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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, perhaps I may make my position clear because I accept what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. I suggest that the Government concede that they can take delegated powers during the time of this Parliament to respond to the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and see how the situation develops, rather than wait for primary legislation in the next Parliament. In other words, the Government should allow the Secretary of State to hand over power to the body. That would resolve the dilemma in which the Minister finds himself.
Lord Howell: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for giving way. If the body is set up in the future--and I have grave doubts--would it not remove parliamentary accountability in areas of professionalism; for example, misconduct? I believe that as regards the standards of teaching and professional conduct, the Secretary of State must be answerable to Parliament and I am anxious to discover the Government's view on that.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, issues of parliamentary accountability are involved, not as regards entry to the profession in the longer term but in relation to exclusion, in particular on grounds of misconduct of the kind to which I referred and which regrettably arises in relation to schools. We must think long and hard about whether we remove the Secretary of State's ultimate responsibility for that.
We are at one in considering that at a later stage the GTC will have some control over entry to the profession, but that must be assessed in the light of its performance and the views of those in the profession and others dealing with education. I understand the technique spelt out by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington; namely, that we would effectively provide a trigger mechanism for the Secretary of State at some later stage. However, we believe that the matter is so important that it requires primary legislation. Our timetable is such that a trigger mechanism would not be adopted until well into the next Parliament. It would be misleading for us to include that power in the Bill at this stage.
We have always said in this Chamber and elsewhere that we regard this to be an important measure of self-government for the teaching profession, but we need to move on a step-by-step basis. We need to establish the legitimacy of the GTC within the profession and to move to greater scope for the GTC over time. Despite what was said by my noble friend Lord Glenamara and others, that view has found support within the profession. Indeed, the largest teacher union, the NUT, takes a similar view on the step-by-step approach.
That seems very unspecific. Does it mean, for example, that the GTC could not raise comment on a single aspect of the standards of qualified teacher status, or on a single subject area of the national curriculum for initial teacher training?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, no. The distinction I am making is between giving general advice which could apply to a specific area, qualification or subject, and the achievement or otherwise of qualifications by an individual teacher, or misconduct by an individual teacher.
Baroness Young: My Lords, once again, I thank all noble Lords from all parts of the House who have expressed support for the amendment. I spoke briefly in introducing it because I advanced the arguments in great detail in Committee and on Report and I did not wish to go over the ground again. However, I thank sincerely colleagues in the House who have supported me. I refer to my noble friend Lady Carnegy, and the noble Lord, Lord Walton. There has been strong support from the noble Lords, Lord Glenamara and Lord Howie of Troon; and, on the Liberal Democrat Benches, from the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Earl, Lord Russell. It is striking that the support has remained steady throughout all stages.
I fully appreciate that we are all looking to the same end; we want a good general teaching council. I am reminded that such a teaching council exists in Scotland. I have never been clear why it can work satisfactorily in Scotland but not be allowed to work in England and Wales. We have not had an answer to that.
I recognise the important issue of debarring teachers and the great responsibility we have when talking about the concerns of children who are in the care of teachers while at school. However, I believe that when it comes to debarring, teachers would probably be tougher on teachers than would an outsider. That is not a concern of mine; I am much more concerned about the timetabling aspect. The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, carefully explained that if all goes well the Government intend to introduce further legislation.
However, I remind myself of what the noble Lord, Lord Walton, said on an earlier occasion; that is, that a number of the professional medical bodies have been looking for legislative opportunities to correct things that had gone wrong and failed to find them for many years. Experience of parliament has taught me that to rely on finding a legislative slot in which to fit this in the future is
If we have a general teaching council, it is extremely important that it should command not only the respect of the teaching profession but, as I said before, also the respect of parents and people in other professions. I am afraid that if we have only an advisory body, it will be seen to be second-class. Whether or not it is, that is how it will be seen. It will start off on the wrong footing. We owe it to teachers, in relation to the responsibilities which they carry, to have something with authority. Under those circumstances, I feel that I must test the opinion of the House on this matter.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.