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The noble Baroness asked whether we thought that the knife amnesty was successful: we do. And it certainly highlighted the importance with which the Government and society generally view the handling of knives and their potential for the commission of life-threatening and fatal crimes. The figures I have suggest that some 90,000 items have been handed in to the police in England and Wales and we continue to follow that up with enforcement and educative
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Because of those actions, we think that the original spirit of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness is valuable in that it helps to raise public concern over this issue. We are glad that we have reached a similar point and I was pleased to hear the noble Baroness acknowledge that our amendment goes somewhat further and wider than her own. For those reasons, it appears that the noble Baroness will support our amendment rather than the amendment in her name.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, these amendments on the power to search for weapons relate to school staff only. Clause 42 currently prevents a head teacher requiring a member of staff to carry out a search. In this amendment we allow a head to direct for the purposes of this Bill any authorised member of staff whose work at the school wholly or mainly relates to school security. This includes security guards authorised by the head teacher. While we do not think it is reasonable for a head teacher to have the power to compel a member of the teaching staff to search a pupil, we do think it reasonable that trained security staff can be required to exercise their specific skills. Subsection (4) remains to prevent teachers and other school staff being so compelled.
This does not apply to institutions of further education or attendance centres where the Teachers Pay and Conditions Document does not prevail. Also in the second group we have an amendment to provide transparent definitions of school staff for the purposes of the Bill, as well as of security staff. It is included for technical reasons and I shall not weary the House with the detail. However, it spells out why that has to be the case. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am a little confused and I wonder whether the Minister can solve that confusion by speaking to the amendment I
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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, inadvertently I have skipped a group and spoken to Amendment No. 42 when moving Amendment No. 39. I apologise to the House. I must say that I was confused myself because I had thought that my speaking notes were rather longer. I shall now speak to the right amendments.
This group of amendments covers slightly different subject matter, although it is not unrelated to the amendment I have just addressed. I shall move government Amendment No. 39 and speak to Amendments Nos. 44, 46, 48 and 52. In doing so I shall also resist opposition Amendments Nos. 41, 43, 45 and 47. I hope that that clarifies the position.
Amendment No. 41 seeks to remove the proposed power to generally authorise staff to search for weapons in a school. It is important to have a power to authorise generally as it would allow staff, once generally authorised to search, to act immediately when they suspect there is a concealed weapon. Without general authorisation, staff or pupils could be at risk if staff suspected that there was a weapon while the head or deputy head teacher could not be contacted for any reason. Amendments Nos. 43, 45 and 47 require the relevant Secretaries of State to issue guidance and suggest that the guidance may in particular refer to training and information on paying compensation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills already has plans to issue guidance for schools, while my department will issue guidance for attendance centres. Further education institutions will be able to make use of the guidance for schools. We will consult fully on the draft guidance, which will include advice on staff training and employers duties to take reasonable steps to keep staff members safe, as well as having insurance to cover any liability for injury in the course of their employment. It is therefore not necessary to put a duty on the Secretary of State to issue guidance, nor is it necessary to suggest the contents of such guidance. In those terms, I hope that the noble Baroness will not press her amendments.
Government Amendments Nos. 39, 44 and 46 relate to the power to search for knives or offensive weapons in schools, colleges and attendance centres respectively at Clauses 42, 43 and 44. By changing the grounds for a search from reasonable grounds for believing to reasonable grounds for suspecting, we will broaden the scope of searches to include a wider range of people. It is important to do this for two reasons. First, head teachers have told my noble friend the schools Minister that they sometimes suspect that a knife is in the school, but that the information is not strong enough for believing that a particular pupil has it. This amendment would enable a search in those cases where a member of staff has reasonable grounds for suspecting that the particular pupil has the knife.
Secondly, we want to do all we can to counter any possible accusation that staff have performed a search without sufficient grounds. Lowering the grounds
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Attendance centres provide group-based sessions for offenders aged between 10 and 25. These offenders have been sent to such centres by the courts for offences which include the use of violence and the possession of knives or offensive weapons. Widening the grounds to search from reasonable grounds for believing to reasonable grounds for suspecting will ensure that designated attendance centre staff are able to act upon intelligence to search individuals and will ensure that all staff and attendees are afforded the proper protection from knives and offensive weapons. We recognise that few incidents of attendees carrying offensive weapons have been reported over the past two years. However, we believe that this power should be available to staff if they so choose to use it, and that it should offer the most realistic test by which they would be able to initiate a search. The clause offers appropriate safeguards and authorisation of search criteria.
