Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am fascinated by what the noble Baroness said; it is almost diametrically opposed to what Don Foster said in another place about the amendments. He welcomed the more positive request to the Government.

23 Jul 2002 : Column 248

I shall tell the House what "have regard" means in law. It simply means that the Government must think about the desirability or benefit, but they can then discard. The only challenge to that is procedural and does not involve the merits of the decision. The Government are entirely free to take the decision. They can have all sorts of wonderful thoughts about taking the burdens off teachers but they can continue to send down legislation so long as they can prove en passant that they thought about it.

I shall give an example of what will happen to schools. We have just considered clauses about companies, which will no doubt be considered in another place. We have the support of the Liberal Democrats on those clauses. The Minister said that she expected very few schools to take advantage of the opportunity to set up a company. However, every school in the land will receive regulations, guidance and guidelines about setting up companies; they will have to have that information just in case they are one of the very few schools that may consider doing so. However tiny the school and however preoccupied it is, it will receive all of that information.

The noble Baroness said—if she is convinced by this argument, I wonder about the Ministers in the department—that the advice of parliamentary counsel is that the Government could not, in legal terms, live with the requirement or duty to limit legislation. First, the Government do not have to pass regulations. They can merge some regulations and make more sense of them. In fact, they can decide not to send down the regulations at all; they can take a different view. The record books are littered with occasions on which governments have not followed through with regulations because they were overtaken, because the government took a different view or because there were representations from teachers who said that the provisions were no longer relevant. It is possible in law to limit regulations. If the Minister is prepared to accept that, I am surprised that they do not assert themselves more positively in the department.

Lord Dearing: My Lords, I welcome the Government's response at Third Reading in this place and in the other House. I recall that at Third Reading, when commenting on an amendment proposed by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, said,

    "I wish to make clear that the Government wholeheartedly support the spirit of the amendment".—[Official Report, 3/7/02; col. 259.]

That is an important statement and I said at the time that I thought that perhaps the greatest contribution that the Government could make to lifting the standards of education in schools was to contain the excess of paper flowing into schools. As a practical administrator, what matters above all is the intent of the Government. We have had evidence—I refer to the figures given by the Minister—that the Government have been reducing the flow of paper. However, some of the paper—a large element of it—is advisory and supportive rather than mandatory and interfering. I welcome that, too.

23 Jul 2002 : Column 249

I recognise and share the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I read her words carefully. I was not sure that they were not open to quite wide interpretation. The words "control" and "limit" are not very specific.

I come back to my original point that this arrangement depends on the intention of the Government. I welcome the Government's response to the debate because, in advancing the amendments, they showed their awareness that, in addition to what has been said in the House, they needed an affirmation in the Bill about the intention in this regard. In subsection (1) of the new clause, they have provided a spur to their intent against which they can be held accountable.

I have two questions for the Minister. In the annual statement, which I believe will still come forward, does the word "document" include "regulations"? Although new subsection (1) does not refer to regulations, for reasons that I now understand, it is relevant to know the extent to which the Government have been using their regulatory power. My second small clarification arises from the debate in the other place. Does "document" include electronic mail, so that there will be a comprehensive rather than a limited statement? Subject to that, I support the Government's proposals.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, if I may, I shall respond immediately to the two questions of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing. We do not generally send regulations to schools but if they are included in a circular, the noble Lord was absolutely right to suggest that they would be included. He also asked about electronic communications. As yet, we do not generally e-mail schools. If we start to do so, we will of course include that in any annual report.

I am absolutely convinced, although it may not feel like that at times, that we are all of the same mind in sharing the fundamental aim of seeking to improve the communications that go to schools and not to place unnecessary burdens on them. Earlier, I described the progress that we have made in so doing. I hope that noble Lords accept our good intentions, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said.

I also hope that noble Lords recognise that the issue of workload in schools cannot be solved by primary legislation alone. Amendments Nos. 14BA to 14BF are a balanced response to the issue of what can sensibly be achieved in this area through primary legislation.

