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Perhaps I may turn to the noble Earl's second question about what the department will actually do. I assume that the noble Earl has seen the note that was placed in the Library setting out the issues that will be covered in the regulations. The difficulty in this debate is that the Government have made a firm commitment to consult. That commitment has been welcomed by the teaching profession, the teachers' unions and the local education authorities. We must await the results of that consultation. We want to listen to the views of the profession. The profession is not a single entity. It consists of many different individuals, many different groups of teachers and a range of trade unions. My noble friend Lord Glenamara admitted that he was unable to set up a teaching council 30 years ago because of disputes between the teachers' unions. That is exactly what this Government are trying to avoid. We want to get agreement through the consultation process so that the council can get off to a really good start and so that nothing will be set out in regulations and legislation in advance to preclude our reaching such an agreement.
Perhaps I may admit to being something of a Fabian gradualist in this respect. I very much support what the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said. We must approach this matter with care. We must build. It may well be that in 10 years' time the final shape of the general teaching council will be rather different from what it is when it is established. As my noble friend Lord Peston and one or two other speakers have said, it is sensible to approach this from an evolutionary basis. I have no doubt that as the council establishes itself and beds down, it will build on its work. It may start with a slightly more limited remit compared to its eventual remit, but it is extremely important that at this stage in the debate we do not limit the power in the way in which the noble Earl suggests. That would constrain the consultation and I am sure that noble Lords would not want us to do that.
I was asked a specific question about the role of the Privy Council by the noble Lord, Lord Walton. My noble friend Lord Glenamara then picked up the point. I think that the answer to the question is that there has not been any tradition of Privy Council involvement in education at school level. Of course, there has been such involvement at university level--
Lord Glenamara: I do not think that the Minister is correct. Until the previous government altered the arrangement, every school inspector was appointed by name by the Privy Council, by the Queen in Council.
Baroness Blackstone: That is, of course, true of the inspectorate, but when they were in Government, noble Lords opposite decided to get rid of HMI. Speaking as somebody who has run a university for some years, I am not so sure whether it is a good idea to involve the Privy Council in this. For all its great strengths, the Privy Council is one of the slowest-moving public bodies ever invented. We do not want to find that we cannot make progress in developing the general teaching council because the provisions to do that are sitting in some outer office of the Privy Council. I believe that, just as in Scotland, in England the Secretary of State for Education should have such powers rather than the Privy Council.
As my noble friend Lord Peston said, the amendments--this is certainly true of Amendments Nos. 3 and 4--would remove the power of the Secretary of State to make regulations about how the GTC should be constituted. If we remove that power, we shall not be able to make any progress whatsoever in developing the GTC. That cannot make any sense.
Most important of all, I believe that these amendments would constrain and pre-empt consultation with the teaching profession and other interests about the composition of the council. We need to hear their views in detail. However, I recognise the concerns that have arisen during the debate about the types of issues to be covered by the regulations. That was why I placed a note in the Library which sought to set them out.
In response to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the Government do not suggest in any way that the teaching council should be seen as other than a trusted and professional body. That is what it should be. At the same time, to say that the Secretary of State has no role, as the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, suggested earlier, would be an irresponsible abrogation of his responsibilities, especially as we are talking of a totally new body that needs to develop its approaches to a number of issues. There are very important issues here, like the barring of teachers involved in child abuse. I do not believe it is right to say that the Secretary of State has no role in matters such as that.
A question was raised by the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin, as to whether there would be another Bill. In the long-term it may be that new legislation will be required. That must be true of any area that we debate. But there is no intention to bring forward another Bill in the near future because we shall set out in regulations how the council is to work. The Bill enables the Secretary of State to make regulations about
In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy, the regulations will be made only after wide-ranging consultation, and the constitution of the council will be set out in those same regulations. We shall very carefully consider the issues that arise during consultation and try to achieve a consensus before proceeding. All of the key interest groups will have an opportunity at that stage to comment on the provisions. I cannot therefore support amendments that would leave absolutely everything to the GTC to determine for itself.
Baroness Blatch: Before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may raise one or two matters. A moment or two ago the Minister said that the body would have important regulatory functions. As I read all of the information that came before me as background reading for this debate and the Bill itself, it appeared to me that the body would have no regulatory functions whatever. All of the amendments on the Marshalled List today are about giving the body regulatory functions. It would be helpful if the Minister could clarify whether she is asserting that the body will have important regulatory functions and, if so, what they are.
As I understand it, secondary legislation in the form of these regulations takes its powers and authority from primary legislation. Therefore, what we do during the passage of this Bill through both Houses is very important in that it sets the framework for secondary legislation. The noble Baroness said that the Government were committed to consultation. I have absolutely no reason to doubt that. At the moment we are almost consulting to a fault because there is so much consultation taking place. But would it not have been better to have had that consultation with the teaching profession and then put the detailed proposal to the House so that the House could properly determine the fundamental question remaining at the end of the passage of the Bill; that is, whether this body should have powers or whether the body is there to advise the Secretary of State.
I sit here with copious papers from all the teacher unions. We know what each of them thinks about the setting up of the GTC. They differ one from the other, and many of the amendments on the Marshalled List
This takes us back to the question posed by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, which is a very important one; namely, the extent to which these powers can be exercised by the Secretary of State. We need to have some idea of the extent of those powers. For example, at the end of the day having passed this skeleton Bill, which is all it is, will we have a body that has all of the powers that noble Lords have talked about today? Does the Bill allow for a body with powers over teacher training, entry to the profession, dismissal and the discipline of teachers, or is the secondary legislation limited to codifying those areas where the body can advise the Secretary of State? If powers are to be given to this body, will it have to come back to the House for primary legislation? The answers to those questions are very important because the context in which we discuss all of these amendments this afternoon will be based on the answers given by the noble Baroness.
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