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I will vote for the amendment of my noble friend Lord Baker, even though I was deeply influenced by the stunning performance of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and quite understand why he is such a brilliantly paid barrister. I agree with him legislatively, but I feel so strongly about the danger of faith schools at the fringe, beyond the Roman Catholic, Church of England and, probably, Jewish schools, that I must vote for my noble friend Lord Baker. I do not think that we have yet addressed this serious problem as much as we should.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I shall be very brief. I suspect that the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Baker, is unworkable, for the reasons given by, among others, the two noble and learned Lords who addressed the House.

The horse may well have bolted because I am not sure how one could apply the 25 per cent quota to the new independent trust schools, which will be substantially financed by the state. I am not clear about it, but I guess that it would be very difficult to do that, therefore there is always a door open to escape from the requirements that might be laid upon the schools in the maintained and public sectors.

Having said that, I recognise the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Baker. There are real issues here about how we deal with separate faith schools. I will conclude by saying that I am very sorry that, in this debate, we have not looked at all at the concept of confederation between schools. We cannot, I believe, make the proposal of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, work; I would not support it even if I thought that we could. I am troubled that we have had almost no discussion of the extremely helpful and fertile concept of confederation between schools, whereby schools retain their own governing bodies, but share a great many activities, and even some courses and teaching, so that there is a real mixture of cultures and faiths within schools. My noble friend Baroness Sharp, with her usual sagacity, proposed as long ago as the Education Act 2002 that we should look very carefully at the concept of confederation between schools of different faiths and non-faith schools. I am sorry that this much more constructive and, indeed, serious proposal has not been given much time in this House. I hope it will be given time by the Minister sooner or later.

10 pm

Baroness Flather: My Lords, I have to say that I have found this debate quite distressing. I never thought that I would sit here, in this House, looking at the expansion of faith-based schools. I was part of the Swann committee, which some noble Lords may know about. It looked at the education of children from ethnic minority groups. In our report we took

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the bold step of saying that it was perhaps time to have no faith-based schools. Now we sit here today, constantly extending faith-based schools. The next lot might be Rastafarian schools. Why should they not have schools? Why should anybody not have schools?

I was brought up a Hindu. As such, I do not come from a revealed religious base. We are taught to respect everybody’s faith, everybody’s belief and everybody’s way of worshipping God, if they so wish to do. Abrahamic religions do not do that. Muslims say that they are the true faith; Catholics say that they are the true faith; Anglicans say that they are the true faith; and Jews say that they are the true faith. There are so many true faiths. Do they all have their own separate gods? If you believe in God, there can be only one. The more we separate systems of belief, the more divergence we will create in our society. It is logical and obvious that this will happen.

No matter: we are at this point; we are not starting today. We are debating a particular amendment. Whether it is workable or not, I shall be voting for it, because it at least sets down a marker towards trying to create some kind of commitment to bringing children from other faiths into a school. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has talked about his mother and father. I am very happy that my noble friend Lord Waddington mentioned race, because there is a double whammy here. We have, until now, been dealing mainly with white faith-based schools. This is the first time for us to look at non-white faith-based schools. Please do not let us minimise the impact of that fact. It will not be as easy for a girl educated in a Muslim school to find someone totally different from somewhere else and get married to that person. I do not think that it will be that easy. A young white man recently asked me, “Why are you so fussed about faith-based schools? I come home, I play with my friends and I have friends from all over the place”. Will a Muslim child, girl or boy—and first of all, the girls and boys will not mix together; we know that—be in the happy position of meeting friends and going to each other’s houses? I know of many Muslim families who will not let their children go to anyone’s house if they are not Muslim. All this will exacerbate these divisions.

Let us hope for the best, but I shall certainly vote for my noble friend Lord Baker’s amendment, just to make the point. I think we are at a crucial stage and our young people will live to see the results of all this and will regret it.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Flather, makes an interesting point. If you take the argument to its logical conclusion, it will be the Jedi who want a faith-based school next because I gather that the Jedi was the fourth most popular faith declared in the last census.

