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Mr. Dorrell: As the Minister recognised, subcontracting the power to run payroll services can be useful, but it is not what we are talking about. We are talking about the management of the school, the delivery of education services, deciding whom the school employs, deciding the terms and how their time is used, and the experience of the child in the classroom. Does an existing school have the power to subcontract those functions to a commercial company? If it does not, the Minister has not shown how the power can be vested in a forum. He said that the forum has only the powers delegated to it by the governing body.

Mr. Byers: The governing body will be responsible under the new framework that we are introducing in September next year. The education action zones will operate on a voluntary basis, depending on when the Bill reaches the statute book--probably five will operate from this September--and they will have full legal powers from September next year. If an education action forum has powers ceded to it by the governing bodies, it will be able to engage the private sector or the local education authority to meet its objectives. That is why education action zones

11 Mar 1998 : Column 608

are an exciting initiative--there will be flexibility. I hope that that meets the concerns expressed by the hon. Member for Maidenhead, who thought that this was a modest proposal. The powers are there, which is why my officials state that amendment No. 88 is unnecessary.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Faversham and Mid-Kent): Would the powers to be ceded include the power to suspend pupils? That would be an interesting departure from the norm. For the first time, the power to suspend a pupil would be given to a private company, which would not be in the same contractual relationship with the parent as a school.

Mr. Byers: The powers of the education action forum are derived from governing bodies ceding the powers that they have at present. We do not foresee a situation in which some of the exclusion powers would be handed over to a third party. Technically, that might be possible, but there are provisions elsewhere in the Bill, which prescribe the circumstances in which exclusions can and cannot take place.

Mr. Don Foster: For the avoidance of confusion, can the Minister confirm that once an education action zone is set up, the staff currently employed by the schools within the zone will continue to be employed by the LEA, and only new staff chosen by the forum will be employed by the forum? Can he confirm that it will not be possible to send on to a third party the responsibility for the delivery of the curriculum?

7.15 pm

Mr. Byers: It is more complicated than that. Under the framework, certain schools--for example, foundation schools--will be the employer of their staff. It is far more complicated than just saying that there is a blanket approach. One of the powers to be given to the education action zones will be to disapply the provisions of the national curriculum, so that they have greater flexibility. I am afraid that there is not a simple answer to the hon. Gentleman's complicated question.

Amendments Nos. 121 and 122 were tabled by the hon. Member for Bath. I understand his concerns about the need to involve LEAs, which will still have the underlying statutory responsibility for ensuring that children in their area receive an adequate and suitable education in terms of their age and ability. There is a difficulty with the way in which amendment No. 121 is worded, because it talks about consultation, but then refers to the LEA as a partner. The amendment states:


There is a legal difficulty with that.

I might be able to help the hon. Member for Bath by referring to the guidance sent to the interested parties that might want to promote an education action zone, in which we make it clear that different zones will be run in different ways:


11 Mar 1998 : Column 609

    The hon. Gentleman is concerned about situations in which the LEA may not be the driving force behind the proposal. The guidance states:


    "In others, a proposal to create a zone might come from a business, community or voluntary organisation, in conjunction with a group of schools"--

addressing the situation that was referred to earlier.


    "This allows for new and exciting groups to become involved in running an Action Forum, bringing with them fresh ideas on school improvement. In such cases, the LEA would be consulted in the development of the proposal, and we expect that LEAs will want to work closely with any successful bids which come through this route."

That is more appropriate than requiring that to be so, because there may be circumstances in which, for one reason or another, the LEA is not happy with the group of schools with approval for education action zone status.

We can guarantee that consultation will be required before a proposal is approved by the Secretary of State, but we do not feel that it is appropriate to go further. Amendment No. 121 talks about the LEA, as of right, being guaranteed a place as a partner in the proposal. That would be inflexible and would create a range of possible difficulties.

Mr. Don Foster: The Minister seriously misrepresents the amendment when he says that it states that the LEA would, as of right, expect to have a place on the forum. I hope that he will accept that the amendment's wording is clear and does not have the interpretation that he has given it.

Mr. Byers: Legally, the hon. Gentleman's amendment can have that interpretation, which is why I shall ask the House to resist it.

Education action zones are an exciting initiative. They will allow schools to raise standards in new and imaginative ways. For those reasons, I ask the House to reject the Liberal Democrat amendments but to endorse Government amendments Nos. 85, 86 and 87.

Mr. Foster: Although I am delighted that the Minister has acknowledged that there is a need to consult the LEA in the vast majority of cases, given the many roles that it will continue to have in respect of schools that may form an education action zone, it is vital that we have a much clearer indication that the LEA will be consulted and that it is given an opportunity to consider whether it is appropriate for it to become a member of the education action zone.

As we have not received sufficient assurances, we wish to press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 48, Noes 284.

Division No. 199
[7.20 pm


AYES


Allan, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Beggs, Roy
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Burstow, Paul
Cable, Dr Vincent
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Dafis, Cynog
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Donaldson, Jeffrey
Forsythe, Clifford
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
Maginnis, Ken
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd

Tellers for the Ayes:


Mr. Donald Gorrie and
Mr. Phil Willis.


NOES


Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Beard, Nigel
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Stephen
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Canavan, Dennis
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chaytor, David
Church, Ms Judith
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Dalyell, Tam
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Dowd, Jim
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Gapes, Mike
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hanson, David
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Ingram, Adam
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McLeish, Henry
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
Mallaber, Judy
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon)
Mountford, Kali
Mowlam, Rt Hon Marjorie
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Ken
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Straw, Rt Hon Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
(Dewsbury)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
White, Brian
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:


Mr. John McFall and
Mr. Kevin Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

11 Mar 1998 : Column 612

Clause 12

Functions of Education Action Forum


Amendment made: No. 85, in page 11, line 13, at end insert--
'(3A) Regulations may, in relation to the discharge by an Education Action Forum of any function of a governing body under sections 52 and 55(1) to (3), Schedule 16 or paragraph 26 of Schedule 17, make any such provision as may be made by an order under section 73 (application of employment law during financial delegation).'.--[Mr. Byers.]
Amendment proposed: No. 88, in page 11, line 13, at end insert--
'(3A) In discharging any function transferred to it under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section an Education Action Forum may enter a contract for the performance of that function with any party, whether from the public or private sector, who, in the opinion of the Education Action Forum, is a fit and proper party to discharge the function or functions covered by the contract.
(3B) Any party with whom the Education Action Forum enters a contract under the terms of subsection (3A) of this section (hereinafter referred to as "the contractor") shall be responsible for delivering the service defined in the contract with the Education Action Forum to the standard defined in the said contract and shall be permitted to acquire, employ, and manage, on terms to be determined by the contractor, such equipment, staff and other resources as he believes to be necessary to perform the duties defined in the contract.'.--[Mr. Dorrell.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 128, Noes 328.


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