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Lord Brookman: My Lords, I declare an interest as someone who for many years represented those whose jobs are currently at risk. Does my noble friend agree with me and Members of another place as well as trade unions that it is imperative that a round table conference be convened to thrash out a strategy to save both jobs and communities that are under threat? Does the Minister also agree that the items on that agenda should include electricity prices, the climate change levy and local rates which are a tremendous burden on the steel industry? Does my noble friend agree that that would be looked upon favourably by those whose jobs are currently threatened?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister, who recently met MPs representing the steel group, are very well aware of the concerns of both the industry and its employees. I am not certain that a round table would contribute anything to the process. There have been detailed discussions about all the issues which have been raised: the climate levy, electricity prices and the euro. As I hope I indicated in my first Answer, government Ministers and the Prime Minister are very well aware of the serious situation in this industry.

Lord Elton: My Lords, can the Minister confirm or deny the allegation made in this Chamber about a fortnight ago that Railtrack is ordering replacement rail in lengths which cannot be produced in this country and, therefore, must be imported? Does that not bear on this situation?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, while everyone may have doubts about Railtrack's purchasing requirements, where it purchases its rail must be its decision. Presumably, Railtrack does that to obtain the highest quality and the best price.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the steel sector is not the only part of manufacturing that is being assailed at the present time

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and that the car industry and many others have been going through a very difficult period? Therefore, is it not appropriate that this House should look in greater depth at the whole manufacturing sector? If the usual channels agree, can that not be done by setting up a Select Committee?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is true that some parts of manufacturing industry are going through a difficult time, but other parts, which tend to be the higher value added sectors, are doing quite well. The most recent figures show that manufacturing output has increased. Manufacturing industry is a key part of our economy, and it is appropriate for this Chamber constantly to review its performance and what action should be taken upon it. I am sure that the usual channels will take that into account.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that he should not dismiss so lightly the idea of convening a round table conference on this vital industry? Will my noble friend undertake talks with the company about the fact that, surely, in future we should produce long, not short, rail?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I shall pass on to the Secretary of State the view that there should be a round table conference. He has already considered the matter and does not believe that it would add to the current discussions. However, I shall ask my right honourable friend to reconsider the matter.

The Viscount of Oxfuird: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, as explained in The Times some months ago, in manufacturing a decline in the machine tool industry is the first indicator of a serious problem in steel consumption? The machine tool industry is the first to suffer at the hands of accountants in any company. Does the Minister agree that that area should be looked at very closely?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is already clear that in the past year or so there have been problems about the demand for steel, and that is part of the current troubles that face the steel industry. That situation is due in part to the low level of demand by some of the other industries which make great use of steel products.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, will my noble friend look closely at the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Ezra? Is it not a fact that manufacturing industry as a percentage of GDP has fallen from 32 per cent in 1973 to under 20 per cent today? Is the Minister also aware that in 1985 this House set up a Select Committee to look at the state of manufacturing industry, which has declined even further since then? Does my noble friend agree that it is about time another Select Committee considered what can be done to resuscitate that sector?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the falling proportion of total GDP represented by

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manufacturing industry is not only a problem for this country; it is a universal fact for all developed countries where there has been a consistent decline in manufacturing. There are good reasons for that. The two main ones are: first, increasing productivity of manufacturing; and, secondly, as people's incomes rise they spend proportionately less of it on physical goods. Therefore, in every country, including the most successful at manufacturing, there has been a decline. The situation in this country is not very different from that in every other developed country of the world.

We should continue to look at the position of manufacturing industry and what we can do to help, but it is quite wrong to think that there is something wrong about the proportion of manufacturing going down or that we are in some way in a different position from other developed countries.

Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [H.L.]

3.1 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. At the heart of the Government's agenda is the wish to have an inclusive society and a recognition of the importance of education for all. We are committed to a fairer, more tolerant society where every individual is valued and appreciated for what he or she can do, not labelled for what he or she cannot do. It is for all of us as citizens to work to break down the barriers that some members of our society have to overcome to gain access to services that the majority of us take for granted.

The Bill covers two topics--special educational needs and disability in education. The Bill is about moving the legislative landscape forward, building on the best of existing law and practice.

Part I of the Bill covers special educational needs in England and Wales and amends Part IV of the Education Act 1996. Of course the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, played a key role in establishing the original special educational needs framework through the Education Act 1993, and I would like to pay tribute to her for her role. Part I of the Bill builds on the strong legislative background which she helped to put in place. In October 1997 we published our Green Paper Excellence for All Children: Meeting Special Educational Needs in England and the parallel Green Paper in Wales The BEST for Special Education. Our vision of excellence is for all. Our commitment to raising standards of achievement for children in schools encompasses children with special educational needs.

In November 1998 we published Meeting Special Educational Needs: A Programme of Action in England and Shaping the Future for Special Education was published in January 1999 in Wales. Those documents set out action that would be taken to maintain the momentum of progress in relation to special educational needs.

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Part I of the Bill fulfils the commitments made in the programme of action that require primary legislation and covers England and Wales.