We have again had a long and interesting debate and many important points have been made. I shall be as brief as I can in saying why Members on these Benches will not support the noble Lord, Lord Baker, in the Lobbies tonight. However, I am very attracted to the picture he paints of schools in which children of different faiths and no faith sit next to each other,

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play and learn together, go home on the bus and visit each others’ houses. That is a situation we would like to see. However, we do not like the amendment for three reasons. The first is that we do not like quotas, and the main reason we do not like them is that they persuade some people to pretend to be things that they are not and others to pretend not to be things that they are. That always happens with quotas.

The second reason is one which the noble Lord, Lord Baker, himself convinced me of; that is, that the amendment will not achieve much because it will apply only to a very few schools. We live in a period of falling rolls and not many schools will be affected by his quotas. The third reason is that we do not think it is workable. In order to investigate whether it would be workable, I looked at evidence from existing faith schools that already open their doors to children of other faiths or none. I discovered that Al Hijrah School, a voluntary-aided Muslim secondary school in Birmingham which already accepts non-Muslim pupils, has said that only one or two inquiries had been received from non-Muslim families since the school became state funded four years ago. Gatton Primary School in Wandsworth, south London, which is another state-funded Muslim school, has had very few applications from non-Muslim children. The Guru Nanak School in Hillingdon, the country’s only state-funded Sikh comprehensive, said that it gets about six applications a year from non-Sikhs. Two faith-based primary schools are about to open in Slough, one is Sikh and one Muslim. Both have already decided on their own quotas, one of 20 per cent and the other 25 per cent, of places to be offered to those not of their faith. Both of the head teachers have said that they do not really think they will be able to fill those quotas. If they do not fill them, well, the places cannot be left empty. According to the law, they have to be filled.

The objective of the noble Lord’s amendment, which I applaud, will not be achieved. Members on these Benches are not in the business of putting on to the statute book legislation which is unworkable.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords for their applause. However, we will not be supporting the amendment.

Baroness Flather: My Lords, are the Jedi a faith? I did not know that. I know that the Rastafarians have been recognised as a religious group. I hope that the noble Baroness is not trying to ridicule the idea of Rastafarian schools.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I shall give the House a piece of information. In the last census, I am sure with considerable levity, a large number of our fellow citizens responded to the question about their faith by saying that they were Jedi. That is a fact. I do not necessarily approve of it and clearly they were joking, but that is what they said.

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Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for taking such an interest in this debate. I am only sorry that he does not see the amendment proposed by myself and the noble Lords, Lord Alton, Lord Sutherland, Lord Ahmed and Lord Adonis, as a direct alternative to his amendment. The noble Lord’s amendment would drive a coach and horses through the principles of schools’ freedoms and of parental choice, which we have supported so strongly throughout this Bill. The real effects of a quota would be to prevent the establishment of faith schools where not enough children of other faiths applied or, conversely, to force the attendance at those schools of children who had deliberately not applied. That is, perhaps unintentionally, social engineering at its very worst. A quota could prevent parents from educating children according to their religion or from educating their children outside religion, a right enshrined in Article 2 of the First Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights and a right respected and enforced since the Education Act of 1944.

We wholeheartedly support inclusion, the inclusion of faith schools in the state system, and we hope that more will join the maintained sector, as independent state schools that follow the national curriculum and inspection regime like other schools. I wish that my noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking could reconsider his amendment in the light of the earlier debate and that he could accept that greater practice of community cohesion in schools of all types is a far better way forward than pursuing a top-down quota solution with no consultation. The hour is very late. It has been an amazing and interesting debate, but I would say this—I hope that all the noble Lords who have spoken will do the House the courtesy of remaining to hear the debates on the rest of the amendments tonight.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, on Report I undertook that the Government would consult on this issue before Third Reading. Having done so, the Government have concluded that the best and most effective way of promoting community cohesion is to lay a new duty to promote community cohesion on the governing bodies of all maintained schools in England—all Christian faith schools, all Muslim faith schools, all Sikh schools, Jewish schools and Hindu schools, and not just faith schools or new faith schools, but all schools. These issues of cohesion and the promotion of relationships between different parts of the community affect all schools, whether in Oldham or Orpington, Bradford or Birmingham. The Government have also agreed with Ofsted that there should be an effective inspection regime to back up this new duty to promote community cohesion. The House has now agreed the amendments to give effect to these new duties on schools and on Ofsted. We have debated them at length and I do not want to repeat what was said.

