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Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 4:

"( ) After section 7 of that Act there shall be inserted—


1 (1) The Authority shall consist of—
(a) a Chairman appointed by the Secretary of State;
(b) one member nominated by each of the following organisations or group of organisations—
(i) The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons,
(ii) The Joint Nature Conservation Committee,
(iii) The Country Land and Business Association,
(iv) The National Farmers' Union of England and Wales,
(v) The Game Conservancy Trust and the British Deer Society jointly,
(vi) The Council of Hunting Associations,
(vii) The British Association for Shooting and Conservation,
(viii) The National Gamekeepers' Organisation,
(c) up to two further members appointed by the Authority,

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2 (1) Each person shall be appointed for a term of three years, but shall be eligible for reappointment.
(2) Any vacancy shall be filled by a further appointment made in accordance with paragraph 1 above.
(3) The power of the Authority to act shall not be affected by any failure by any organisation named in paragraph 1(1)(b) above to nominate a member, or by any casual vacancy in its membership.
3 (1) If at any time it appears to the Secretary of State that an organisation named in paragraph 1(1)(b) above has ceased to exist or is no longer an appropriate organisation to nominate a member of the Authority, he may by regulation made in accordance with section 2A(5) of this Act remove that organisation from paragraph 1(1)(b) above and appoint some other organisation which appears to him to be best fitted to act in lieu of the organisation so removed."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Short title and commencement]:

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 5:

    Page 2, line 16, at end insert—

"(1) This Act shall not apply to Scotland."

The noble Viscount said: The 1996 Act amended by the Bill applies to Scotland. It appears that, since then, animal welfare is now a matter for the Scottish Parliament, not for us. In the light of that guidance, the amendment was tabled to make it plain that the 1996 Act will remain the same for Scotland, which can amend it in any way it likes or leave it as it is.

I hope that this amendment is right. I am slightly surprised that the powers of government did not enlighten us on this point and that we bumped into it only lately. Unless I am told by the Minister that we have got it wrong and that we should be dealing with Scotland as well, I beg to move.

Lord Whitty: I confirm that the noble Viscount's interpretation is correct and that the amendment should therefore be passed.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Astor of Hever moved Amendment No. 6:

    Page 2, line 19, leave out "one month" and insert "12 months"

The noble Lord said: As the Bill stands, if it receives Royal Assent the Act will come into force one month after it is passed. The amendment seeks to delay enforcement of the Act until 12 months later. It is vital that sufficient time is given for the establishment of the authority. The process includes consideration of the appointment of chairman of the authority by the Secretary of State; the consideration and nomination of members of the authority by the list of organisations in Schedule 1; and the logistical and administrative aspects relating to the functioning of the authority, which could include decisions on premises, communications systems, meeting dates of the authority and so forth.

Once the authority is established, appropriate time will also be needed for it to consider all the existing bodies involved in customary and lawful activities to recognise the proper authority for each particular activity. It will also allow those bodies that do not already possess a code of conduct to produce one to cover their activities. A delay of one month before the

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enactment could result in a period of disorganisation and confusion. There is always the possibility of vexatious prosecutions taking advantage of new legislation before the authority is fully established and competent.

A proper length of time following enactment can only benefit animal welfare and the clarity of the law. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, and the Committee will be sympathetic to the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Donoughue: This is a practical and helpful suggestion and a great improvement. From my point of view, it is completely acceptable.

Lord Astor of Hever: I am grateful for the kind words of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. I commend the amendment to the Committee.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported with amendments.

Contracting Out (Local Education Authority Functions) (England) (Amendment) Order 2003

11.43 a.m.

Lord Davies of Oldham rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 11th July be approved [27th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Andrews, I beg to move that the order be approved. The order is made under provisions in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. The order amends the Contracting Out Order 2002 which noble Lords will remember debating on 28th March last year. It was the last item of business on Maundy Thursday, but that did not prevent the House having a full debate on the issues. This order is a minor extension of that.

