternoon about the importance of teaching about parenting, and I absolutely agree. Noble Lords may have heard about the programme in which school nurses give out baby dolls to young women. These dolls scream in the middle of the night, they need burping, they need their nappy changing and they need feeding regularly. I recently heard about one school nurse who gave out a batch of these dolls and when they came back at the end of the week most of the young girls said, “Oh my goodness. I couldn’t possibly”, apart from one who said, “It was wonderful. I can’t wait to get pregnant”, so it does not always work.

Over the years, I have said a good deal on this subject in your Lordships’ House, so, in an effort not to repeat myself, I did some new front-line research last week with two teenagers who are doing work experience in Parliament. One told me about a girl in her sister’s class at school who at the age of 13 had a one year-old baby. Both of them said that they have to go to PSHE lessons but to quote one of them, “We don’t do anything”, and to quote the other, “We watch a lot of videos”. One said, “We had a lesson on drugs recently and they just said, ‘Don’t do drugs. Drugs are bad’. It was useless”. She also told me that she did not have any sex education until she was 17 and that they do not teach about contraception or abortion in their Catholic school except in RE, where they say, “Don’t do it; it’s a sin”.

That is just not good enough. I realise that this is a very small sample of hearsay evidence but it lines up with what I have heard from many other teenagers over the years. It tell me that, first, teachers are not properly trained to deliver PSHE; secondly, teachers are not confident to teach PSHE, and that is why they rely so much on videos; thirdly, the quality of PSHE varies immensely and is very poor in some places; and, fourthly, some children are not receiving the information to which they are entitled and which protects their well-being.

The only way to deal with all those things is to make the subject part of the national curriculum in maintained schools and mandatory in academies and all other schools that do not have to follow the rest of the national curriculum. All establishments which educate children and young people have a duty to have regard to their well-being. However, they cannot do that successfully if they do not give them the information that they need to live a happy life. Young girls’ life chances are being severely affected because they may not have the information or the self-confidence to avoid unwanted pregnancies, and often the state has to pick up the bill in the interests of the young girl and, in particular, her baby. Unless children have information about the dangers of tobacco, alcohol and drugs, they may unwittingly become addicted at great cost to themselves and the country before they can turn round.

Much has been said about teacher training and, as usual, my noble friend Lady Williams has put her finger on it. Fully trained teachers cannot be produced in an instant, but her suggestion that the Government should show their intention to make the subject mandatory, given sufficient time to undertake the training of new teachers in initial teacher training or CPD for existing teachers, would be a solution to that problem. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said that often the subject is given to Joe Bloggs the geography teacher. In my experience, it was given to Jill Bloggs the biology teacher or, in my case, Joan Walmsley the biology teacher. I taught it but I was not properly trained and I did not have the necessary confidence. I did my best but it was a very long time ago and the problem is that that is still happening.

I know that the Government are to have a curriculum review, which will be an opportunity to look very carefully at what we teach our children in schools. We need to give them the tools for life and not just academic qualifications for work. We must redress the damage that was done before the election when this measure very nearly got into legislation, but was prevented by the vagaries of our parliamentary procedures. I hope that the Minister will be able to reassure me that this subject will be considered during the curriculum review.

It could be argued that there is no more important element of the curriculum than PSHE. The previous Government were certainly right to propose that it should be a statutory foundation subject. There is a public, societal interest in children being educated in these areas. Moreover, I believe that it is the inescapable responsibility of Government to ensure that that happens because only the Government can ensure that all children receive education in these areas; only the Government can establish a norm; and only the Government can promote best practice across every school.

Education about relationships and sex is, of course, a very important private and parental responsibility and should be respected as such, but it cannot be the responsibility of parents alone. By definition relationships involve two people and, indeed, two families. Ignorance in sexual matters is dangerous to others. Children need support and education. They grow up in an erotically charged environment, where advertising and entertainment sexualise almost every kind of transaction; and the internet opens the window to a host of sexual possibilities regardless of who receives the messages. I am afraid that it is commonplace in our culture for human beings to be objectified, exploited and even brutalised sexually. Inescapably, children and young people witness that. If there is an age of innocence, it is all too short. For that reason and because of earlier puberty, it is essential that sex and relationship education is introduced at primary level although, of course, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said, it should be age-appropriate.

There are powerful peer pressures to experiment and to take risks, and those are stronger than the social codes that seek to protect young people from precocious sexual experiences. Children and young people are vulnerable and, therefore, they need help from an early age to understand this environment and to start to establish their own secure and confident individuality. They need education about relationships—not preachy education but education that may well be imparted through the study of literature and drama, for example. They need to learn that good relationships are characterised by respect for the other person, by sensitivity and by love. They also need to learn about the physiological facts of reproduction, the practicalities of birth control and how to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. They need to be taught those matters with no euphemisms and no evasion: sexually transmitted diseases may kill. Some families are not willing to teach that to their children and some families do not know how. Therefore, it is unacceptable to leave sex education to families as a private responsibility. I believe that religious objections, for example to teaching about contraception, have to be overruled.

It must be the duty of all schools to teach relationship and sex education. Just as there should be no right for parents to opt their children out, so there should be no right for schools to opt out of this responsibility or to skimp on it. The duty must be explicit because parents may object, teachers may be embarrassed, and there may be pressures on the curriculum which cause sex and relationship education and other aspects of PSHE to be squeezed out.

The Government rightly wish to avoid being unduly prescriptive in the requirements that they make of academies, but does the Minister accept that here there would be an appropriate prescriptiveness? Is it their intention to require academies to provide PSHE? Will they start to ensure that there is appropriate training for teachers and that there are enough competent teachers? If they answer that there will be an expectation that schools will provide PSHE and that there will be a pressure through inspection, that will not be sufficient. There really needs to be an obligation, so will they place that obligation on academies?

I want to say a word or two about substance abuse—the use of tobacco and other drugs. Illegal drugs are widely and easily available to our young people and aggressively sold to them. Our children are extremely vulnerable in this area. Again, there is strong peer pressure to experiment, reinforcing the natural tendency of adolescents to defy adult prohibitions and to take risks. The situation is made worse by our persistence in criminalising the drugs trade rather than regulating it, with the result that many young people are permanently in the hinterland of this criminality.

I have been following recent press reports about the apprehension in Jamaica of Christopher “Dudus” Coke, allegedly an important drugs baron there. I am interested in that because when I was a Member of Parliament for Newport, Jamaican Yardie gangs targeted young people—my constituents—in Newport. They had saturated the market in Bristol, so they moved further down the M4 to Newport, with some very nasty results. In the perverse economy that our public policy has created, dealers are incentivised to do all they can to encourage young people to graduate from cannabis to class A drugs.

Young people are further confused by the vacillations of successive Home Secretaries about how to categorise particular drugs and the confused signals that have been sent by the Home Office about enforcement. Public policy in this field has been benighted. I remember reading reports about David Cameron when he was offering his candidature to become leader of the Conservative Party: it was said that as a member of the Home Affairs Select Committee he had been inclined to the view that we really did need to take a whole new look at this area of policy. Be that as it may, it is crucial that children and young people are helped by schools to cope amid this anarchy.

As a society, we do not know how to handle alcohol. There is an epidemic of alcoholism, which is incubated from an early age in all too many people. Alcoholic drinks are too cheap, too strong and aggressively and brilliantly advertised. The social constraints against alcohol abuse are failing. On Friday and Saturday nights in all too many of our cities there is an alcohol-induced chaos, an intense unpleasantness and indeed fear on the part of many people. Our policies are not working.

Children have to be helped to cope with this environment through their education. They have to be supported to become responsible young people in relation to substance abuse and sexual relationships—to become confident to say no; to be capable of thoughtful and mature states of mind. If we help them to that in their education, we will serve them and society in all aspects: they will become good parents, good friends, good members of society and good citizens in our democracy.

I am confident that many academies will take all this seriously and will be willing and able to teach PSHE well. But my fear is that some academies will duck their responsibility. They will be eager to validate themselves and attract more pupils by concentrating on measurable results, academic success and getting a high proportion of their pupils to university. There will be pressure to squeeze PSHE out of the curriculum. So how will the Government ensure that academies fulfil their wider responsibility to students and society in respect of this crucial PSHE?

