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Lord Hooson: I do not think that the noble Lord has allayed the fears of parents because the document sets out that the voucher would provide for high quality part-time education. As most children in this age group are in full-time high quality nursery education, how will the difference be provided for?

17 Jun 1996 : Column 95

Lord Henley: I hope to be able to allay those fears. The Government will deduct from the local authority settlement in Wales no more than the number of four year-olds in the schools multiplied by the voucher value. That will not necessarily be all that the local authorities are currently spending. That will be left with the local authorities and they will be able to spend to provide full-time education if they wish.

I have acknowledged that there is a distinctiveness to the Welsh educational scene. However, it is difficult to envisage what gain could be expected from an experimental phase in at least two authorities in Wales and what aspects of the Welsh dimension it could cover that are not currently being considered. It would delay giving parents throughout the Principality the choice in the provision they want to make for their four year-olds and provision of at least half-time education for a full three terms. All parents in England, subject to Parliament, will have those benefits from April next year. We do not think it desirable to treat parents in Wales any less favourably. I hope that on this occasion therefore the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Elis-Thomas: If the Minister were trying to persuade me not to divide, he would not conclude on that note. The issue that concerns us is that where Wales has decided through its democratically elected local education authorities to make provision in a way which has consensus support, it is not for Parliament or Westminster to intervene, in a way which may be appropriate for some authorities in England, and to disrupt an established public sector scene in Wales which functions effectively and has popular support.

We shall return to this issue, maybe on stronger grounds, during later discussion of the Bill. We will take advantage of the opportunity between this debate and the final stages to talk to the Welsh Office again to give it, and particularly the new Minister, the opportunity to return to the issue.

I refer to a typical authority which, were it in England would no doubt be nearly under Conservative control, and that is Denbighshire. The new Denbighshire County Council has led Wales in campaigning on the issue of nursery vouchers. That has been done very ably by Mr. Edgar Lewis, director of education, who was previously working in Clwyd. That authority is made up in the following way. The largest group is the independent group which, in the English context, would probably be Conservative; the next largest group is the Labour group; and then there is the significant Plaid Cymru group. All the councillors in that authority, all the parents I have met at meetings and all the material I have received from parents, indicate complete support for what Denbighshire is providing, carrying on from what Clwyd is providing.

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The Government are setting their faces against the consensus of nursery providers and parents in Wales. I warn the Government that they do that at their electoral peril. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

8.57 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 8) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 57; Not-Contents, 59.

Division No. 3


Addington, L.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Baldwin of Bewdley, E.
Berkeley, L.
Borrie, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L.
Dahrendorf, L.
David, B.
Davies, L. [Teller.]
Dean of Beswick, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Elis-Thomas, L. [Teller.]
Ewing of Kirkford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Geraint, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greenway, L.
Grey, E.
Hamwee, B.
Haskel, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hooson, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Lockwood, B.
McNally, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Masham of Ilton, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Monkswell, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Nicol, B.
Ogmore, L.
Palmer, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Richard, L.
Seear, B.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Warnock, B.
White, B.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Wise, L.


Addison, V.
Balfour, E.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Bruntisfield, L.
Burnham, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carnock, L.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chesham, L. [Teller.]
Clark of Kempston, L.
Cochrane of Cults, L.
Courtown, E.
Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Downshire, M.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Gage, V.
Glenarthur, L.
Harmsworth, L.
Harris of Peckham, L.
Henley, L.
HolmPatrick, L.
Howe, E.
Inglewood, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Kingsland, L.
Kinnoull, E.
Lindsay, E.
Lucas, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
[Lord Chancellor.]
Mackay of Drumadoon, L.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Northesk, E.
O'Cathain, B.
Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Rennell, L.
Seccombe, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Slim, V.
Strathclyde, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vivian, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wynford, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

17 Jun 1996 : Column 97

9.5 p.m.

Lord Morris of Castle Morris moved Amendment No. 9:

Page 1, line 8, after second ("education") insert ("that is appropriate to the age of the child and is").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 9 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 12, 51 and 61. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the curriculum delivered in response to vouchers is of the right type for the children involved and that there is some legislative protection as to its quality. By definition, anything that is properly education will be conducted according to a curriculum, which is the sum total of experiences which contribute to the learning of an individual. It includes planned intervention by educators as well as the outcome of self-directed or guided activity on the part of the learner. An appropriate curriculum for the nursery phase of education was well described in the report, Starting with Quality, published in 1990 by the committee chaired by Angela Rumbold, the then Minister of State at the Home Office. I can do no better than commend that document to your Lordships in the hope that you will read it, mark it, learn it and inwardly digest it.

Currently, nursery education, as it is properly understood, covers the period from the third birthday to the entry into the reception class at rising five. In our view, the proposed nursery voucher scheme cuts across those arrangements by neglecting three year-olds but invading the funding of older children who are already moving beyond the true nursery phase. The aim of the amendment is an attempt to relocate the application of the Bill towards activity that can properly be understood as nursery education and provide legislative protection to the quality of provision which that term implies.

The amendment received a very cold wind from the Government in another place. We hope that noble Lords speaking for the Government today will give serious consideration to the appropriateness of education funded through vouchers.

Perhaps I may say a few words about Amendment No. 51. Its purpose is to bring the obligation on nursery providers in line with the Education Act 1988 by ensuring that the chief inspector has the duty to inform the Secretary of State on the "physical" and "intellectual" development of children as well as on their spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. We prefer the word "intellectual" to the word "mental" from the Latin mentalis--mens mentis, the mind--meaning also "chin" or "pertaining to the chin" from the Latin mentum. I believe that the arguments which will follow any quotation from me in that learned tongue will be none the weaker for it. Therefore, for the purpose of the amendment, I prefer the word "intellectual".

17 Jun 1996 : Column 98

A list of "desirable achievements" or "outcome statements" such as has been put forward in SCAA's document, Desirable Outcomes for Children's Learning is not in our view an acceptable or adequate way of describing a nursery curriculum. While such a list facilitates the production of a simple check list for those children reaching statutory school age, it would dominate and narrow the curriculum for the under-fives. In addition, it is likely to ignore the development of individual children and their educational needs.

How much more appropriate the ACAC's "desirable outcome" consultation document for Wales which begins with Gerallt Lloyd Owen's opening lines of his epic poem "Afon":

    "Pan feddwn dalent plentyn, I weld llais a chlywed llun".

I shall translate that for your Lordships:

    "When I had a child's talent to see a voice and hear an image".

That is what that kind of curriculum should introduce. I say it in all seriousness. I beg to move.

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