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Page 23, line 14, at end insert ("; and
( ) a head teacher of a foundation or of a grant-maintained school, or of both, providing that there is at least one school of such a type or types within the local education authority area").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is a somewhat defeatist amendment because we assume that the Government with their weighty vote in another place will have their way, whatever we say in this House. Therefore, we shall have school organisation committees and adjudicators. That is an undemocratic position, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has made clear.

If there are to be organisation committees I do not know how the Government can argue against having representatives of foundation schools on those committees, if there are foundation schools in the area. They are a separate category of school and I believe that they should be recognised, particularly as different

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arrangements apply in terms of their relationship with the local education authority and the degree of autonomy that they enjoy.

I have included grant-maintained schools in the amendment in the fervent but rather forlorn hope that they will remain as part of the diverse provision for parents and children. But if that is not to be the case, I hope that the Government will not argue against the right of foundation schools to be represented on school organisation committees. If the Government continue to argue against that--as they did in Committee--one must be extremely suspicious about what is being proposed in terms of the organisation committees, the role of the adjudicators and the status of foundation schools within their local communities. I beg to move.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I find it an extraordinary proposition that the noble Baroness thinks there is something undemocratic about the large majority in another place. We have a large majority in another place because that is how the people voted. It is not undemocratic to have a majority; and having achieved that majority, it is not undemocratic to use it. So there need be no apology for the number of Labour Members of Parliament. If the noble Lord, Lord Tope, wants to discuss proportional representation, I have no doubt he will find some opportunity when it is in order for him to do so. It is certainly not in order in this debate tonight.

All schools will have the power to publish proposals of at least one sort within the new framework, including proposals to change category. There will not be any grant-maintained schools because, when the noble Baroness raised the issue of their continuance, she decided in her wisdom not to press the matter to a vote. We are clear that, where there are foundation and non-diocesan voluntary schools in a local authority area, they should be represented within the school organisation committee for the area. The paper that we have placed in the Library proposes that they be represented broadly in proportion to the number of pupils for whom they are responsible. However, that is a level of detail much better suited to regulation than to the face of Bill.

We are also clear that schools should be represented on the school organisation committee by governors. At individual school level it is the governors who take the decisions on school organisation matters. We shall not specify that it should be a particular class of school governor that sits on the school organisation committee. If the head teacher, a teacher, or parent governors are prepared to serve, we shall not prevent that. However, we do propose to restrict school representation on the committee to governors. It is right that schools should be represented. We believe it right that they should be represented by governors. That goes directly against the requirements of Amendment No. 73. I invite the noble Baroness not to press it to a vote.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, on the noble Lord's final point, perhaps I may ask him a question. Again, I am not sure whether the rules of the House preclude him from answering, in which case I shall have to resort to

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yet another letter. If I removed the term "grant-maintained"--although I should prefer not to--and replaced the words "head teacher" with "governors" so that the category of school is quite specifically represented if there are foundation schools in an area, given that that was used as an argument against me it would be helpful to know whether that change would make a difference to the Government's response. I should like to return to this matter at the next stage of the Bill.

I was doing no more than accepting reality. I was not querying what happened at the election; I accept the reality that there is a majority. However, something rather unpleasant has been happening during the course of this year. We have seen on many occasions the wilful pre-emption of the will of Parliament. The noble Lord just said, "There will not be any GM schools". The Bill has not yet gone through Parliament. It will be for Parliament to say whether there will be any GM schools at the end of these debates. The reality is that, with such a large majority, whatever this House says Members in another place will have their view. At this stage, however, we have to bow to the will of Parliament, and it will be sovereign at the end of the day.

On the understanding that the noble Lord will give me a response as to whether he would be more accommodating to the suggestion that foundation schools should be represented if I replaced the words "head teacher" with "governors", I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Adjudicators]:

Baroness Maddock moved Amendment No. 76:

Leave out Clause 24.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Tope was drawn into talking about adjudicators and said much of what needs to be said. However, I found the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, interesting. I draw Members' attention particularly to the proposed school closure proposals "disappearing into the corridors of Whitehall", which was how he described it.

We had a discussion on this at some stage and those of us who have been involved in school closures know that it is not quite like that. People become extremely upset about school closures and usually go to their Member of Parliament, who sees the Minister, and all sorts of delegations are set up. The issue does not disappear into the corridors of Whitehall.

In relation to the adjudicator, many of us are concerned with precisely what the Minister felt happened under the old system; that is, that it would disappear into the adjudicator and there would be no way in which local people could go on putting the case about the closure of their schools. This will not be a normal quango; it will be a one-man quango, and that one man will make the final decision.

We had considerable debates on this matter at earlier stages in the passage of the Bill and it became obvious that there would be just as much controversy in a school

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organisation committee in relation to a school closure as there is anywhere else. At the moment local people are consulted and all those involved in a school closure make a lot of noise when they do not want a school to close. Indeed, I have been part of such a demonstration with parents and others.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was also misrepresenting what happens on the ground when he replied to my noble friend. At the moment, people have an opportunity to put their case and the democratic accountability goes right from the bottom to the top in Parliament. Now we have a great democratic hole in the middle; that is, the school organisation committee and the adjudicator. It is clear that that is how both Opposition Benches see the situation, though the Government fail to agree.