I cannot help but notice that Members on the coalition government Front Bench have been struggling with the brightness of the light today. I hope that that is because they have seen the light on PSHE.

Well, I am sure that we are about to find out the truth of that. I do not want to keep the Committee any longer because I know that we have a great deal of work to do today. However, I want to support my noble friends Lady Gould and Lady Massey. Both have made strong and impassioned contributions—I do not want to rehearse their strong arguments—as have my noble friends Lord Howarth and Lord Layard. I was also interested in the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, who, as ever, spoke wisely on these matters, and in the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley.

We have debated these matters hotly at times; we certainly did so during the wash-up, when I think that things got a bit frayed. It is fair to say that what happened was not vague—the then Conservative Opposition opposed the measures in the Children, Schools and Families Bill to include PSHE following all the consultation and discussions with the faith groups, parents and specialists involved. I therefore hope that, with the confidence that the Conservative Party has in government, it will be able to think again. I hope that this is not a party-political issue, but one on which we can come together for the benefit of children currently going through the education system and more widely for our community. I hope that my noble friends will accept my support for their amendment.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, for moving the amendment and giving us the opportunity to have this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said that there had been a history of a battle in this House. However, one of the advantages about my being the new boy is that I do not yet have all those scars and am not approaching this issue as a battle. I am seeking to approach it as I do other issues, by listening to the arguments. I have heard a number of forceful and persuasive points made today.

Perhaps I can give my noble friend Lady Walmsley some reassurance. These certainly are important matters and strong views are held on both sides. Perhaps properly they will form part of a much bigger debate that I recognise we need to have as part of the broader curriculum review to which my noble friend Lady Walmsley referred. We will need to discuss all these issues—whether we need to or not, we clearly will do so—as they will be part of the legislation later in the year. There will be a proper opportunity to discuss this issue fully and at length and there will be opportunities for noble Lords to—

Will the Minister give us a clear timetable before Report on how these deliberations will go forward? Who will be consulted and how will the practicalities of the discussions work?

I am not sure that I am able to give a very clear timetable. As part of the discussions that we need to have on the curriculum review, we need to decide how the experience and views of Members of this House can be fed in. I am happy to come back to the noble Baroness on that point. We need to work out how to do this. We have heard that there are issues to do with content as well as principle and I recognise that we will return to the matter.

I am also struck, from listening to the debate, how far sex education at school has moved on since I was at school, when I seem to remember that I had a drawing of a hen and an egg and that was it. There has clearly been some progress since then.

On the more specific and narrower point to do with academies, which is what this debate and the amendment are about, the independent schools’ standards regulations require all independent schools, including academies, to have a curriculum that includes personal, social and health education that reflects the school’s aims and ethos. Those regulations require the schools to prepare pupils adequately for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life. That is important and those regulations are in place. We recognise the importance of this area to parents and pupils and believe that that is sufficient for academies to deliver an appropriate PSHE curriculum. We know that many academies already see that area as key to engaging pupils.

Amendment 70 would have the effect, which may or may not have been intended, of removing any right of parental withdrawal from sex and relationship education. I know that there is a range of views on that. The noble Lord, Lord Howarth, expressed one set of views; I know that others will have equally strong views that parents should have the right to withdraw their children. I do not believe that creating a difference between the maintained and the academies sector by removing a right of withdrawal is justified and I am not sure that the noble Lord intended it. In any case, I hope that noble Lords will accept my reassurance that these important issues will be returned to as we think about the curriculum review more generally and that they will feel able not to press their amendments.

My Lords, I thank all those who have spoken in this interesting debate. As someone said, this is not a political issue; it is about the welfare of children and about how schools deal with this important subject, as well as engaging parents. The noble Lord was lucky to have a hen and egg when he had sex education; I had to knit a uterus. I will test him on that.

As we have said, personal, social and health education is about living not just in the future but now. Children live now. Three clear issues have emerged. One is about engaging parents. Of course I agree with engaging parents in personal, social and health education. Sadly, some parents do not want to be engaged and some simply cannot. They do not talk to children about relationships or health issues. Perhaps if we taught personal, social and health education to this generation of children, they would be able to talk to their children about personal, social and health education. Let us try to break the cycle.

Another issue was trained teachers. I still maintain that, if something is statutory in the curriculum, you will get teachers trained and you will get curriculum materials circulated. If it is not statutory, you will not get that; it will be at somebody’s whim—it will be Joan Walmsley teaching whatever she was teaching at her school. There will be no curriculum materials. Both are essential.

Another important issue is saving money. It also saves potential misery. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, spoke about the misery of depression, drug use and teenage pregnancy and about the importance of breaking the cycle of deprivation.

I look forward to the curriculum review, which many noble Lords have mentioned. However, I do not want this to drag on. We could end up with it just faltering. I noted with interest the suggestion of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby. I need to think about the question of delaying this for three years. This is an urgent issue. Children are suffering from the misery of not having the chance to discuss issues about sexual relationships, drugs, alcohol and so on. We have to get on with it.

Would the Minister be prepared to meet with a group of us to talk about this before Report, because the curriculum review will clearly not be issued before then? I intend to withdraw the amendment for now, but I will certainly return to the issue at Report if we do not get a satisfactory response.

I am most grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Because I will not have an opportunity to speak later, I just wanted to say that I strongly support her suggestion.

I ask the Minister to meet with a group of us. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment for now, but I will certainly bring something back at Report unless this issue is resolved.

Amendment 32 withdrawn.

Amendments 33 to 37 not moved.

Amendment 38

Moved by

38: Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—

“( ) arrangements have been made for Ofsted to prepare annually interim reports on the school;”

I should declare an interest, in that I run the Good Schools Guide and therefore spend an inordinate amount of my time inspecting schools, or rather causing schools to be inspected, and thus have a keen interest in the topic. Inspection is a crucial aspect of the Bill. We are considering schools that will be innovative, free schools. They will be newly founded, often with untried and untested combinations of people involved, with no established sponsors or with sponsors who are relatively new to the job. That will be at a time when there is considerable pressure on the central and local systems of support provided to schools.

The lesson that we have from the United States, as I am sure Rachel Wolf has told the Minister, is that charter schools succeed when they are properly regulated and inspected. If you think about it, it is obvious. If a school starts to go wrong, you can see it. If you can catch it reasonably early on, it is not too much work to put it right. If you let it go for a year or three, you will be in serious trouble.

We are also at a time when inspection itself is up for inspection. It is clear that this Government are reviewing the inspection regime in some detail and are prepared to make big changes—not surprisingly, if they want to cut the overall budget by 25 per cent. This is a good time to look at Ofsted and to ask: does it do what it is supposed to do; could we do better; could we do it for less?

Parents want, first, a regular report from Ofsted. The idea that you wait for four, five or six years between inspections is ridiculous. You want to know what is happening this year. You want to know that the school that you are about to commit your child to is still in good condition. Secondly, if Ofsted produces an adverse report, you want support. You want to feel that, whatever the problems at the school, they are now going to be gathered together and looked after. In both those aspects, Ofsted fails miserably. Most Ofsted reports are out of date. When Ofsted puts a school into special measures—this is my experience of the process, which has always been from the outside—parents spend a month or so in ignorance and, even then, when people start to react and be supportive, Ofsted just stands on the outside throwing rocks at the school, keeping on criticising, rather than being part of the support network.

Ofsted is also clearly not what schools want. Schools want support, advice and help in steering in the right direction. They want a constructive relationship with the people involved in inspecting the school. The most recent example of that that I can think of is the old FEFC inspections under our previous Government. They had that relationship with colleges. They would inspect regularly. Subject inspectors would be in and out of the college once or twice a year. Support and advice would be coming through the college. You worried about whether you might be ticked off for something, but the general relationship was supportive. You expected that the inspectors’ visit would, on the whole, be a constructive experience.

What the Government want out of Ofsted is value for the money that they are putting in. We are a long way short of that. After a fashion, we have an effective system of calling schools to account. Spreading good practice, knowing what is going on in schools and making sure that, say, PSHE is being properly taught, even though it is not being examined, are functions of the inspectorate. By and large, I do not have criticisms on that, except that it costs far too much to get there and does far too much damage to schools.

