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Lord Gordon of Strathblane: I wonder whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in replying, will draw on the experience of the General Teaching Council in Scotland, which has existed for well over 30 years and operates quite satisfactorily.

I am not sure that I see the necessity for the amendments that are being discussed. After all, the functions of the council are set out quite clearly in Clause 2 of the Bill and parts are developed further in Clauses 3, 4 and 5. Surely that tells us what the purpose of the general teaching council is to be.

Lord Monkswell: My concern with these amendments is that it is implied that the general teaching council will be the only body to determine the standard of teaching and quality of learning in schools. We should recognise that, apart from the teachers in schools, a range of other factors go to ensuring the standard of teaching and quality of learning. I mention as examples the fabric of the buildings and the working environment of teachers and pupils. Is it the object of the proposers of the amendments that the general teaching council should be the authority which advises the Government on the capital expenditure programme for school buildings? That seems to be the implication of the amendments.

Baroness Blackstone: First, perhaps I may say how grateful I am for the general support from all sides of the Chamber for this measure. It is something that many of us have looked forward to for some years. Some of us are even old enough and have been around long enough to remember the attempt by my noble friend Lord Glenamara to set up a teaching council in the late 1960s.

The amendments seek to set out in primary legislation the objectives for the GTC. The GTC will play an important role in raising the status and standing of the teaching profession. In doing that, we want to strengthen the role of the profession and to improve the general competence of the teaching profession. We hope that the GTC will contribute to our drive to raise standards.

The principal aims for the GTC envisaged by these amendments certainly match our intentions. Perhaps I could say to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, that the principal objective is as laid out in the amendment of the noble Baroness Lady Young.

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One way of achieving that objective is set out in paragraph (b) of the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. However, as my noble friends Lord Peston and Lord Gordon said, we had not thought it necessary to specify objectives in primary legislation. It remains our view that it is not strictly necessary for the purposes of the legislation to do so.

At the same time, in picking up one or two other points that have been made, perhaps I may say that of course we want to see the profession play an important role in setting its own standards and having ownership of them. We expect that, after consultation, there will be a good representation of practising teachers on the GTC. I am sure that consultation about membership will confirm that that is what is wanted. It is important that we should give responsibility for standards to the profession and involve teachers in ensuring that we have the highest possible standards.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I shall try to avoid stonewalling throughout the day with respect to proposals made in amendments. As she readily accepted, the shape of the GTC and its final remit will be the result of further consultation which the Government have already promised to the teaching profession and to the many others who have an interest in these matters. In considering the outcome of these consultations, the Government and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will want to take into account what is said in this Chamber during the course of our debates during the various stages of the Bill.

I should like to consider further these amendments. I do not want to stonewall and reject them out of hand; I believe that they basically reflect what we intend. Some Members have indicated that there might be one or two ambiguities in the amendments. If we decide to put on the face of the Bill a simple and clear objective, it is important that we are absolutely sure that there are no ambiguities and that the objective is clearly understood. I hope that, on that basis, the amendment will be withdrawn.

3.45 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Baroness sits down, can we take it from what she said that she will accept amendments to the Bill on this issue? More precisely, is the noble Baroness saying that she accepts the amendments in principle and will come back with a form of words that would satisfy my noble friend?

Baroness Blackstone: I have said that we shall consider further whether we can come back with a suitable amendment to put on the face of the Bill without its leading to ambiguity and uncertainty. The drafting of the amendment must be clear and acceptable.

Baroness Young: I very much thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for what she has said. It has been a useful debate. I cannot speak on behalf of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, but I believe we are all agreed about this matter. A point I would emphasise, and which perhaps I did not make clear at the beginning, is that we

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must all agree that, if we are to raise educational standards and to have a good education system, it must be based on the teachers. They are the only ones who can deliver this. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Peston. The purpose behind my amendment was not just to state the obvious--although in a sense it is stating the obvious--but to make clear to the teachers that there is a recognition of the essential role that they play and of the importance of raising their status in society.

I am happy to withdraw the amendment. I recognise that these amendments need to be correctly drafted. It would be helpful if the noble Baroness could come back with an amendment at a later stage. This is an issue on which we are all agreed and on which we are trying to do something constructive. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Glenamara: I do not believe that we are all agreed. A fundamental question is raised about the council. Is it to be purely consultative, as it is in the primary legislation, or is it to be responsible for having a measure of the governance of the teaching profession? Perhaps Members would look at Clause 2(4). Even in the special case where there is doubt whether a teacher should be able to continue, the Secretary of State will make the decision. The council can advise him, but he will make the decision. I know from experience that that is one of the powers that the Department for Education has never been able to give up. That power should be in the hands of the teachers themselves; they should be able to decide whether or not a person is able to continue to teach. Earlier in the clause it is provided that the council will advise the Secretary of State on the standards of conduct for teachers. The teachers themselves ought to be responsible for the conduct of the profession. I will not go on. I hope that the noble Baroness appreciates that this is the fundamental question with regard to this proposal. Unless it is to be more than a consultative body, we may as well pack up and go home; it is not worth the trouble. I hope that the Government will take that point on board.

