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Earl Howe: My Lords, if the college does not cover its costs through charges to its customers, the taxpayers will not only bear the full costs but subsidise the college in competition with other providers of training. That cannot be right--

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Of course it is.

Earl Howe: My Lords, no, that cannot be right when one of the key policies of government is to improve the competitiveness and efficiency of both the public and private sectors. In the end, the college will succeed or fail on how many customers it attracts. It is succeeding by attracting customers not only from this country but from overseas. We want to see that continue.

Lord Richard: My Lords, I am sorry but I am getting a little lost and I wonder whether the Minister can help me. Is he saying that the college must make a profit in

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order to stay in the public sector; and is he saying that it will remain in the public sector but that it will try to find people to occupy the bedrooms when classes are down and on holiday; or is he saying something slightly different from those two statements? Looking at the situation from this side of the House, with more than 300 Conservative hereditary peers taking the Conservative Whip, may I venture to express the hope that the Civil Service College will continue to function with perhaps a greater degree of fairness, equity, efficiency and speed than does your Lordships' House?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the key aim of our policy will be to construct a range of partnerships which will bring demonstrable benefits to both the college and potential private sector partners and at the same time bring in private sector expertise and finance as well as risk-sharing. Therefore, I believe that the second part of the noble Lord's first question reflects more accurately what we intend to do.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, will my noble friend show a little sympathy for the noble Lord, Lord Richard, who seems to have become rather lost in matters which are not in any way related to this Question?

Horticulture Research International

3 p.m.

Lord Chapple asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the main considerations which led to the proposal to privatise in full Horticulture Research International.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, Horticulture Research International is currently the subject of a prior options review which the Government are still considering.

Lord Chapple: My Lords, I hope that the Government will give some further thought to this matter because it is widely understood in the industry that the decision has been taken. That is causing great consternation in an organisation which is a flagship organisation of the industry and which has a worldwide reputation. The fear is that, if the Government act with undue haste, the organisation will be sold off piecemeal and the best of it will be lost.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I echo entirely the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, about the quality of HRI. It is an excellent organisation which is very well regarded by its customers and by the Government. We have taken no decision. I know that the noble Lord has a wide knowledge of this matter, not least because I believe that his daughter-in-law works for the organisation. I hope that he will feel able to reassure her that we have not yet taken a decision and we intend to do so in the interests of HRI to ensure that it has the best possible future.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, will the Minister say how much the Government expect to receive from the sale of HRI or does the Minister expect that we shall have

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to pay somebody to take it off our hands as we had to do with the National Engineering Laboratory last November?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, that is an entirely irrelevant question since we have not yet embarked on that stage of our considerations.

Lord Peston: My Lords, will the noble Lord explain why the Government are doing any of this? We have a very important horticulture industry which is subject to intense international competition and which needs first-class research and development to back it. Although I am not an expert in the field, I believe that Horticulture Research International is a body of international standing. I could give the Government a list a mile long of useful things to do. Why are they spending their time on this matter? Why do they not let this body get on with what it is doing; let the horticulture industry get on with what it is doing; and find something else for themselves to do?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am sure that at the end of the day, Horticulture Research International will feel that it has benefited from this process.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, I speak as a very keen horticulturist. Does the noble Lord accept that it is a great consolation to hear the noble Lord, Lord Chapple, speaking on horticulture and expressing his concern about the probability of privatisation and returning to his roots?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the noble Lord expresses the matter far better than I could.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, is the institution commercially viable?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, yes.

Baroness Nicol: My Lords, will the Minister explain what consultation will take place in this situation if the Government decide to go ahead with privatisation? Will the Minister accept that this weekend I received from a large local garden centre an expression of anxiety about the possibility of this privatisation?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I understand the noble Baroness's concern. I cannot answer her first question because we have not yet reached that stage of our considerations.

Stalking (No. 2) Bill [H.L.]

3.4 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for a new criminal offence of stalking and for a prohibitory order with sanctions against stalking; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

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Business of the House: Debates, 14th May

3.4 p.m.

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

Moved, That Standing Order 38 (Arrangement of the Order Paper) be dispensed with on Tuesday 14th May, to enable the two Motions standing in the name of the Earl Russell to be taken before the Deregulation and Contracting Out (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 and the Food Safety (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1996; and to enable the Earl Russell's Motion for a resolution to be taken before the Motion for an Humble Address.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Business of the House: NHS (Residual Liabilities) Bill

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Tuesday 21st May to enable the National Health Service (Residual Liabilities) Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Education (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

3.5 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [The Scottish Qualifications Authority]:

Lord Sewel moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 19, at end insert (", from amongst persons nominated by, or by bodies appearing to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of, the Universities of Scotland, education authorities, colleges of further education, institutions of further education, central institutions, educational advisers, teachers employed in educational establishments and grant aided and independent schools").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I take this opportunity to welcome the Minister back from his recent visit to Aberdeen where he was no doubt doing his best to help to preserve an endangered species--and I hope not too successfully.

Your Lordships will realise that Amendment No. 1 is of historic and, indeed, perhaps pre-historic importance as it makes reference to central institutions which, unfortunately perhaps, now no longer exist. There may be some who think that it would be better that they should continue to exist, but they do not.

The part of the Bill dealing with the establishment of the Scottish qualifications authority is non-controversial. Indeed, I believe that it is welcomed broadly throughout Scotland and the education sector in Scotland. But there

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is one difficulty with it which the amendment seeks to correct; that is, that the Bill as presently drafted leaves completely undefined the composition of the authority.

That is important because it is of vital interest that the Scottish qualifications authority enjoys the confidence of all those involved in the examination process in Scotland and that there is confidence in the integrity and robustness of its deliberations and outcomes. Indeed, when this issue was put to the Minister, Mr. Robertson, when we were collecting evidence in Glasgow, he made the observation:

    "I think the reassurance that you are seeking there would be given in Debates in the Committee stage both in your House and in my own".
When we discussed the clause in Committee, the Minister was only able to go so far as to say that the Secretary of State intended to appoint to the authority those people who would bring:

    "a breadth of experience covering a broad range of interests".--[Official Report, 23/4/96; col. CWH5.]
That falls somewhat short of the need to ensure that those involved with education authorities, universities, further education, local authorities and all those who have a direct interest in the robustness and integrity of the examination system are incorporated into the Scottish qualifications authority so that they will have confidence that its deliberations are purposeful and effective.

I hope that the Minister will be able to go further today and give some indication that the authority will have a degree of structure and will not be as unstructured and open as the Bill presently indicates. I beg to move.

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