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Noble Lords: No, Amendment No. 13!

Lord Mishcon: My Lords, I am so sorry.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, for that relief, more than many thanks. I was speaking to Amendment No. 13. I gather that that is at least the right amendment. So far, so good.

I have said what I have to say about this amendment. I did not know what the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, was going to say, but I wholeheartedly support it. There are problems with this amendment. The matter is best left to consideration when the regulations are drafted.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, dare I suggest to the Minister and to the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, that this debate embodies the problem of a body without power? I totally agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, that a code of conduct or a code of practice is an excellent thing. We would all support

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such a code, but I fear that the noble Lord, Lord Walton, has put his finger on the sore that will tarnish this Bill. All our worthy thoughts are totally without power. My noble friend Lord Campbell has pointed out the dangers facing the Government. If an advisory body claims for itself the powers to do all these things, which we all agree are absolutely right, that will land the Government in enormous trouble. It is the department's wish to avoid handing over powers that are possessed in Scotland but which it is not prepared to give here. The Government are refusing the suggestion of my noble friend Lady Blatch to include a regulation on this--and Lord knows, one more regulation would not break the camel's back of this Bill--so I ask the Government why they do not include a little regulation now. We are asking for a regulation. The Government could do all these noble things if they truly were the exponents of educational progress and they could be loved and canonised by the teaching profession. I say to them, "Your opportunities are immense and I am surprised that you reject them".

Earl Russell: My Lords, my name is to this amendment, which makes a rather important point of principle. It creates--at least, it moves a lot closer to creating--a self-governing profession. The power to make rules for one's own society is an essential power of self-government. It is because that is what we are doing that we are running into all the problems about how to draft legislation which we have discussed many times previously in this Chamber.

The noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, made an extremely interesting speech about which I have been thinking for some while. As the noble Lord said, there is obviously a problem of flexibility if the rules are drafted in too detailed a manner. There are two possible answers to the genuine problem which the noble Lord raised. One is that which the noble Lord took. The other is that which has been defended in another context by the noble Lord, Lord Renton, which is allowing the code or the law to be drafted in fairly general terms so that the tablets are not of stone and the law can evolve as cases are considered. That is an alternative method to that suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Walton, and it is an alternative method which sits comfortably with this amendment. I hope that noble Lords will agree with that point.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may in all amity and humility ask him whether he will take on board the way in which the provisions are drafted. Amendment No. 13 refers to,

    "in any proceedings ... under this Act".

What are those proceedings? If certain behaviour does not "constitute unacceptable conduct" but is taken into account as a failure to comply,

    "in any proceedings ... under this Act",

where are we getting to? What is it all about? I wonder whether the noble Earl will consider that point.

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Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for that point, which I accept. Further consultation on this point would be useful and I thank the noble Lord for suggesting it.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, with the leave of the House, it would have been appropriate to include that wording if the earlier amendments allowing the GTC to remove from the register had been accepted, but, as they were not accepted, I believe that it would be inappropriate to include such provisions.

In accordance with the advice given by other professions, I suggested that the provisions should simply read, "The council shall prepare and from time to time publish advice upon standards of conduct expected of registered teachers and in relation to the practice of teaching, departure from which could in certain circumstances raise an issue of unacceptable professional conduct". That is the kind of wording for which one would be looking.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: Yes, my Lords.

5.30 p.m.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, we have some sympathy with the views expressed in this debate, but not enough to achieve the accolade from the teaching profession to which the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred. I should say immediately that we are entirely in favour, as are most teachers, of the GTC developing advice and a code approximately along the lines described by the noble Baroness. However, there is an interrelationship between this and the previous debate. We see the council as having a key role in representing professional standards--rightly, I think--and Clause 2 already gives the GTC the power to advise the Secretary of State on such a code as is envisaged by this amendment. I also know that the GTC for Scotland is about to issue for consultation a draft professional code for teachers. However, we are concerned with aspects that are almost the opposite of those raised in this debate. The proposed clause would tie the council's hands too much; it would commit it to preparing and publishing such a code rather than determining for itself whether it believed that such a code was the best way to promote the highest standards in the profession.

