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Baroness Blatch: I part company with the noble Baroness on this issue. I cannot imagine any employer,

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whether in education or outside, who would not consider performance in relation to remuneration. The idea of separating one from the other is incongruous.

I can think of occasions on which an unfair interpretation is put upon performance. There should be in place a robust appeals system and an opportunity for teachers to challenge any determination that is made of his performance and subsequent related remuneration. However, I could not support the idea of dislocating a judgment of performance when determining pay awards.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: I agree entirely with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I do not recognise as a formal appraisal a heart-to-heart discussion. That is a different process.

It is important that the procedures for pay decisions are sound and fair and we want to ensure that those taking decisions about pay have access to the best possible information about a teacher's performance. Appraisal results are an obvious source of such information. There is already a requirement for a teacher's performance to have been reviewed under the terms of the school teachers' pay and conditions document before taking decisions on pay.

I am sure that the noble Baroness does not intend that when advising the governing body on recommendations for pay a head teacher should be put in a position of having to put out of his mind the contents of an appraisal statement to which he will already have had access and to draw on other less objective evidence to make a recommendation. But that would be the effect of the amendment. Decision-makers need a right of access to appraisal results in order that they have the opportunity to consider the reward of those teachers who have demonstrated sustained and high-quality performance.

I turn to Amendment No. 304. Through this clause, we are taking the opportunity to update and clarify the existing powers for the Secretary of State to make regulations for the appraisal of school teachers. The existing clause does not reflect the current management arrangements in schools and in particular we wanted to make explicit the power to make provisions for the results of appraisal to be taken into account in determining pay.

It is hard to see how it can be right for appraisals to be taken into account only when the teacher in question wishes that to occur. I would not wish to envisage a situation in which consent would be forthcoming only in the event of a glowing report or in respect of the glowing parts of the report. I therefore believe that decision makers need to have access to the full picture.

I hope that the explanation I have given will be sufficient to satisfy the noble Baroness and I hope that she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for her reply. I was interested to note her view of appraisal procedures. When I was trained in appraisal at the University of Sussex, I stressed that we should

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not use it in relation to promotion or remuneration. It was an opportunity for line management to discuss career prospects, training and so forth. The two were firmly separated. However, in some education establishments, such procedures are not run quite in that way!

It is one thing to have an appraisal between a teacher and a head teacher. The head teacher is therefore privy to the contents of the report, which is fair enough, and both know it. However, at an appointments committee consisting of a group of governors, the appraisal report is put before the other governors. They may be parent governors and even other teacher governors and it is open to those people to see the report. In proposing the amendment, I was pointing out that that puts an internal candidate at a potential disadvantage as compared with an external candidate. As regards external candidates, I understand that these days written references are open and not confidential. The reference is open and the teacher knows what is said. However, as regards appraisal procedures, it is fair that the teacher should have an opportunity to consent.

I shall not press the amendment. We need to consider it further and possibly return to the matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 304 not moved.]

Clause 127 agreed to.

7.24 p.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving the Motion, I suggest that the Committee stage begins again not before 8.25 p.m.

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

House resumed.

Regulatory Reform (Housing Assistance) (England and Wales) Order 2002

7.25 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions (Lord Falconer of Thoroton) rose to move, That the draft regulatory reform order laid before the House on 13th December 2001 be approved [19th Report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee].

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the order amends local authorities' powers to provide grants and other financial assistance to homeowners for the improvement, repair and renovation of their homes. These existing powers are discretionary but the legislation, contained principally in the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996, is highly prescriptive. It provides that assistance must be primarily in the form of grant and subject to a long list of eligibility conditions.

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The order repeals most of this prescription and replaces it with a general power, enabling local authorities to provide assistance for the purpose of improving living conditions in their area. It will therefore give local authorities much greater discretion over designing a policy for the renewal of private sector housing which addresses the needs and problems of their area. It will also enable housing policy to be linked more closely with other policy initiatives such as neighbourhood renewal.

The power will enable authorities to consider forms of financial assistance other than grant. This may be in the form of a loan, either at market rates or at preferential rates, or by taking an equity stake in the property in return for providing help with renovation. The type of package available together with any other eligibility criteria will be determined at local level to reflect local housing market conditions. The assistance may be provided directly by the local authority or with others so it will be possible for authorities to enter into partnerships with RSLs, other non-profit-making bodies or private lenders.

Authorities will also be able to provide assistance to help home owners relocate to another home where in the opinion of an authority this represents better value for money than repairing or adapting the existing dwelling.

The order also makes it easier for authorities to declare and operate renewal areas where poor housing conditions and other social problems are concentrated in a particular locality or neighbourhood. The assistance is not limited to private homeowners, so, for example, in the case of area renewal, assistance could be provided across a whole range of tenures.

The order retains some essential regulatory safeguards. In particular, it requires local authorities before offering assistance to have regard to the ability of the homeowner to make any repayments demanded as part of the package of assistance. It also requires the authority to satisfy itself that any recipient of financial assistance has received proper advice on what is being offered.

The order also provides that the new power cannot be used until local authorities have published a policy which sets out how they intend to use it. That will ensure that the policies are transparent and that under the spirit of best value they have been carefully considered, including full consultation with all interested parties.

Producing a new policy in the light of these changes will take time and the order therefore contains important transitional provisions. Local authorities can use the new power once the order has been made and they have published a policy. However, the existing grant-making provisions in the 1996 Act will remain in force for one year from the date of commencement of the order, thus giving authorities adequate time to prepare their new policies.

The legislative provisions in the 1996 Act concerning mandatory disabled facilities grant are being left largely unamended. The Government regard this grant as an important right to help disabled people to continue to

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live as independent a life as possible in their own homes. Discretionary disabled facilities grant, which is used by authorities to top up the mandatory grant, will, however, be repealed, but the new general power introduced by the order can be used for this purpose. The department will shortly be issuing guidance to local authorities on how they should develop their new policies for housing renewal in the light of the order.

This is an important and helpful order which went through all the stages of the regulatory reform process without suggestions of amendment and has wide support among housing practitioners. I commend it to the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft regulatory reform order laid before the House on 13th December 2001 be approved [19th Report from the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee].—(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

Viscount Astor: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord the Minister for bringing forward the order. There is little good news from his department but this is a small piece. We welcome the order, as do most local authorities.

It has been an extraordinary day for the Minister. Presumably, the noble and learned Lord is now the senior Minister in the department. After all, Stephen Byers has finally gone but I am afraid that the damage he has done to our roads and railways will last for years. As the noble and learned Lord knows, we have been calling for his resignation for months. Sadly, he has been a dreadful Minister, and has gravely undermined the Government's reputation for the truth. However, I wish the noble and learned Lord good luck in the reshuffle. Perhaps he will be promoted in the morning to the role of Secretary of State. Who knows? We hope that he will certainly be in his place. Perhaps the fact that he is here this evening indicates that he has finally managed to do a deal on the Dome. If he has, we look forward to him coming forward and making a Statement on that.

To return to the order, it is a good order and we welcome it. I have one brief question. Presumably the order was signed by the Secretary of State, who has now resigned. Does that mean that it is still valid? As it goes through this place, is it still a valid order? Perhaps the noble and learned Lord could answer that question. However, we shall certainly do all that we can to assist its passage through this House.

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