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Lord Carter: My Lords, before we move on to the next grouping, Amendments Nos. 180 to 182C, it may be for the convenience of the House if I say a brief word about the order in which the business on this grouping of amendments will proceed.

All the Lords amendments to Commons Amendments Nos. 180 to 182 are on the subject of sex education guidance. They have therefore all been grouped together. It is intended that we should hold a single debate encompassing all these amendments. After the debate we shall then move to a series of decisions, all of which should be moved formally without any need for further debate.

To open the debate, the Minister will move that Commons Amendment No. 180 be agreed to. At that point, the Minister will make her speech. She will then

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move her own amendment to Amendment No. 180; namely, Amendment No. 180A. In practice, the rest of the debate will then take place on that amendment.

Any noble Lord who wishes to speak to any of the amendments on the subject of sex education guidance--Amendments Nos. 180 to 182C inclusive--should do so at that point, when Amendment No. 180A is the Question before the House.

At the end of the debate, the Question will first be put on Amendment No. 180A and decided. The other amendments dealing with sex education guidance will then be taken in the order in which they appear on the revised Marshalled List when moved formally. They will be decided or withdrawn without further debate.

In short, it is intended that only one debate should take place on the Minister's amendment, Amendment No. 180A.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the noble Baroness moves the amendment, perhaps I may ask the Chief Whip a question. Is the entire debate to take place on only one amendment? Do I understand, however, that noble Lords who have tabled amendments will be entirely free, as will be the whole House, to debate any other amendment in the grouping?

Lord Carter: My Lords, that is the intention. Because all the amendments address the same subject, we shall hold a single debate on the whole grouping. Any noble Lord who has tabled an amendment in that grouping will be free to speak to the amendment. At the end of the debate, the Questions will then be taken in order. The noble Baroness, Lady Young, has agreed that this will be a good way to proceed.


180Page 55, line 26, at end insert--
("(1A) In section 351 (general duties in respect of the curriculum) after subsection (5) insert--
"(6) Nothing in this section shall be taken to impose duties on a local education authority with regard to sex education."").

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 180. Perhaps I may speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 181 and 182.

I should like to start by reflecting on how we have reached this position. At Third Reading of the Bill in this House, the Government brought forward a carefully balanced amendment built on consensus and agreement. There was general agreement that our amendment was well constructed. That carefully balanced amendment was demolished and replaced by what in our view was a partial and selective amendment. I pledged that the Government would delete it in another place--and this we have done. We brought forward in another place amendments which focused on the key concerns that have been raised.

These amendments brought from another place have one firm and central purpose: the protection of children from inappropriate teaching and materials in

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the delivery of sex education in schools. They clarify that local education authorities have no duties in the policy or delivery of sex education in schools. They place a duty on the Secretary of State to issue guidance so that pupils are protected from inappropriate teaching and materials. They require governing bodies and head teachers to have regard to that guidance. They deal also with material produced by health authorities for schools.

The Government have fulfilled the commitment that I made at Third Reading. We have taken a consistent approach throughout the debate on sex and relationship education. Our approach has centred on providing protection for our children, support for our teachers and governors, and reassurance for our parents. The Secretary of State issued new sex and relationships education guidance on 7th July. That guidance provides clarity and support to schools, governors, teachers and parents. It is backed up by the personal, social and health education framework issued last autumn as a part of the Government's national curriculum review.

It may be helpful to the debate if I comment immediately on Amendment No. 182A tabled in the name of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. This amendment is very close to the wording of part of the original amendment that the Government brought forward at Third Reading. It is clearly grounded in the personal, social and health education framework and it is consistent with the sex and relationships education guidance issued by the Secretary of State.

Our new sex and relationships education guidance provides for pupils to learn about the importance of marriage for family life and for bringing up children, and about the significance of marriage and stable relationships as the key building blocks of community and society. That guidance achieved broad consensus in consultation.

