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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, the details of the new resources will be brought before your Lordships' House at the earliest possible opportunity. The workload agreement is an integral and important part of our education policy. It is about ensuring that our teachers have time to teach and to use the support staff available to them as effectively as possible. In all circumstances where schools are reporting difficulties, we are working very closely with the National Association of Head Teachers, other teachers' unions and local education authorities to support them specifically to be able to implement this programme to ensure that we have the best possible opportunities for teaching in the classroom.

The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the die seems to be cast this year for our schools. What about next year?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, as I brought before your Lordships' House, on 17th July my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills spoke about the key priorities we have for the future. To recap briefly, we shall guarantee every school at least a minimum increase in funding. We are giving head teachers more time to plan via an amendment of the Local Government Bill

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bringing forward the date of key announcements and reversing the planned cuts in the Standards Fund providing more than 400 million in 2004–05 and 2005–06. As I said, I shall give details to your Lordships' House at the earliest possible opportunity.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, does the Minister agree that her Answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, ignored the fact that the Question concerns the difficulties which schools face this year? There is enormous complacency on the part of the department, which is ignoring the hardship and some of the ways in which teachers and head teachers are having to make the best of a very difficult job. The Minister went on to refer to next year. I believe that a great deal of support is needed here and now.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness; it is important to support schools this year. In my Answer I referred to the fact that we are working closely with our partners in education—education authorities, teachers' unions and so forth—to establish the current position and to ensure that we have support. We took action as soon as we realised the situation in giving an extra 28 million for those local education authorities with the lowest overall increases; an extra 11 million in London to help with London allowances; allowing more flexibility in the use of capital expenditure and in working closely with education authorities to ensure that as much money goes into schools budgets as makes sense. Also, we have worked with our partners in the LSC to ensure flexibility in terms of sixth-form education and that, where appropriate, licensed deficits could be allowed.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords, is the Minister aware that despite the priority given by the Government to physical activity in schools, due to the current funding problems many schools are cutting swimming lessons for primary school children, for example, which I believe are very important, and that that is on top of losing teaching staff?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, on previous occasions in your Lordships' House we have discussed the amount of money the Government are putting into sport and PE. We have a commitment that we want 75 per cent of pupils to have the opportunity to have two hours of physical activity per week. Our commitment to ensuring that our primary school children have the opportunity to learn to swim is part and parcel of our education delivery plans. I should be interested if the noble Baroness has details, but it is important that schools are able, within the current framework, to ensure that children have these opportunities.

Lord Elton: My Lords, the Minister said that schools are authorised to go into deficit. What account is taken of the necessity of getting out of that deficit in the future and offsetting this year's overspend with next year's shortfall?

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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I was careful to talk about the circumstances. If a school were to go into deficit, it is very important that that has been established between the education authority and the school and is appropriate, and of course that a plan is in place to ensure that the school is able to get out of deficit. My right honourable friend will of course examine all these instances in the future, but, in general, our policy is that where that has been allowed, a plan to ensure that it does not continue must be part and parcel of what the schools do.

Criminal Records Bureau: Disclosure Checks

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept that the documentation required by the Criminal Records Bureau for the purpose of standard and enhanced disclosure checks is suitable for purpose.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, it is essential to have in place robust arrangements for checks to ensure so far as is practicable that people are not able to obtain a clean disclosure through falsely using another person's identity and that information is not revealed inadvertently to the wrong person. The CRB has therefore carefully developed arrangements for checks to authenticate the identity of disclosure applicants using documentary evidence of different types. These appear to be serving the required purpose, but are kept under regular review in the light of experience.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for the Answer. I admit that I am subject to a standard disclosure clearance at the moment. I have to say that the experience I am having—I hope the noble Baroness would agree—simply shows that other people are right in their views that the CRB is something of a shambles at the moment.

My specific question to the noble Baroness is: when asked for a photo-identity card, why was my House of Lords security pass unacceptable to the CRB?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I say straightaway that the noble Baroness will be reassured that Members of this House are still treated as ordinary members of the community and are subject to the same rules. At the moment, I regret to tell your Lordships that, perhaps because of the relatively small numbers who attend this House, the pass which enables one to get into this House is not included in the authorised list for disclosure.

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I can also reassure the noble Baroness that her application was treated with great expedition and care—and accuracy because of course the document produced was not within the rules.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I applied in June; I am still waiting for clearance. If that is expeditious, I wonder what taking a long time would be?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I make absolutely clear that it is of critical importance for those who apply to the CRB to comply with the rules and to fill in the form appropriately. I regret to tell the noble Baroness that her application form was not so completed.

Since the noble Baroness wishes to have an answer, I am happy to give one. The application was initiated by telephone on 21st July; the form was countersigned by the registered body on 18th August; the form was received by the CRB and immediately returned to the Department for Education and Skills because of insufficient identity validation on 20th August; the noble Baroness was then written to on 4th September; and the DfES wrote to the CRB on 8th September. It was received on 11th September asking whether the House of Lords pass was an acceptable identity document and for a reply by 19th September. A reply will be sent.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I wonder whether those exchanges will suffice to establish for the authorities that my noble friend is who she says she is.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am sure that one would want verification, but we would all be happy to verify that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, is the noble Baroness. I am sure DNA would not be necessary.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as a trustee of Age Concern Surrey, I, too, have had to go through the CRB procedures. I was somewhat surprised to discover that I had to produce my passport, my birth certificate, my marriage certificate, my driving licence and a utility bill addressed to me. That proved to be the most difficult since unfortunately our utility bills are addressed to my husband.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very happy with the recitation given by the noble Baroness because she will know that the information provided by the CRB is of critical importance. It is the information upon which we rely to keep our children and those who are vulnerable safe. It is absolutely necessary that we have the best quality identification material available to make that verification possible.

The Lord Bishop of Worcester: My Lords, will the Minister say something about a serious aspect of a piece of work that most of us regard as extremely important? Certainly, in the Churches we have every reason to think that the CRB is doing something

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extremely important for us all. I am increasingly concerned at the amount of staff time and particularly at the effect of the quite sudden and very large increase in charges made by the CRB on the work not only of Churches, but in particular of small charities. Are the Government keeping any kind of check on the effect of this admittedly extremely important piece of work on the other work of charities and Churches, because it is becoming a very serious matter?

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