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Baroness Blatch: The noble Lord refers to amendments which I have not raised. The ones I raised are quite clear. I gave the numbers of the amendments but so far I have raised no query at all on three of those to which the noble Lord spoke.

Lord Whitty: No doubt I should be grateful for that. The noble Baroness referred to spent amendments, spent provisions and spent enactments. She started with Amendment No. 255D. She has in fact received information for which she did not ask, and I shall check whether I have covered Amendment No. 255D in my remarks and come back to her in writing, if I may.

The noble Baroness mentioned Amendment No. 257Z, which relates to the governing bodies being able to be reconstituted in advance of the appointed day. We would wish to consult further on precisely when such a body could be reconstituted. It obviously relates to the point where the new framework comes into effect and further consultation is required as to precisely how that will be done.

As regards Amendment No. 259E, the noble Baroness asked about interest where transfers were made, and it would not be to the benefit of schools if we were to include the interest where transfers were made under the education Act 1996 rather than this Bill. She also mentioned Amendments Nos. 257AE and 258R, which

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relate to Church of England schools. She asked why they did not apply also to Catholic schools. The amendments relate to the Diocesan Board of Education Measure 1991 which does not apply to Catholic schools, only to Church of England schools. They have been brought into line to accord with the provisions of the Bill and have been agreed with the Church of England Board of Education.

Amendments Nos. 257AG and 257AF relate to the removal of the instruments and articles of government which we dealt with a few days ago. As articles are being dispensed with, the reference to those instruments will no longer be relevant because they will not contain the relevant information.

Amendments Nos. 257AH and 257AJ relate to the SEN provisions and raise questions of class size, which we dealt with at an earlier stage of the Committee. The question was whether it related to children without statements. The answer is no, not in this provision. We have indicated that provisions for a child with a statement would override the other provisions relating to class size.

As regards funding, we indicated at earlier stages in Committee that funding would meet those provisions. If the noble Baroness requires more detail of that commitment, no doubt we can provide it in writing. That is the principle.

As to the whole question of the FE sector, the noble Baroness went into details, referring to schedules, which I could not entirely follow. Again, it would be better if we dealt with the implications for the FE sector. Amendment No. 257F and other amendments were covered in the noble Baroness's remarks. There are other provisions where I did not fully follow the questions because they related to sections rather than amendments. I need to provide her with more information which we can return to at Report Stage, if she wishes. I hope that I have covered at least some of her queries.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I do not find it at all satisfactory. It was almost impossible to follow some of the noble Lord's answers. When I referred to spent provisions, I referred only to one amendment put down by the noble Lord, Amendment No. 255D, and some of the provisions listed in Schedule 30. I asked which provisions. The noble Lord misunderstood my question on Amendment No. 257Z. I did not want the answer that he would consult on the content of such regulations. I know that because it is stated in the note. I asked when the Government would consult on the regulations. That was my question.

I thank the Minister for his answer on Church of England schools and Catholic schools. On FE, he gave me no answer. He said that, yes, there was an FE sector and perhaps we would deal with it another time. But he did not answer my question as to how the provisions relate to the provisions on the grammar school sector where there may be re-organisations. Nor did he say why it is intended that the option of designation should not be open to former county or community schools or

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how services and deficits would be attributed in Section 37 and whether the religious ethos of a school would be protected in the event of re-organisation where a school was closed and became part of an FE college. That was not referred to, nor was Section 58. The noble Lord has not answered all my questions to my satisfaction.

Lord Whitty: In terms of the consultation in relation to Amendment No. 257Z and the reconstitution of the governing bodies, I can indicate that the consultation will be engaged in during the coming months. As for further education, in general it would be helpful for me to provide further information on the FE interface. The reason for the reference to further education is that the Further and Higher Education Act contains references which will be overtaken by the new framework. Most of the amendments relating to FE are therefore consequential.

