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Lord Monkswell: I can address this amendment briefly. One of the flaws, if I may put it like that, of current consumer safety legislation is that the distress caused to animals, or the issue of their welfare, cannot be taken into account. I am sure that noble Lords opposite will recognise that that flaw needs to be rectified.

Perhaps I may give the Committee one example of "distress" which falls short of death or injury to an animal. I refer to spontaneous abortions by sheep as a result of the antisocial use of fireworks. Although that may not cause injury to the sheep, I am sure that noble Lords will recognise that spontaneous abortions result from distress suffered by the animal and that that should be prevented wherever possible. I remind the Committee that the aim of this Bill is not to constrain the legitimate and sensible use of fireworks; it is to prevent their antisocial and wrong use.

Lord Annaly: I was not present for the Second Reading, but I feel bound to say something now in support of this amendment. Perhaps I may quote an example from my village. A firework party is held on 5th November just behind the yard in which I keep some ponies. I tend to move the ponies into the stable when I am tipped the wink that there will be a firework party because, inevitably, they are on edge. But should I not be there, are the people holding the firework party at fault if my ponies move around the yard, become nervous and get up a sweat? Would it be classed that the animals are "in distress"? Some people might argue that they would be. Perhaps I may refer to the example which the noble Lord used about abortions in sheep. Because his sheep abort somewhere around 5th November when fireworks are going off, a farmer may blame it on the people holding the firework party. I do not see how one can prove that unless the fireworks are being let off in the field where the sheep are. I am not a lawyer, but I am sure that any lawyer would say that these words should not be in the Bill. The noble Lord ought to take that on board and agree to the amendment.

Lord Monkswell: The noble Lord makes my case. Responsible people will let their neighbours know when firework displays are to take place so that the animals can be looked after.

Lord Boardman: Can the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, say what would happen to the sheep which are due to lamb and are in danger? Will one have to take them in doors and shut them up?

I am very disappointed that the noble Lord did not accept this amendment, which is very small, reasonable and essential, particularly as so many of the penalties in the Bill are so onerous and unfair. I take the same view as the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, as regards an earlier amendment. I am sure that we shall have to come back to this matter again on Report. That being noted, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Carter: Clearly, this is a matter to which the House will have to return in Committee. I am still confused about the ewe which is tupped in the third week of October and there is a spontaneous abortion on 5th November. I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

School Standards and Framework Bill

9.2 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 1.

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 10 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 11:

Page 2, line 4, at end insert--
("( ) Regulations under this section shall be laid in draft before both Houses of Parliament and shall be subject to approval by resolution of each House.").

The noble Baroness said: This is a second opportunity that the Government will have to respond positively to the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. It refers now to the procedure which will be used for placing the regulations on the statute book. It is my view that this is a very important recommendation and that, given the Government's attitude to the first recommendation, they will accept it.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness how important it has been to have the draft regulations for these measures before the House as we discuss these items tonight. We have had not only the draft regulations but also the guidance. We have been able to pick over the small print of what the Government intend. It would be very nice if that could be replicated in other parts of the Bill, particularly as regards the areas I referred to in my letter to the noble Baroness on 9th April.

Nevertheless, even with the draft regulations one or two questions arise. In the debate that we had before dinner not only the noble Baroness, but her colleagues, in answer to questions, referred to the 31st child being a child with special educational needs. I referred to one without those needs who may come in during the course of the year and outside the admissions arrangement. The reference both in the guidance and in the draft regulations suggests that such a child will be accepted as an exception. The noble Baroness answered the question as though it would not be accepted as an exception. That referred to SEN children, but not to those without such needs. I want confirmation that that is the case and that such children will be deemed as an exception. The only reason they are exceptions is the class size pledge.

In other words, the reason they become exceptional in any situation is the imposition of the class size pledge. Do they benefit from costs incurred even though, as the noble Baroness explained, it will be only for the remainder of the academic year when the

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children have to be taken into the LEA's plan? These are children who could not be planned for. Will they be taken into the legitimate area of expenditure which is incurred directly as a result of the imposition of the class size pledge? I cannot see any answer other than that they must be as regards the three exceptions referred to in the regulations. It would be very helpful if the noble Baroness can confirm that.

