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The noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, raised the request of my former colleague, Stephen Ladyman, for an economic appraisal in developing quality

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standards in birth centres. In July the department commissioned the National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit to conduct a three-year study into the effectiveness, acceptability and efficiency of maternity units. The study will evaluate the cost-effectiveness of midwife-led units and consultant-led units. This part of the study will start next year and will be completed in spring 2008. The department has also agreed to write to the Healthcare Commission, suggesting that once the conclusions in the study have been published, it should work with the Royal College of Midwives, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Birth Centre Network to develop operating standards for stand-alone midwife-led maternity units. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, that the safety of mothers and babies has to be paramount.

It is sometimes worth concentrating on a particular area that shows what can be done. In some places the kind of service we want to see is already happening. The Crowborough Birthing Centre is a small unit adjacent to Crowborough War Memorial Hospital, a community hospital. The birthing centre has six beds, is open 24 hours a day and is run by a dedicated team of experienced midwives. It offers just the high quality of care we would all like to see.

David Nicholson was somewhat misquoted: he is not setting out to close maternity services. He was getting the NHS and others to address the fact that sometimes we need to look at the way particular services are provided in some parts of the country and whether we need to reshape those services. Whether we use “reconfiguration” or some other term, it means that we must make them safe and fit for purpose.

Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord. I was hoping—I am still hoping—that he would find time to deal with the point made about the wholly improper meeting referred to by my noble friend Lord Fowler. I hope the Minister will leave time for that. Will he?

Lord Warner: My Lords, if the noble and learned Lord was a little more patient and did not interrupt, we would be able to get to that, but he has now taken a little more time away from the time I have to deal with the remarks of a number of noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Fowler, was not the only person to raise questions and issues. I was trying to address those as a courtesy to the whole House.

We have talked a lot about service reconfigurations. This is, of course, one of the issues the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, has a deep interest in, with regard to this meeting, which he is so concerned about. The point to bear in mind is that we expect people to review their services and make sure that they are fit for purpose. This is something that PCTs and strategic health authorities must, under statute, do in consultation with their local population. Local people have the power to appeal decisions through the overview and scrutiny committees, which can, if necessary, refer decisions to the Secretary of State and the Independent Reconfiguration Panel. That is a well established procedure, but it does not mean that we can never have any public debate about making sure our services are fit for purpose.

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The noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, raised the issue of unbundling the tariff.

Lord Fowler: My Lords, the noble Lord has not answered the point I made about the directly party political meeting, in which he was involved, and which could have a profound impact upon community hospitals. Is that not a disgraceful omission on his part?

Lord Warner: My Lords, one minute has been taken out of my time by the interventions of the excitable noble Lord and his colleague. I hope to be allowed to address the concerns raised by all noble Lords in this debate. I was going to get round to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, and I have another minute in which to speak. Let us stay calm and he will have an answer, but first I want to address the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Murphy, about unbundling the tariff. Tomorrow there will be guidance on this posted on the Department of Health website.

I was rather looking forward to dealing with the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. Let me reassure him that I was at the meeting. As a Minister of State I do not have any special advisers, nor does my good friend the honourable Mr Andy Burnham. The Secretary of State has special advisers in the same way that other Cabinet Ministers have done under successive Governments. What I would say to the noble Lord—and I was a civil servant when he was the Secretary of State—is that I respect the fact that when he was in that position, he and his colleagues would, quite rightly, discuss areas where there might be public anxieties about changes of policy. I was in attendance on some of those occasions and I am going to respect the confidentiality of the discussions, just as I am going to respect the confidentiality of the discussions I had on the occasion he mentioned with my political colleagues. That is a perfectly sensible way for any Government to conduct themselves.

In conclusion, over the next few years the NHS will be transformed by the extra money we have put in and we will provide vastly improved maternity services in conjunction with a new generation of community hospitals. We have had an interesting debate and I am sorry it has not satisfied all noble Lords in terms of its outcome.

Education and Inspections Bill

8.46 pm

Proceedings after Third Reading resumed.

Clause 41 [Role of admission forums]:

[Amendment No. 11 not moved.]

Lord Baker of Dorking moved Amendment No. 12:

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 12—at last. For those of us interested in education it has been a long day’s journey into night. This amendment differs from the amendment tabled last week by myself, the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, and the noble Lords, Lord Skidelsky and Lord Taverne, which your Lordships will recall was much more prescriptive. It gave the Secretary of State the power to insist on a 25 per cent quota. This amendment does not do that.

