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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, if the noble Lord is about to list the achievements of the Government I offer him every encouragement, but, in addition to winning the Olympic Games, there is the success of tourism. He may not have noticed—the House will have done—that tourism increased by 9 per cent last

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year in this country, and its value by 8 per cent. It is a growth industry because we have increasingly attractive provision for overseas tourists. Noble Lords opposite may suggest a picture of gloom, but this, far from it, is a picture of undoubted success under a Labour Administration.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, what is the salary proposed for the new chairman?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the salary is £45,155 per year for around six days per month. That should attract high-level candidates.

Kenya: War Office Files

3.11 pm

Lord Steel of Aikwood asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the great majority of the 1953 War Office material on Kenya is available to the public at the National Archives. The exception is 11 pages withheld under the Freedom of Information Act, detailing statements by three Kenyan women raped by African soldiers. That information is sensitive personal data relating to the victims. The Government have no knowledge of a request from the Government of Kenya for that material.

Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but is she aware thatthe Kenya National Archives demonstrate clearly that the 20 people killed in June 1953 were not Mau Mau members but members of the Meru home guard and were killed by a troop under the command of a British officer? Is it not extraordinary that, 50 years later, the full story has not come out and no one has been prosecuted? Under what section of the Freedom of Information Act has the request been refused?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the answer is Sections 40 and 41. The rest of that 1953 file, with which the noble Lord will be familiar, has a great deal of information about the events of the summer of that year.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that compensation of 2,000 shillings was paid to the next of kin of the 22 individuals slaughtered in the massacre that is the subject of the Question? Does that not indicate that the Government at the time accepted responsibility for the murder? Why was no one prosecuted? Does she acknowledge that a bargain may have been struck with the two junior officers present that they would testify against Major Griffiths in respect of another murder, for which he was convicted and sentenced to seven years, if they

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were not to be prosecuted for this crime? Is that satisfactory, or should not the whole of the evidence be in the public domain so that people could form a judgment of what happened?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, with the exception of the testimony of the women that I referred to in my Answer, evidence of the activities that occurred in that violent summer is very much in the public domain. There will be records for the courts martial and hearings that took place that are incomplete but would be available to the public if they could be found. With incomplete records, I am not in a position to make a judgment on any of those hearings or courts martial over 50 years on.


3.15 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I give notice of a Statement later today. With the leave of the House, we shall take a Statement on the G8 meeting. It will be delivered by my noble friend the Leader of the House. We shall take it at a convenient time after four o’clock.

National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment) Regulations 2006

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 5 June be approved [30th Report from the Joint Committee] [Considered in Grand Committee on 4 July].—(Lord Sainsbury of Turville.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Housing Corporation (Delegation) etc. Bill

Read a third time, and passed.

Education and Inspections Bill

3.18 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The LORD SPEAKER in the Chair.]

Clause 7 [Invitation for proposals for establishment of new schools]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 58:

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The noble Baroness said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to AmendmentsNos. 59, 60, 61, 121A, 125A, 125B, 125BA, 125C, 125D and 182. This set of 10 amendments aims, on the one hand, to probe the process of competition for the setting up of trust schools, asking in particular what kinds of bodies the Government are looking for as sponsors for such schools and, on the other, to put forward the notion of the community-sponsored trust—or, as we have called it, the “community foundation”—as an alternative to a private sector sponsor. Finally, Amendment No. 182 probes the whole question of the schools commissioner.

The first set of amendments deals with the process of competition. Amendment No. 58 asks that the time period specified for preparation and submission of proposals in any competition should be reasonable. When a similar amendment was proposed in the Commons, the Government made it clear that they were sympathetic to the need to have balance between speedy competition and adequate time to prepare the proposal but did not think that the addition of the word “reasonable” was needed. We are concerned that inadequate time will favour the corporate sponsors—the Edisons of this world who will perhaps have a ready-made proposal that they can pull off the shelf—over, let us say, a local parents’ group. I believe that the Government are anxious that such groups should put forward proposals. If those groups are to make such a proposal, they will need to find professional help, and the money to pay for such help in putting their proposal together. We feel that it is reasonable that “reasonable” should be included on the face of the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 59 and 61 seek to prove the kinds of qualifications the Government have in mind for sponsors of trust schools. Perhaps we might put alongside Amendments Nos. 59 and 61 Amendments 121A and 125A, which seek to establish a register of institutions regarded as suitable to establish such foundations. Similar amendments were tabled on Report in the Commons. In response, the Secretary of State said:

During the Committee stage, the draft guidance on trust schools was circulated to MPs serving on Standing Committee E. This guidance singled out as unsuitable to become partners in running a trust school companies involved in tobacco, alcohol, gambling and adult entertainment. It stated that governing bodies should,

However, there is concern that any attempt to set out a list of inappropriate organisations will not address widespread concerns about trusts because of the organisations that the guidance fails to proscribe.For example, nothing in the guidance would necessarily protect young people from religious extremists,extreme political groups, pressure groups or fast-food manufacturers.