I am sympathetic to the noble Lord’s argument, but why does the word “interim” appear in this amendment? Should this not be consistently carried on, rather than being purely interim?

My Lords, I apologise if the wording of my amendment is not exact. It is merely there to bring up the subject of inspections and to make it clear that I want them to be regular, not just every five years or so.

There is a good model of how this could be done. Every year, we are retiring a few thousand headmasters and deputy headmasters who have immense experience and the ability to judge a school pretty rapidly—the good ones. They know how to read a school, how a school works and what to look for. They have the ability to be immensely supportive and they are not that expensive because they have pensions. They have a commitment to the job and all they want is a reasonable return for the effort that they are putting in. If we were to pay £300 a day, that might be a figure with some echoes—we do it for that. It should not surprise us that heads and others with a real vocation and dedication to helping other people are prepared to work and put in similar effort for a similar amount of money. You are not looking at a lot of money. You are looking at people whom parents and heads naturally trust. You are starting off on a pretty good basis if you are staffing your inspectorate with that sort of person.

These people could go once a year into every school—and I do say “every school”. What is the point of an inspectorate not visiting outstanding schools? How are inspectors ever going to learn what best practice is if they never go into the best schools? Part of the point of an inspectorate ought to be spreading good practice. They should be there to say, “This is what I saw the other day”, or, “Why don’t you talk to him or her about that because they seem to be getting it right?”. If all you are doing is going round the schools that are not performing well, all you can do is spread bad practice. To be an effective inspector, you need to be in touch with good practice and with what is going on in the world of good schools. A simple report to parents—a paragraph or so, to say that since the last inspection report things are progressing, this is particularly good, there is still a bit of trouble on that but, overall, we are happy—is what parents need to know that they can take a baseline from the previous Ofsted report, read through it, know that things have improved or are much as they were and take a reasonable decision. Most schools with a head who is open to ideas will benefit enormously from having someone such as that around.

Once schools have come to trust the system, you would find that they were asking for extra days. When I was a governor of a college under the old FEFC system, we were looking to have these people in more often. We would say, “We’re not doing what we should do in biology. Let’s get the biology man around to give us an extra bit of help there”. Schools, particularly primary schools, are little, isolated, lonely places. They want support and they want to have contact with people who can provide that support and good ideas. At the moment, all we have is the school improvement partner system, which is too low-level and local. We would do much better if we moved to making that part of the inspection system. I think that we could run that bit of the inspection system for about £10 million a year and have a report on every school, every year. Over and above that, you obviously need a full inspection system. Every now and again, you need to go in and do the whole works. Even if you are quite generous on the budget and say that you will spend 10 man-days on average every five years, that will cost you only £20 million or so. Then you have the central system over that.

There is an enormous obsession with data in the current central system. Collecting the data imposes immense burdens on schools. Teachers worry about measuring every aspect of every child’s performance because the school improvement partner or the inspector may pick them up on this or that, which is not constructive. You do not need to look at data on that level. Any mathematician will tell you that, apart from in pure mathematics, figures are always wrong. Figures do not provide value on their own; they provide value only in relation to what is happening on the ground. Inspections should be about the human aspect of schools: the quality of the teaching; the quality of the atmosphere; the staff; and the relationships in the school. They are things that numbers never throw any light on, although numbers can be useful in confirming what is happening.

If we were to budget £50 million a year for Ofsted as a whole, that would be enough. We could then perhaps devote another £50 million to the same organisation, perhaps, if it was running well and was focused on supporting schools that were having a hard time, bringing them round and making them straight—if it was picking up schools that had scored four and setting them right—which needs a lot of concentrated help and advice very fast. That would still be half the current budget, but it would provide about 10 times the value. I beg to move.

I support much of what my noble friend has said. It is desperately important to have proper monitoring of what is going on in these new and very innovative schools and to have feedback, not only to the schools—I will come to what my noble friend said about the positive nature of the feedback that is needed, which I agree with him about—but also to the Secretary of State. Ministers need to know how well the experiment is going and what adjustments are needed from time to time.

I wholly agree with my noble friend that the current Ofsted system is not what is needed and not what we are asking for. It seems to have put everything into one rather unsatisfactory basket. Ofsted inspects for health and safety issues and can fail a school on the height of its security fence. That is not the professional judgment of educational experts. The people who should be doing the assessment of the school’s success and innovation should be people who were successful professional teachers who know what they are talking about. Popping in to see whether health and safety rules are being obeyed or whether security is being maintained is not what an educationalist should be doing. There should be a firm and distinct line between that kind of inspection and the professional judgments that my noble friend so well described.

It is important that we have a cadre of people who are constantly in touch with schools. I say to my noble friend that we need more than simply a once-a-year report. Somebody should keep in touch with the school on a fairly regular basis and go in from time to time to be a shoulder on which the head can—one hopes not cry—pour out her or his ideas, thoughts and problems when they arise, and provide wisdom and judgment. As my noble friend said, they also need to be a sounding board so that the Secretary of State and Ministers can understand what is really happening in these innovative and exciting academies.

I confess to a certain nostalgia. The kind of system that my noble friend described existed not only under the FEFC but in the long-ago days before the 1990s—indeed, up to 150 years before—when Her Majesty’s inspectors were deployed throughout the country on a geographical basis. Although local district inspectors worked nationally and immediately reported back to the centre—to Ministers and so on—providing that vital sounding board and information so that Ministers could know what was going on in the system, they were also each in charge of a group of schools that they inspected fully and fairly regularly over a period of time. That is a much more professional model.

I do not wish to be nostalgic about the 1980s or the 1970s, or even the 1880s and 1890s, but there are lessons to be learnt from the way in which Her Majesty’s inspectorate worked before Ofsted was created that might very well fit the pattern of academies now and would get us away from this awful mechanical going in, ticking boxes and prejudging whether things are happening. Sometimes the joy of inspection is finding things that you had never thought of and never expected; they were not on the list of boxes that you had to tick but were happening and were successful in a rather wonderful way. A good inspector would go into a school to learn as well as to teach. A good inspector would go in to be told what was happening and not always to tell.

Long, long ago, when I first became one of Her Majesty’s inspectors, my lovely mentor used to say to me, “We always look for the growth points”. In the least successful school, there are always such growth points. Ofsted, sadly, has turned far more into a body that looks for the negative points—the things that are not going well—and for reasons to fail a school, rather than a body that encourages, develops, helps, listens and all the things that my noble friend has suggested.

I have a certain sympathy with this amendment, although there are question marks about how it is phrased. I have most sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, has just described. We have got into a muddle with the role of Ofsted, of SIPs, of the YPLA—or before that, of the department—and where support starts and ends and inspection starts and ends. Rather too many people are going into schools, particularly schools in trouble, without being clear about who is doing what.

I totally agree that Ofsted—or any inspection regime, in a sense—must have a lot more focus and not inspect the myriad things that it is inspecting at the moment. My personal experience is that you end up getting into a panic about whether the files are in order rather than rigorously checking and really improving education in the school. That cannot be right and has to be looked at.

However, we have to be clear that Ofsted, or whatever inspection regime there is in the future, must be accountable to the community and to parents in particular. I therefore differ from the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in that I would not want to go back to the somewhat gooey regime in which data did not really matter. Data really matter. Without them, there is a real danger of groups of children in a school being missed and not progressed properly. By all means, let us add real intelligence to schools and give them real support, but let us not go back to the days when whole sections of kids could be left behind because we did not notice that they were not progressing.

