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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that drug and alcohol problems in schools are very important. I do not intend to repeat everything that I said in Committee, particularly in view of the lateness of the hour. I assure the noble Baroness that we are as concerned as she is to address problems of drug and alcohol misuse. That is why we have made it crystal clear that they have no place in our schools and we have spelt out a number of new measures to tackle the problem, including supporting a policy of zero tolerance for those caught supplying drugs within the school gates.

However, we do not believe that the amendment would help achieve our aims. We know from Ofsted that schools are already complying with current guidance to have in place drug education and drug-related incident policies agreed by governors and developed in consultation with staff, parents, pupils and police. These policies should include a clear message that the school does not tolerate the possession or use of unauthorised drugs and that such incidents will be dealt with promptly and firmly. I remain convinced that existing exclusion procedures are adequate to the task of dealing with disciplinary action taken in respect of drug and alcohol incidents.

We should continue to have truly independent appeals panels. When the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was a Minister, she defended the principle of an independent appeal for parents. I support her in that view. That is one reason why I am unable to support the amendment. What appeals panels do is of

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fundamental importance, not least because the first thing that they consider is whether a pupil is guilty of the offence with which he/she is charged. Because the amendment would allow appeals only on procedural grounds, it would deny the opportunity for an appeal on the fundamental ground that the pupil was not guilty of what he was charged with. That cannot be right.

Appeals panels must be free to make their own decision in the light of all the facts of the case, taking on board government guidance. The draft revised guidance on exclusions makes it clear that we would not expect an independent appeals panel to reinstate a child excluded for the supply of an illegal drug or the severe examples of misuse of an illegal drug.

Furthermore, by using the words "disciplinary action" and making no reference to exclusions in the amendment, the noble Baroness is in danger of creating enhanced rights of appeal for particular categories of pupils in breach of a school's behaviour and discipline policies. Currently, discipline committees review only the use of exclusions within school, not other forms of disciplinary action, where there is no right of appeal. I do not think that pupils disciplined for drugs and alcohol offences should have greater rights than those disciplined for other reasons, which this amendment would create.

We have implemented a wide range of practical measures to support schools and education authorities in building pupils' social and emotional competence and improving behaviour in schools. We believe that this will have a further positive effect in reducing both drug-related incidents in school and exclusions. As noble Lords will be aware, the 66 million made available through the Budget is linked to the national strategy to tackle street crime. It also supports our long-term strategy on behaviour improvement, based on the excellent practice already in place.

In the light of all I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will agree to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, there are examples of the reinstatement of such people in our schools, which does undermine the authority of the head. I am sorry that the noble Baroness, even after my warning, used the argument of categories against my amendment. I did say that if she would like to name the categories, I would table an amendment at the next stage to include them. Violence, which she named at the previous stage, is certainly one of them. I should like to test the opinion of the House.

11.21 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 129) shall be agreed to?

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Their Lordships divided: Contents, 3; Not-Contents, 30.

Division No. 3


Blatch, B.
Miller of Hendon, B. [Teller]
Rotherwick, L. [Teller]


Acton, L.
Andrews, B.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Blackstone, B.
Carter, L.
Chandos, V.
Crawley, B.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Desai, L.
Dubs, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gale, B.
Golding, B.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
Massey of Darwen, B.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Simon, V.
Walmsley, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

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11.31 p.m.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 130:

    Before Clause 196, insert the following new clause—

( ) Notwithstanding any other provision, no public authority shall make unreasonable demands of any governing body or head teacher of any school or nursery school to seek personal information from its staff or from visitors to the school, or make any unreasonable demands of any employee of a school or any visitor to a school, or the premises where the school or nursery school is situated, in the process of conducting checks for the purposes of child protection.
( ) In making such checks a public authority or school shall only request such information as is directly relevant to assessing the risk of an offence against children or which is essential for the purposes of identifying a particular individual."

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, although this amendment was spoken to earlier, I was not allowed, under the rules, to respond. I wish to do so now. In her response, the Minister made much of List 99, but that list was never a problem for schools. It was a quick, swift and immediate check. The name and the relevant information were submitted and there was no delay in getting back information about List 99. That list has now been subsumed with all of the other checks and we now have unbelievable bureaucracy, which is causing delay. The Minister touched on delay but said very little about the real problems associated with it, or about the timescale under which the particular targets that were set out in the documents would be achieved.

The Minister gave no response whatever in regard to the personal information required—bank account numbers, sort code numbers and other specific information—and she did not explain why it was essential to have that information. Only additional information appears on the form. Some say that it is

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voluntary and is additional only to help speed up the checks, but at least some county councils state that all sections of the form have to be answered. However, the form asks for a passport, which establishes identity.

The Minister said that bank account details were necessary to establish identity. They cannot possibly be. A passport, driving licence and birth certificate are all asked for on the form and all of them will confirm identity. Will the Minister give specific reasons why it is important to have details of one's bank account number, sort code number and one's mother's maiden name? That is interesting because the mother's maiden name is given to banks by many people in this country for security purposes. What possible use can that be to the CRB?

Again, when a person has been a governor for, say, two or three terms and he lives in the village and knows the school, and when it is known that CRB checks will be carried out on that person when he becomes a governor for, say, the third, fourth of fifth time, why is it necessary to carry out the checks again when he is re-elected or reappointed? I have not received, but should like to have, satisfactory answers to those questions. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, it is important that, when we ask for a great deal of information from people who mostly have nothing whatever to declare, we restrict it to information which is absolutely necessary. I believe it is accepted that one goes through enough checks to establish one's identity when applying for a passport, and it should not be necessary for a great deal of intrusive and personal information to be included in that. One wonders what is going on when this Government wish to give all and sundry access to communications data. It seems that this is another example of the tendency to pry as closely as possible into people's lives at the slightest excuse. I believe that that should be discouraged.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I shall be brief. I believed that I had dealt with all these issues. We are, of course, discussing the protection of children. As I indicated, the Criminal Records Bureau is clear that the information requested on the application form is needed in order to establish the applicant's identity beyond doubt. Therefore, it is necessary. The information in question is highly sensitive. We need to be absolutely certain that it is not issued to the wrong person and that a person cannot obtain a disclosure by using another person's identity. Therefore, the information is requested for that purpose—a purpose that I consider to be important because of the issue with which we are dealing. That is my understanding and I am very happy to reiterate it.

I have made it clear and explained that the Criminal Records Bureau has genuine difficulties. I have not attempted to make any apologies for that beyond saying that the bureau is working as hard as it can to ensure that these processes are resolved satisfactorily so that it can do its job effectively. I do not have information on the exact timetables because I am not responsible for the Criminal Records Bureau. I shall

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be very happy to ask for that information from my colleagues and to write to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, with the details. But, as I indicated, we have put arrangements in place to ensure as far as possible that schools are able to continue with their work and are not adversely affected.

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