The Government's commitment to inclusion has been strong and constant. We are committed to ensuring that children with special educational needs are included wherever possible. The potential social, moral and educational benefits are significant. Clause 1 of the Bill delivers our commitment to strengthen the right to a mainstream place for children with special educational needs, where parents want that. That is in line with the Disability Rights Task Force's recommendation. Our approach is pragmatic and practical, recognising that inclusion is not always easy. Equally, we are clear that there is a continuing and vital role for special schools.

Inclusion is clearly an emotive issue. I want to use this opportunity to set out our objectives and the principles behind this first clause. First, we want an inclusive education service to offer excellence and choice. Secondly, inclusion must be based on sound foundations. The interests of all pupils must be safeguarded. All children have a right to an appropriate education that affords them the opportunity to achieve their personal potential. Thirdly, where parents want a mainstream place for their child the education service should do everything possible to try and provide one. Equally, where parents want more specialist provision their wishes should be listened to.

Finally, inclusion does not mean that every child should be placed in a mainstream school irrespective of their needs or circumstances. There will be cases, particularly where there is severe challenging behaviour, where a mainstream place is not appropriate. But that will be a small minority of pupils. We believe that many more pupils could and should benefit from a mainstream place where this is what their parents want. But we also believe that pupils should be protected from those whose inclusion would adversely affect either their learning or their safety.

Supporting parents is a theme of the Bill. Clauses 2 and 3 place duties on LEAs to provide parent partnership services and arrangements for resolving and preventing disputes respectively. Even the most articulate of parents can find the system confusing. All parents should feel empowered and able to play a full and active part in their children's education.

All LEAs have been encouraged to set up these services in advance of the statutory duty. We have published practical guidance to help them based on existing good practice. We have also provided the funding to enable LEAs to run them. This year #12 million has been provided, which is double what was available in 1999-2000. Next year the resources will increase again to #18 million.

Clauses 4 to 9 amend the existing legislative framework with a view to streamlining the SEN process for parents and maximising the benefit for children. Those clauses take forward specific commitments in the SEN programme of action.

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In conclusion, Part I of the Bill seeks to enhance significantly the rights of children with special educational needs to high quality education that meets their needs. It strengthens the rights of parents to a mainstream place and promotes a strong partnership between parents, schools and LEAs for the benefit of children with special educational needs.

These are themes which the Bill shares in common with the revised SEN code of practice. I want to use this opportunity to say a few words about our recent consultation on a draft revised code. Over 1,000 responses were received. Similar consultation on a draft revised code of practice has recently been completed by the National Assembly for Wales, which will be responsible for approving a revised code in Wales. The majority of these were positive. In particular, people liked the emphasis on identifying needs as early as possible; improving partnership with parents; taking account of the views of the child; promoting strong school-based provision; and, reducing unnecessary paperwork for teachers.

Concerns were expressed about some aspects of the revised code. We made clear from the start that we would listen carefully to views. We have done that. My department has just issued a short document updating interested parties on our thinking as a result of this consultation. It covers a number of issues. But I will focus here on the issue that has caused most debate--the changes we proposed to the guidance on specifying special educational provision in statements of special educational needs.

Let me make absolutely clear that we have no intention of weakening the legal protection for children with statements. Vague statements do nothing to secure the right kind of help for a child with SEN; nor do they help a school to know what is required of it in helping the child to learn and progress. We will make clear that LEAs are required to specify provision in statements, as they always have been. We will retain the requirement in the SEN regulations for provision to be specified, matching the terms of the duty on LEAs set out in the Education Act 1996. We will stress that statements should be clear and specific about a child's special educational needs; the special educational provision required to meet those needs; and, the objectives that the special educational provision should aim to meet. We will recognise that that provision should be quantified as necessary.

I turn to disability discrimination in education. Part II of the Bill deals with disability discrimination in the provision of education. The Social Attitudes Survey of 1998 told us that 75 per cent of people in Great Britain believe that there is a prejudice against disabled people. There are some 8.5 million disabled people in Great Britain. They continue, regrettably, to suffer discrimination on a daily basis. There is still some way to go if activities which the rest of society takes for granted are not to be denied to some disabled people.

Legislation of itself cannot secure a change in culture or attitude but it can provide certain rights and a means of redress if those rights are infringed and it can provide leadership and a framework which

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encourages changes of attitude. The Disability Discrimination Act represented a step forward in tackling disability discrimination, but it is flawed in a number of respects. It omitted the establishment of a Disability Rights Commission and it did not cover the provision of education.

In our 1997 manifesto we pledged,

    "to support comprehensive and enforceable civil rights for disabled people developed in partnership with all interested parties".

It was with great pleasure, therefore, that almost exactly two years ago I opened the Second Reading debate on the Disability Rights Commission Bill and have subsequently seen the commission formally open its doors in April of this year. The Disability Rights Task Force, established in December 1997, reported in December 1999 through the publication of its report From Exclusion to Inclusion. The Government welcomed that report and since then have been committed to taking forward the education recommendations of the task force. We announced in another place on 20th November that we hoped to publish a response to the task force report around the end of February next year.

In addition, we will have invested #195 million in the New Deal for Disabled People. So far nearly 4,000 disabled people have found jobs and many more are making progress towards getting jobs. The "See the Person" campaign, launched in June last year, was a hard hitting campaign which our research revealed most people found easy to understand, informative, provocative and relevant.

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