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10 Mar 2003 : Column 49—continued

The Valuation Tribunal Service

Amendment made: No. 1, in page 60, line 17, leave out 'of, and clerks to' and insert
'and staff of (including clerks to)'.—[Mr. Clifton-Brown.]

Mr. Davey: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The House may need to be aware that as amendments and new clauses have fallen, neither the Committee nor the House has debated five areas of part 8, chapter 1, which includes important clauses on charging and trading, which will leave many people in local government very disappointed. Have you been approached by any representatives of the Government about making more time available to debate those clauses?

Mr. Deputy Speaker: I understand the hon. Gentleman's concerns about the fact that the House has been unable to debate those matters. Unfortunately those matters have already been decided by the House in its programme motion, and there is nothing that the Chair can do about that at this stage.

New Clause 11

Repeal of Section 2A of Local Government Act 1986

'The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament within 24 months of the coming into force of section 119 and at intervals of 24 months thereafter a report containing information on the effect of the operation of that section on—
(a) the adherence to guidance issued under section 403(1A) of the Education Act 1996 (c. 96);

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(b) the operation of the provisions of section 404 of that Act; and
(c) the numbers of parents withdrawing their children from sex education pursuant to section 405 of that Act.'.—[Mr. Clifton-Brown.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Clifton-Brown: I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker : With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Amendment (a) to the proposed new clause, in line 7, leave out 'and'.

Amendment (b) to the proposed new clause, in line 9, at end add,

'; and
(d) the operation of guidance issued in relation to section 403(1A) of that Act in relation to bodies established by local authorities pursuant to section 508(2) of that Act.'.

New clause 17—Sex or relationship education in facilities established pursuant to s508(2) of Education Act 1996—

'.—A local authority may not provide financial support to any facilities established pursuant to s508 (2) of the Education Act 1996 unless that local authority is satisfied that any sex or relationship education or guidance offered within that facility complies with the guidance issued by the Secretary of State pursuant to s403 (1A) of that Act.'.

New clause 21—Presentation of issues of sexual morality—

'In the Local Government Act 1986 (c. 10) there is inserted after section 2—
"Issues of sexual morality
2Z (1) The local authority, in the exercise of any of its functions in relation to people under the age of eighteen years, shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to secure that where issues relating to the morality of sex outside of marriage are brought to the attention of persons under the age of eighteen who are—
(a) in attendance at a maintained school, or
(b) taking part in extracurricular activities which are provided or organised for registered pupils at the school by or on behalf of the school
they are offered a balanced presentation of opposing views.
(2) In this section "maintained school" includes a maintained special school established in a hospital.".'.

Amendment No. 8, in page 70, line 41, leave out Clause 119.

Amendment No. 14, in page 110 [Schedule 7] leave out lines 27 and 28.

Amendment No. 15, in page 110, line 29 [Schedule 7], leave out 'Sections 28 and' and insert 'Section'.

Amendment No. 16, in page 111 [Schedule 7], leave out line 41.

Amendment No. 17, in page 112 [Schedule 7], leave out lines 2 and 3.

Amendment No. 18, in page 112 [Schedule 7], leave out lines 20 and 21.

Amendment No. 10, in page 72, line 34 [Clause 125], leave out '115 and 119' and insert 'and 115'.

Amendment No. 11, in page 72 [Clause 125], leave out lines 38 and 39.

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Amendment No. 12, in page 73 [Clause 125], leave out lines 3 to 5.

Amendment No. 13, in page 73 [Clause 125], leave out line 8.

Amendment No. 37, in page 73, line 9 [Clause 125], at end insert—

'(2A) Section 119 shall come into force two months after the day on which the Secretary of State certifies that—
(a) appropriate guidance has been issued under section 403(1A) of the Education Act 1996 (c. 56); and
(b) an appropriate mechanism has been established for consulting parents of registered pupils by ballot about the contents of any written statement made in pursuance of section 404(1)(a) of that Act.'.

5.15 pm

Mr. Clifton-Brown: Many misapprehensions and misnomers have been expressed on the subject of repealing so-called section 28, and it may help the House if I go through the current legal position on sex education in schools. Let me say at the outset that the Conservative party regards these as matters of conscience. We will therefore have completely free votes on the whole of this part of the Bill. I urge Ministers and spokesmen for other parties to confirm when they reply to the debate whether the same procedure will apply to their colleagues.

This debate is entirely about protecting our children in schools. All of us can argue about the content of sex education, but few would argue that there should be no sex education at all. The question is simply how it should be carried out. The question is important, especially in the light of some of the statistics that I shall give on unwanted teenage pregnancies.

Let me set out the legal history. As everyone knows, section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 inserted new section 2A into the Local Government Act 1986. The words of the provision are well known by many hon. Members, but it is worth quoting them. New section 2A states:

Subsection (2) is important. It states:

Parliament then passed the Education Act 1996, clause 403 of which states:

I shall paraphrase—take steps to ensure that sex education is given in such a manner as to encourage pupils to have due regard to the moral considerations and the value of family life. Few would argue with that. That Act, in section 404(1)(a), provided for a written

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statement to be made and kept up to date, and it defined a maintained school. Importantly, section 405 provided the statutory basis for exemption, stating:

Any parent who is not happy with any of the sex education provided at any maintained school may withdraw their child from that sex education at the school in so far is it does not form part of the national curriculum. That is clearly enshrined in legislation, and it is an important safeguard.

The Learning and Skills Act 2000 is important to sex education in schools, too, because it modifies section 403 of the Education Act 1996 by inserting new subsection (1A), which states:

New subsection (1B) provides that

It is important to note that section 148(3) specifically omits the words "local education authority". Colleagues can see that sex education in schools and guidance are now the responsibility of the governing body and the head teacher, not of the local authority as defined under section 2A of the Local Government Act 1988. In a sense, section 28 has become something of a misnomer in law.

The guidance extends to about 30 pages and was issued in July 2000 under reference DfEE 0116/2000. If any colleague has not read it, I would urge him or her to do so. I think that it is written in a moderate, balanced and sensible way. When we debate new clause 11, it will be seen that one of the main planks of our policy is to enshrine this guidance even more strongly in statute than it is now.

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