However, on the issue of admissions raised in this amendment, absolutist positions have been stated. On one side there are those who believe that it is fundamentally wrong for faith schools to have admissions policies that make it possible for others to join such schools at all. That view has been put to me

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in the past week by some senior religious leaders. On the other side there are those who want to require all schools to recruit beyond their faith as a matter of principle. The Government have consistently rejected both absolutist positions and, indeed, so have most of the faith leaders whom we have consulted in the past week.

As a matter of fact, at least some faith schools of all faiths and of all denominations offer places beyond their immediate faith communities, not least Catholic schools, a third of whose pupils nationwide comes from beyond the Catholic community. I should add that Catholic education takes pride in that fact, as part of its wider service to the nation, particularly in disadvantaged areas. The Government have made it clear that we welcome such outreach and have therefore welcomed the voluntary statement of the Catholic Church that, in planning any new schools, it will take account of community demand beyond the immediate Catholic community in agreeing the size and admissions policies of its schools. Other faith communities are taking a similar approach. But, after the consultation that we have undertaken, we accept that this should come about with the agreement, case by case, of the faith community in question. We accept too that there may be valid reasons why such admissions arrangements are not appropriate—either to do with local exigencies or to do with principle in particular cases—although I should stress that it is the existing law that no faith school may leave places empty where it is undersubscribed and where others beyond the faith community wish to attend the school.

We have therefore decided that it is not appropriate to introduce new statutory regulation in this area. We intend to make it clear in the new school admissions code that while it may be good practice for a new faith school to open up places to non-faith applicants this must be a voluntary decision, and that any such modification of a proposal for a new faith school within the maintained system must not be imposed on the promoters either by the local authority or by the schools adjudicator. The Government, therefore, oppose the amendment.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, before the Minister sits down, does he agree about the impact of the Human Rights Act creating a general duty not to discriminate on state maintained schools?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I agree with the general duty, but I will need to take advice on the whole chain of reasoning which the noble Lord set out earlier before I can comment in full.

10.15 pm

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate. I am particularly interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, because, to the extent that I understood him, if he is correct in his interpretation of the Human Rights Act, all new faith schools will be illegal and, indeed, there will be considerable doubt about existing faith schools. Whether or not

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that is good news or stands up legally, I do not know, but it certainly adds a whole new light to the issue. The Minister said that he will look at the situation. I would very much like him to let us know what the position is. It is a fundamental change much more radical than anything I am suggesting.

There have been two threads of comment, hostility or opposition to what I have said. First, it was said that this is unworkable; that quotas will not work. I am not a quota man. I always think Liberal education policy is something of an enigma enveloped in a fog, but the noble Baroness who speaks for the Liberal Democrats said that the proposed is unworkable. She should come with me to Northern Ireland in a fortnight’s time; I am going with the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. We are going to see 53 schools that work on a quota—40 per cent Catholic, 40 per cent Protestant and 20 per cent other. How do you think Northern Ireland has managed to get it right? Northern Ireland gets so much wrong, but how do you think it managed to get that right when it is unworkable? Of course it is workable if there is a will to make it work.

I know the system that I am proposing is not perfect. I enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brennan. I looked upon him as an ally. On Friday morning of last week, after the Government withdrew their amendments, I had to draw up these amendments but I did not have his advice. I wish I had because I would have made them better and workable. The Government have that opportunity and have perfect amendments drafted by the Bill team. I spoke to the Bill team but, unfortunately, it did not send the amendments to me. I would have tabled those if it had. I am quite sure that if I had tabled those amendments, all the problems that the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, mentioned would have been resolved. It is not a question of wording but a question of intent. Does the noble Lord want to see integrated education in our country or not? The noble Lord did not express his views on that so I do not know what they are, but I want to see integrated education in our country.

