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Lord Quirk: My Lords, has the Minister become aware of rumours that primary teachers will not get such easy access to headship training as teachers in secondary schools? If that is correct, could she ensure that primary teachers, who most certainly will be needed for headships, get every encouragement to go forward for training?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, raised an important issue. There are far more primary schools than secondary schools; therefore there are far more primary heads than secondary heads. It is absolutely vital that they should have equal access to training for headships. Because of the Government's new agenda for school standards, we are giving top priority to achieving our targets for literacy and numeracy in primary schools, so we need very well-trained primary heads. However, I shall ensure that

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the noble Lord's concern is drawn to the attention of my honourable friend the Minister for school standards. I have not heard the rumours.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon: My Lords, is the Minister able to say whether the national professional qualification includes any educational training in the area of spiritual and moral development?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as I understand it, this is a training in management, administration and leadership rather than in those areas which specifically relate to curriculum matters. I am not aware that there is a specific module for the area, but I shall take the right reverend Prelate's concern back and find out whether any consideration is being given to it.

Baroness Young: My Lords, I think the point the Minister made was that it would be obligatory for those wishing to be head teachers to go on the course. Perhaps she will confirm that. If that is the case, how will it be possible to determine who will go on it? There are the many teachers in primary schools referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Quirk, and unless there are many places, they will not get on a course for a long time.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, we have no intention of making the course mandatory in the first instance. We shall be building it up over several years to avoid just the kind of problem to which the noble Baroness, Lady Young, referred. Eventually we want it to be a mandatory qualification so that all head teachers are well prepared for the enormously challenging and difficult tasks that they face in our schools.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, will those who are appointed as assessors possess adequate substantial, successful and relevant teaching experience?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, yes. My noble friend raises an important question. A number of those who will be involved in providing the training will be high quality, successful, serving head teachers. Some of them will be LEA trainers and will have a great deal of experience in training people in local education authorities. But it is vital that those who are involved in what is sometimes called "teaching the teachers" are of good quality and have the relevant experience.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can the Minister state the Government's attitude to the cardinal principle raised by the right reverend Prelate?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, that is a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper. But I can say without difficulty that the Government are absolutely committed to that aspect of the curriculum and believe

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that all young people should be exposed to moral, social and spiritual training or education within their school experience.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, can my noble friend tell us any more about "strategic responsibility"? For instance, how does that compare with tactical responsibility in a head teacher?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I did not quite pick up my noble friend's comparison with what is defined in the new training as "strategic accountability". It is important that head teachers are accountable to their governing bodies and to the mission and strategy that their governing bodies set down for their schools. It is important that they have a broad sense of the objectives that they seek to achieve.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Baroness feels, as I do, that she has had some valuable contributions from her noble friends as well as my noble friends. In view of her answers, is she prepared to put more flesh on the skeletal Bill that she presented to the House so that we can consider the details of the head teachers' course rather than the vague recommendations contained in the Bill?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, it is not appropriate, after 16 minutes of Starred Questions, for me to go into great detail about the Bill. That is difficult to do. However, later we will do our best to do so.

Lord Howell: My Lords, recognising the need for the management of a curriculum in most of our schools, and bearing in mind the importance of literacy and numeracy, will this course also have regard to the fact that some subjects which ought to be included, such as physical education, are not now finding their rightful place? Will this course ensure that they do?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, once again I should say that this is a course to prepare head teachers for their leadership responsibilities. Part of that responsibility is to make absolutely sure that the national curriculum, and other parts of the curriculum that are regarded as essential to the successful education of young people, are properly covered in their schools.

EU Financial Management: Scrutiny

2.54 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they will recommend to the Council of Ministers concerning the Court of Auditors' refusal to provide a positive global assurance as to the legality and regularity of the transactions underlying the payments out of European Community funds for the year ended 31st December 1996.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, improving financial management of the Community budget is a

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priority area for the Government, as we made clear in our manifesto. The European Court of Auditors' report is a powerful tool in the fight to improve financial management and reduce fraud. The Government will use the opportunities which the UK presidency of the European Union will provide to carry forward this agenda. In particular, the Government will preside over the annual budget discharge procedure. That will give us the opportunity to ensure that discussion of the report in Council focuses on key issues and on achieving real improvements. In addition, the Government will continue to support the Commission's SEM (sound and efficient management) 2000 initiative on improving financial management. This has already produced a real output in the form of clarifications of what constitutes eligible expenditure.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, your Lordships will be aware that Article 188c of the Maastricht Treaty gave the Court of Auditors responsibility for the first time to report, among other things, on the legality and propriety of various items of expenditure in the Community budget. For the past two years--the coming year will be the third year--the Court of Auditors declined to provide that certificate, even though the original requirement for its provision was claimed as being part of the game, set and match win we achieved in Maastricht.

What are the Government going to do about that? The amount at issue is estimated by the Court of Auditors to be £2.81 billion--I repeat, "billion"--of which the United Kingdom's share would be £340 million. That is not peanuts. There is no point in the Government expostulating about this. What are they going to do about it? We are a member of the European Council which is a superior body to the Council of Ministers and can in fact do what it wishes. What is the noble Lord going to do?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in The Hunting of the Snark the Bellman had the principle that,

    "What I tell you three times is true".

When my noble friend asks me the same question three times, it does not make it any more relevant and does not disqualify what I have already said. Not only Members of your Lordships' House but every schoolboy and schoolgirl knows that Article 188c of the Maastricht Treaty has the effect described by my noble friend.

I described in my original Answer the action which the Government intend to take in their role as UK president. That relates not only to fraud, which is one part of the problems which the Court of Auditors identified, but also to the other substantive errors which usually refer to differences of opinion between the Court and the Commission in relation to the interpretation of the rules on eligibility. Both of those issues will be attacked vigorously during the UK presidency. The Economic Secretary to the Treasury has already visited

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the Court of Auditors to discuss what we are going to do. As far as I am aware, that is the first time in living memory that that has happened.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, I fully support the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, in his desire to eliminate fraud in European Union affairs. He asks what should be done. Would not the better and more effective answer be to give greater power to the various authorities within the European Union to make it more of a federal authority dealing with these matters over and above the national governments which conceal many of the frauds?

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