My Lords, listening to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, I was reminded of visiting a children’s home some time ago with an inspector who made the point that she had been asked to be an inspector for care homes for the elderly and had declined because she was a teacher by background. She said, “What do I know about care homes for the elderly?”. There has been an issue—I am sure that it is still an issue—of ensuring that the inspectors are the right ones for the particular institution. The inspector also said that the remit of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, for which she worked at the time, was very much about supporting and developing good-quality practice and supporting the staff. After the remit moved to Ofsted, certainly the information that I received suggested that it became very much about checking that someone had done the right thing and criticising them if they had not, but not about asking, “Have you tried this? What about that way?”, and supporting the development of better practice.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, suggested using retiring teachers. The National Union of Teachers has emphasised the need to ensure the proper and continuing professional development of teachers who are already practising. It is concerned that past advice from the Department for Education—then the Department for Children, Schools and Families—was, “You shouldn’t let teachers off during the school day to get continuing professional development. They should do it at other times because we need them in the classroom”. If we could free up teachers with quite a lot of experience to spend a day in another school and take part in the sort of inspection and support arrangement that the noble Lord is discussing, that might kill two birds with one stone inasmuch as it would give them a chance to see how someone else teaches and to learn from that. They could be refreshed by that, as well as producing a report that could be useful to parents or whomever, and they could support professional development at that school. That occurs to me having recently read the information from the National Union of Teachers. No matter how much we improve the training and recruitment of teachers, most teachers are already in post and will be there for a long time, so we really have to think about their developmental needs. That is a bit of an aside.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Lucas for moving this interesting amendment. My default position when I first read it was that it was completely opposed to what the whole Bill is trying to do: to free up Ofsted inspectors so that they do not spend endless amounts of time visiting schools that are simply outstanding across the board but devote that time to schools that are failing in some areas so that those schools can be given greater attention and support. I take the point made by my noble friend Lady Perry, but that was very much where I was coming from.

When I heard the debate, however, I began to move towards seeing a couple of problems that need to be explored. I wonder whether part of the solution, which probably needs to be developed a little further, should not be the partnering of a highly successful school, which is enabled to become an academy, with a failing school. What would be the format of that relationship? Could the successful school assess and supervise the failing school in the interim?

Then there is the role of the governing bodies. Often very little is said about them, but under the new arrangements they will have hugely more power, authority and responsibility. How much training are they given? When one becomes a non-executive director of a firm, there are often lots of training courses about your duties, statutory responsibilities, the pertinent questions to ask and what you should look out for. The head teacher on the first governing body of which I was a member absolutely insisted that there was never any need for a member of the governing body to come to assemblies or to visit any of the classrooms, as that was way beyond their remit. Later on academy boards, I found that the head teachers of good, successful schools went out of their way to encourage governors to experience classroom teaching, to sit in the staffroom and to talk to teachers. Do people actually know this?

I am grateful to the noble Lord. Does he accept that his personal experience may not be universal? As one who has had a series of non-executive directorships over the past 30 years and has served on a number of school governing bodies, I must confess that the picture he draws is not that of my experience.

I defer to my noble friend’s experience, but bodies such as the Institute of Directors put on training courses and provide structured guidance for directorships, so I wonder what the equivalent is for governing bodies? Is there a body which fulfils this role?

I have also been a school governor in one form or another for getting on for 40 years. Training courses for governors are run not only by local authorities but also centrally, and they are quite detailed courses. There is also a training guide on the web. The noble Lord might like to look at the Department for Education website where he will find that under “governors” there is a sort of teach yourself course to show you what you should know to become a good governor.

My Lords, as president of the National Governors’ Association, perhaps I may be allowed to make a tiny comment. There has been a good deal of improvement in the training of school governors, but it is not uniform. I think there is a desire on the part of the National Governors’ Association to pay rather more attention to this side of things so that all governors are given some training before they start as well as ongoing training whenever that is necessary.

My Lords, one of the great joys of this House is the realisation that when you raise an issue, you suddenly find several world authorities in the Chamber with the answers ready to hand, which is fantastic. I will not delay the Committee except to say this. Under the new mechanism the school will be separated from the local authority, which will not provide these functions going forward to an academy. Given that, could there be a role for the governing body of the academy to take a more detailed view—almost a form of Ofsted standards “light”—of the institution? That would provide some internal checks and balances while at the same time it would strengthen the governing body’s understanding of what is actually going on in the institution for which it is responsible.

My Lords, as in so many areas, this has been an interesting debate which again has ranged further than the specific scope of the Academies Bill, and I have been struck by a number of the points made. It seems that we have been talking about three separate strands: one is to do with information for government and accountability; one is to do with support for a school; and one is to do with information for parents. In that context, if I am not puffing my noble friend Lord Lucas too much, the Good Schools Guide, which I heard him mention earlier, is a good example of how parents can be given human and anecdotal information about a school. That is an extremely informative way to find out what is going on. Generally, going forward and thinking of the ways in which parents can access more frequent and better information about their children’s schools, it is clear that this is something the Government should think about. We have said that we will try to reform the league tables to make them more relevant, but I should like to reflect on some of the points made more generally by my noble friends Lord Lucas and Lady Perry outside the context of the Bill, and perhaps we could discuss them further. The question of how one gives parents information that lets them know what is going on in a school in a regular and relevant way is an interesting one which I should like to explore further.

On the specific point of the amendment, and bearing in mind some of the reservations expressed by my noble friend about Ofsted, to give that body an obligation to carry out an annual report on each academy strikes me as a little excessive. Further, the fact that such a requirement would apply only to academies and not to maintained schools seems a little odd. That said, I would be happy to discuss this further and I will not charge £300 a day for the conversation, which I think is the going rate. With that response and some reassurance, I hope that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

My Lords, certainly I will withdraw the amendment but I will make one or two points first. On the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, it is wonderful that we have all these data, but you can make far too much of them. I am a physicist and I have played around with data all my life; I have gigabytes of data from the Department for Education that I decorate my website with. But in the end, what is happening in a school is what matters, and all the data can tell you is that maybe there are some questions that you should ask because there are so many different ways in which a particular pattern can be accounted for. I agree that data are important, but they have been turned into something oppressive under the current Ofsted system.

I am sorry to intervene but I do not think that is right. What the noble Lord is talking about is what can be claimed to be the obsessions about narrow forms of data that dominate a lot of inspections at the moment and therefore dominate a lot of headlines. However, the intelligent use of data in terms of tracking individual pupils is something an inspector needs in addition to all the qualitative work that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, talked about. When schools are only just starting to get there on using data in an intelligent way, it would be a retrograde step to chuck that out and return to the rather blunter instruments of the public lists which do not do the more sophisticated work that I am talking about.

Yes, my Lords, I agree that, used internally, those sorts of data are wonderful. I recall how, 15 years ago, Greenhead College in Huddersfield was one of the pioneers of such data, and it made a great difference. Even the English department was enthusiastic about it because it helped the staff to be better teachers. In a dumb world, data are great, but you do not need to inspect on them. If you do, you turn something that is a helpful internal tool into a weapon of oppression. It is a matter of getting the balance between being inspected on enough data that happen to be produced by the system and not pressurising teachers into recording every single aspect of every single child at great length and in close detail. The amount of time people are spending on this means that it is not productive. The inspectorate should not be interested in data at that level except when diagnosing a school that is clearly going wrong.

I am concerned about my noble friend’s relaxed attitude to inspection, particularly of the free schools that will be coming through under this Bill. These creatures are going to need to be looked at very carefully. As I said earlier, the New Schools Network is clear about the need for inspection, and I am clear that if you are starting up a new enterprise and you want to be proud of it rather than be landed with nasty cases where things have gone wrong and you should have known about it, you need a good system of what I call inspection but my noble friend Lady Perry would call a relationship between inspectors and schools. You need something that allows someone in authority outside the school to say, “Hang on. Something is going wrong and we need to get in and help”. If you wait for data that appear late because you need a year or two’s data before you can see the trends, a newly formed free school could be heading for trouble. So I hope that over the next year or so I will be able to convince my noble friend that going back in time and picking out the virtues of the system of which my noble friend Lady Perry was such an eminent part will be a good model to pursue. Not only can we do that, but we can save the Government a great deal of money while getting there. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 38 withdrawn.

Amendments 39 and 40 not moved.

Amendment 40A

Moved by

40A: Clause 1, page 2, line 2, at end insert—

“( ) the school, if it was a selective school on conversion, has a roll no larger than it was at conversion date;”

My Lords, these are probing amendments with which I hope to learn a great deal from the Minister about the Government’s intentions with regard to selection. We probably all agree that selection is a major issue in any consideration of educational matters, and I am sure the Bill will be no exception. However, the idea of a selective academy is a perversion of Labour’s view of the future of the academy scheme.

