Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

National Lottery and Animal Charities

3 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My Lords, the National Lottery Charities Board is able to make grants to any organisation established for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes, including animal welfare charities.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that encouraging reply. Is he aware that through its charity the Animal Welfare Trust--the NHS of the animal world--supports the NHS? The animal NHS supports the human NHS. The animal organisation also supports the NHS by assisting many blind, disabled and deaf people who could live a near normal life through their guide dogs and their cats. Is the Minister aware that without the faithful companionship of their dogs and cats many people would have a less cheerful life? Will the Government support what I suggest?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, many people find great comfort in the company of what I believe are technically known as "companion animals". The National Lottery Charities Board feels that the fifth theme--improving people's living environment--which is due to be launched in the spring of next year, is probably the appropriate moment for the organisations to which the noble Lord referred to consider making an application.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, will the Government do their best to ensure that lottery money--or any other money--no longer goes to animal welfare charities which abuse their charitable status by campaigning politically against field sports?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, it is important to be clear that it is not for the Government to direct any of the distribution boards as to where the money should be spent. The bodies which are entitled to apply for grants from the National Lottery Charities Board must be charitable, benevolent or philanthropic. Regardless of its ostensible status, any organisation which falls outside that definition is not eligible to apply.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, I express my appreciation of the Government's reply. However, I remind the noble Lord that Mahatma Gandhi said:

He was a wise man. I believe that our country does its best to adhere to that saying and I hope it will continue to do so by helping the Animal Welfare Trust.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct in pointing out that animals play a special part in the affections of the British people.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, I am sure we are all always sympathetic to everything my noble friend says,

9 Jul 1996 : Column 175

especially about Mahatma Gandhi. Is the Minister aware that there are some supporters of the causes who have a habit of sending naked razor blades through the post to Members of Parliament as well as myself? Does he agree that such activities, though from a small minority, hardly qualify for, or merit, the description of "charitable".

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct. The kind of activity he describes has no part in any charitable organisation in this country. Such activities can only be condemned from all quarters.

Petition: Nursery Education Vouchers Scheme

3.5 p.m.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I beg to present a Petition from Jo Lovelock which prays that this House will take note of the Petition organised by Reading Against Vouchers in Education, signed by nearly 2,000 people, which calls for the nursery voucher scheme to be dropped and for investment to be made instead in free, high quality nursery education for all three and four year-olds whose parents want it.

Petition presented.

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

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time.

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

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, I wish to ask why it is thought right on the one hand to ban stalking in England and Wales but to do nothing about it apparently in Scotland and Northern Ireland. What is the reason for the different treatment?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Bill which I have been taking through your Lordships' House is confined to England and Wales because it is concerned with civil penalties. I understand that the law of Scotland has a differential provision in the civil courts and that the courts in Scotland are more satisfied with their ability to pursue stalkers, using the existing law.

Perhaps it may be for the convenience of the House if I say now what I was going to say on the Question that the Bill do now pass. I wish to welcome the indication that the Government gave this week that they are making advances in their thinking on how to deal with stalking; to record the fact that the Bill, having been examined in Committee, has not been found technically defective by government Ministers; to record the fact that the Bill fulfils one, but only one, of the functions which would be provided by government legislation when it finally reaches Parliament; and therefore to express the hope that the Government may see fit to allow the Bill to proceed through all its stages rapidly in another place later this week in order that one of the objectives--although

9 Jul 1996 : Column 176

admittedly only one--of the Government in pursuing the dreadful offence of stalking can be achieved earlier than would be the case if we waited for legislation in the next Session. I commend the Bill.

On Question, Bill read a third time.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.--(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, would it be possible for the promoters of the Bill, when it reaches another place, to consider changing the title? As the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, may be aware, at least in Scotland stalking is an honourable pursuit. Perhaps he could indulge many noble Lords on all sides of the House on the point. The insinuation that their activities on the Scottish hills are an offence is not a good one. Perhaps the noble Lord would consider something like "aggressive and continuous molestation".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I apologise to the business managers for the fact that a debate is taking place on what was intended to be a formal Motion. Of course, your Lordships have full freedom to intervene at any stage of the Bill and I take no exception to either of the questions I have been asked.

I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, would agree that the word "stalking" has a different resonance for most people in the country from that given it by those who spend part of their time on the moors of Scotland. Stalking is generally understood to include the activities covered by this Bill which are defined for the purposes of the Bill as being subject to a non-molestation order comparable to a non-molestation order as provided for in the Family Law Act. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel on reflection that any slight difficulties of nomenclature in his part of Scotland should not weigh against the Bill or go to argue that it should not now pass and go to another place.

