The issue arises in the context of regulating the private security industry as a whole. We have conducted a consultation exercise seeking the views of the industry and others on the best way to take forward regulation. A number of bodies which have an interest in wheel-clamping, including the AA and the RAC, have responded to this exercise and we shall be making recommendations for action when we have analysed the results of the exercise.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. His assurances are most welcome. Does he agree that in view of the fact that, according to the RAC, wheel-clamping is a £150 million business and involves a great deal of malpractice and humiliation, regulation should come sooner rather than later? When framing the regulations, will the Minister consider exempting emergency vehicles, disabled vehicles and particularly vehicles such as hearses, as recently a hearse was clamped outside a church with the body still in it?
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I certainly agree that regulation should come sooner rather than later. A previous administration put out a consultation paper in 1993 but did not announce a conclusion. That is why we are attending to the problem ourselves. The question of emergency vehicles must be considered. I believe that every sympathy should be given to those whose vehicles are used for the public benefit as opposed to private convenience.
Does he agree that at present the legitimate landowner in Scotland is unable to protect his property--I refer in particular to hospitals, supermarkets and so forth--whereas in England the motorist has no protection from cowboy clampers? I grant the Minister's comment that the previous government did nothing about the problem over a long period, and I hope that we can expect better from him.
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, what an opportunity! I can assure your Lordships, hand on heart, that you can always look to me to do better than the previous government, with every confidence, satisfaction guaranteed.
Under Scottish law, theft is differently defined; it is simply appropriation of another's belongings. In England and Wales, one must establish dishonesty and the intention permanently to deprive. A case in the Court of Appeal in our jurisdiction in England and Wales, Arthur and Arthur v. Anker, held that the clampers act legally as long as they provide adequate warning signs and the release fee is reasonable. There is no doubt that the practice is a social menace. We believe that it is part of the general malpractice in some parts of what is wrongly called the private security industry, where there are criminal and unscrupulous elements. The Government's policy is to introduce regulation and possibly licensing. We believe that the clamping of motor cars is part of a wider problem, although it is a distinct aspect of it.
Lord Harris of Greenwich: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he recall that in the case of Mr. Asil Nadir, the £365,000 which he stole from Polly Peck and paid into the coffers of the Conservative Party has still not been repaid? There was also the strange
Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, to the best of my knowledge, the money which was donated by Mr. Asil Nadir, presently a fugitive from justice, has never been repaid. If I am wrong, I dare say that I shall be corrected.
In respect of the £1 million from the Ma family, my right honourable friend Mr. Straw thought that that was a matter of such public importance that he wrote to the present leader of the Opposition on 21st January asking why Mr. Ma gave the money to the Conservative Party and who negotiated it and also a number of other questions. He ended by saying:
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the annual report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England confirms that there have been improvements in standards of teaching and learning. Schools and teachers are to be congratulated on that. It also confirms that there is still much work to be done before we achieve our aim of creating a world-class education system in which every child has an equal opportunity of success.
Lord Quirk: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Will he not agree that the congratulations that he has made to the teaching profession ought also to go to the inspectorate for their part in improving standards and congratulations also for the clarity with which they identify areas in which further improvement can be made. In this connection, would the Minister agree that an area of vital importance is that of initial teacher training? May I refer him, in the hope that he may share it, to the concern expressed by the chief inspector on page 61 of that report with reference to a sample 25 per cent. of teacher training institutions which were inspected and which had,
Lord Whitty: My Lords, first, I fully endorse the words of the noble Lord in relation to the teaching profession and, indeed, the work of the inspectorate. Teachers have often received a lot of stick from
As regards teacher training, we are concerned at the inspectorate's findings. We have already identified that there are problems in that area and we have taken steps to improve teacher training. We have introduced new standards for initial teacher training and we are in the process of introducing a national curriculum, starting with the vital basics of English and mathematics at primary level. That will be extended next to science and information and communications technology at both primary and secondary level and English and mathematics at secondary level. The Teacher Training Agency is currently consulting on those ambitions.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that the best training in the world cannot turn people into good teachers unless they themselves have a high quality of education and a great deal of skill and affinity with the job that they are doing? Will he tell the House what the Government are doing to improve the recruitment of the really top students in sixth forms to attract them towards teaching?
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