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, who pushed and prodded us to the point that we have reached. We all believe that the most important thing is that schools get the right information at the right time and that it is easy for schools to use it.

To reiterate, a degree of regulation is necessary to ensure that essential safeguards are in place. However, we are committed through the Bill to using the regulation-making powers in the Bill to reduce prescription and burdens on schools by repealing existing prescriptive primary legislation. We are

23 Jul 2002 : Column 250

committed to ensuring that regulations are fit for their purpose, of good quality and are sensibly targeted. I accept, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said, that many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in particular, will be vigilant in watching to ensure that we achieve that.

I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that I take the words of parliamentary counsel very seriously but that I have never been accused of being under-assertive, if that is the right phrase, in the department. My colleagues may rib me considerably about that later!

Our amendments are a good way forward and they build on what is in place. I understand what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, seeks to do. I want to capture the spirit of her amendment but to avoid the possible negative impact. The amendments will ensure that the Secretary of State will take account of the need to avoid excessive burdens and of the professionalism of teachers. Noble Lords will watch carefully over us to ensure that that is precisely what we do.

6.29 p.m.

On Question, Whether the Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 208; Not-Contents, 127.

Division No. 3


Acton, L.
Addington, L.
Ahmed, L.
Alderdice, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B.
Ampthill, L.
Andrews, B.
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Ashton of Upholland, B.
Avebury, L.
Bach, L.
Barker, B.
Barnett, L.
Bassam of Brighton, L.
Berkeley, L.
Bernstein of Craigweil, L.
Billingham, B.
Blackstone, B.
Bledisloe, V.
Boothroyd, B.
Borrie, L.
Boston of Faversham, L.
Bragg, L.
Brennan, L.
Brett, L.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Campbell-Savours, L.
Carter, L.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clement-Jones, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Cohen of Pimlico, B.
Corbett of Castle Vale, L.
Crawley, B.
Currie of Marylebone, L.
Darcy de Knayth, B.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Dearing, L.
Desai, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Dubs, L.
Eatwell, L.
Elder, L.
Evans of Parkside, L.
Evans of Temple Guiting, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Falconer of Thoroton, L.
Falkender, B.
Falkland, V.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Faulkner of Worcester, L.
Fearn, L.
Filkin, L.
Fitt, L.
Fyfe of Fairfield, L.
Gale, B.
Gibson of Market Rasen, B.
Gilbert, L.
Gladwin of Clee, L.
Golding, B.
Goldsmith, L.
Goodhart, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Gould of Potternewton, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Greaves, L.
Grenfell, L.
Grocott, L. [Teller]
Hamwee, B.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Harris of Richmond, B.
Harrison, L.
Haskel, L.
Haskins, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Hooson, L.
Howells of St. Davids, B.
Howie of Troon, L.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Chesterton, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Islwyn, L.
Jay of Paddington, B.
Jones, L.
Judd, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Layard, L.
Lea of Crondall, L.
Linklater of Butterstone, B.
Lipsey, L.
Listowel, E.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Ludford, B.
McCarthy, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L. [Teller]
McIntosh of Hudnall, B.
MacKenzie of Culkein, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
Maclennan of Rogart, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mason of Barnsley, L.
Massey of Darwen, B.
Merlyn-Rees, L.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Mishcon, L.
Mitchell, L.
Morgan, L.
Morris of Aberavon, L.
Morris of Manchester, L.
Moser, L.
Nicol, B.
Northover, B.
Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay, L.
Orme, L.
Ouseley, L.
Parekh, L.
Patel of Blackburn, L.
Pendry, L.
Perry of Walton, L.
Peston, L.
Phillips of Sudbury, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Prashar, B.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Radice, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Razzall, L.
Rea, L.
Redesdale, L.
Rendell of Babergh, B.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Richard, L.
Richardson of Calow, B.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Rooker, L.
Roper, L.
Russell, E.
Russell-Johnston, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
St. John of Bletso, L.
Sandberg, L.
Scotland of Asthal, B.
Scott of Needham Market, B.
Serota, B.
Sewel, L.
Sharman, L.
Sharp of Guildford, B.
Sheldon, L.
Shutt of Greetland, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Smith of Clifton, L.
Smith of Gilmorehill, B.
Smith of Leigh, L.
Stone of Blackheath, L.
Strabolgi, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Temple-Morris, L.
Tenby, V.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Thornton, B.
Tomlinson, L.
Tope, L.
Turnberg, L.
Turner of Camden, B.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Walmsley, B.
Warnock, B.
Warwick of Undercliffe, B.
Watson of Richmond, L.
Weatherill, L.
Whitaker, B.
Wigoder, L.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L. (Lord Privy Seal)
Williamson of Horton, L.
Winston, L.
Woolmer of Leeds, L.


