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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am slightly bewildered by the noble Lord's opening statement that the amendment would erect barriers. Having plans costed does not erect barriers; it helps to make it known what the plans are and what they would cost. That will give people an idea about how the plans could properly be met. The suggestion is extraordinary. He also suggested that the amendments are unnecessary and burdensome. Making the plans will be burdensome--we have already made that point. Are the amendments unnecessary? I do not know. The plans have to be made anyway, and my proposal involves only one more step. Architects, surveyors and all the other people who have to carry out survey work to bring the plans to fruition will have done their work. All that remains is the need to quantify the costs and make that known to the relevant bodies. Schools, LEAs and, for grant purposes, the Government will wish to know about that.

The noble Lord seemed to confuse the plans with local authority funding. As I understand the Bill, the plans are forward-looking; they are not today's plans. Very few local authorities, even with the so-called three-year funding, know at this time of year what their grant will be and what latitude there will be beyond the core funding of their services in relation to additional duties. The Bill will impose such a requirement on them. The idea that they will have all of that information to hand is not true.

I did not deride the sums of money that have been made available. I simply stated, as a matter of fact--the noble Lord said that I did so with a flourish--that the money was for a three-year period and involved 25,000 schools. That is an obvious point.

The noble Lord went on to say that disabled pupils will benefit from the planning duty. They will do so only if the plans are materially delivered and properly validated. Those pupils will not benefit from the plans, although the plans will raise expectations and create aspirations. However, unless the plans are realised, no one will benefit. Planning in itself is not a virtue, but it is a sensible way to ensure that those funds that are spent are spent effectively and that that is done in the interests of young people with disabilities.

I shall read the Minister's comments carefully. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 91:

("(d) any setting recognised by an early years development partnership established by a local education authority under section 119 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment returns us to early years settings and again I speak on behalf of the RNIB. The amendment would require all

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early years settings to be recognised by an early years development and child care partnership and for them to have an accessibility strategy. I use the jargon of the Bill for the purposes of the amendments, and I am speaking to Amendments Nos. 91 and 155.

First of all, we welcome the fact that all early years and child care partnerships are required, by guidance issued under the School Standards and Framework Act 1998, to have a clear strategy to allow children equal access to child care and early educational services regardless of their special educational needs or disability. The strategy will perform a similar role to the accessibility plan which local educational authorities will be required to produce for their schools.

However, with the exception of state-run nursery schools, there will be no duty for individual settings-- private voluntary sector nurseries, child minders and after-school holiday child care schemes--to have their own plans. These local accessibility plans allow for the detailed planning necessary to turn the strategic plans into reality. The RNIB argues that a requirement on individual early years and child care settings to produce plans would be beneficial for the following reasons. It would be consistent for early years settings to be under a similar duty to plan for making their services more accessible to young people with disabilities. Early year settings other than state-run nurseries already have duties as service providers under Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act, but there is little guidance as to how to fulfil those responsibilities, and requiring all settings to plan for accessibility would reduce the number of disputes because the settings would anticipate the issues before they arose.

An accessibility plan would also be a defence before a tribunal or at a county court. One hopes that it does not go that far. Requiring those settings providing after-school and holiday care to have accessibility plans would help the Government make their policy of encouraging parents, and especially single parents, to work. If after-school and holiday care settings have no duty to plan for accessibility, there is a danger that parents will be limited to working school hours during term-time only if there is no accessible after-school holiday provision for the disabled child. I know that a good deal of work has been done in that respect. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I very much appreciate the way in which the noble Baroness has proposed these amendments and I appreciate the significance of the outside body on whose behalf she spoke. I shall seek to give as much reassurance as I can on these important issues which she has identified.

Early year providers will be covered either by Part III of the Disability Discrimination Act or the new disability duties in this Bill. Most private and voluntary providers of early years education have been

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covered by the Part III provisions of the DDA since December 1996, and the Bill will bring all these providers under the DDA. Providers who are covered by Part III of the DDA have to comply with the reasonable adjustment duty. The duty under Part III of the DDA includes provision for making changes to physical features and providing auxiliary aids and services. These are anticipatory duties which of themselves entail an element of planning.

We do not want to place an additional duty on them to plan. That would be confusing and impractical. Early years provision in maintained schools, independent schools and non-maintained special schools will be covered by the new duties in the Bill, including the duty to plan to increase physical accessibility. I hope, with the explanation that I have given, that the noble Baroness will be prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I will read carefully what the noble Lord the Minister said and will also discuss with the NRIB between now and the next stage of the Bill to get their response to what has been said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 92 and 93 not moved.]

2 a.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 94:

    Page 13, leave out lines 18 to 22.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I seek to remove yet another provision for regulations to be made. Law by what is, effectively, government diktat is bad law. Nevertheless, there are, as I have to accept, changing circumstances where the provisions in primary legislation need updating or modifying through secondary legislation, but this is not one of them.

I also find deeply depressing the pressure on us to complete this Bill tonight, only to see it severely guillotined in another place. We know that the plan in another place is for the Bill to be shoved through in a day. There will be almost no debate and once again the only scrutiny that the Bill will receive will be that carried out by this House. If that can be denied no one will be more pleased than me to know that it will receive a proper Committee stage and full debate in another place.

It follows that the Government must already know what they intend by the use of the terms "education" and "an associated service" in the Bill. Those terms will not change their meaning from year to year and so there is no need for regulations. Let us now see the Government's interpretation of the two terms which are on the face of the Bill. If we do not believe that such

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a definition is accurate enough or clear enough or is just plain wrong, let Parliament have an opportunity to consider, discuss and determine the matter.

Perhaps in reply the Minister can tell us what is meant by "education" and by "an associated service" within the context of the Bill. If the noble Baroness or noble Lord is able to give a definition, that would be a good reason why they should appear on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we debated this amendment in Committee. These regulations are about clarifying the coverage of the planning duty; they underpin the planning duty. They will ensure that LEAs and schools are clear about what the planning duty entails.

Clearly the duty needs to embrace education offered to disabled pupils and disabled prospective pupils at a school. It will do that. It would be unrealistic and unreasonable to expect schools and LEAs to plan for activities which take place away from school premises and over which they have no control, so we need to be clear that it is about education offered at a school.

When speaking to the amendment in Committee the noble Baroness said that education is more than just the teaching of English, mathematics and science. I agree with her. The regulations will provide clarity in particular for those areas not traditionally seen as education, but which form part of a school's life; for instance, the playground or the dining hall, so that disabled students can feel part of the total school community.

Whether a particular activity is offered as education or as an associated service for those purposes is largely irrelevant. The key point is that everything so described will be covered by the planning duty. In the absence of such regulations, the issue of whether any particular service is caught by the planning duty will be entirely a matter of interpretation. We want to ensure that schools and LEAs are clear about what their duties involve. In the light of that explanation, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

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