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The guidance makes it clear that the list is not exhaustive and that decision makers must have particular regard to the strength of parental and other local opinion about the appropriateness of trust partners’ activities. It goes on to list positive examples of trust scenarios. These include a top-performing school taking over a weaker school, universities or colleges linking up with schools to improve the take-up of higher education and groups of schools banding together to share computer or financial management facilities. I suppose that that would extend to a group of schools already federated. We are very happy with those examples, but, significantly, there is no mention of faith groups or private companies in that list of positive examples.

At Second Reading in the House of Commons, the then Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, sought to address concerns regarding trusts. She said:

The mention of common sense—

The Countess of Mar: I am sorry to interrupt the noble Baroness, but could noble Lords opposite either talk outside or not talk, because it is very difficult to concentrate?

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Mention of common sense brings me rather neatly to the only other amendment in this first set that I have not so far dealt with—Amendment No. 60. If common sense is to be the arbiter of who might be a suitable partner, parents will be looking for a sponsor who will improve provision in their area. Therefore, it is utterly reasonable to ask, as Amendment No. 60 does, that those seeking to establish trust schools should specify how they would improve provision in the area and especially provision for the disadvantaged, since trust schools are to be established particularly to ensure that the disadvantaged get a reasonable share of the pie.

That first set of amendments deals with the process of competition and, in particular, selection of sponsored partners. The second set of amendments in this group of 10 includes Amendments Nos. 125B to 125D. Their purpose is to promote the Liberal Democrat alternative to the Government’s vision of the trust school. We would call it a “community trust”, or, in the words of the Bill, a “community foundation”. We have throughout argued in favour of viewing education from a community perspective. In this series of amendments, we propose a foundation run by a local authority or a grouping of local authorities. For example, a grouping of local district councils and the county council might form what we have called the community foundation.

Amendment No. 125B specifies that the foundation will consist of one-third elected local authority members,

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one-third parents and one-third other community representatives. I am afraid that the gremlins got into the drafting of the amendment, which is incorrect on the Marshalled List. However, a new version of it has been circulated. Amendment No. 125C seeks to provide that such a community foundation would embrace all the schools in a given area, and would require that they all collaborated and worked together. Amendment No. 125D is consequential to those two amendments.

It is notable that, in their evidence for Second Reading, both the General Teaching Council and the Association of School and College Leaders strongly endorsed the idea of encouraging schools to collaborate according to the concept of the local federation. The Government have been promoting such federations of schools at a local level, and the amendments seek to capture some of that enthusiasm and to translate it into what we believe to be acceptable—a local and locally accountable community foundation. I make no bones about the fact that we are not enthusiastic about foundations run as national chains of schools, whether they are run by Edison, Chris Woodhead or the United Learning Trust. We are not enthused by a model that separates out local schools and sets school against school and parent against parent, which we feel will happen under the Government’s proposals, as I made quite clear in our discussions on earlier amendments. I repeat that we are anxious to see local schools working together for the good of their local community.

Finally, Amendment No. 182 is designed to probe the role of the schools commissioner. Is he there just to supervise the work of the local choice advisers? Is he there to encourage the growth of new trust schools nationally? Is he there to ensure that the right people are setting up trust schools? We suggest that this is where he might perform quite a useful role if we really are to have another level of highly paid official to ensure that the Government’s agenda is working properly. I believe that the post has already been advertised, so the Government are already moving to appoint a schools commissioner. It would be a great responsibility for schools to have to vet anyone who comes before them with proposals to turn the school into a trust school. Small schools in particular often do not have the resources to probe the background of such people, so the Secretary of State may well delegate the task of vetting those people to the schools commissioner.

By publishing an open register, as the amendment proposes, we would avoid the need to have to use the freedom of information legislation, as now, to find out who has applied to form a trust. An open register would give parents and schools confidence in a system that is very new and highly suspect, in the view of many of our fellow citizens. It is therefore in the Government’s interests to go along with this idea. Although local authorities should be able to decide what sorts of people are acceptable locally, there should be some sort of national standard of what is acceptable, otherwise undesirable people might simply go from one area to another until they find one that is not so choosy. The standards should be much more detailed than simply ruling out pornographers and tobacco manufacturers.