Aberdare, L.
Anelay of St Johns, B.
Arran, E.
Astor, V.
Astor of Hever, L.
Attlee, E.
Biffen, L.
Blackwell, L.
Blaker, L.
Blatch, B.
Boardman, L.
Bowness, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L.
Bridgeman, V.
Brigstocke, B.
Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L.
Burnham, L.
Byford, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L.
Carlisle of Bucklow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Carrington, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L. [Teller]
Cox, B.
Crathorne, L.
Crickhowell, L.
Cumberlege, B.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Denham, L.
Dundee, E.
Eccles of Moulton, B.
Elles, B.
Elliott of Morpeth, L.
Elton, L.
Erroll, E.
Feldman, L.
Ferrers, E.
Flather, B.
Fookes, B.
Forsyth of Drumlean, L.
Fowler, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L.
Freeman, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gilmour of Craigmillar, L.
Glentoran, L.
Goschen, V.
Gray of Contin, L.
Griffiths of Fforestfach, L.
Hanham, B.
Harris of High Cross, L.
Hayhoe, L.
Henley, L.
Higgins, L.
Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, L.
Howe of Aberavon, L.
Howell of Guildford, L.
Hunt of Wirral, L.
Hurd of Westwell, L.
James of Holland Park, B.
Jellicoe, E.
Jopling, L.
Kilclooney, L.
King of Bridgwater, L.
Kingsland, L.
Knight of Collingtree, B.
Laing of Dunphail, L.
Lamont of Lerwick, L.
Lane of Horsell, L.
Lang of Monkton, L.
Lindsay, E.
Liverpool, E.
Lucas, L.
Lyell, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L.
MacGregor of Pulham Market, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Mancroft, L.
Mayhew of Twysden, L.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Montagu of Beaulieu, L.
Montrose, D.
Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Naseby, L.
Noakes, B.
Norton of Louth, L.
O'Cathain, B.
Onslow, E.
Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Palmer, L.
Park of Monmouth, B.
Parkinson, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Perry of Southwark, B.
Pilkington of Oxenford, L.
Platt of Writtle, B.
Rawlings, B.
Rees, L.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Renton, L.
Roberts of Conwy, L.
Rogan, L.
Rotherwick, L.
St John of Fawsley, L.
Seccombe, B. [Teller]
Sharples, B.
Shaw of Northstead, L.
Skelmersdale, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Stodart of Leaston, L.
Strathclyde, L.
Tebbit, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Trumpington, B.
Tugendhat, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Wade of Chorlton, L.
Wilcox, B.
Willoughby de Broke, L.
Wolfson, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.

23 Jul 2002 : Column 252

6.40 p.m.


14BBIn subsection (4), after "Wales" insert—
"(a) otherwise than in the exercise of functions, relating to education, or
14BCin subsection (5), after first "Wales" insert "and falling within subsection (2)(a)(i) or (ii) or (3)(a) or (b)"

23 Jul 2002 : Column 253

14BDIn subsection (6), after "Wales" insert "and falling within subsection (2)(a)(i) or (ii)or (3)(a) or (b)"
14BEIn subsection (6), leave out "the advice" and insert "any advice"

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I beg to move Amendments Nos. 14BB to 14BE, as amendments to Amendment No. 14B.

Moved, That Amendments Nos. 14BB to 14BE, as amendments to Amendment No. 14B, be agreed to.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page