Through government Amendments Nos. 48 and 52, we are seeking to reduce the threshold for a constable to exercise his or her powers of entry and search in Section 139B of the Criminal Justice Act 1988. This section currently enables an officer to exercise those powers provided that he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that a person on the school premises has a knife or offensive weapon with them. As indicated above, we consider that this presents a threshold which is not in proportion to the nature of the problem and the potential consequences that might arise from it. Therefore, we propose revising that threshold to one of reasonable grounds for suspecting to ensure that the police power to search in schools is consistent with that of school staff. Guidance will be produced by the Department for Education and Skills in consultation with the Home Office, the police and other key stakeholders. This will contain pointers which schools could take into account when considering whether a search is
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I also take this opportunity to refer noble Lords to a closely related matter regarding the Written Statement made earlier by my noble friend the schools Minister about the non-contact or minimal- contact screening of pupils and others for weapons. Such screening involves the use of metal detectors contained in walk-through arches or hand-held wands. Screening can be carried out on all pupils provided it is carried out in a way that respects peoples privacy. If screening indicates that a weapon may be present, school staff could then call the police or use the new power included in the Bill to carry out a hands-on search. The guidance I have referred to will include good practice advice on screening. The power to screen pupils, as recently clarified by the DfES legal advisers, is enabled by education law giving head teachers the power to make school rules relating to behaviour and discipline as a condition of entry. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I speak to my Amendments Nos. 41, 43, 45 and 47. They are all probing amendments and, naturally, I indicate at this stage that I support the government amendments. We had a full debate on these issues in Committee on22 May, at cols. 636 to 642 of the Official Reportwhich shows how full the discussion was. I return to the fray merely to ask for clarification on two matters.
The first issue concerns the safety of staff in schools. Amendments Nos. 43, 45 and 47 require the Secretary of State to issue guidelines on the carrying out of searches. The Minister has tried to assuage me as to why my amendments are not necessary, but I am trying to find out what happens if a member of staff is injured in the course of his or her duty in carrying out a search. In the real world, it is unlikely that a student who carries a knife for the wrong reason will simply say, when challenged by a member of staff, Well, yes, fine, Mr Smithor Mrs Smithhere is my knife. Please do take it. On a day-to-day basis, when implementing the provisions of the Bill, the staff could face serious injury.
The Minister says that regulations will lay out best practice from the point of view of training and that insurance policies should therefore pay up. I want to ensure that there is no reason for anything to be paid in compensation, because there should be no injury in the first place. I am trying to find out what discussions the Government have had with teaching unions and head teachers on this matter and how the provisions will be put into effect in such a way that school life is not disrupted and certainly so that teachers are not put at risk. Although I raised these questions in passing on 22 May, I have not received any response over the summer.
The second issue I addressed was whether a general search was to be implemented or whether it would be a search specific to an individual category. I asked the
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Amendment No. 41 tries to address that issue. I think the Government, by strengthening the power of search, have clarified the position I was trying to get at in Committee. The Minister said that the term will now be suspecting rather than believing, and I do not find that substitution objectionable. As I understand it, it is a commonly enough used and understood term in the criminal law and it seems appropriate to use the word suspecting rather than believing within the context of these clauses. So by a side wind, by tabling Amendment No. 41, the Government have resolved the concerns that I had in the amendments I tabled both in Committee and on Report. For those reasons, I not only support the government amendments but will not be moving my own amendments when we reach them.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support for our amendments. She raises important issues about school staff searching pupils and being at physical risk or danger because of the search. We cannot be entirely risk-aversethat is a fairly obvious commentand if the head teacher decides that a search is not safe the school will probably wish to call the police to conduct it. That said, school staffespecially senior managersthese days are highly skilled and experienced in managing the behaviour of young people in their charge. From the feedback that I get from my children as they go through school, I have always been very impressed by how capable teachers are at resolving and avoiding confrontations. I think that the guidance we issue, the training given and the support provided will help raise that performance still higher. In so doing it should minimise the physical risk or danger that otherwise might be present. Staff should search only if they are properly trained and judge it safe to do so, and they must, of course, be authorised to do so by the head teacher. Otherwise we always clearly advise staff that they should involve the police, and that advice which was given in the past still stands.