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The Government might say—indeed, they do say—that the Charity Commission will vet potential trustees, but the Charity Commission cannot do so for two reasons. First, it does not have the capacity to deal with the expected volume. Secondly, it would need to change and extend the checks that it already carries out on charity trustees in order to make them fit for purpose for this educational task. It is much better for the Secretary of State to delegate this task to the new commissioner. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: I strongly support my noble friend’s arguments in favour of this group of proposals. Let us be very direct: if we believe that the Bill gives parents new powers, new strengths and a new influence, it is vital that those parents are properly informed about the decisions in which they will participate. My noble friend has pointed out that parents will not know exactly who is proposing to be part of trust schools or to start academies, or what their qualifications and standards are. It would be simply foolish in the light of a good deal of information that has emerged in the past few months to pretend that we are certain that all those people who put their names forward will be likely to contribute substantially to the standard, the quality and, if I may say so, the moral integrity of our education system.

There are already some worrying examples. For instance, although Mr Bernie Ecclestone was not successful in his bid, we know now as a result of the Freedom of Information Act that he put in for running one of the academies in Sheffield. I am not in a position—nor would I wish—to make personal remarks about Mr Bernie Ecclestone, but he would not immediately leap to mind as an ideal figure for sponsoring a new school. In the case of the academy recently started in Peterborough, to take another example, we know that all three of the governing bodies of the schools to be replaced protested that there was no reason to believe that the sponsor had any particular interest in education. Other examples spring to mind. One of the most troubling is the possibility that arms manufacturers might be involved in starting up a trust school in the south-west of England. Arms manufacturers may well have a legitimate role, but again they do not leap to mind as an ideal model to be in charge of sponsoring a major new school. Perhaps one would want someone with a rather wider view of the needs of our globalising world.

3.30 pm

For such reasons, it seems to me that we should support the concept that my noble friend has put forward: a register giving the names and qualifications of those seeking to become trustees or sponsors of trust schools, which should be made available to those who are most interested and concerned—either the parents of children who may go to that school or the parents of children registered with schools that are being replaced by the potential trust school or academy.

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I register with pleasure the Government’s intention in the Bill to make parents play a much larger part in the education of their children, but there are two huge weaknesses in the Bill. The first is the absence of adequate information for those parents to make up their minds and the second—which we will come to later and to which I will make no further reference at the moment—is the absence of a proper system of balloting so that we know exactly the wishes and preferences of parents. The principle is fine, but the devil is in the details. So far I for one am not satisfied that the details bear out the Government’s stated wishes for the Bill.

There are two other things worth adding. One is the point made by my noble friend about the ability to check up on the sponsors of schools at a later stage. Not only do we know that the Charity Commission does not have the capacity to do that, but the truth is that it does not do it. The recent answers that were given on the assessment of academies indicated that the Charity Commission does not regard this as a central part of its duties—indeed, it would not be expected to do so, given its functions.

The question again emerges: who is responsible? Who guards the guardians? The answer may lie with the schools commissioner or with the local authority, but it is not at all clear where the responsibility lies. My noble friend has pointed to a real hole or gap in the Bill. She is endeavouring to fill it in a way that the Government, if they want the best possible outcomes from sponsored schools, should respond to favourably. Frankly, I do not think that the answers given in another place to the arguments put forward on this front for one moment hold sufficient water. Ruth Kelly, when she was Secretary of State, referred to the “common sense” of parents. I agree with her about the common sense of parents, but parents who are uninformed and not given the information that they need to reach proper opinions and make proper decisions cannot be blamed if they get it wrong. It is the responsibility of the Government in the Bill to make sure that as far as possible parents are given the information to enable them to get it right.

Baroness Buscombe: I should like to speak to some of these amendments and explain why we will not be supporting them. I refer in particular to Amendments Nos. 121A, 125A and 182. So far as we can understand, Amendment No. 121A would mean that trusts for trust schools would have to be centrally registered. I do not see the purpose of this since the governing body already has to have regard to guidance on the acquisition of trusts which makes it clear that unsuitable trusts may not run schools. Under the Bill the foundations already have to be charitable. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, evidently believes that registered charity status, together with the additional restriction on persons who may act as charity trustees for a foundation, is insufficient to ensure that trusts are suitable. I also doubt that any school would truly opt to acquire a trust that was actually as unsuitable as she and the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, have suggested.

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