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Baroness David: My Lords, the Minister was kind enough to discuss the matter with me as well as the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay. I thank the Minister for going a long way towards meeting what we wanted. It was not quite everything we wanted, but he went a long way. I hope that the new clause will be interpreted in the way we want, so that children will not receive only one or two hours' education a week and will not be left roaming the streets. I do not know whether guidance will be issued on this matter. I wonder whether the Minister can tell us that and when the guidance might be available. It would be interesting to see it.

Lord Henley: My Lords, if there is not guidance, I should be very much surprised. Guidance more or less comes out of our ears, if I can put it that way. As to when guidance would be ready, I am not in a position to be able to advise the noble Baroness but I shall let her know in due course.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 99 to 102 not moved.]

[Amendments Nos. 103 to 105 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 106 to 110 not moved.]

Clause 65 [Management committees for pupil referral units]:

[Amendments Nos. 111 to 113 not moved.]

Schedule 9 [Minor and consequential amendments]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 114:

Page 80, line 35, at end insert--
(" . In section 4(2) of that Act (schools: general)--
(a) for "For" substitute "Nothing in subsection (1) shall be taken to preclude the making of arrangements under section 19(1) (exceptional educational provision) under which part-time education is to be provided at a school; and for"; and
(b) omit "(pupil referral units)".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 98. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

4.15 p.m.

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 115:

Page 83, line 46, at end insert--
(" . In section 537(4) of that Act (power of Secretary of State to require information from governing bodies etc.), at the end add "; and regulations under this section may provide that, in such circumstances as may be prescribed, the provision of information to a person other than the Secretary of State is to be treated, for the purposes of any provision of such regulations or this section, as compliance with any requirement of such regulations relating to the provision of information to the Secretary of State."").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 62. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

19 Mar 1997 : Column 924

[Amendment No. 116 not moved.]

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 117:

Page 84, line 45, at end insert--
(". In Schedule 2 to that Act (the funding authorities), paragraph 9(2) (superannuation of employees) shall have effect (and be deemed always to have had effect) with the following amendments, namely--
(a) for "the Treasury", in the first place where it occurs, substitute "the Minister for the Civil Service"; and
(b) for "the Treasury", in the other places where it occurs, substitute "he".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 66. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 10 [Repeals]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 118:

Page 86, line 19, column 3, at beginning insert--
("In section 4(2), the words "(pupil referral units)".In section 19(1) and (4), the words "full-time or part-time".")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 98. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Then, Standing Order 44 having been suspended, (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March):

Lord Henley: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a third time.

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

Clause 1 [Relaxation of controls on changes relating to selective admissions]:

Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 1:

Leave out Clause 1.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 1 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 to 40. I believe those are all the remaining amendments on the Marshalled List.

It is with much regret that I move these amendments which remove Parts I and II from this Bill together with their schedules and all the consequential amendments. With the announcement of the general election there has been much negotiation to agree progress on the legislative programme. As part of those discussions, the Government are pleased that we have agreement to proceed with all of the measures in the Bill on discipline and standards.

These clauses account for three quarters of the Bill. However, the Government very much regret that it was not possible also to secure agreement to proceed with the measures in Clauses 1 to 19 which allowed schools more power to select pupils, and which gave grant-maintained schools more power to develop new provision to meet local needs. These clauses would have encouraged more diversity among schools, helping

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schools to develop particular strengths and giving parents more choice from among a range of different types of good school.

The Government remain firmly committed to extending choice and diversity. That is a powerful way of raising standards in schools because it allows parents to match what schools offer to the individual needs, interests and abilities of their child. But we do not now have time in this Parliament to secure these important measures. Therefore we shall pursue the discipline and standards measures for now, and come back to the selection and grant-maintained deregulation measures at the earliest possible opportunity following the general election. I beg to move.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I wish to speak in support of the amendments moved by the Minister. As my noble friend Lord Morris of Castle Morris stated in the Queen's Speech,

    "Selection flies in the face of parental preference".--[Official Report, 29/10/96; col. 305.]

