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Lord Lucas: Sadly, the Minister did not take the precaution of writing to me. I particularly want to question him on Amendments Nos. 146 and 146A. This is an odd bit of the Bill. New Section 28D imposes a duty to prepare plans on maintained schools, independent schools and special schools approved under Section 342 of the 1996 Act. I thought that special schools under Section 342 were independent schools, but I would be happy to be enlightened on that. I thought that they came under the heading of independent schools in a general sort of way. Then at the top of page 14 in new Section 28E(5)(b), the Secretary of State has a right to see the accessibility plan prepared by an independent school. For some reason, he does not have the right to see a plan prepared by a special school under Section 342 and I do not understand why not. He does not have the right to see a plan prepared by a city academy and I do not see why not. He certainly does not have a right to see a plan prepared by a maintained school. It does not

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appear that the local education authority has that either, so I do not particularly see what is going on there.

On page 20 new Section 28M(1)(a) refers to powers conferred on a responsible body under new Sections 28D and 28E. I cannot see any sign of powers conferred by those sections on responsible bodies; they are all about duties. I cannot see what happens to, say, an independent school which is subject to the sanctions under this section. I can see how directions may be enforced through Section 31 of the Supreme Court Act but I do not know what reasonable level of appeal that gives. The Secretary of State is here taking power to force an independent school to make a plan and then to carry that plan through. There are no financial limits on this that I can see. I would like to know how an independent school which is subject to a direction under this section deals with that, whether it has a right of appeal that is a fair and open right of appeal, or whether it is just a case of judicial review and you have to put up with what the Secretary of State says. I cannot see how the amendment adds anything to what is already in the Bill.

New Section 28M(1) refers to a "responsible body", which includes those in subsection (1)(b). Presumably the bodies mentioned in subsection (1)(b), city academies and special schools, are already subject to the duties in new Section 28M(1). I do not see what subsection (1)(b) adds to that and why you are getting anything extra and that it is necessary to impose extra duties on special schools and city academies under Section 342. If that is necessary, why are they not taken out of new Section 28M(1)?

In Section 28M(5) there is a power to enforce directions under the Supreme Court Act which is not, so far as I can see, being extended to subsection (1)(b). I do not know why not.

Later on we shall discuss Amendment No. 147 which attaches to this clause. I am not sure whether it should have been grouped with the amendments we are discussing but it seems odd that the Welsh Assembly can give directions but cannot enforce them. I shall be grateful to know why, in the context of this general discussion, the Welsh have to be disempowered in this way.

4 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: The noble Lord has ranged widely over the amendments which I have proposed. The amendments provide for the normal inspection frameworks for schools and LEAs to cover their functions which relate to their accessibility plans and strategies. We will put in place a robust system for monitoring the planning duty. This will include using the normal inspection framework for schools and LEAs. As regards independent schools, the inspection frameworks may also cover inspection of the preparation, the revision, the review, the implementation and the publication of schools' plans, including the aspects relating to the Bill.

We might be asked why the proposals in the amendments were not included in the Bill from the beginning. They reflect the discussions that we had

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about the issues at Second Reading and are designed to make more explicit the relevant powers under the Bill. I hear what the noble Lord said about his anxieties but I assure him that the amendments are an attempt to improve the Bill in the light of our discussions. I believe that they meet his objections.

4 p.m.

Baroness Blatch: I should like to ask the Minister two questions. First, what do those who may have been representing independent schools feel about the amendments? What discussion has there been with them and what was their response? Secondly, if, in the opinion of the department the inspection reports of the independent schools do not meet the Secretary of State's satisfaction, what sanction can be imposed?

Lord Davies of Oldham: If independent schools consider that the Secretary of State is proposing something that is unreasonable, they can go to judicial review and seek a judgment against that direction. I understand that the amendments result from widespread consultation. The Secretary of State at the end of the day can enforce directions in court if weaknesses are identified in the response to the Bill on the part of independent schools. Discussion took place in full with the independent schools joint council and I understand that it is happy with this section and with the entirety of the Bill. However, we do respect the probing of noble Baronesses and noble Lords on these issues.

Lord Lucas: I do not believe that the Minister answered a single one of my questions. I have no difficulty with the earlier amendments in the group; it seems entirely reasonable to extend the inspection, as suggested, and I am entirely clear about what is being proposed. I understand that I asked a number of detailed and technical questions for which the noble Lord may not have been briefed and I shall be happy to receive the usual letter.

However, what the Minister said about judicial review raises a large question. If judicial review is really what is being talked about under new Section 28M(5)(b) and if that is the process at which we are looking, it is a process in which the dice are heavily weighted in favour of the department, which could demand extremely large expenditure from an independent school without any effective redress on the part of the independent school because it would have to prove that the Minister was acting entirely unreasonably. I suspect that when the matter concerns the Department for Education, that is unlikely.

I do not know that that is the case but it seems from what the Minister said that it may well be. I should therefore be grateful for answers to all the questions I asked, if not now, then later. It is a very odd collection of powers to direct at different groups of schools referred to in different ways. I should like to understand how they all mesh together and what scope independent schools in particular have, because they do not have resource to Government money, to appeal against and deal with unreasonable demands made of

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them by the Secretary of State. I should also like to know why the Welsh are being disenfranchised in this. I am happy to wait for answers, but, please, I want answers to all my questions.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I shall write to the noble Lord to clarify those aspects which he regards as being unclear. We shall have further opportunities to consider these issues. I hope that for today he will accept that I have expressed in good faith the intent of the amendments. My reference to judicial review was naturally very much the end game where difficulties have occurred. He will recognise that there are in fact stages prior to our reaching that final point on the unacceptability of the decision of the Secretary of State.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone) moved Amendment No. 116:

    Page 12, line 11, leave out ("(7)") and insert ("(7A)").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 117 and 118 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 119:

    Page 12, line 23, at end insert ("and must prepare further such plans at such times as may be prescribed").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 120 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 121:

    Page 12, line 28, at end insert--

("(7A) An inspection under the School Inspections Act 1996 may extend to the performance by the responsible body of its functions in relation to the preparation, publication, review, revision and implementation of its accessibility plan.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Northbourne had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 121A:

    Page 12, line 28, at end insert--

("(7A) In the case of an independent school, the accessibility plan shall state that the Governors are expected to take reasonable steps over a period of years to ensure that disabled pupils and adults can gain access to the principal parts of school buildings, but that they shall not be under any requirement to make all parts of their premises accessible to disabled people.
(7B) In the case of an independent school, accessibility plans and strategies shall not oblige a school to alter or adapt their premises in ways that would change or damage features of their building which have historic or architectural significance.
(7C) In the case of independent schools, accessibility plans and strategies shall not impose any requirement to alter or adapt their premises until at least 20 years have elapsed from the date on which the plan was prepared.
(7D) In the case of independent schools, accessibility plans and strategies shall be based on recommendations made by the Independent Schools Inspectorate.").

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The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 121A and 131A were debated last Tuesday. Therefore I shall not move them. I speak to Amendments Nos. 128B and 129ZA.

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