As we have already heard, the previous Government used the academy system as a means of helping struggling schools to turn round the life chances of the hardest to teach, which often meant entering an area where a local authority had let down the children it was there to serve. We gave these schools new leadership, outside expertise and relieved them from many of the requirements to co-operate as part of the local family of schools because of the challenges and experiences that those schools had undergone.

I want to learn about what the coalition Government now propose. In effect, they are saying to schools which select a small minority of the top-scoring children at 11, “Take a share of the money that the local area has been allocated to support the most vulnerable, and outbid other local schools for the best teaching staff using that same money”. Is that really what the coalition Government want to say to schools? By definition, the schools with these advantages will be less likely to need support with issues such as special needs. That is what we are looking at.

Amendment 131 seeks to deal with this criticism by insisting on provision for children of all abilities where a selective school becomes an academy. What is more, unamended, the Bill will allow such schools to expand, so we could be talking about a significant expansion of selection. The Minister has indicated that this will not be the case and I should be grateful to hear him say that now. The Prime Minister has made great claims about having changed his party. Change is good and changed it has—I am sure many would say for the better—but, despite those claims, the Conservative Party has been forced—I remain to be convinced otherwise—to introduce this Trojan horse of more selective schools. We know that Conservative MPs want some red meat on selection, but the Government risk showing that they are prepared to bargain away the aspirations of the majority in return for the acquiescence of Back-Benchers in another place. The Minister shakes his head. I look forward to hearing his response and to being reassured and convinced otherwise.

Amendment 59 seeks to remove this aspect of the Bill by preventing academy schools selecting. I admit that it is a blunt instrument—I said at the start that this is a probing amendment at this stage—but it would be, by far and away, the most satisfactory outcome.

Amendments 40A to 40F seek to deal with the second criticism: that the balance between selective and non-selective schools could be disrupted, without any community consultation, by schools converting to academy status and then expanding whether through different age groups or intake.

Can the noble Baroness confirm that selection was included in the concept of academies introduced by her Government; that you could select 10 per cent on the basis of the specialism of the academy? That was in the Education Acts of 2006 and 2002.

My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to the 10 per cent based on aptitude, which is a different paradigm—I am not sure whether that is the right word. These are probing amendments and I want to hear what the coalition Government’s intentions are on selection. I am sure that we will all be interested to know.

As with the discussion on the admissions code earlier in Committee, Amendments 130 and 183 will reassure those who are concerned that schools could convert under existing admissions procedures—which may erode over time—with no statutory safeguard against it. Many people outside the Chamber are asking these questions. The amendments would ensure that, in future, no non-selective school could use academy status to become selective.

Indeed, others have expressed this concern from another perspective. The Guardian newspaper reported the views of the National Grammar Schools Association. It stated in regard to academies:

“There may be other covert dangers and, until everything is made clear in the area of legislation and elsewhere, we strongly recommend extreme caution. If necessary, please seek advice from the NGSA before making decisions that may later threaten your school”.

The head of the NGSA said he was concerned that if a grammar school became an academy, it could then be run by a small group of people who might decide to change the admissions procedure. The article continued:

“‘What is the protection for the parents?’, he asked. ‘Does there have to be a ballot? Does it become an all-ability intake?’”

The National Grammar Schools Association is unclear about the coalition Government’s intentions. I should be extremely grateful if the Minister could set out, with great clarity, their vision for the future of selection in academies.

My Lords, I shall speak to Amendments 43 and 46. I can address them briefly because I agree overwhelmingly with what the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Drefelin, has said. It is recognised that in part of the coalition at least—I hope in the whole of the coalition—there is a quiet passion to ensure that the extension of the academy principle, which is strongly supported all around the House, should not inadvertently become a cause of further problems for the least privileged part of our secondary education system. As the noble Baroness said, all the amendments, including mine, are designed to obtain from the Minister a “battened down” statement, if you like, that will allay these anxieties.

On Amendment 43, and wearing my lawyer’s hat, a characteristic in subsection (1)(6)(c) is that,

“the school provides education for pupils of different abilities”.

A lawyer could make hay with “different abilities”. It could be that a school would satisfy this test if in future it was going to select the top 10 per cent and the second top 10 per cent. They would be of “different abilities”. It could pass the test if it were to select the top 5 per cent and those with tap-dancing abilities. Those would be “different abilities”. I caricature my point to make it, but I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say.

My Lords, I hope that I can provide the reassurance that my noble friend Lord Phillips and the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, asked for.

However, before I try to do so, I would like to pick up on the noble Baroness’s use of the word “perversion”, which I know is a word that has been used before in the context of the development of this policy. “Perversion” is a strong word with a particular weight, and I make the point that I have made before: it was clear from the 2005 White Paper, produced by the Government of whom she was a member, that it was an aspiration that the academies programme would be rolled out far further, and the then Prime Minister was looking forward to the time when all schools would be able to opt out of local authority control. So to caricature our proposals as a perversion is a slightly strong use of language.

I come to the heart of the noble Baroness’s question. The Bill does not allow for any increase in selection by ability in the state-funded sector. That said, we think that the freedoms that academy status can bring should be applied to all groups of schools and not denied to any in particular. We do not believe that they should be restricted to failing maintained schools; instead, we should extend that more broadly.

Amendment 40A seeks to make it a characteristic of an academy that was formerly a selective school that it does not expand following conversion to academy status. As the noble Baroness has set out, Amendments 40B to 40F seek to place a limit so that they cannot expand their role beyond a particular percentage.

The Bill contains provisions that allow selective maintained schools to retain academic selection but it does not allow for new selection. If accepted, the amendment would mean that successful grammar schools and successful partially selective schools would not be able to meet local demand for places if they converted to become academies.

With regard to a cap, as things currently stand, maintained grammar and partially selective schools are allowed to publish expansion proposals under Section 18 of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 and the 2007 prescribed alteration regulations. Proposals are needed only if an expansion of over 25 per cent is planned, so any expansion below this level could be achieved through the normal admissions consultation. Provisions within the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 prevent any new selection from being adopted within maintained schools that were not already selective, and those 60 or so partially selective schools are also prevented from increasing the proportion of selective places.

Given that maintained selective schools are currently able to expand up to that point, to prevent them from doing the same thing as academies, as the noble Baroness’s amendments would suggest, would be more restrictive than the current regime within which they operate, and I cannot believe that that was her intention. Consequently, our wish is only to offer similar options on expansion to schools converting to academy status as are currently offered to maintained schools. We are seeking to maintain the status quo in that respect.

It is important for me to understand how the status quo will be measured. How is selection defined? How will the Minister measure if there has been any change, and how will he monitor that? What is his plan to ensure that this is not a Trojan horse, or a back-door route to increasing selection?

I will come on to deal with that, if I may. If it would be helpful, I am happy to set out in writing for the noble Baroness as clearly as I am able what I consider the safeguards to be. I recognise that many people are concerned about this point, and I want to try to nail that down for her.

As would currently be the case with any proposals for expansion of a grammar in the maintained sector, local groups would have to be consulted before any expansion, and that would persist with academies. We will continue to ensure that the proportion of selective places in partially selective academies does not increase.

Amendment 43 would make it a condition of being an academy that it provided for children of all abilities as opposed to children of different abilities, the point that my noble friend Lord Phillips raised.

If we were to accept Amendment 43, I am advised that national testing would be necessary to ensure that academies all had intakes of all abilities across the country and admissions would have to be manipulated to ensure that all abilities were represented. We do not think that that is proportionate; maintained schools are not required to go as far. There will be circumstances where those who apply for admission to a particular academy do not represent all abilities, although they would represent a wide range of different abilities representative of the area.

Amendment 132 would require academies to provide for children of different academic abilities as opposed to children of different abilities. Section 99 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 defines “ability” as

“either general ability or ability in any particular subject or subjects”.

It is clear, in our view, that what is meant by “pupils of different abilities” within Clause 1(6) is the meaning that is already established within legislation: pupils with a range of different general abilities or achievements. This interpretation is supported by the relief from this duty in Clause 5(3) for existing grammar schools wishing to convert to become academies. Such a relief would not be necessary if “ability” did not encompass academic ability.