Lord Tope: First, I begin by agreeing wholeheartedly with the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. This is at the root of the issue. I am grateful for the support that my amendment, to which my noble friend Lady Maddock also put her name, received from all corners of the Committee. Whether or not the provision should be on the face of the Bill is open to debate, although I believe quite strongly that it should be. While clearly I agree with the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Young--she uses the same words as I use--the additional part of my amendment is also important and I hope that it will be considered.

I am sorry that the wording is ambiguous. I do not claim to be a legal or parliamentary draftsman. It was my intention that the council should be the vehicle by which the teaching profession takes responsibility and so forth. As a layman, that seemed clear to me. The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, whose knowledge of legal matters is much greater than mine, and the noble Lord, Lord Walton, looked at it. I am happy to see whether

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we can improve the drafting. If the Minister and her advisers will do the same, then when we come to Report stage I hope that we shall have a form of wording that is unambiguous.

I hope, perhaps with a little less optimism, that the Government also recognise the extremely important points made by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. On the basis of the general shared intention in your Lordships' Chamber and the non-stonewalling response from the Minister who agreed to look at this, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 1, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4 which is strictly consequential upon it. This is the first of long series of amendments I tabled to probe the regulation-making powers in the Bill which are pretty extensive. I hope to save some of the time of the Committee--after last night that is a worthwhile objective--by making my general points about regulations on my first amendment. Thereafter, I hope that I shall be able to say as little as "I beg to move", and play it by ear after listening to the answers.

My first anxiety about the regulations is the obvious one that one cannot discuss and amend the detail. The second point is that we may be creating powers whose extent we do not foresee. I was struck by the department's memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee in relation to this Bill. In paragraph 22(f) of the memorandum the department says that the Government are introducing tuition fees under existing legislation. I wonder what legislation. I certainly have no idea and I have scrutinised the drafting of educational legislation over the past 10 years with a certain amount of care and suspicion. I did not know that I had voted in favour of legislation to allow the setting up of tuition fees. When I know under what powers that is being done, I should like to look back at the wording of the Bill and see where my vigilance was insufficient. It does not encourage me to relax it at present.

I gave the noble Baroness notice before Christmas of the three questions I want to ask on each of these amendments. My first is: what could be done under the powers which are here being conferred? What is the utmost extent of what a government, not necessarily this one, could do with these powers if they wanted to? I hope that the example of the tuition fees indicates that that concern is not redundant.

I hope to obtain a fairly straightforward answer to my second question which is: what is it that the department actually wants to do with these powers? When I receive the answers to those two questions my third question will be, in a number of cases: why is the department asking for powers more extensive than are necessary to do what it at present intends to do? Those three questions I shall ask with each of my probing

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amendments. What I do thereafter, either now or at a later stage of the Bill, will depend on the answers I receive.

More generally, there is a difference of view among those with an experience of drafting as to how far regulation-making powers may be given. I have a copy of the report of the Hansard Society Committee, Making the Law, published in 1992, the committee chaired by the late Lord Rippon of Hexham, former chairman of the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee of this House and indeed its founder. It was Lord Rippon of Hexham who taught me the importance in these matters of separating form from substance. That is why I am beginning my probing into regulation-making powers on issues with which I have considerable sympathy with the objectives which the Government hope to achieve. Lord Rippon said:

    "We emphasise that statutory delegation should never leave an Act bare of everything except a framework of ministerial powers, with all real substance being left to ministerial regulations etc. This has been done (see the legislation on student loans in the Education (Student Loans) Act 1990, for example); it should not be repeated. The main principles of the legislation and its central provisions should appear in the Act itself".

I am not certain that the main provisions appear in this legislation so I want to know what is being done.

I come to the specific point which is taken up in the amendment: the setting up of the general teaching council which will be constituted in accordance with regulations made by the Secretary of State. Why does it have to be constituted by regulation? Why cannot it be constituted by the Bill? That question may have a good answer. If so, I should like to hear it, specifically in relation to the words I have taken up in the amendment:

    "Regulations under this subsection may"--

"may" not "shall"--

    "authorise the Council to make rules with respect to such matters relating to their constitution as may"--

"may" not "shall"--

    "be specified in the regulations".

As far as I understand it, it would be intra vires to confine those regulations to authorising them to restrict the allocation of their paperclips. I do not suggest that that is the policy intention. But I should like to know whether it would be intra vires, under those words, to restrict the powers that much. I also want to know how far the powers they could be given could be extended. When I know what could be done under these words, I shall be in a position to judge whether they are the right words in which to confer the powers. I still do not see why it is necessary to use a regulation-making power to confer them at all.

I shall look forward to the Minister's answer with a great deal of interest and I hope that I shall not have to wait long to read it. I beg to move.

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