On Amendment No. 255D, I may have indirectly answered the question by going on to the other amendments which relate to spent enactments. I am informed that those specifically covered by Amendment No. 255D are Section 31 of the London Government Act 1963 and Sections 166 and 167 of the Education Reform Act 1988. It would be sensible for me to deal with any other queries at this stage in writing and perhaps clarify some of the answers I have given so that the noble Baroness can be clear whether or not she needs to come back on any of these matters at Report stage.

Baroness Blatch: I shall be grateful if the noble Lord will write to me. However, it makes my point that to bring forward this number of technical amendments with only an explanatory note is not acceptable. I do not know whether the noble Lord, Lord Tope, received such a note. It is difficult to follow and hard work to look up each clause of the Bill to see exactly what is going on and then be expected to accept a block of 30 amendments which range right across the Bill.

It is difficult to understand the explanations given. I do not blame the noble Lord; he is probably having as much difficulty as I am understanding the amendments. I should like to think that some of them could be held over until Report stage pending the explanatory letter from the noble Lord. The noble Lord was kind enough to do that in relation to the previous block of amendments which we found difficult to understand.

Lord Whitty: This is a different situation. The noble Baroness on the Front Bench opposite received no information on the first block and I therefore withdrew the amendments to return at Report stage. With these amendments, as with some intervening amendments, we have attempted to explain them. The vast majority deal with issues which relate to transfers of property and land; they do not deal with any point of educational substance. I therefore ask the noble Baroness to accept that we shall try to clarify the amendments further between now and Report stage, but at this stage perhaps

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the noble Baroness will accept them. I take the general admonition of the noble Baroness that it is a large number of amendments, but they relate to detailed consequential areas and not to the main points of substance of the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: I am sorry to come back on the FE amendments. One of my questions was how Sections 25 and 26 interact with the reorganisation proposals, particularly in the light of some of the changes that will come about as a result of the Bill? In Section 28(2)(a), why is it intended that the option for designation should not be open to former county or community schools? They are now part of the group of schools for which a foundation acts under Clause 21 of the Bill. In relation to Section 37, how will surpluses and deficits be attributed? In Section 44, how will the religious ethos of a school be protected? The school may be closed and taken into an extension of a further education college. As I said earlier, it is inconceivable that a school could be closed and become a further education college. But it is helpful to know that the protection is there.

If I am wrong, fine. However, the noble Lord is not even attempting in a cursory way to answer those questions. My final question concerns Section 58 and the way in which that section interacts with the reorganisation proposals.

Lord Whitty: These amendments relate solely to the areas that I described. Clearly, they are consequent upon changing the framework of the schools. There are some implications for FE. I am happy to provide further explanation. The whole question of the religious ethos of the schools was dealt with under earlier amendments. It is clear that the religious ethos of schools will be protected and the possibility of a religious school being absorbed, as a result of these provisions, into an FE institution is extraordinarily unlikely. However, in earlier amendments--I recall the exchanges but cannot immediately point to the precise clause--provision was made for the religious ethos to be protected by the Bill.

In relation to options on designation, in that sense designation has never been available to county or voluntary controlled schools. The amendments do not make any substantive change to the situation.

Lord Tope: I had not intended to intervene on this batch of amendments and I am not particularly keen to do so now. But this situation is unsatisfactory. We have a large batch of amendments from the Government. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, says; that is, that they are technical. We received nine pages of explanation this morning. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is rather more diligent than I am; I have not had time to go through and understand them all. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is asking a lot of questions about them but I am in no position to judge the merit or otherwise of her questions.

The noble Lord, Lord Whitty, is clearly struggling to answer the noble Baroness. I say that by way of statement and not criticism. I understand why he is struggling; I would be. But I do not understand why, in all the circumstances, the Government feel that they

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cannot defer the amendments until Report stage when even I might have had a chance to understand them. The noble Baroness may well have received answers that satisfy her and at that stage the Minister will have had a better chance to understand them. Why cannot the Government agree to that?

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