We in the Labour Party have set out our policies with regard to this issue in Diversity and Excellence which states that the party wants to give parents a key role in the education of their children.

Opposition parties have argued throughout the passage of this Bill that the Government's plans would mean not parents choosing the school but the school choosing, or choosing to reject, particular children. This would have happened even more if the Government's plans to give new freedoms had remained in the Bill, but thankfully these are being removed.

This is the 18th education Bill since 1979 and the first where the Government have been defeated on what the Government had declared to be their major policy of giving more freedom to a minority of schools to select more children. There are aspects of the Bill where the opposition parties have provided critical support in keeping with their existing policies: new measures on school discipline, parent partnership agreements, baseline assessment and the merging of SCAA and NCVQ.

Education is the beginning of the process of socialisation, particularly for the young child starting primary school. We believe that that process should occur within the neighbourhood. It should be inclusive rather than exclusive. It should offer opportunities for parents to place all their children in the same school whatever the individual child's talents, ability and aptitude. That is part of the process of people learning from an early age to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses and the needs and potential contributions of their neighbours and friends in their community. That is good comprehensive education. It is comprehensive in that it encompasses the best of what a child needs to learn to grow up in a caring society. We welcome these government amendments.

Lord Tope: My Lords, I join with the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington of Ribbleton, in--rather unusually for both of us--giving a warm welcome to the amendments moved by the Minister today. I recall

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that at the Second Reading debate I suggested to the Minister that the originally stated objective of Part I of the Bill--which was, apparently, to embarrass the Labour Party over selection--had already achieved its purpose because the Labour Party was at that time adequately embarrassing itself over selection, and that as it had achieved its purpose Part I of the Bill should then be withdrawn.

Unfortunately, the Minister, on that occasion as on so many, chose not to take my advice. I cannot help reflecting now that had he taken my advice on Second Reading and withdrawn that part of the Bill, we would all have saved ourselves an enormous amount of fruitless, wasted and frustrating time and might indeed have been able to spend more time in considering in more depth that part of the Bill which is now to pass, which I believe reflects broad agreement which we all share on the objectives of the Bill. Certainly we are pleased to support that part. Nevertheless, it could still have done with more detailed consideration and could still be improved further. We welcome today the improvements that have so far been made.

However, the commitment of the Liberal Democrats to education, to the provision of high standards and high quality in education is well known, and will become even better known over the next six weeks. We share objectives with noble Lords in all parts of the House. However, we shall be the only party in the coming weeks which will be prepared to say that we will pay for it, and how we shall pay for it. That still remains a fundamental issue. Many important measures need to be taken, but until and unless the chronic underfunding of our education system in this country is tackled many of those problems will remain unresolved.

Whatever the result of the general election in the weeks to come, I look forward to taking part in the debate on the next education Bill, whoever is standing at the Government Dispatch Box; and--who knows?--perhaps I shall be looking forward to it even more. In the meantime, I give my warm support to the amendments.

I have one regret. By agreement with my party, too, Clause 20 is not included in the amendments. Clause 20 extends the assisted places scheme to primary education. During previous debates, I have made clear that my party is opposed to the assisted places scheme and is opposed, therefore, to extending it to primary education. We have readily agreed not to include the deletion of that clause because we understand that commitments have been made to some 1,200 children who would participate in the assisted places scheme in primary education in the summer. I ask the Minister whether that is the case. If that is the case I wish to make clear that my party would honour commitments made, however much we disagree with the scheme. For that reason we keep the clause.

However, if those commitments have been made, how have they been made? Given that the Bill has not been passed, under what legal powers have they been made? If those commitments had not been made, I am sure that Clause 20 would be among the clauses to be deleted in these amendments.

Can the Minister give some explanation as to how commitments are made before a Bill has even completed its Report stage, let alone has passed through this House

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and through another place? I hope that we can have an answer. However, we are advised that those commitments have been made and my party would wish to honour them. For that reason, and that reason alone, we accept that Clause 20 should remain part of the Bill.

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