Our guidance is underpinned by the personal, social and health education framework. The PHSE framework provides that at ages seven to 11, pupils should be taught to be aware of different types of relationship, including marriage and those between friends and families, and to develop the skills to be effective in relationships. At ages 11-14 pupils should be taught about the role and importance of marriage in family relationships. At 14-16 pupils should be taught about the nature and importance of marriage for family life and bringing up children. Our guidance will also be supported by our National Healthy School Standard, to which every school is expected to sign up within the next few years, and which contains as success criteria the requirement for schools to teach in line with the Secretary of State's guidance.

I want to make it clear at this stage of the debate that the Government support the amendment put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. We believe that it underpins and reinforces the balance that we have achieved. Taken in the context of the Secretary of State's guidance, we believe that accepting

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this amendment will underpin the effective delivery of our sex education policy. That policy is grounded in consultation and consensus.

It may also be helpful if I comment on the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I should like to ask a very important question. Does the Minister accept that the guidance is wholly unenforceable in any court of law? Even if the amendments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn or my noble friend Lady Young are accepted, the provisions will remain wholly unenforceable. How does the Minister propose that conformity with the guidelines should be achieved? Thank you for allowing me to intervene.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, the amendments that the Government are bringing forward today require schools and governing bodies to take notice of the guidance. Of course it will be enforceable in a court of law, thanks to its place in the Bill.

I recognise that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, has a serious intention in wanting to ensure that the law works effectively. I shall listen very carefully to what he says, but I hope that when I reply I shall be able to reassure him that the amendments that we have inherited from another place already secure the objective that he seeks to achieve.

It might also be helpful if I comment briefly on Amendments Nos. 180B and 180C, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. I recognise that she has identified a particular issue that some people have concerns about: the training and advice that local education authorities provide to schools. I recognise the motivation behind the amendments, but the form in which they are expressed is too narrow. It would be wrong to focus on marriage as a single issue. We want local education authorities to have regard to the broad range of issues identified in our guidance, including protecting children from inappropriate teaching and materials, which is central to the amendments brought forward by the Government in another place.

For that reason, the Government have brought forward Amendment No. 180A, which we believe to be a more effective response to the issue identified by the noble Baroness. It ensures that when local education authorities carry out any activity that may have a bearing on the provision of sex and relationship education, they must have regard to the Secretary of State's guidance on sex and relationship education, based on the PSHE framework and on a broad consensus achieved in consultation.

I emphasise that the Government's amendment does not change the existing provision that the key responsibility for sex and relationship education must remain with the head teacher and the governing body, and that the local education authority has no duty in the policy or delivery of sex education.

I must contrast Amendment No. 182B, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, with Amendment No. 182A, tabled by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop

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of Blackburn. Amendment No. 182A rests on the wording of the PSHE framework. It is founded on a careful statement built on consensus. Amendment No. 182B, on the other hand, is based on wording taken from the Home Office document, Supporting Families, published in 1998. We know that because her honourable friends in another place made it clear when they introduced the same amendment. That text was written for a specific purpose, and unfortunately the sentence used in the amendment does not give the full picture.

I believe that noble Lords would find it helpful to hear the words that the noble Baroness chose to leave out of her amendment. The relevant passage reads:

    "This Government believes that marriage provides a strong foundation for stable relationships. This does not mean trying to make people marry, or criticising or penalising people who choose not to. We do not believe that Government should interfere in people's lives in that way."

The document goes on to say:

    "But we do share the belief of the majority of people that marriage provides the most reliable framework for raising children".

It then says:

    "There are strong and mutually supportive families and relationships outside marriage and many unmarried couples remain together throughout their children's upbringing and raise their children every bit as successfully as married parents".

By lifting words selectively, the noble Baroness's honourable friends in another place did not give the full picture, and I fear that the noble Baroness is about to do the same.

In summary, I want to make it clear that the Government will oppose Amendments Nos. 180B and 180C. I encourage noble Lords on all sides of the House to support instead the Government's Amendment No. 180A, which is a broader, more balanced response to the issue identified by the noble Baroness. We support Amendment No. 182A, put forward by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn, but we cannot support Amendment No. 182B, put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Young.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 180.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

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