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371ABaroness Hamwee rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion that the House do agree with the Commons in their amendment, at the end to insert "and do propose the following consequential amendment to the Bill"--

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 371A to insert a new clause regarding indemnifying members and relevant officers. It will provide that such an order would be subject to an affirmative resolution of both Houses.

Moved, That Amendment No. 371A, as an amendment to Commons Amendment No. 371, be agreed to.--(Baroness Hamwee.)

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am happy to say that the Government agree with the amendment.

On Question, Motion agreed to, and Commons Amendment No 371, as amended, agreed to.

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372Clause 90, page 63, line 27, leave out ("which operates executive arrangements") and insert ("(within the meaning of that Act) which are operating executive arrangements (within the meaning of Part II of this Act)")
373Page 63, line 31, leave out from beginning to ("For") in line 32 and insert ("After section 1 of that Act there is inserted the following section--
"Meaning of "social services functions".
374Page 63, line 39, leave out ("subsection") and insert ("section")
375Page 63, line 40, leave out subsection (4)

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 372 to 375.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 372 to 375.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


376After Clause 90, insert the following new clause--

(" .--(1) In subsection (3) of section 29 of the Children Act 1989 (recoupment of cost of providing services etc.), after "subsection (1)" there is inserted "for a service provided under section 17 or section 18(1) or (5)".
(2) After that subsection there is inserted--
"(3A) No person shall be liable to pay any charge under subsection (1) for a service provided under section 18(2) or (6) at any time when he is in receipt of income support under Part VII of the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992 or of an income-based jobseeker's allowance."").

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 376. It would insert a new clause relating to charging for local authority childcare. Commons Amendment No. 484 is consequential.

The effect is to allow, not require, local authorities to charge parents in receipt of working families tax credit and disabled persons tax credit for the childcare that authorities provide. That would apply unless they are parents of children in need, when they will receive that childcare free. People on benefits who currently receive free local authority childcare will continue to do so.

There are a number of reasons for that change being important and necessary. Tax credits provide income for parents to enable them to purchase childcare, so it is illogical to offer childcare free to those in receipt of it. Tax credits provide more generous and widespread support than the benefits they replaced. In the first six months since working families tax credit was introduced, more than 1 million families have taken it up--far more than family credit. Through the working families tax credit, parents could receive support of up to 70 per cent of childcare costs, up to a maximum of £70 per week for families with one child and £105 for families with two or more children. Those in receipt of

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the tax credit could include parents earning up to £42,000 a year. Surely they should be expected to contribute to the costs of childcare.

A number of authorities have pressed hard for change. Local authorities have a necessary and valuable part to play in increasing the availability of childcare places delivered through the national childcare strategy. Fee income from parents helps them to fulfil that role. Free local authority childcare creates an uneven playing field for other childcare providers and parents who do not have or cannot get local authority childcare. We shall continue to ensure that local authority childcare is provided free to the parents of children in need. The Government recognise that children in need require particular support. The new provisions will take effect as soon as possible. Amendment No. 376 is a practical, fair and logical measure called for by local authorities and I commend it to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

6.30 p.m.


377Leave out Clause 91.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 377. The amendment and those grouped with it deal with a situation which received substantial attention during the passage of the Bill. It relates to the provision of what used to be known as Section 28.

The Government's position on Section 2A, as it now is, of the Local Government Act 1986 has been clear and consistent throughout the passage of the Bill. We consider it bad law; we consider its drafting imprecise; we consider its effect misleading; and, above all, we consider its indirect effect as having been extremely damaging in the provision of education and other parts of public service and to a number of often vulnerable people. We have therefore repeatedly said that it must be repealed and we shall strongly continue to impose any attempt to reinstate what we regard as a discriminatory and confusing piece of legislation on the statute book.

Amendment No. 377 would remove Clause 91 from the Bill. That clause was proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Amendment No. 378 makes good our commitment by reinstating the repeal of Section 2A. Amendments Nos. 388, 389, 478 and 482 are consequential to this and other repeals.

From what I have said during the passage of the Bill, it will not surprise noble Lords to hear that we shall oppose Amendments Nos. 337A and the other amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, all of which seek to overturn the Commons amendments.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Brightman, has tabled Amendment No. 378B, which is intended to replace Section 28 or Section 2A. I have some

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sympathy with the intentions of the amendment but believe that it may well cause confusion. At this stage I am not convinced that it meets what is required.

Those who here and in the wider world support the retention of Section 2A have argued at length in this Chamber and elsewhere that, without its protection, children in schools would be at risk of inappropriate teaching and that local education authorities would seek to promote homosexuality. That argument has been the most emotive and frequently repeated in the whole debate. Even when Section 28 was first passed, that argument was wrong.

Moreover, the argument deliberately ignores the key changes that have taken place in the relationship between school and local education authorities in England and Wales since the original legislation was passed. It ignores the fact that Section 28 never directly, legally applied to schools. However, as there was such an enormous reaction to the passage of the clause by its proponents, its entire effect in practice was deeply damaging.

School governors and teachers felt inhibited in providing support to gay and lesbian students and in explaining to those who were doubtful about their sexuality the position with regard to homosexuality. It did nothing, to put it at its mildest, to help to tackle the misery of homophobic bullying.

Your Lordships will be aware that more recently we put into effect safeguards in relation the education system. Since the original Bill was discussed, guidance has been issued by the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, and amendments have been made to the Learning and Skills Bill. All have one firm and central purpose: the protection of children from inappropriate teaching and from materials inappropriate to the delivery of sex education in schools.

That new guidance, on which considerable comment was made during the passage of the Learning and Skills Bill last week, is a major step forward. I should point out that the previous government never mentioned marriage, for example, in sex education. This Government introduced marriage into the curriculum for sex education for the first time. Circular 5/94, which our guidance replaces, contains no mention whatever of marriage.

Our guidance, which is given its statutory base by the Learning and Skills Bill, adopted by this House last week, provides a much more robust protection for our children. What better protects our children: is it a confusing piece of legislation, which has been subject to enormous emotive arguments on all sides of the issue--a piece of legislation which does not apply to schools and a piece of legislation which is subject to enormous misinterpretation on all sides--or is a better protection for our children a clear statutory safeguard set out in the Learning and Skills Bill and the related guidance to schools?

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I believe that with the issuing of that guidance and with the passage of the Learning and Skills Bill, we are now in a different situation. Some of your Lordships could have been forgiven for believing that the argument about Section 28 or Section 2A--

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