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I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peston. On reading all of the amendments and their grouping today, I had not realised how substantial are Amendments Nos. 30 and 31, which is on a different subject. I have only one question about Amendment No. 30, but I should like to de-couple Amendment No. 32, on which I want to make a technical, editorial comment, whereas Amendment No. 31 is different in substance.
My question concerns what use money should be put to. I question subsection (2)(b), not because I do not believe that money should be made available for childcare and that Secretaries of State should have power to make such provision, but as I understand it, childcare is childcare and provision for it should not come from the education budget.
Some forms of childcare are definitely educationalthe provision of playschools, playgroups, nursery classes, nursery schools and under-fives provision. But there is a great deal of funding for childcare which is definitely for another department. If so, the normal tradition in Whitehall is that moneys are transferred from one department to another. I do not want there to be a new obligation on the Secretary of State unless there is new money to fund it or money from the department that currently has responsibility for childcare.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I apologise to my noble friend. He began in ill-humour because of the timing of this debate. He should recognise what a difficult art form it is both in Committee and on Report to arrange precise timings to the convenience of movers of amendments. Even with the best will in the world, one can sometimes work out for exactly how long Opposition Members may speak, but the problem is always when Members speak from one's own Back Benches. The length of their speeches is much less predictable.
I recognise my noble friend's pointthe noble Baroness has followed him in it. The grouping of these amendments lent itself to a substantial debate. I think that that would have been for the convenience of the Housethat is why it was promoted. I fully recognise that, given that this debate would then have fallen athwart the dinner hour, my noble friend exercised his right to separate this amendment. That is a pity in some respects, because it detracts from the coherence of the total debate. Nevertheless, I shall address his amendment and the issues that he raised.
My noble friend will recognise that the provisions in Clauses 13 to 17 offer the Secretary of State a streamlined power to provide funding to ensure that every child can receive a high quality education. Of course, different initiatives and programmes are needed to do that in some cases. We seek to drive change across the whole education system, such as in our strategies to improve literacy and numeracyI know that my noble friend supports themreducing infant class sizes; developing diversity in secondary education; and reforming the teaching profession to increase its effectiveness. In other cases, we need to target resources to address the specific needs that children face in situations of deprivation and disadvantage. My noble friend will recognise the extent to which the Government have targeted resources in these areas. Examples include our support for children with special educational needsan issue which has cropped up repeatedly in our debates on this Billand the Excellence in Cities programme of driving up standards in the inner cities.
In all cases, however, the funding provided by the Government is aimed at a real need: to raise the standards of attainment in schools and colleges. I recognise my noble friend's valid attempt to introduce the concept of "objectivity" into this exercise. As I think he will recognise, however, all who advance the cause of education say that they seek objectively to meet the needs of children. I have no doubt at all that, despite his and my trenchant criticism of the previous administration and some of the policies they pursued, they pursued those policies on the basis of an objective assessment of the needs of the children of this nation. We simply differ. I think that that probably identifies to my noble friend the real problem with the concept of "objective" in this context.
My noble friend will recognise that his Amendment No. 30 has acted as a trigger for a fairly substantial debate on the allocation of resources. I also note his linked amendments which will give rise to general debate after dinner. As for Amendment No. 30, however, I do not believe that the Bill would be strengthened by defining how the Secretary of State ought to go about the business of allocating scarce resources.
My noble friend asked me some specific questions. "Person" is a technical term which certainly does encompass bodies. I heard what he said about the word "scholarship". He is occasionally quite disarming in making comments that indicate that he may not be entirely au fait with recent developments in education. I am not saying that learning is a recent
In reply both to my noble friend and to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, of course we recognise that everyone must pay significant attention to the issue of support and school status. The Government are clearly seeking to ensure that over a course of time resources go to children whose needs in education can be objectively defined as the greatest; hence the special programmes which are in place. Nevertheless, this is not a process that we can pursue overnight. My noble friend will recognise that we must work through legislative patterns in order to change the education system. As he will recognise, we are currently trapped in a framework within which resources are allocated on an institutional basis to which he does not fully subscribe. In some respects, that is precisely the Government's position. He will see in this Bill just how we are seeking to change those priorities and, accordingly, how we are seeking to reallocate resources.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, raised the issue of childcare funding. We shall continue to maintain the division in funding between education and childcare as she has enjoined us to do. Most childcare funding is in fact provided by the Department for Education and Skills, albeit in a separate budget, and the different budgets will remain. We therefore respect the noble Baroness's point that there needs to be a separation of budgets in childcare provision. We intend to maintain that division.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, raised a further issue on teacher training. It is implicitly understood that teachers should be trained to teach what they are employed to teach. Consequently, unless a maths teacher is also teaching singing, it is unlikely that resources would be used to teach him how to sing. As she will recognise, however, within this framework we all value the allocation of resources to enhance the qualities and professional capacities of our teaching force. It is therefore only proper that developing the capabilities of teachers is identified within the appropriate sphere of resource allocation. As we shall see in later debates, and as we have already recognised in Committee, we propose very significant provision in that regard.
I hope that my noble friend will recognise that we did not intend to begin this debate in ill humour but are trapped by the exigencies of the timetable. He has very neatly extricated us from that gap, so that I am now overrunning the normal dinner break by only 20 minutes. Although he will have established an unfortunate pattern if we begin decoupling whole groups of amendments, that privilege is open to Members of this House. He has exercised that privilege. I hope he recognises that he has addressed himself solely to Amendment No. 30. I hope, too, that I have sufficiently met his arguments for him to consider withdrawing the amendment.
Lord Peston: My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Walmsley and Lady Blatch, for their interventions and my noble friend the Minister for his very interesting reply, with most of which I agree. He may be interested to know that I am now in a less grumpy mood. I was partly in a bad mood because I blamed myself for the position we had reached. I was so busy until just before today's debate started that I had not even noticed that the two amendments were coupled. If I had not spent so much time last week on economic affairs I would have decoupled them then and we would not have had this problem today.
We have, however, had the debate that I wanted to have, and my noble friend the Minister has gone on record to say what I most wanted him to say. We still have serious problems in this sphere. As special funding for GM schools is coming to an end, and may already have ended, we shall from now on be in a position in which former GM schools continue to receive extra funding quite explicitly at the expense of other schools. It is an astonishing state of affairs for a Labour Government. Nevertheless, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, at last I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned. In moving the Motion, may I suggest that the Report stage begins again not before 8.47 p.m.