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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords who have spoken. The Civil Service is extraordinarily efficient. Civil servants provide Ministers not only with an opening speech, but with a closing one. It begins:

So, clearly, there was a tremendous amount of good-natured anticipation in the Department for Work and Pensions. I am genuinely grateful for the warm welcome that both noble Lords have given to the regulations. The points raised are sensible and fine ones. When I read through the regulations I had similar reflections.

I was particularly taken with the point that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, made about flexibility. The noble Earl is right; and he is probably right also about regulations always begetting yet more regulations.

The If you think our decision is wrong leaflet shows that the rate of change is more rapid than I had anticipated. The leaflet was originally produced in April 2001 and was obviously so popular—or had become out of date—that it had to be replaced by the same leaflet number in October 2001. The leaflets have to reflect the begotten regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord Higgins, raised a point about the working families' tax credit and the disabled person's tax credit. The explanation is that both share access to the decision-making and appeals process and the unified appeals tribunals with the Department for Work and Pensions. That is why it is necessary to make these amendments to ensure that their operation is consistent. I hope that that answers the noble Lord's point.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, I understand why the change is being made towards the Inland Revenue away from the Department for Work and Pensions, because the tax credits are to be operated by the Treasury and not by the department. However, I do not understand why we are legislating at this moment for two tax credits that the Government's plans suggest are about to be abolished under the Tax Credits Bill, which we should have been discussing this afternoon.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, probably the point is that we have to deal with the law as it is until it changes. No doubt this is a transitional point. The explanation is probably that it is covering a transitional situation. No doubt advice is speeding its way towards me as we speak.

Earl Russell: My Lords, has not the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, provided a perfect illustration of why, yet again, regulations beget regulations?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Earl is right. The answer to the noble Lord, Lord Higgins,

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is that tax credit appeals will continue to be dealt with under the Social Security Contributions (Decisions and Appeals) Regulations for some period after the Tax Credits Bill comes into force.

I do not think that any other points of substance have been raised. I am grateful for the points that were raised. The regulations may be mundane, but they play an important part in our attempts to modernise and improve things. I was particularly taken by the welcome from the noble Lord, Lord Higgins, for the TV link, which will ensure greater access. People who are able to put their case directly on appeal or who are fortunate enough to be represented have a far higher success rate in the appeals process. Although it costs any government, it is most important that people are properly and fairly represented. If we can achieve that aim, it is all to the good and in the best interests of natural justice.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Tax Credits (Decisions and Appeals) (Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 2002

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 10th April be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.33 p.m.

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

[The Sitting was suspended from 8.13 to 8.33 p.m.]

Education Bill

House again in Committee.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 174:

    Before Clause 44, insert the following new clause—

"Admission" in this Chapter refers to the admission by any potential pupil applying to enter any school in the area of the local education authority, especially those living in the area."

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to confirm that the LEA is responsible for providing a place for every child in its area. One of the most important functions of the LEA is to secure sufficient schools to provide appropriate education to meet the age, aptitude, ability and special educational needs of pupils of the area. The purpose of this amendment is to ask the Government to confirm that the Bill does not threaten that historic responsibility.

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If children are not in school, their education and development will be affected and they will be at risk of getting a criminal record.

There are two areas of concern: children out of school through exclusion, and children of asylum seekers. First, I shall speak to the subject of children out of school. LEAs have a duty, from September 2002, to provide full-time education for children out of school. Pupil referral units are classified as schools. There is therefore a fear that there will be increased pressure on LEAs to provide for children at PRUs rather than to find the resources to fund education for these children at mainstream schools. Will the Government give an assurance that they are committed to maximising the number of children who are educated in mainstream schools?

Secondly, as the Government have today apparently announced the location of a number of accommodation centres, this seems a particularly appropriate time to talk about the children of asylum seekers. The Government are proposing as part of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill to exclude and segregate asylum seekers and their dependants from the community. Indeed, Clause 30(1) of that Bill states that asylum seekers and their children who are resident in accommodation centres,

    "shall not be treated as part of the population".

The NUT has stated that it,

    "believes that segregating asylum-seeking children from children in mainstream schools contravenes the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Asylum-seeking children are children first and asylum seekers second. Their educational rights should be vigorously protected irrespective of immigration status. Education within the confines of an accommodation centre cannot equal the range of provision within a school or education authority".

The Government's education proposals seriously undermine asylum-seeking children's right to a decent education by segregating them from other children in mainstream schools. Children in mainstream schools are the key to the rapid rehabilitation of asylum-seeking children, many of whom will be traumatised by their experience of feeling persecuted or suffering torture. Although issues in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill will clearly have to wait until the Bill reaches your Lordships' House, the Government may wish to feel the current strength of feeling about the proposals. I am very interested to discover the attitude of the rather few noble Lords in the Chamber at the moment to the status of asylum-seeking children. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: We would like the concept of admission in the amendment to be further explained. As for the specific issue of asylum seekers, although the issue is certainly raised in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, it is not, as I understand it, raised in this Bill. However, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness, Lady David, that it is quite shocking that we are not seeking to integrate these people into our school system. Their appeals may be pending, but many of them will be staying on in this country. It is vital that, for the time that they are in this country, we

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make them welcome and treat them in exactly the same way as we treat our own citizens. We should do our best to integrate them happily into our society. I thoroughly agree with the remarks made by the noble Baroness.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I am grateful to my noble friend Lady David for referring to locality issues. We recognise the need for children to be educated in a locality that suits them. However, we also recognise that that is not necessarily within the local education authority area. Parents often live in one local education authority area but have a preference for a school in another area, and sometimes even for the nearest school which may be in a neighbouring authority's area. Therefore, applications to a local education authority's schools from parents living outside that area must be considered alongside those of parents living within that area. As the Committee will be aware, that is particularly the case in areas such as London.

I accept what my noble friend is saying about the need to ensure that children can be educated in mainstream education and to make sure that children who are excluded from school, for example, continue to be educated properly. We are pleased to have a commitment to ensure that from September 2002 all children excluded from school permanently will receive full-time education. That will either be in pupil referral units or in other schools.

The issue of asylum children is not included in the Bill but is an area that we have to examine carefully. As that is not an area of legislation with which I am dealing, I am reluctant to go into the detail of that. However, I shall make a couple of general remarks. We need to ensure that children receive education within a system that makes sense. We shall seek to ensure that children who arrive in this country are able to receive education, bearing in mind the circumstances in which they arrive and their own particular needs. Within the Department for Education and Skills we are looking closely at how we take that forward. However, as I say, I do not wish to discuss the detail of the relevant legislation as I cannot give the Committee an accurate picture.

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