Perhaps I may draw the House’s attention particularly to subsection (2), which states that, when a new school is set up,

not necessarily the full amount—

That is the nub of the amendment. It goes on to state that, where the local authority does not specify a certain percentage because it is prepared to grant a totally exclusive faith school, the Secretary of State can call that in if there is significant opposition from residents. That is the amendment we are about to discuss.

I had better turn off my mobile phone—though you never know, it may be God. I apologise to noble Lords for that little intermission.

The point I want to make is that the amendment we have tabled today was the Government’s policy just a week ago. It was the policy enunciated at the Dispatch Box by the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, on 17 October when he said that, on the undertaking that I withdraw my amendment, the Government intended to,

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that is where the term came from in these debates, and it is absolutely right—

That was the policy that the Government intended to follow. The Minister also said:

The Minister has already said in reply to an earlier amendment that that was conditional upon his securing a degree of consensus. He said that he was very sorry but that he could not secure a degree of consensus. I will come back to that later, if I may.

So, what I have tabled is in effect what the Government’s policy was seven days ago. Indeed, so enthusiastic was the Secretary of State for this policy that he actually leaked no less than a Cabinet document to the Sunday Times of the day before last Monday revealing that this was the Government’s policy. He made a speech on that Monday saying that faith schools must cross ethnic and faith barriers. As late as Wednesday of last week, one of my friends went to see him and he confirmed that on the following day the Government would table those two amendments. However, on Thursday night everything changed. Unfortunately, I was on the way to Oxford in a coach and it was very difficult to find out what was happening. But the Government completely changed tack. They abandoned their principle and their policy. One might ask why there was such a huge U-turn, because it was certainly the fastest U-turn in political history. I think Churchill said that the best diet in the world is your own words, but when Churchill said that, he thought that there would be a decent interval between the utterance and digestion. In this case there was not; it was a mere matter of seven days.

The reason why the policy was withdrawn is very clear. There was a very effective Catholic campaign—brilliantly effective—headed by the Archbishop of Birmingham, who wrote an article in the Daily Telegraph saying that this was the thin end of the wedge—those were his very words. Of course, it was not the thin end of the wedge, because the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, who is gifted in these matters, said very clearly that,

The Government made very clear when they said they were going to table these amendments that in no way were they to apply to existing faith schools, but the view of the Catholic Church, led by the Archbishop of Birmingham—of whom I am an admirer, because he has managed to secure a complete surrender by the Government without conceding an inch—is exactly the same as it was seven days ago. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is nodding. I hope that the Minister has noted that the noble Lord nodded when I said that. He is the closest that we get in this House to a Catholic authority.

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The Archbishop of Birmingham, in an interview last Friday, said, “If we are going to have any new Catholic schools—though we have no such proposals because we cannot afford any new schools at the moment—but if we have any new Catholic schools, we will determine what the demand is locally for such schools”. If they decide that there are 200 pupils in Bury St Edmunds who want to have Catholic schools, they will then put forward a proposal for a Catholic school for 200 pupils in Bury St Edmunds. Then he said, “When we fill that lot, if there is any spare, we will add a few more”—that is their present policy. So I think that the Archbishop of Birmingham—and I hope that the noble Lord will take this back to him—is a brilliant negotiator. He has got the Government to surrender without yielding an inch. I think that the Government ought to use him in Iraq. I think that he would do a marvellous job there. Congratulations to him.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I would just like to say to him that although I too am a great admirer of the Archbishop of Birmingham and have known him for probably 30 years, I have not actually spoken to him once about this Bill during its proceedings. He is more than capable of reading Hansard and seeing what the noble Lord has said.

What I was agreeing with the noble Lord about is that the position has not changed since last week as far as the opposition of most Catholics is concerned. I do not speak for the Catholic Church—I speak for myself, like the noble Lord speaks for himself. Most Catholics in this country feel very strongly about their schools and would resist any attempt to change the 1944 Education Act, whether it is by central control, in the way that the noble Lord proposed seven days ago, or now, in his change of heart seven days later, by making it a local imposition.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, with great respect, my amendment seven days ago applied only to new faith schools and not existing faith schools. In the past 10 years the Catholic Church has opened only two new faith schools—two primary schools, one in Plymouth and one in Milton Keynes—and it has no proposals to start any more Catholic schools. The amendment affected only new faith schools, not existing schools. It would not have affected existing schools.

I think the Catholic Church should be congratulated because it adopted the technique of LBJ—Lyndon Baines Johnson. He had a wonderful technique. He said that in any dispute you must put your opponent at a disadvantage immediately. The way you do that is you must get him to deny that he has had carnal knowledge of a pig. Because as soon as he has to deny that, everyone begins to believe, “Well, could he have had carnal knowledge of a pig? My God!”. So the immediate reaction would be, “Could it be extended to all faith schools?”, and LBJ would be quite proud of the Archbishop of Birmingham.