The noble Baroness asked about the attitudes of staff, the unions and so on. This matter has been the subject of considerable discussion with the unions. Indeed, I understand that there have been discussions with the head teacher and teacher unions both today and previously. The unions are broadly content. Indeed, I have quotes from unions in my brief which state that the NASUWT has welcomed the provisions of the Violent Crime Reduction Bill designed to give more support to teachers and head teachers in maintaining good order and discipline by enabling
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There are few more difficult or more serious issues for a head teacher to deal with than pupils carrying knives. I therefore welcome the increased powers for heads to search for knives. This will be helpful to the small number of schools where this is a recurrent problem.
The noble Baroness herself raised and dealt with the issue of the process to be gone through in conducting searchesthe point at which the search should begin and how it should proceed from therebased on the rephrasing of the Bill. We have reached a happy point with regard to these amendments and I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her support.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 11 July be approved [34th Report from the Joint Committee].
The order represents unfinished business fromthe Pensions Act 2004, which introduced new arrangements for people who defer taking up their state pension. Under these new arrangements, a person who defers for 12 months or longer has the option of a one-off taxable lump sum payment instead of a pension increase. The Act did not extend the new arrangements to graduated retirement benefit, beyond providing the necessary vires, and this was to be achieved separately by regulations.
The graduated retirement benefit is the precursor to todays additional pension payable under SERPS or the state second pension scheme. The graduated retirement benefit scheme ran from 1961 to 1975. People accrued graduated retirement benefit on the basis of earnings-related graduated contributions. Rights accrued prior to the scheme being wound up in 1975 are preserved, but they are not preserved in aspic. Over the years, the provisions have been modified to bring rights to graduated retirement benefit broadly into line with those which apply to
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The order amends Section 150 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992. The amendment is required to bring lump sum payments to which a surviving spouse may become entitled where their late spouse had deferred drawing graduated retirement benefit within the scope of the annual uprating order. The amendment also relates to people in civil partnerships. This consequential amendment should have been made by the Pensions Act 2004 alongside the equivalent amendment in respect of mainstream state pension. Unfortunately, due to an oversight, it was omitted, for which I can only apologise.
Where the surviving spouse or civil partner is drawing his or her pension, but the deceased spouse or civil partner is deferring his or her pension at the point he or she dies, the surviving spouse or civil partner can inherit 50 per cent of the deceaseds entitlement to graduated retirement benefit. This includes enhancements arising from the fact that the deceased had deferred claiming. Where the deceased had deferred claiming for 12 months or more from6 April 2005 onwards, the surviving spouse or civil partner has the option of taking a taxable lump sum payment. However, where the surviving spouse or civil partner is not drawing his or her pension when their spouse or civil partner dies, any inheritable graduated retirement benefitincluding a lump sum paymentdoes not become payable until such time as they start to draw their pension. The purpose of this amendment is simply to enable the value of the inheritable lump sum to be protected by uprating it on an annual basis with effect from April 2007.
I should explain that the earliest point at which a person could become entitled to a lump sum payment was 6 April 2006. The first uprating after that point was effective from 10 April 2006. There is therefore a theoretical possibilityalbeit remotethat a person who died between 6 and 9 April 2006 was deferring graduated retirement benefit and has a surviving spouse or civil partner who was not immediately eligible for a lump sum payment because they were not drawing their pension. In this scenario, the April 2006 uprating should be applicable although, owing to the lacuna in the primary powers, the 2006 uprating order could not make the necessary provision. I am happy to report that to date no such cases have come to light, but in the unlikely event of such a case arising in the future, I can assure the House that the 2006 uprating will be applied on an extra-statutory basis and the maximum amount involved would be no more than £10. I commend the order to the House.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I am sure that the Minister would be surprised if these Benches did anything other than support the order. It is clear that the law as it stands is deficient and should be remedied, and we support the order to that extent.
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