Amendments 46, 59, 131 and 183 would require any existing maintained grammar school or partially selective school to remove its selective admissions arrangements on conversion to academy status. To deny existing selective schools these freedoms, or to require them fundamentally to change their nature before being granted them, seems to be unreasonable.

Amendment 130 seeks to prevent any non-selective school that converts to become an academy from acquiring selective admission arrangements after conversion. On that point, I reassure noble Lords that Clauses 1(6)(c), 5(3) and 5(4) of the Bill prevent academies from selecting by academic ability, except where a maintained school with pre-existing academic selection converts to become an academy.

I should be clear that the only schools that will be able to select by ability are those listed in Clause 5(4). As the schools defined as “selective” within that clause do not include independent schools, any independent schools joining the academies sector will also not be able to select by academic ability.

Will my noble friend be open to at least thinking about a rewording of Clause 1(6)? He made a fair point about my amendment, but wording that is more clearly contrary to selection could be put in that subsection instead. That would resolve a miasma of anxiety around the Committee.

I understand that miasma of anxiety. I am due to meet my colleague shortly, and perhaps that is another issue that we can add to our list of issues to discuss.

As I said, I think it would be helpful if I set this out clearly in writing; as I go through this, I am conscious that some of it is quite technical. I shall write to the noble Baroness and put copies in the Library, and I hope that will help. In the mean time, in light of the explanation and the reassurance that I have sought to give, I hope that noble Lords will feel able not to press their amendments.

I thank the Minister for his response, and I look forward to receiving a fuller response in writing. I am sure that the letter will also be placed in the Library.

Given the academy provisions that already exist in law, it seems that the only point of bringing forward this Bill is to enable selective academies. I suppose that that is why one might choose to use quite strong terms. Having been a member of a Labour Government who made such a success of academies and having seen the transformation in the education that young people around the country have received, I feel very disappointed that the Government are not only starting with currently outstanding schools but taking the trouble to introduce selection into the academy programme. As I said, however, I look forward to hearing further from the Minister.

The Bill introduces selection, removes consultation and joins the free-school, free-market experiment by introducing a new funding mechanism for academies. I still feel very anxious about what it is trying to do given that, as my noble friend Lord Adonis said at the start of Committee, strong provisions already exist in law. In theory, apart from those provisions, there should not be a great difference—but these are really significant differences. The Minister needs to recognise the strength of feeling about these issues around the country. People have great concern about how we should go forward.

However, I made it clear that these were probing amendments. I look forward to understanding more about the Minister’s intentions. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 40A withdrawn.

Amendments 40B to 40F not moved.

Amendment 41

Moved by

41: Clause 1, page 2, line 5, leave out “agreement” and insert “arrangements”

My Lords, these technical amendments in my name are intended to correct errors in the Bill. I have already written to Peers to bring this matter to their attention. These amendments have no practical impact on the Bill or on how it operates.

Amendment 41 corrects a typographical error in the drafting of Clause 1, which refers to “agreement” when it should refer to “arrangements”. “Academy arrangements” is a generic term for funding under both “Academy agreement”, in Clause 1(2)(a), and “arrangements for Academy financial assistance”, in Clause 1(2)(b).

Amendments 185, 186 and 192 are technical amendments designed to reflect the fact that amendments to Section 337 of the Education Act 1996 made by Section 142(1) of the Education and Skills Act 2008 are already in force. The Bill currently also amends the predecessor provision. The amendments merely correct these errors. On that basis, I beg to move.

Amendment 41 agreed.

Amendments 42 to 51 not moved.

Amendment 52

Moved by

52: Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) if the school provides nursery or primary education, its curriculum for children under five years old is the Early Years Foundation Stage;”

My Lords, I shall speak also to Amendments 53 and 54 in the same group. Amendment 52 probes the Government’s intentions with regard to the education and care of young children in nursery and reception classes in primary and all-through academy schools. It also seeks commitment from my noble friend the Minister that academies will be expected to provide the balance, age-appropriateness and play base of the early years foundation stage to very young children.

Many children under five are now in primary schools' nursery and reception classes and it is essential that their teachers are qualified and experienced in the early years. The early years foundation stage—which I shall call the EYFS, although that is not that much shorter—provides much needed unity of principle and purpose across the range of settings. It offers a single framework to ensure quality, equality of opportunity and safeguarding. There is a real commitment among early-years professionals to this agenda.

The EYFS was introduced in the Childcare Act 2006 and has been a statutory requirement for all providers of education and care to zero to five year-olds since September 2008. It provides a clear statutory framework and standards, and although it is relatively new, its ideas, standards and approach are not. It has grown out of a long tradition of providing education and care for babies and young children under five years old and attempts for the first time to ensure that, wherever children are educated and cared for, they and their families can expect the same standard of education and care. I give credit to the previous Government for its introduction. Although I feel that it is time to renew it in the light of experience, as it is too prescriptive, it is generally a good thing and should be adhered to by all providing education to this age group.

Academies do not have to follow the national curriculum for primary and secondary schools, but it is not clear what the intention is in relation to under-five year-olds in nursery and reception classes. Perhaps I may ask my noble friend the Minister the following questions. How many of the current all-through academies provide education for under-fives and, of those, how many follow the early years foundation stage? Is it the Government’s expectation that primary academies should follow the early years foundation stage for under-fives? How will the Government ensure that under-fives receive age-appropriate, play-based education in primary academies?

Amendment 53 probes the Government’s intentions for inspection of new academies in relation to education for young children under the early years foundation stage. The Secretary of State has indicated his intention to grant academy status automatically to schools deemed to be outstanding by Ofsted, alongside an intention generally to exempt those outstanding schools-turned-academies from further inspections. However, in relation to the EYFS and provision for under-fives, I am particularly concerned about removing academies from the inspection framework, given that inspection under the EYFS is relatively new and that the main driver behind the EYFS is to improve quality and standards in early childhood education and care. I am also concerned that the emphasis on engagement with parents in the current inspection framework may be lost, with detrimental effects on some schools’ commitment to engage with all parents, which is so important at nursery age.

Under the law, all providers of education and care to under-fives must be registered on the early years register of providers and must meet the legal welfare, learning and development requirements as set out in Section 40 of the Childcare Act 2006 and associated regulations in order to remain registered.

However, schools providing for children aged three to five are exempt from the register, and EYFS provision is inspected within the main schools inspection framework. Maintained, independent and non-maintained special schools are required to be registered only in respect of any provision they offer for children below the age of three, in recognition of the need for extra safeguards for the youngest and most vulnerable children. Can my noble friend explain how young children’s welfare, safeguarding, learning and development will be quality-assured in academy schools?

Perhaps I may draw one related matter to the Minister’s attention. If there is a problem in the early years setting, there is currently a practice of the proprietors deregistering it and opening it up again as a different business, thereby expunging the history of the problematic incident and making it impossible for Ofsted to inspect whether the failings that led to it have been corrected. Indeed, some places have been reregistered several times. I give as an example the case of a nursery in Chigwell, where the two year-old daughter of Mrs Shatl Malin was accidentally hanged in the playhouse where she had been unattended for 20 minutes. The proprietors have reregistered the setting, and the parents have therefore no closure or explanation and no assurances that no such thing can ever happen again. While we have the opportunity in this Bill, I should like to ensure that no academy offering early years education can walk through this loophole by deregistering.

On Amendment 54, one of the best aspects of recent workforce development is the importance of an integrated approach to working with children and families. This is exemplified in the children’s centre model. Again, I give credit to the previous Government for introducing this way of working. In children’s centres, children under five years old and their families can receive seamless integrated services and information. These services vary according to centre, but may be very wide and serve the real needs of families. Indeed, the coalition Government intend to locate a lot more health visitors in them, which I support. I would not want the independence of academies to pull children out of the integrated structures developed under the Every Child Matters agenda, which all parties supported. This is particularly relevant in relation to safeguarding issues. Will my noble friend the Minister clarify what support will be available to academies in developing safeguarding policies and in their implementation? What connections will academies have to children’s trusts and local safeguarding children boards and what impact will there be on children’s centres and extended services where they are co-located with primary schools wanting to apply for academy status? I beg to move.

