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Baroness Blatch: That is a wholly illogical argument. Parents have the right to say whether they want the future of bright children to be secure in a grammar school, but they have no right to determine whether city technology colleges should continue to exist.

The primary objection of the noble Baroness appears to be the 11-plus examination. As I have said, I think that that is a matter for debate. If the noble Baroness felt able to bring forward suggestions that such an examination should be changed to the age of 12 or 13 years, that would be more honest. My noble friend has even suggested bringing forward a policy to abolish those tests altogether.

What I find extraordinary and illogical in this argument is that, while taking an examination and attending an interview to go to a grammar school smacks of winners and losers—some pass and gain a place while others do not—exactly the same thing happens in higher education. Young people apply through an examination system to get into a university. Some will succeed; others will not. Entry into what I may call the "Ivy League" universities is even more difficult. There will also be changes there. I understand that the Government are about to dumb down the higher education sector until it resembles the comprehensive system. We have debated the issue already; we shall do so again.

The noble Baroness rightly said that the gaining of a petition can take up to a year. Beyond a year the matter has to be dropped and begun all over again. Therefore, the matter would take the best part of a year. If my amendment were taken at face value, the process would simply have to be initiated—a signature may not have been collected—and the moratorium would apply. I shall consider that point.

The noble Baroness said that the process would take the best part of a year and, therefore, there would be no practical effect. I do not understand that. Even if the process took the best part of a year and I were to modify the provision so that it took effect at the end of the collection of signatures rather than at the initiating of them—in effect, that would be five years—it would have an effect. Those schools would be left alone for five years. I chose six years because that is the period for a child at a grammar school. At present, the life of a child in a grammar school is disrupted—this has occurred in the north-west—in his first, second, third,

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fourth, fifth and sixth years. My amendment seeks to avoid that. Once there has been a major disruption in the school, with signatures collected by a petition which has failed, the school should then be left alone for another five to six years.

The argument is that parents must have a say. If parents have a say with regard to bright children, why do they not have a say with regard to all the other talented people for whom specialist provision is made by the education system through city technology colleges, specialist schools and dance, music and drama schools? The policy seems to be borne out of politics only. I shall not press the amendment but we shall return to the issue.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, perhaps I may suggest that the Committee stage begin again not before 8.33 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

Dental Auxiliaries (Amendment) Regulations 2002

7.36 p.m.

Lord Filkin rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 25th April be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the draft regulations, perhaps I may speak to the two draft statutory instruments together. The Dental Auxiliaries (Amendment) Regulations 2002 contain the substance of the changes we wish to make to extend the role of dental hygienists and therapists. The Dentists Act 1984 (Dental Auxiliaries) Order 2002 provides that a particular restriction imposed by the Dentists Act on the range of duties and the fields of dentistry in which dental auxiliaries may work shall not apply to dental therapists.

As the House will know, the Government are committed to modernising the regulation of the healthcare professions. That includes the dental health professions. Last November we debated an order made under Section 60 of the Health Act 1999 which empowered the General Dental Council to modernise the constitution of its council and made continuing professional development mandatory for dentists. This draft legislation governing dental auxiliaries is the next step necessary for implementation of the regulatory section of our dental strategy, Modernising NHS Dentistry—Implementing the NHS Plan.

The draft legislation provides a means whereby we can extend the role of dental hygienists and dental therapists using delegated powers in the current Dentists Act. Our intention is to enable these staff to undertake a wider range of duties subject to varying

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degrees of supervision by the dentist/team leader. We also wish to permit dental therapists to work in all fields of dentistry.

I turn first to dental hygienists and the detail of the amending regulations. Regulation 3 of the amending regulations extends the scaling power to enable a hygienist to treat a patient who has previously undergone a course of treatment and who, with the reduction in swelling of the gums, is found to have excess cement around teeth that have been crowned. A rotary instrument is a burr fitted on a drill which the hygienist can use in addition to a scaling probe.

Next, we want dental hygienists to be able to undertake some impressions in dental work. The impressions we have in mind are those taken for study models at the outset of a course of orthodontic treatment.

We also think it right that dental hygienists be able to undertake inferior dental nerve block anaesthesia used in the lower jaw where a deeper, more precisely located injection is needed. However, a dental hygienist will be allowed to administer only inferior block anaesthesia under the direct supervision of a dentist on the premises. We believe that they should have the power to replace crowns when they become loose in the course of an examination.

Lastly, the proposed new Regulation 23(7) would allow a hygienist to carry out a scale and polish on a patient who had been sedated for a more invasive dental treatment. It would save the dentist from carrying out work that could be delegated and enable the patient to receive the full programme of treatment on one occasion without, one hopes, feeling any pain.

I turn to dental therapists. Regulation 4 of the amending regulations amends Regulation 27 of the principal regulations which relate to dental therapists. Under the 1957 Dentists Act, therapists were allowed to work only in dental hospitals and community dental services because those were the only places where they were direct NHS employees—mainly clinics for the dental care of children and for people with special needs. Therapists cannot work in the general dental services because although these are NHS services they are delivered by self-employed independent practice owners. Nor can they work in private dental practices. We believe that that should be changed. The omission of paragraph 27(2)(a) of the principal regulations (under Regulation 4(3) of the amending regulations) will permit dental therapists to work in all fields of dentistry—the NHS general dental services, private practices or elsewhere.

In many other respects the amendments in Regulation 4 provide for dental therapists the same range of extended duties provided for dental hygienists in Regulation 3. I should draw your Lordships' attention particularly to paragraph (1)(ec) inserted into Regulation 27 of the principal regulations relating to the pulp of the tooth which is below the enamel in the area of the roots of the tooth. This would enable, therefore, dental therapists to perform virtually all

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types of fillings required by young children with primary or, as they are sometimes known, deciduous teeth. The other amendments will enable them to make a substantial contribution to the dental care of adults, thereby using their training and skills to the maximum.

As the House will know, the General Dental Council has been extremely helpful in this respect and has promoted these changes which the Government are pleased to support. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 25th April be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Filkin.)

Earl Howe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his clear explanation of the orders which we very much welcome. I believe that they are in the interests of patients and that the extension of the duties of dental therapists and dental hygienists will enable them to make the most of their skills and experience and thus benefit the whole of the dental team.The Minister will know that the General Dental Council is currently in the process of reform through orders made under Section 60 of the Health Act to amend the Dentists Act. Perhaps I may ask the Minister one question in that context. As part of the GDC's programme of reform the council published last year its proposals for the extension of professional regulation to the whole dental team. As the noble Lord will know, the proposal is to register professionals complementary to dentistry (PCDs) via a single PCD register. That will enable all members of the dental team to make the best use of their skills in the interests of patients.

I understand that PCDs will register by protected titles, based upon their qualifications and experience, thereby ensuring that the public can distinguish those who are properly qualified from those who are not so qualified. Registration of the entire dental team will mean that all PCDs will be subject to the public protection measures that professional regulation offers, not least approved courses of training and robust fitness-to-practise procedures.

I wonder whether the Minister is in a position this evening to give the House any indication of when such orders might come forward, and of how far the preparation for them has now progressed. I repeat my welcome for both the order and the regulations, and thank the Minister again for his introduction to them.

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