I hope that the Minister is right; that is, that it will not end in tears when more of these decisions are made by an adjudicator. Quite frankly, Clause 24 and Schedule 5 provide for the setting up of the appointment of adjudicators to be what I might describe as the Secretary of State's representatives on earth in various corners of the country. We do not believe that that is democratic. We do not want to see it happen and if it were not for all the things that are happening both here and outside tonight, we would be pushing this matter to a Division. However, we all know that that will not happen tonight, but we will return to it at a later stage. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe it is legitimate and we will not be remonstrated with by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, for talking about adjudicators. The noble Lord fell into the same trap into which we all fell; that is, that it is not possible to talk about organisation committees without talking about adjudicators, because we know that the operation of the organisation committee leads neatly on to the function of the adjudicator.

One does not have to go far to look at some of the powers of the adjudicator. I have been looking at the interim document on admissions policies. Paragraph 25 concludes by saying that the adjudicator will provide for disputes about the continuation of existing partial selection to be decided by the adjudicator. Paragraph 28 talks about schools with a specialism which apparently have an important part to play in the framework and will seek to ensure that children have an opportunity to develop their specific talents to the full. Nevertheless, the adjudicator will rule on disputes about existing or proposed priority by aptitude. It goes on and on as to where there are opportunities for the adjudicator to become the determining body.

This is a power too far. It is a placement appointed by the Secretary of State and the idea that it will be a local person is wrong. It will not be local. If there are 20 in the country, one must put at least two local education areas together, possibly more. I can take my own two counties--mine and a neighbouring county--Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Norfolk or Cambridgeshire and Suffolk. It is easy to see

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that many areas of those counties will be remote from this unelected person who will have the power to make a decision against which there will be no appeal.

The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, has made a powerful case. It is one that I support very strongly. It is backed almost entirely by all Benches in this House and even by some noble Lords opposite to whom we have spoken outside the confines of this Chamber. The local government associations and indeed the local authorities themselves are decidedly concerned about this.

The noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made much of things being lost in the corridors of Whitehall. But at the end of the day responsibility should lie with the Secretary of State and the Ministers in the department. I have been one of them and took my job very seriously in terms of receiving deputations, receiving parent bodies and listening to the cases put by the relevant Members of Parliament. I prefer that because they are elected people. They are elected and they can be unelected. An adjudicator cannot be. He is there by the patronage of the Secretary of State. The case is absolutely overwhelming and it will have my enthusiastic support.

10.30 p.m.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is right to say that it is impossible to separate consideration of the school organisation committee from the adjudicator. If I rebuked her for moving on, I apologise, because, as she rightly said, I did myself. I also apologise to both noble Baronesses for the imprecision of my language when I referred to the corridors of Whitehall. Of course I meant the rooms around the atrium and sanctuary buildings of Great Smith Street, where nothing so vulgar as a corridor is allowed to appear.

There are serious points behind this provision. The school organisation committees provide the framework for local discussion and agreement. But we have always recognised the need for a mechanism to cover occasions, which we anticipate will be relatively rare, when local agreement cannot be reached. We hope it will not be necessary, but we must provide for it. We propose that the role should be fulfilled by an adjudicator appointed by the Secretary of State.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, referred to this as patronage. But I have to stress that we will advertise the posts, we will recruit openly and we will follow guidance set down by the Committee on Standards in Public Life in making the appointment. We have placed in the Library a statement on the adjudicator which describes in a little more detail our view on the functions, operation and appointment of adjudicators. That statement will provide a basis for consultation. Other matters of largely administrative detail, including the procedure to be followed by adjudicators, will be set down in regulations, and we shall consult broadly on the content of those regulations.

The adjudicator will look again at proposals, comments and objections and the reasons for disagreement at local level. In other words, he will not simply be operating in some bureaucratic vacuum. The

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adjudicator will consider all cases in the light of principles set out in public guidance from the Secretary of State and, as appropriate, the school organisation plan. The adjudicator will make an independent judgment on the relative merits of each case, based on the facts, and against those principles. But in all cases decisions will be judgments between restricted options.

I can go into more detail if noble Lords wish me to about the appointment, payment and terms of reference of adjudicators but I think that the House would probably wish to be spared from that. The payment will be roughly the level currently paid to the chairs of special education needs tribunal panels.

Adjudicators must be separate from any concern that decisions have been prompted by political considerations and therefore must be demonstrably independent of the Secretary of State, of local authorities and of other bodies. Perhaps most importantly, adjudicators must also be able to keep an objective perspective in order to be able to weigh competing arguments and be accepted for their ability to do so. They will be excluded from cases in which they have had prior involvement or might otherwise be regarded as parti pris.

There is a great deal of paranoia in the reaction of noble Lords to the concept of the adjudicator. It arises from a suspicion which I recognise--although I do not agree with it--about the role of the school organisation committees. I believe that those views are unfounded. The alternative to the long stop which we have provided in the role of the adjudicator would be back to the centralising tendency of the Secretary of State. The noble Baroness was a Minister in a department herself. If she believes that decisions are taken purely independently by those elected to do so rather than by officials, then I wonder at the role she was playing in her capacity as a Minister. She acted on advice. She was obliged not just by tradition but by statute to act on advice. She would have been in terrible trouble if she had not done so. Advice is no more democratic in that sense than the role of the adjudicator which we have described and are proposing in this Bill.

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