The second point was that the previous amendment does all the work. We debated it earlier and I supported it, but it is carrying too large a weight. You cannot expect the inspectors in our schools to by themselves create community cohesion: it is asking too much of them. The Government have got to do something. I think that the voluntary undertakings they have got will not really work.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Waddington, a very old friend, who is not going to support me tonight. But he is not going to vote with the Government—we ex-Home Secretaries must stick together. But if either of us held that post today, there would be thudding on our desk every week reports about a lack of social cohesion in our inner cities. The reports would say all the time that you must not allow societies to develop that are parallel and separate. That is what distinctive faith schools will do; it is an inevitable result. All the advice goes that way from the Cantle report in 2001.

I think it is very disappointing that only one Member from an Asian community has spoken in the

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debate today. I have been told by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that we must not push Muslims into the corner. But there are Muslim Members of this House and this is a debate about the Muslim faith in our country today. If they want to share their views and communicate, they have some responsibility to try to do so. We cannot debate this matter by ourselves.

Finally, I say to the right reverend Prelates—the bishops of my dear old Anglican Church—that when I was Education Secretary and I had to deal with the bishops of the Church of England and the bishops of the Church of Rome, I discovered why bishops move diagonally. I am quite sure that if these amendments had been tabled by the Government as they intended to do a week ago—beautifully drafted by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, and perfect in their execution but saying exactly what my amendments do—those on the Bishops’ Bench would be voting for them.

The Lord Bishop of Peterborough: My Lords, the noble Lord obviously has a prescience that is misplaced. We would have voted the other way.

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I am afraid that we will never know. But the Anglican Church has the right solution—it believes in integrated education, it has stumbled upon the truth and it has picked itself up as if nothing has happened. If it really believed in that truth it could say that other faiths ought to follow. I sometimes believe that if some of those currently sitting on the Bishops’ Bench had been living in the 17th century they might just have missed out on the Reformation.

This is an interesting and important debate. It is not just about what is being taught in faith schools around the country—it is the shape of our society in our inner cities for the next 20 years. My position and that of the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, are very clear but his amendment is not strongly enough behind integration—I am after children working, playing and studying together. Imperfect as it may be, it is workable and it is a correct and desirable aim. I wish to test the opinion of the House.

10.24 pm

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 12) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37; Not-Contents, 119.

Division No. 4


Alli, L.
Baker of Dorking, L.
Barnett, L.
Billingham, B.
Bottomley of Nettlestone, B.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Crathorne, L.
Desai, L.
Dundee, E.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Flather, B. [Teller]
Fowler, L.
Glenarthur, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Harrison, L.
Haworth, L.
Jopling, L.
Lee of Trafford, L.
Lockwood, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
Marlesford, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.

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Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Morgan, L.
Moser, L.
Onslow, E. [Teller]
Patel, L.
Reay, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Sheldon, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Taverne, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tombs, L.
Tonge, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Wade of Chorlton, L.


Acton, L.
Adams of Craigielea, B.
Adonis, L.
Alton of Liverpool, L.
Amos, B. [Lord President.]
Andrews, B.
Armstrong of Ilminster, L.
Bach, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Bilston, L.
Boyd of Duncansby, L.
Brennan, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Broers, L.
Brookman, L.
Burlison, L.
Buscombe, B.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter of Coles, L.
Chandos, V.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Corston, B.
Crawley, B.
Cumberlege, B.
Davidson of Glen Clova, L.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L. [Teller]
De Mauley, L.
Dearing, L.
Drayson, L.
D'Souza, B.
Dubs, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Fookes, B.
Ford, B.
Foster of Bishop Auckland, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Giddens, L.
Goldsmith, L.
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