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, perhaps I may intervene briefly for the convenience of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, who has been most patient during these exchanges. Perhaps I may be allowed to draw the attention of the House to the Companion, as amended by the fourth report of the Procedure Committee, which states that the Third Reading is taken formally and not debated. However, the Motion that the Bill do now pass may be debated. This enables the House to debate the Bill in its final form, taking into account any amendments that have been made at Third Reading. The Motion that the Bill do now pass may be opposed in the same ways as the Motion for Second Reading.

In view of the exchanges that have taken place and the patience shown by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, it may be for the convenience of the House if I remind your Lordships of the amended procedures.

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

9 Jul 1996 : Column 177

Nursery Education and Grant-Maintained Schools Bill

3.11 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Arrangements for making grants]:

Baroness Warnock moved Amendment No.1:

Page 1, line 7, after ("grants") insert ("to registered providers").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 21 and 22.

The purpose of these amendments is to establish the registration of all funded nurseries using educational criteria; and to require short inspections before any providers are admitted to the register.

Many people have expressed anxiety about the possibility of poor-quality provision if no formal and tough regulation is introduced for new providers entering the system. The proposed "light touch" inspection is insufficient, since it cannot control new providers from the private sector from the time that they first decide to enter the market. There is a risk that providers of nursery education that is not up to a satisfactory standard may be allowed to continue in their position for as long as over one year and for nearly two years before their initial validation to participate in the scheme is withdrawn if they are unsatisfactory. That is manifestly harmful to small children, and unfair to their parents, and it is likely to bring the whole scheme into disrepute.

These amendments are therefore intended to ensure that an additional safeguard is introduced into the Bill to require preliminary inspection before registration can be granted to new providers.

In The Nursery Education Scheme--Next Steps, the document published by the Department for Education and Employment in January this year, the proposal was that on applying to join the scheme potential new providers should assess themselves with regard to their ability to meet the standards laid down by the DfEE. It was stated in the Next Steps document that self-assessment was mainly intended to help applicant providers to decide whether they can work towards the so-called "desirable learning outcome" that the DfEE had stated.

On page 11 of the document, paragraph 4.13 states that the self-assessment forms filled in by the new providers need not be completed or returned to the voucher agency. While it might be very useful for the new providers to remind themselves of what the required standards are and to ask themselves whether they are capable of providing education that meets them, it is not likely that the second question will be pressed very hard when nobody will find out whether they have answered the question affirmatively or negatively. This kind of self-assessment is not a safe basis on which to entrust the whole responsibility of providing high-quality education for very young children--a responsibility which I am sure the House will agree is of vital importance.

9 Jul 1996 : Column 178

An additional reason for moving these amendments is to plug a gap between the moment when new providers are validated in the first instance so that they may open a school or class, and their final validation, which is properly dependent on an inspection by qualified inspectors.

The Next Steps document states that the inspection that will provide the final validation,

    "will normally take place in the first year of participation".
That has been confirmed by assurances given in another place that,

    "We intend to inspect all private and voluntary providers within the first year".--[Official Report, Commons, 19/3/96; col. 191.]
All the same, the anxiety remains that the initial arrangements for accepting new providers should include proper inspection or screening and not rely so heavily on self-assessment.

The introduction of a preliminary registration visit by a qualified and registered inspector would offer a safeguard to parents that a new provider has been able to satisfy that inspection, that there is no cut-price or "cut corners" nursery provision on offer, and that the inspector has been satisfied that the required standard will be met from the very beginning.

After all, two or three terms without an inspection is an eternity for very young children. Three terms is a very long time for children of nursery age. That applies particularly to children who may turn out to have special educational needs. The first year of nursery provision cannot be wasted.

The amendments do not seek to lay down in detail how such an initial inspection should be arranged. The detail would be for the chief inspector and for individual registered inspectors to determine according to their own professional judgment and to the particular circumstances where the provision was to be set up. Nor should these amendments be seen as an attempt to put undue pressure on new providers or to restrict applications. They are intended only to close a significant gap, a loophole, in the quality assurance that the regulations should provide. I recommend the amendments, particularly on the ground that, if this loophole is not closed, there is a danger that the whole new nursery education scheme might be jeopardised. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page