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Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, apart from the improvement in our educational system in relation to grant-maintained schools, the amount of taxpayers' money spent on education per pupil has increased substantially since 1979?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, yes. It has risen by around 50 per cent. It is a record of which we can be extremely proud.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the pupil-teacher ratio in the education service as a whole is worsening as a result of the Government's failure to fund or allow full funding for all schools funded from the state sector, be they grant maintained or local authority run? Can he also confirm that those schools, particularly Church schools,

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which are allocated capital funding for building repairs, are treated less favourably than the grant-maintained schools funded by the Government?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, this is in danger of becoming a long and complicated question, but I shall do my best to answer as much of it as I can in a reasonably short time. I would not agree with the noble Baroness's second point at all. Grant-maintained schools obtain all their capital funding from the Government. Other schools have many other sources available to them. It is difficult to make comparisons. We have always said that we will give grant-maintained schools the capital that they should have. Local authorities have many other ways of finding money to help their schools, other than by direct grants from the Government. With regard to the noble Baroness's first point, I really do not believe that that is the case.

Earl Russell: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the answer that he has just given to his noble friend Lord Clark of Kempston about the increase in spending per head omitted three points: first, the funding of teachers' salaries; secondly, it was based on the RPI and not on an increase in educational costs; and, thirdly, it omitted falling school rolls and therefore the fact that overheads have to have the costs shared between fewer pupils and that the amount of money available is therefore falling?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I think that the answer I gave was quite clear. The amount of money we spend per pupil has risen by 50 per cent. in real terms. Yes, it is true that we have paid teachers better salaries than they were paid under the Labour Government. Indeed, teachers have done better than non-manual workers as a whole. Some of the increase in funding has gone to paying teachers better. I do not think that is a bad thing.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, has the Minister any details on the Oratory School, which has been chosen by the Leader of the Opposition in another place?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, it is a superb school. I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition on his choice.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, does the Minister recall that no fewer than 12 sections of the Education Act 1993, which took up so much of our time and the time of another place last year and the year before, provide for groups of schools to opt out together and for existing grant-maintained schools to join groups? Is he aware that the possibility of groups has since then spawned one 28-page glossy booklet, a 38-page technical paper and five statutory instruments covering 56 pages? Can he now tell the House how many grant-maintained schools have opted out into groups and what the promotion of this absurd possibility has cost so far?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, so far as I know—I stand to be corrected and I shall write to the noble Lord if I am wrong—no schools have taken advantage of this opportunity. Schools choose whether to take advantage of it. We are putting no pressure on them to do so. We

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are pleased to have provided them with the opportunity. I do not have an answer with me to the noble Lord's second question. I shall write to him.

Business of the House: Debates, 5th April

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of the Viscount Tenby and the Lord Palmer set down for tomorrow shall each be limited to three hours—(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Mental Health (Patients in the Community) Bill [H.L.]

3.3 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Cumberlege.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [After-care under supervision]:

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 6, after ("shall") insert ("subject to the provisions of section 7(2) below").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak to Amendment No. 135, which is consequential upon it. Before getting down to the matter of this amendment I should like to take the chance to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, and through her Mr. Bowis and the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, for the meeting which they so very kindly arranged to give us an explanation of the Bill and the issues arising from it. It was a very valuable meeting. It was gratefully received and I should like to thank the Ministers concerned for the time and trouble they have put into it. This is another in the list of suggestions of the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham, for improving the procedure of the House. I think it will work.

Amendment No. 1 is an amendment to the commencement clause of the Bill to provide that the Bill shall come into effect on a date to be agreed between the local authority associations and the Minister, or their successor bodies. The words "successor bodies" may possibly be redundant. They are an exercise in belt and braces. But with the local government review in progress we never know what is going to happen next, so I thought it best to draft the amendment with a certain amount of caution.

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I am glad, for a change, to be able to say that on the whole I think this is not a bad Bill. It is, of course, in a minor key, though not necessarily the worse for that. It seems to be tackling some difficult issues in a helpful way and in areas where it is often impossible for anyone ever to be right. In a lot of points it is as near as one can reasonably expect. However, I share the amazement expressed by my noble friend Lady Robson of Kiddington at the Financial Memorandum attached to the Bill. That is the one thing which causes me great surprise. It states:

    "The Bill should give rise to no additional costs for Health Authorities (in England and Wales), Health Boards (in Scotland) or local authorities. The new provisions for supervision and community care orders provide a legislative framework for existing good practice".

That may well be so but there is a very big difference between good practice and universal practice. That is true even in the best of our institutions. So to universalise good practice in any institution surely must carry additional costs. The National Schizophrenia Fellowship has expressed itself amazed at that statement in the Financial Memorandum. I cannot help sharing that amazement.

The purpose of this Bill is to lay new statutory obligations on local authorities. Local authorities are rapidly coming to feel about statutory obligations as Ministers have long felt about natural rights—they are more expensive than practical to implement. So, much though I might like a lot of the provisions of the Bill, if or when they can be had, I am reluctant to put into force a Bill which is to put, I fear, large numbers of local authorities in breach of the law. That does not seem to be a very good thing to do. I have always held to the 17th century legal maxim that the law does not compel people to do the impossible.

We know that the funding of care in the community was already under strain before the Bill was brought forward. I shall mention the judicial review case in Gloucestershire without needing to develop that theme. I am reluctant at the moment to add new burdens to what local authorities are already carrying. At the time of year when the local government financial settlement is announced a number of our constituency parties tend to be holding annual dinners. I am used to experiencing gloom about local authority financial settlements, but what I found this year was not the gloom, which to some degree I expect, but sheer rocketing hysteria. I have never found anything like it before. It caused me considerable alarm.

I believe that the Minister is aware that local authorities have some sense of misgiving about the funding available to implement the provisions of this Bill. She may say, "They would, wouldn't they?" But the same argument does not apply to the Law Society which, in the briefing it has supplied, expresses equally strong misgivings about the availability of funds. So has the Royal College of Psychiatrists who point out the burden on local authorities as being much the greater because of frequent premature discharge from hospital. The noble Baroness may say that that is not the case. I cannot help feeling that the Royal College of

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Psychiatrists is slightly nearer to the front line than she and therefore, in cases of conflict, possibly more likely to be right.

It is not my purpose to set up myself or this House as the judge of whether there is enough money. It is a difficult thing to judge in the course of a debate. The point I wish to make about this amendment is that this is an area in which coercion is not the appropriate weapon. If this Bill is to succeed, it must be undertaken on all hands with faith that it is possible to undertake the tasks which it lays on people. Without that faith it will be done badly and with fear; with an eye over the shoulder and, on occasion, with a heavy heart. In implementing provisions which are themselves good and which could do a lot of good, that is something about which I would feel very great regret.

Even in the greatest "Mission Impossible" stories, the faith of the person who carries out the mission is always a crucial ingredient in its success. The purpose of this amendment is that the Bill should not come into force until, by whatever means are necessary, that faith has been created. I beg to move.

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