It is rather ironic that the main beneficiaries of the Catholic Church’s victory are not the Catholic schools but the Muslim schools, which have rather

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sensibly remained very quiet and let the Catholics fight their cause. I do not think that that is quite what the Pope had in mind.

I also had to debate with the Catholics when I was Secretary of State. I did not deal just with an archbishop—I was summoned to see Cardinal Hume on my proposals to establish grant-maintained schools. When I met him in his palace, he had on his great red robe and had several nuns around him. He was very impressive indeed and rather saintly. It is very difficult to debate with a saint. He said, “I have a letter from the Pope which opposes grant-maintained schools”. I said, “Really? Why does the Pope oppose grant-maintained schools?”. He said, “It is an absolute principle of the Catholic Church that nothing should come between the bishop and his flock, particularly an electoral process. So I would ask you, please, to withdraw Catholic schools from the grant-maintained provisions of the Bill”.

As I said, it was very difficult to argue with this saintly man, but I said, “I am very sorry, but this goes back to the Reformation. This is your region and my region. If we are going to have national legislation on grant-maintained schools I cannot possibly exempt the Catholic Church”. I was able to resist the Catholic Church on that occasion and I think that the Government could have done so on this occasion, because they made it quite clear that their proposals would not damage existing Catholic schools. But they decided not to do so.

What is the central issue behind my amendment? It is not freedom of worship—that is accepted in our country. It is not respect for the faith—all faiths are respected in our country. It is not about what is taught by each religion in the schools—that is a matter for each religion to decide itself. What is at stake is the shape of our society in the next 10 or 20 years.

Interestingly, the debates we have had previously and today are the first serious debates in which we as legislators have been able to debate the Butler Act since 1944. There has been no serious debate on the Butler Act. To some, the Butler Act was a religious settlement in which substantial money was provided to the Catholic and the Protestant denominations in order to maintain their schools. However, it had not envisaged at all the situation which now exists in our country—the multi-faith society into which we have grown and the nature of those faiths which have now emerged in our society. As a result of that Act, and of the debates that we have had, everyone believes that there should be integration in our society. That is what everyone agrees and it is what report after report has said.

The Cantle report on the race riots in Oldham, Burnley and Bradford in 2001 is the critical report, and it was absolutely clear in what it said. Its first recommendation was that schools in the future should have 25 per cent from other races and other religions. It is still the most important report on this issue, reporting as it does upon ethnic, racial and religious strife in our cities just four years ago. Quite apart from that, all opinion polls show that parents would like, on the whole, to have integrated schools.

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9 pm

When the Government give academies money and support academies, they insist upon integration. They are about to finance an academy in Oldham itself. It will be an integrated academy with children from all faiths attending. The rabbis, priests and imams and other people come in after hours to talk to the schools. So when the Government are in the driving seat and provide the money directly, they are totally committed to integration. I believe that the Minister personally is committed to integration though I know he will have to speak to another brief tonight. We will probably not know his real feelings until his memoirs are published. I hope that I live long enough to read them. The Government are committed to integration but they run away from the pressure of the Catholic Church. That is what has happened.

I remember when the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock,—who is not in his place tonight—was the shadow Education Secretary way back in 1980-81. I remember him going to the Muslim communities and saying, “Don’t ask for separate Muslim schools; it will not do you any good. Go to ordinary schools”. The whole lesson of immigrant communities in our country is that they prosper when they mix and merge and mingle. The Jewish community shows that time and time again. That was the strong message put out by the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, and it was in fact the policy until 1997 when the Government agreed to restart faith schools. The consequences of that were not appreciated at the time.

People ask whether my proposal is practical. I have had to answer on television and radio a lot of questions such as whether I would send one of my children—I am a bit past that now—or anyone in my family to a Muslim school to form part of the 25 per cent. And this is principally about Muslim schools, because there are 120 such schools waiting in the wings, with probably 50 or 60 of them ready for it. I am not against that. Money to Muslim schools must be a good thing because the standard of education will be improved. But if you take the Queen’s shilling, it is entirely appropriate for the Queen to determine the conditions on which that shilling is taken. We can say to the Muslim schools that their admissions criteria should be closer to the admissions criteria of the Church of England, but the Church of England has rightly and with great boldness said that it will give priority to non-Anglicans in 25 per cent of places in new Anglican schools. That was a bold and correct measure and reflects very much the practice of what happens in Anglican schools. That is the policy. I myself went to an Anglican primary school which was totally mixed and where my closest friend was a Jewish boy. If the Muslim schools adopt something as relaxed as that as an admissions criterion then other people will come to them.

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