|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The next group of amendments--Amendments Nos. 203C, 206K, 206L, 206M, 206N, 206P and 206Q--extend the coverage of the discontinuance provisions within Schedule 22 to include schools in the community sector and also provide that these provisions bite when the governing body is dissolved rather than when the school closes.
Amendments Nos. 203D, 206F, 206G, 206R, 206AC and 206AF give the Secretary of State the option to decide whether land held by a governing body of a closing school should be transferred to another school. Normally such land would pass to the local education authority but where the school's closure follows a reorganisation, and the school is replaced by another school on those existing premises, it would be sensible to allow the direct transfer of land to the new governing body. Where land is transferred to another school in this way, these amendments ensure that its future disposal is subject to the normal disposal rules.
The next batch of amendments is a fairly lengthy batch from Amendments Nos. 206S to 206W which again relate to the school discontinuance provisions. These amendments will ensure that when a school closes any land held by the governing body, and any governing body rights and liabilities, are re-assigned or dealt with appropriately when the governing body is dissolved.
Amendment No. 206X is a technical amendment which places a duty on schools that hold registered land to meet the requirements of the Land Registration Acts and regulations when they transfer land under the provisions of the schedule. The amendment makes provision also for the construction of agreements to which the governing body was a party.
The final group of amendments (Amendment Nos. 206Y, 206Z, 206AA to Amendment No. 206AE) comprises technical amendments which extend provisions dealing with the disposal of any property under this schedule to include the termination of a tenancy of premises leased for the purposes of a school. They provide also that any compensation payable by a landlord to the tenant school must be regarded as
Baroness Blatch: I have some questions for the noble Lord. I do not know who wrote his notes because the amendments do not tally with those that we were given in the letter. The letter is not complete because the noble Lord has included a large number of amendments which are not part of the technical explanation.
On the amendments that we have had explained to us, perhaps I may query, first, Amendments Nos. 203A and 203B. They relate to Clause 71 which introduces Schedule 21. It makes provision for land to transfer from one body to another. That is where there has been an arrangement between one school and another. I wonder whether that is not an elaborate way of dealing with the issue. Why not leave the arrangements with protection for the second school? For example, does the LEA have the power--it is important to know this--having taken on the responsibility, for seeing that the arrangement continues between two schools, to vary that arrangement or disturb it in some way?
I turn now to Amendments Nos. 203D, 206F, 206G, and 206AC which relate to providing the Secretary of State with an option to direct that land owned by the governing body of a closing foundation, voluntary, or foundation special school be transferred to a new or an existing school where the closure is linked to statutory proposals. Is that irrespective of ownership?
Amendment No. 203G, as I understand it, brings trustee disposals into line with those of governing body or foundation body disposals. It is the arrangement under which an LEA may be entitled to compensation for any investment in school premises. What is being done? Who will be the arbiter to determine those matters? I know of many examples where it is not clear from where the money came. For example, capital moneys that went to some grant-maintained schools were enhanced by help in kind, money from the governing body, moneys raised locally, and sometimes by money from local authorities, the local community or some form of private finance. Were the premises to be disposed of it might be difficult to separate out where the ownership lay in terms of input. Some of these arrangements are informal and some are formal. It would be helpful to know how that would work or who would be the arbiter.
Amendments Nos. 206D and 206E clarify, as I understand from the Government, the provisions under which the Secretary of State may, again, direct. There are a great many powers here for the Secretary of State. In this case, he may direct school trustees to pay a local authority all or part of the sale proceeds from the disposal of any school premises which were acquired or enhanced by grant-maintained school funding grant arrangements. As grant-maintained schools return to the fold, at what point could that be triggered? Is it intended
Amendment No. 206R gives the Secretary of State, again, the option to direct that the property of a closing school should transfer to the governing body of another school or schools. How will that work? Is the property in private trust protected? Again, how will that policy work in relation to the work of the organisation committees and any decisions that flow from the organisation committees? Amendment No. 206U, again, contains another power to direct. The explanation we have had on that is acceptable.
Amendment No. 206V is, again, an amendment that clarifies paragraph 7 arrangements for property held on trust by the governing body when a school is closed, and the governing body is dissolved. The explanatory notes say that if there are no school trustees, the governing body may transfer the property to any other person who must then use the property for maintained-school education. What if that land has a covenant on it which provides that after educational use it should be used for a specific purpose in the event of closure?
Finally, Amendments Nos. 206Y, 206Z, 206AA, 206AB, 206AC, 206AD and 206AE form a different cluster from the one described by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. I am told that these amendments ensure that the disposal of any property under the schedule includes the termination of a tenancy of premises leased for the purpose of a school. This looks a little like compulsory acquisition, because the provision goes on to say that any reference to sale proceeds should include compensation that a landlord may pay to the school tenant for quitting the premises. Again, I should like to be certain that there is no element of coercion in that.
Lord Lucas: To give the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, a further pause, I shall not add to the list of questions on this group of amendments. When we come to the acceptance or otherwise of this group of amendments in the course of going through the Marshalled List, we shall come across Amendment No. 206B. I am sure that the noble Lord will remember that I have an outstanding question on that amendment, which is why paragraph 1(3)(a) of Schedule 22 is not included in the list of exemptions. I shall wish to address that amendment when we reach it, if we have not already dealt with it in the course of the reply of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty.
Lord Whitty: I can reply to at least some of those points. We shall need to check Hansard to see whether I have covered them all. In relation to Amendments Nos. 203A and 203B, the noble Baroness asks whether the LEA could effectively take charge of the transfers. The answer is that it could not--not in the legal sense that she means--because it needs to have the agreement of the other school. Therefore these provisions between two schools are required.
Amendments Nos. 206D and 206E relate to capital receipts. The noble Baroness has not quite taken the point here. The provision does not relate to the transfer into foundation status, or any other status; it relates to when a school closes. If she understands that, this amendment is clearer.
Amendment No. 206AA comes towards the end of the group. I think that it is the one to which the noble Baroness referred. It relates to the proceeds from a landlord effectively buying off a tenancy. It is not intended that there should be any coercive element behind that provision. It will simply be where the landlord effectively pays the school to vacate the premises which will be part of the school's assets which might need to be returned in those circumstances.
Amendment No. 206R relates to the property of a closing school being transferred to the governing body of another school rather than to the LEA. It does not affect private trusts, so I am advised, which I think was the point behind the noble Baroness's question. Regarding Amendment No. 206V, this relates to the noble Baroness's questions on the situation where there were effectively covenants or restrictions on the use of that land. In all cases, rights and liabilities to the land go with the land and therefore if there are liabilities or covenants governing the future use of that land, this will not override them. Those covenants will be part of the transfer.
I have missed Amendment No. 203D, contained in the second group to which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred. These relate to the Secretary of State's option to direct that land owned by the governing body of a closing foundation should be transferred to either a new or an existing school. The amendment relates to land owned by the governing body; it does not relate to the situation where the land or premises are owned by the trustees. I think that was part of the point behind the remarks of the noble Baroness.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to Amendment No. 206B, I think. I believe I am aware of the point to which he is referring and I think we will probably have to return to it. It is not effectively covered by the advice I currently have.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page