My Lords, I support the thrust of the noble Baroness’s amendments. Having visited several nurseries in the course of the Childcare Bill and followed the debates about the early years foundation stage, I believe that it is vital to have good-quality early years care. There is a real challenge in achieving that in this country; we start so far behind the Scandinavians. We have not had a strategy until recently in this area. Many of those working in it are poorly educated and poorly paid young women, and there is often a very high turnover of staff. The settings in schools may be different to that general picture, but I ask noble Lords to put themselves into the shoes of a three year-old being cared for by a woman who then goes—then another one comes and goes, and another one comes. That is a very black picture. I am sure that it is not generally the case, but there is that danger.

The early years foundation stage really helps in setting out clearly what the expectation should be and what these children should receive. In particular, every child in the nursery should have a key person. That should be the person who makes the relationship with the parent of the child and follows that child, changes the nappies and looks after that child. Others will have to take their place from time to time but, rather than the child being passed around from person to person, there is someone there with a particular special relationship with that child. That is an easy thing to lose if there are lots of poorly trained and poorly supported people and there is a high turnover of staff. Given the vulnerability of the children and the challenges to the sector, I would appreciate the reassurance of the Minister that this clear framework for practice in this area will be applied to those children in future.

My Lords, I lend my support to these amendments, which I know at this stage are probing. I am very proud of the achievements of the last Government in relation to the under-fives and I acknowledge the kind remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley. However, the fact is that millions of children have had a better start to life thanks to the considerable investment in free nursery education for all three to four year-olds and the creation of so many Sure Start children’s centres. My concern, which is shared by the Early Childhood Forum and others, is that it would appear that the authors of the Bill have given little thought to its effects on three to five year-olds.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, asked a number of very important questions including about the risk of removing academies from the inspection framework for the under-fives, the issues around welfare and safeguarding and the loophole over reregistration. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, put his finger on some of the important workforce challenges that this sector faces, including issues about the lack of experience of many staff working in the sector. That is why it is so important to maintain the integrity of the early years foundation stage. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that his department has thought very carefully about these matters around early years. If not, perhaps he can give us some hope that there will continue to be national safeguards and infrastructure to ensure that attention is given to the points raised by noble Lords. This is an important matter and we will come back to it on Report if we are not satisfied that it will be dealt with effectively.

My Lords, I understand the points that have been made, particularly those made very forcefully by my noble friend Lady Walmsley about the need to be clear about arrangements for the very youngest in our schools. I accept the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, too, in that regard. I know how much work my noble friends have done in this area, and I hope I can give some reassurance that the key safeguards they seek are already in place.

Amendment 52 would require academies that teach the under-fives to teach them the early years foundation stages of the national curriculum. Although I agree with my noble friends’ intention in this amendment, I would suggest that the amendment is unnecessary because academies are already required, under the Childcare Act 2006, to provide the early years foundation stage. That is spelled out explicitly in their funding agreement. This stage is more than just a curriculum, as it covers much broader outcomes for very young children, including issues such as social skills.

Amendment 53 would require academies to register as early years providers. The Childcare Act 2006 sets out the detailed circumstances in which some academies, as independent schools, are required to register on the early years register. It is not appropriate to require all academies providing nursery or primary education to register as early years settings if they do not necessarily meet the precise, detailed requirements for registration that the Childcare Act lays down. Some will meet those requirements, and will be required to register, but others will not. It is a complex area, but it is covered by the Childcare Act and academies are covered by that.

Amendment 54 is intended to ensure that academy Sure Start centres continue to provide integrated children’s centre services. We would certainly encourage schools with such centres to apply to become academies, as we would want them to continue to provide the excellent services they currently do. The particular circumstances would need to be worked through with the department by any school that had a Sure Start centre when it applied for academy status, but that is certainly something that we would want to discuss with them. It would require decisions to be made on a case-by-case basis, and we would prefer to have that flexibility rather than make particular mention of them in the Bill. I understand my noble friends’ concerns about the future of these important children’s centres in schools, and I recognise the progress made in recent years on that. However, any issues which will inevitably arise in each case will be carefully considered as part of the conversion process. We certainly do not want to lose the progress that has been made.

I hope that that provides some reassurance to noble Lords and that my noble friend may feel able to withdraw her probing amendment.

I thank the Minister for his reply and other Members of the Committee for their contributions. I am gratified that he is able to tell me that Amendment 52 is unnecessary, because the early years foundation stage will be taught. I will have to go away and look again at the detail of that. On Amendment 53, I am not quite clear what the Minister was saying. He said that some settings will be required to register and are already, and that some will not. I wonder whether he would be kind enough to write to me and clarify that, because I did not quite understand the reasons—perhaps he did not really go into them—why some do not need to register and will not. If they are to provide the education for that age group, I would have thought that they all had to be treated the same, because it really is important that the standard is kept up. That is what particularly concerns me.

Concerning the Sure Start centres, my noble friend suggested that they should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. I would have thought that those current centres are so proud of their reputation—and jealous to guard it—that if they felt that in applying to become an academy they would lose that multi-agency, multi-professional ethos, they simply would not apply. I certainly hope that they would not, anyway. I will have to look rather carefully at my noble friend’s reply to see whether I need to probe him any further, but I would be grateful if he could write a more detailed response on my Amendment 53 and put a copy in the Library, because I really did not quite understand it. However, in the mean time I beg to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 52 withdrawn.

Amendments 53 to 60 not moved.

Amendment 60A

Moved by

60A: Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert—

“( ) the school offers a guarantee of minimum educational standards to pupils and parents (a pupil and parent guarantee) as set out in schedule (Pupil and parent guarantees)”

My Lords, I shall briefly give the coalition Government another opportunity to think again about the events that took place during the wash-up. The Committee will be well aware of the Labour Government’s commitment to deliver for parents and pupils a guarantee around the quality and style of education delivered to them through our schools around the country, so we now turn to the amendments in relation to the pupil-parent guarantee for academies.

Amendments 60A and 170A would restore the guarantees that we on this side of the Committee aimed to provide for pupils and parents. Those guarantees were, sadly, blocked by the Conservative Party during the negotiations between our two parties on the legislation outstanding before Parliament in the run-up to the last election. Those guarantees would have given pupils and parents assurances of a decent education whatever school they attended, so that every local school would be a good school, delivering minimum standards for all.

We set it out in statute that the guarantees should include: catch-up support in the three Rs for primary school pupils or for those starting secondary school who fall behind, which would have included one-to-one tuition and small group work; online information for parents on their child’s behaviour, progress and attainment; a named personal tutor for every secondary school pupil; guarantees on school behaviour through home-school agreements; the right to learn triple sciences at GCSE; a guarantee of regular sport and exercise; and the opportunity for every primary school pupil to learn a musical instrument—on which, if the Minister wants to see that as my contribution toward Amendment 68, then in the interests of time I am happy if he wants to come back to me on musical tuition in his response here.

This is about giving parents and pupils the information and the awareness of what they can expect from their school system, so that no child should miss out and so that every school should be a good school. Now, we have heard a great deal from the coalition Government about the desire to empower parents and to give more power to communities. Of course, we very much want that, so I will be very interested to hear how the noble Lord can build on the work that we did in government to make sure that the best really is on offer for all our children in our schools.

The noble Baroness invites my noble friend to return to the days of an old new Labour Government; I do not agree with her. Actually, we did not agree with her at the time. We spoke against these pupil-parent guarantees as being motherhood and apple pie without any legal levers at all, so she will not be surprised to learn that we do not support her amendment.

Indeed, the guarantees were not just without any meaningful evidence as to what they actually meant, but without any resources so that teachers would be able to undertake that additional, onerous responsibility.

If I might add another voice from the Back Benches: to try to guarantee to every parent that their child will have an ideally good school—what a wonderful thought that would be. People have been trying ever since the end of the Second World War to provide a good school for every child; successive Governments have not succeeded in doing so. There are still an awful lot of schools which fail an awful lot of children, so to try to put into legislation a promise to parents that they will have a good school for their child is really an absurd suggestion.

