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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, in responding to the consultation paper and as there will be a review of the housing benefit, will the Minister be mindful of the real problem facing our young people, particularly those under 25, in finding accommodation in the private rented sector? Many believe that the changes that we have had in housing benefit for single room rents have had a dreadful effect on the ability of young people to find accommodation in the private rented sector.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I am certain that these issues will be raised and fully considered during the comprehensive spending review.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does the Minister agree that when we had a form of rent control in the past, it meant that the private rented sector dried up? As we have a fair rents policy, when does a fair rent become unfair, if the limit is exceeded?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, that is the purpose of the application for proper objective consideration of what would be a reasonable rent. I am sure that the noble Lord is aware that this Government's policy is committed to ensuring that housing is available for all who need it in the most appropriate way possible.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, does the Minister agree that certain decisions of the courts two or three years ago resulted in the pre-1987 tenancy rents going up at an extremely steep rate which caused great difficulty to people on fixed incomes, particularly the elderly? Does she agree also that there is a real need for limitations to be placed on fair rents in order to achieve the balance between a fair investment for landlords and a fair rent for tenants?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, yes.

The Earl of Lytton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it seems odd that a government consultation document should suggest that fair rents, fixed by highly respected and well qualified rent officers, are unfair because of the perceived effects on certain tenants on fixed incomes? Furthermore, is it true that that perceived unfairness has a good deal to do with the cost to the public purse in terms of assistance with rents through housing benefit?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, rent officers and committees will still determine a fair rent under Section 70 of the Rent Act 1977. Where the determined rent is within the ceiling imposed by the RPI formula, that will be the new registered rent. It is a

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complex issue and I stress to the noble Earl that we welcome all detailed observations forming part of the consultation.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I am afraid that in recent days we have been in the habit of leaving only six minutes for the last Question. We should move on.

Partnership for Peace Programme

3.33 p.m.

The Earl of Lauderdale asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to support NATO's reported "Partnership for Peace" programme in Kosovo; and whether they intend to contribute troops or aircraft to this project.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, NATO has no Partnership for Peace programme with Kosovo, an area in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The UK is contributing to work in NATO on military options to support the current diplomatic initiative. Those options include Partnership for Peace exercises with the neighbouring countries of Albania and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. We will be contributing land and air forces to the exercise for peace support operations in Macedonia in September. We also intend to participate in the exercise for peace support and humanitarian assistance in Albania in August.

The Earl of Lauderdale: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply, which comes partly as a relief to all of us. However, can he say whether the ethnic Albanians are thought to be legitimate subjects of Yugoslavia or illegal immigrants?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, they are part of the Republic of Yugoslavia. But, as the noble Earl is aware, there are immense difficulties and danger there. I repeat that at the moment we are trying to bring about a solution by peaceful and diplomatic means. However, NATO is prepared for any option that is required if those efforts fail.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, with the conflict escalating dangerously, can the Minister inform the House specifically whether, in the Government's view, NATO military intervention in Kosovo could take place without new UN resolutions?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, the position is that we are attempting to bring about a settlement by diplomatic means. If those means fail and Belgrade does not meet the demands, there will be moves for further measures, including some that may require the authorisation of a United Nations Security Council resolution. It is clear