Before the 2002 order was enacted, LEAs were restricted from contracting with any other body to deliver services that required the exercise of discretion in individual cases; for example, duties to secure school attendance for pupils not receiving suitable education. Such contracting was possible under a direction from the Secretary of State only when an LEA was not delivering on its statutory functions. LEAs did not have the option of contracting to obtain access to a wider pool of expertise or to obtain better value for money. That is why we consulted on, and then made, the 2002 order, which listed the 103 functions that an LEA may voluntarily contract out to improve its services.

It is important to note that although contractors may carry out functions on behalf of LEAs, the LEAs remain ultimately responsible and accountable for all the contracted out functions. They continue to set direction and strategy, the implementation of which must be

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reflected in their contracts. Contractors may take on functions such as consulting on and implementing local authority strategies and policies.

In consultation last year on the draft first order, most respondents welcomed the freedom and flexibilities offered by contracting out. The main order came into force on 1st April 2002 and several LEAs have since been considering exploiting the opportunities it provides. Mindful of the anxieties often expressed from the Opposition Front Bench of the untold burdens on local authorities and schools of excessive bureaucracy, we have not undertaken surveys or used other bureaucratic means to find the number of LEAs using the order. It is early days: contracting out takes time for local consultation, member agreement, and tendering and drawing up a contract which ensures the LEA's accountability is as clearly set out as the contractors' remit.

However, several LEAs have contracted out the provision of support services to schools. Many LEAs, particularly smaller ones, face problems of insufficient capacity to deliver some of their administrative functions. One LEA in particular is soon to enter into a partnership with a private provider to create a joint venture company to deliver the full range of LEA services to schools. We will be interested to see how the additional capacity to be released by the engagement of the private provider will improve services to schools.

The option of contracting out the delivery of these services allows authorities to source the best provision from a competitive market. In addition to achieving best value through partnership working, the LEA will free up resources that can be used for its core functions of strategic management and planning. We have provided guidance to LEAs on voluntary contracting out and are updating this in response to the feedback received.

This order has a simple purpose: to update the 2002 order with three new functions created or amended by the Education Act 2002. First, the order enables a local education authority to authorise a contractor to co-ordinate school admission arrangements in its area between itself and those maintained schools which are responsible for their own admissions. LEAs already have the right to contract out the administration of admissions functions if they so wish. Giving LEAs the opportunity to contract out arrangements for co-ordinated admission is a logical extension of that. The processes are similar. Only the administration may be contracted out. Decision-making will remain with the LEA. As much of the admissions process is purely administrative—for instance, sending out consultation letters and collating responses, and administering a database of applications and potential offers—we can se no reason why LEAs should not be given the opportunity to contract out these administrative functions.

Secondly, the order allows LEAs to contract out the review of the sufficiency of childcare provisions for their area and the provision of a childcare information service. Contractors could entirely run the local children's information service and carry out early years and childcare audits. We have recently published comprehensive Sure Start guidance for authorities to

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follow on their strategy and delivery of childcare. We are also providing funding of some #31 million for childcare information services.

Thirdly, the order allows an LEA to engage a contractor to gather and provide copies of the consistent financial reporting returns of maintained schools to the Secretary of State. The LEA may contract out only the administrative function, and the responsibility for the accuracy and submission on time of those returns remains with the LEA. The duties imposed by Section 44 of the Education Act 2002, and the subsequent consistent financial reporting regulations, fall on the governing bodies of maintained schools. They must submit their CFR returns to their LEA on the date it has set. The LEA then checks the returns and sends them to the Secretary of State.

That explains the three main functions in the order. It is an enabling measure and therefore does not force LEAs to contract out if they do not wish to do so. It allows local education authorities to secure better-value services for their schools and the local community. LEAs may not voluntarily contract out their most important strategic functions, and they retain responsibility and accountability for the functions that they may contract out. The order promotes partnerships between the public, private and voluntary sectors in trying out new and better ways of delivering services. It has been welcomed by the LEA sector and places no new requirements on it. We believe that it is an efficient way to proceed. The order makes three minor additions to the 103 functions already in the first order. Therefore, I commend it to the House.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 11th July be approved [27th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

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