My Lords, when my children were at primary school I recall the primary head teacher telling me with great joy one day that there had been a very large package delivered in the school playground. They were not sure where it came from and had asked the police to inspect it. They had indeed blown it up; it was 400 pages of further instructions from the Department for Education. Of course, we agree with many of the aspirations set out in the proposed new schedule but, as the noble Baroness will have heard from behind the Front Bench, we are committed to giving schools more freedoms to get on with the job, with fewer detailed instructions taking less time away from teachers for teaching. What she is suggesting is very much the kind of approach that we want to move away from.

As my noble friend Baroness Walmsley and others have said, writing things down on paper and spending a long time negotiating them does not necessarily make them happen. We therefore share the aspirations but not the method. For most of us on this side of the Committee, part of what was wrong with education policy under the previous Government was the overdetailed instructions and prescriptions to schools, which we all know that teachers grew intensely to dislike. The aim of this Bill and of the Bills which will follow it—a larger Bill is promised for this autumn—is to free teachers to talk with parents and deal with pupils, and not to spend an immense amount of time with pieces of paper and negotiations. I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her amendment.

My Lords, of course I listened with great interest to the noble Lord’s contribution. The pupil and parent guarantees were actually about empowering parents and pupils so that they can ensure that, in partnership with their schools and their local authority or academy trust, they can get the things that they need for their children. It is about looking at the education service that this country provides from a bottom-up perspective—looking at it from the point of view of the parent and child and of what goes on in the classroom. If we think back to Second Reading, how chastened might the coalition Government perhaps have felt when my noble friend Lady Morris criticised them for focusing so much on structure? Here we have a chance for them, just for a moment, to think about one-to-one tuition, for example. What has happened to one-to-one tuition? We have gone from a situation where the Government were committed to guaranteeing it in statute, with a process through local government—

I cannot wait for the opportunity to discuss the pupil premium. There we have a real chance to see how the grand words will unfold into real benefits for pupils in schools. That is what I am interested in and what the pupil guarantee was all about. That is what this focus on structure and structural tinkering leaves wanting, which is what I am concerned about. I am very interested to debate how the pupil premium will work. An awful lot rests on what the pupil premium delivers—not just for disadvantaged pupils in this country, but for the coalition Government. I am happy at this stage to withdraw my amendment and I look forward to the debate continuing.

Amendment 60A withdrawn.

Amendments 60B to 71 not moved.

Amendment 72

Moved by

72: Clause 1, page 2, line 13, at end insert—

“( ) An Academy must operate in partnership with its local authority, and the maintained schools in that local authority area, on arrangements for the permanent exclusion of pupils.”

My Lords, I will focus now on exclusions, which are always a key issue for schools, as we know. I am sure noble Lords will agree that exclusions by the academies proposed in the Bill will be no exception. There are many reasons why academies are more likely, historically, to exclude a greater proportion of their pupils than other maintained schools, especially in the early years of their creation. Often, when we look at the data on academies, it appears that by definition they result in a higher level of exclusions. However, we should not expect that those challenging schools which convert to academies under the old scheme would not have higher exclusion rates than other schools. That is the situation of the past. The figures show that exclusions tend to rise in the early days but fall as academies become more established. This is an example of how successful academies have been. In part this is because we have insisted—and this is key—that academies participate in local behaviour partnerships.

The then Department for Children, Schools and Families published revised guidance about behaviour and attendance partnerships for schools on 31 March 2010. The main provisions take account of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009, which makes it a requirement for all maintained secondary schools and academies to co-operate and form behaviour and attendance partnerships to improve behaviour and tackle persistent absence among pupils. That is the present situation. The partnerships must also report annually on their progress to the children’s trust board, which is in flux at the moment. These provisions will, I believe, come into force on 1 September 2010, unless the Minister is going to advise us of a different situation. By working in partnership on such issues, rather than working in isolation, schools could achieve great benefits—the benefits of shared physical and financial resources and people; the joint commissioning of the provision of shared expertise; and the sharing of knowledge of effective practice between schools. Those schools in behaviour partnerships are asked to work together to seek a reduction in differential rates of permanent exclusion or persistent absence of pupils with SEN, pupils from a particular ethnic minority group or pupils who are eligible for free school meals.

The concern is that by freeing schools which are already less likely to have to deal with issues such as these from any requirement to co-operate with other schools, there will be a temptation for these schools to use exclusions as a first—not last—resort. We are looking here for reassurance that steps will be in place to mitigate this. This is not to say that the school would be operating in any way that was untoward, but simply that some of the alternatives to exclusion are difficult and expensive. There is a real challenge. It is important that by lowering the expectations on academies to deal with difficult children, rather than pass the buck by excluding them while keeping these high expectations for everyone else, we do not create a division in our educational systems. This challenge is particularly acute when the academies scheme is, as the Government intend, flipped on its head so that the stronger schools are given academy status as a priority, rather than those that are struggling most.

Amendment 73 gives a right of appeal to those who have been excluded. The provisions of the Human Rights Act and other relevant legislation mean that simply to exclude children from school without a right of appeal risks tying up head teachers in court battles to defend an exclusion. The coalition Government have stated that this is not their intention. Since more than 99 per cent of exclusions are overturned on appeal, this is a simple provision for an appeals process which does not undermine the authority of head teachers but frees them from unnecessary bureaucracy. I hope noble Lords will respond positively to these amendments.

My Lords, I am unhappy about these amendments on several counts. First, they seem to impose, again, external restrictions on academies, whereas the whole object of the Bill is to take away all the impositions that have been put on them. Secondly, Amendment 72 would give the local authority an overriding say in the exclusion of pupils. Surely, if a school is to be free and able to manage its own affairs, it should not have to operate in partnership with a local authority that no longer has any statutory or financial authority over it.

I have discussed these amendments with the principal of one academy, who assures me that academies are happy to operate independently and in informal collaboration with other schools in their area, though not necessarily within the same local authority, particularly over aspects of their work which might well affect those other schools. For example, if a pupil is excluded from an academy, it might well be that another school would be the better and right place for that pupil to go. In that case there is nothing to stop Fred, the principal of one academy, calling Mary, the principal of a maintained school, and saying, “Look, we’ve got a lad here who isn’t fitting into the academy well and is behaving very badly. We’re intending to exclude him; would you be willing to take him on?”, and so on. Trusting professionals in the service to do sensible things and work together on a collegiate and happy basis is far more likely to work than all this imposition of things from outside and putting them in legislation. I hope that the noble Baroness will reflect on the lack of trust which this kind of amendment suggests.

The reassuring words of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark, are very helpful. When I visit special institutions for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties or children’s homes, I am concerned that often one finds that the children with the most severe difficulties are pooled together in one place. They become difficult to manage, difficult for each other, and difficult for those who are caring for them. When comparing Denmark and this country, one of the differences is that Denmark intervenes and takes children into care earlier. Children’s homes are used more and there is more of a mixed bag of children in them. Thus, the temperature of the place is lowered. As a result of this provision, I would not want to see the most difficult children pushed into one place. I hope that the Minister can reassure us that further thought will be given to how we can support head teachers in academies and non-academies to work together. For example, a small amount of resources could be put into a yearly local get-together where such people would be able to speak to and to meet each other.

Amendment 97 does not sit easily with the other two amendments in this group and is on a separate area. Therefore, we are moving on. This probing amendment seeks firm reassurance from the Government on how the Academies Bill may impact on specialist support services for children with low-incidence special educational needs and disabilities. I am focusing my remarks on specialist support services for deaf children, but these issues are applicable to other children with low-incidence needs, such as those with visual impairments.

The National Deaf Children’s Society, to which I am indebted for its advice on this issue, estimates that there are more than 35,000 deaf children in England, of whom 90 per cent attend mainstream schools. However, deafness is a low-incidence need. As a result, in many schools it may be many years before a deaf child enrols. The reality is that deaf children are spread unevenly in mainstream schools across any one area. There is no reason why a deaf child cannot achieve as well as their hearing friends, provided that they get the support that they need from the start. This support is normally provided through local authority specialist support services, which cover a wide range. They include providing the school with amplification equipment, such as microphones; ensuring that th