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that not all the measures would require such a resolution. In any event, we will require proper legal authority for whatever we do in that area.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, one of the lessons of Bosnia is that early intervention would have saved a great many lives and left less of a legacy of bitterness. Can the noble Lord assure us that the Government are treating this with rather more urgency than is suggested when one talks about the possibility of taking part in an exercise in September?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, of course. The main point is that we are attempting to bring about a solution, I repeat, by diplomatic means. The next meeting of the Contact Group takes place in Bonn on 8th July. As the Contact Group includes Russia, we will consider at that meeting what are the next steps to take. Our aim is always to support and encourage dialogue between all sides and the focus must be that that dialogue is brought about by diplomatic efforts. However, if at the end of the day those efforts fail, no options have been ruled out and at this stage NATO continues to review all the options.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, can my noble friend tell me whether the Government agree with the view of Mr. Richard Holbrook that it is unrealistic to expect Serbia to withdraw its security forces from Kosovo. Would it not be better if ourselves and other countries in NATO stopped treating Serbia as an international pariah and instead tried to help it to solve the real difficulties in Kosovo? They will not be solved so long as the Kosovo Liberation Army is encouraged to think that NATO will help it to take over Kosovo.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, we are not trying to achieve an independent state; we are seeking more autonomy and to bring about a stable democratic region. That is why we are working through diplomatic measures and hope that they are successful. However, we have reserve powers if those fail.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, does not the key to this matter lie in persuading President Yeltsin to use his influence on President Milosevic to make absolutely clear that if the Serbians stop killing Albanians in Kosovo, the Russians would, if necessary, support a new UN mandate? That is the key. Can the Minister tell us what progress is being made on that front?

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, the position is that at the last Contact Group meeting we laid down several demands. Russia was part of the group laying down those terms. The US and the Russians have been working together for six months in the Contact Group. The Contact Group provides a focus for international activity. The next step is the meeting on 8th July when the situation will be reviewed and consideration will be given as to what further steps should be taken.

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Finance (No. 2) Bill

Brought from the Commons endorsed with the certificate of the Speaker that the Bill is a money Bill; read a first time, and to be printed.

School Standards and Framework Bill

3.37 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 34 [School changing from one category to another]:

[Amendment No. 89 not moved.]

Schedule 8 [Changes of category of school]:

[Amendment No. 90 not moved.]

Clause 35 [Governing bodies]:

Baroness Seccombe moved Amendment No. 91:

Page 32, line 18, at beginning insert ("Subject to section (Grouping of community, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and community special schools under a single governing body),").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 91, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 108 to 114 inclusive.

As I said at Committee stage, I was most disappointed with the reply of the Minister. I found it extremely sad that, having said throughout the Bill that she sees it as being about standards and not structures, she felt unable to accept this simple but important amendment. The Minister talks repeatedly about flexibility. Sadly, there has not been much evidence of that so far.

I remind your Lordships of what the amendment involves. There are many schools in a similar situation to the one I mentioned. My interest is that it concerns the church school attached to the church where my husband and I were married. It is a school of excellence and one where parents wanting the best are anxious that their children become pupils.

The school has been administered by a single governing body, probably since Elizabethan times; certainly for more than 150 years. The school caters for infants and junior pupils and, because of its success, outgrew its site. It was therefore forced into locating the junior department to a site half a mile away. In reality it continues as one school on two sites. Continuity has been an essential ingredient throughout the years and its attachment to the parish church has been a much-valued focal point in the area. Further changes are possible as there is parental pressure for a three form entry.

The chairman of the governors tells me that the board is deeply concerned about the Bill as it would disallow the way that it has organised this school for centuries. The governors fear that with two boards administration

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costs would escalate and there would be duplication in many areas. They also worry that there could be conflict and that the two boards would drift apart.

There are other matters which concern them. At present any child who enters at nursery stage is given the right of admission through to the end of junior school. Certain monies administered by the governors for capital projects at both schools are administered as one. They fear that they would have to set up a foundation to cater for such funds.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is quite rightly keen that parent governors should have the opportunity to serve, but there is one point that I should have raised at Committee stage and it is this. A parent is mainly interested in a school for the time that his or her child is a pupil at it. A child is in the infant school for only three years, so the usual term as a parent governor is three years. I can assure the noble Baroness that this school does not, as she suggested, spend a disproportionate amount of its time on day-to-day site management and related issues. The governors are concerned with the long-term future of this school and policies for the future. It is the head teacher who organises the school. It is a comparatively small school on two sites, and a three-year term does not therefore lean towards forward planning but to immediate action.

For all those reasons I hope that I have persuaded the noble Baroness to look favourably upon this amendment and, in so doing, support the sterling work being done by willing volunteers. It should be allowed to continue, as it has done so successfully for centuries. I beg to move.

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