In this and preceding debates we have heard a good deal about respecting the independence of the general teaching council. We want to leave the council free to consider the best way forward in consultation with the profession and then make proposals to advise the Secretary of State. For example, the amendment does not make clear whether such a code should cover both standards of conduct and advice in relation to teaching. I believe it would be better to allow the council to make its own proposals about how and when to produce such a code and what it might cover. I am sure that the council would want to consult among the profession and more widely, but it should be free to make its own arrangements.

Equally importantly, we believe that it is right for the council's role to be advisory in this respect. That fits in with our philosophy in relation to the previous

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amendment. Such a code could have fundamental implications for the whole operation of the public education service. Under our approach the Secretary of State will be able to consider the council's proposals within the context of education policy overall. As I believe the proposed subsection (4) recognises, it is also important that such a code is wholly consistent with the system of barring teachers on the grounds of misconduct. I covered that at length in my comments on the previous amendment.

We are sympathetic. We do not consider that it is sensible to put this on the face of the Bill because it will tie the council's hands too much. In those circumstances, I hope that the noble Baroness understands the position of the Government and is prepared to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his comments. I also thank other noble Lords for their very helpful comments, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Walton of Detchant, and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, who I understand is an expert on codes of practice. I bow to his expertise. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and my noble friend Lord Russell. In moving the amendment I said that I was aware that this was not a perfect amendment but I wanted to get a debate going on the principle. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Registration of teachers]:

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 2, line 40, at end insert--
("( ) The Council shall have the power to remove from the register the name of any person who, as it decides after due inquiry, has fallen short of appropriate professional standards.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 deals with an issue that has cropped up at various points at Second Reading and in Committee. However, so far it has not been the subject of an amendment. We have also had a very good run at it this afternoon in relation to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The issue of the deregistering of teachers became a major feature of our debate. In Committee I asked the Minister whether she felt that there was a lack of symmetry in the GTC being empowered to register teachers but not to deregister them. She said that she did not. A little later in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara, the Minister described such a measure as premature, while expressing sympathy for the longer term. We have heard that argument again this afternoon.

The matter comes down to timing. I believe that I am in good company in wishing to see this particular provision written into the Bill from the start: the noble

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Lord, Lord Tope, the noble Baroness, Lady Young, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and my noble friend Lord Walton--quite a wide spectrum of opinions--all have said at various stages that the new council should have this power. My noble friend Lord Walton reminded us that the National Commission on Education, which he chaired, had reported that, whatever the eventual and more extensive powers of a GTC, its initial functions should include this one. Without it the new council would be a toothless creature. I believe that it would start off on the wrong foot, with lack of esteem on the part of both the public and the profession, which would be highly undesirable.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, who is not in her place, said that any fear that the council would be too lenient on errant or incompetent teachers was misplaced because a new body which was keen to prove itself with the eyes of the world upon it would be particularly careful in this respect. At an earlier stage my noble friend Lord Walton described it as illogical not to have this power. I believe that that is right. Clause 3 deals with just the register, not some of the wider functions like training, recruitment or some of the matters put forward in the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. This is a quite narrow point, although an important one, and I do not believe that it would be too hard to accept. If the council is to be responsible for the register, surely it should be responsible for it in all its aspects.

This is logical and normal, and it is a desirable first step for a responsible professional body. Even the newly-arrived professions of chiropractic and osteopathy enjoy it. This is not intended to deny the parallel role of the Secretary of State who has existing power under the Education Reform Act to bar teachers. In Committee one example given by the Minister was child abuse. This was touched on recently by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. In moving this amendment I look, as the wording makes clear, to the question of professional standards and classroom issues that would never reach Whitehall. I believe that that is an area of which the profession should have ownership, to use the Minister's own words. If it is not to lack standing with the public and its own constituency I believe that it should have it now. This is an integral part of the Minister's aim expressed in Amendment No. 2 that the council should maintain and improve standards of professional conduct. I believe that she would be tying one hand behind the back of the council if she refused to grant it the power, however rarely it may be used in practice, to remove a teacher from the register for unprofessional behaviour. I beg to move.

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