I was interested in reading again the committee's report. I am grateful to the noble Baroness for accepting it. It suggests that the figure of 30 children maximum for a class should be on the face of the Bill because of the unequivocal nature of the pledge itself and because almost everything else flows from it. But the committee says that it is not an either/or situation because it adds also that the committee should think about making sure that these regulations come before the Bill using the affirmative resolution procedure. I not only hope but rather expect the noble Baroness to respond positively to this amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone: This amendment, like Amendments Nos. 2 and 247, which we discussed earlier, reflects the recommendation of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee which reported on the Bill at the end of last week. As I indicated in the debate on those amendments, the Government have noted the committee's report. We are in discussion with our legal advisers about the necessary amendments to the Bill. We accept the principle behind the committee's recommendations and we want to respond as positively as we can with government amendments at Report stage. We need to reflect on some of the practical issues that might affect the implementation of this key policy on class size. I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will understand that, having only recently received the report of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee, we have not yet had time to look at these matters in detail and discuss them with our legal advisers. We will take this away and think very carefully about it, as we said when discussing two earlier amendments. Given that assurance, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

The noble Baroness asked particularly about SEN pupils. There is a difference between exceptional situations where the class may exceed 31 for a short period, which we believe is possible for pupils with special educational needs, and the situation in rural schools--of which the noble Baroness makes quite a lot--where the 31st child will trigger the funding for an extra teacher and situations where the class size limit will not be exceeded. I believe that that is a rather different situation from one where there is the temporary addition of a 31st child as a result of an allocation for a child with special educational needs. That situation would not be allowed to go beyond the school year in which the allocation had been made.

Baroness Blatch: I find that an extraordinarily disappointing answer. The 31st child will in many situations be there only for that academic year. I have said time and again that in rural schools very often the class size is broken simply for the purposes of one

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academic year. The next year one family moves out and another family moves in. The answer provided by the Minister in relation to children of military families was breathtaking. I spent most of my earlier life as a military wife. At this moment my daughter is a military officer in the Royal Air Force. If like me the noble Baroness had been governor of a school that took in a very large number of children from military families she would know that the number of movements in and movements out, to use the educational jargon, was phenomenally higher than at any other school. Those schools always try to make the case to their local education authorities for extra funding to meet the requirement to take children mid-term and mid-academic year. There is difficulty in taking children in at different ages without the follow-through material and information from previous schools; or it may arrive too late and therefore a much longer period of assessment is required. There are many children who do not see through the whole of their academic lives in any one school. There are many military establishments around the country where the movement of children in and out exceeds the normal movement of children in and out. It is not true that they can be set aside as not being material to this debate or because the noble Baroness believes that all of them neatly come in at the beginning and neatly move out at the end of an academic year. Some families go to great lengths to ensure that the children see through the term, and wives do not follow their husbands. They do so at great cost to themselves and their families. If they are moving into a village where the children are to attend a local school at home the chances are that they will come in mid-term. It is extraordinary that a child with special educational needs or a child who comes in mid-academic year does not trigger the money pledged on the basis of class-size, but that a child who busts the number because of denominational preference or parental preference, or where the distance between two schools is too great, does so. Why should the local education authority pay for a policy that is to be imposed upon it by the Government? Are these children to be taught in classes of 31 without an extra teacher while a school next door that takes in the 31st child gets an extra teacher? It does not make any sense.

I am extremely disappointed by the answer to my second question. I am also very distressed by the answer to my first question. I do not believe that it takes more than a few minutes to determine whether or not this is an important set of regulations. Given the way that this House considers such matters, I believe that this is a very important set of regulations, particularly as any breach of them when they are on the statute book will mean that a local education authority can be taken to court by an aggrieved parent or that the Secretary of State for Education can issue a direction to an authority and/or school, or both. Therefore, the consequences of the imposition of this policy can be very serious indeed. It is not for officials or councils but for Ministers to decide whether or not they believe the affirmative resolution procedure to be acceptable and appropriate.

The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee has reported. Its view is that consideration should be given to the affirmative resolution procedure. I believe

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that we should do that. When we on these Benches sat on the opposite side of the Chamber we accepted every single recommendation--sometimes under pressure from noble Lords on the opposite side--of the scrutiny committee from its inception right up until leaving office. On a number of occasions, the Leader of the House has reminded us that we should have respect for the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee and its work and that the House should regard it as an obligation to accede to its recommendations.

I am disappointed with the Minister's answer and I shall return with the amendments at the next stage of the Bill unless the Government bring them forward. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Plans by LEAs for reducing infant class sizes]:

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