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Lord Hylton: My Lords, I have a good deal of sympathy with what has been said by the noble

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Baroness, Lady Sharp, and the noble Lord, Lord Elton. However, I am slightly comforted by a letter that I received today from the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton of Upholland. It says that,

    "consultation with the school will be a crucial part of the process".

The process in this case means the process before a fixed penalty is imposed.

Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, if we are going to have different actions in different schools, how will Ofsted measure whether a school is using all the powers available? How will we know from one school to another whether the powers have had any impact? We will have an uneven playing field.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I listened with great care to everything that the noble Baroness said. It did not differ one jot from what we explored in Committee. All the powerful arguments that the noble Baroness made today she made on the previous occasion. She knows, therefore, all the arguments that I will employ to refute hers.

None of the arguments bears repetition because the noble Baroness has had the advantage of hearing them already. I should, I suppose, say succinctly that our point is that all of the powers will be exercised on a voluntary basis. It is not compulsory. Secondly, I refute the suggestion that head teachers will be forced to do it and that pressure will be put on them. "Pressure from whom?", I ask myself. Head teachers will be able to make decisions about whether the power has utility for them in the exercise of their duties to the parents and children whom they are entrusted to serve.

Paragraph 65 of the guidance says that LEAs must not seek to delegate responsibility to schools or police. Paragraph 68 makes it clear that the school governing body must agree, before the provisions apply. There is clarity about whether the school can or will have the opportunity to say "no", if it so wishes. The noble Baroness said that the provisions were barmy. That view is not shared by many of the head teachers to whom my noble friend Lady Ashton of Upholland has had the privilege to speak. Many of those head teachers would like the opportunity to make decisions for themselves.

Some head teachers are in the privileged position of having a student body and parents who will never give them cause to exercise the powers. Other head teachers are not in such a luxurious position. Local codes of conduct will reflect local circumstances, and schools can issue fixed penalty notices only within the parameters of the code. To deal with the noble Baroness's point, I must say that Ofsted will be aware of that when assessing a school's performance. The parameters are clear.

We have a choice. Do we think—as the Government think—that teachers can and should be entrusted with the ability, to be exercised if they choose, or do we think that they should not be so entrusted, perhaps because they do not have the ability or discretion to do

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so? We think that we can trust our teachers and that they will only exercise the power judiciously. It is right to allow them to do so.

I will not repeat everything that I said in Committee. I will take it as read into the record.

Lord Elton: My Lords, I am sorry to make a habit of it, but the Companion permits a short elucidatory question. The Minister said that the guidance said that local authorities may not delegate the power to collect. In new Section 444B(1)(f), we read that the regulations may make provision as to,

    "the persons who may be authorised by a local education authority to give penalty notices".

What is the difference?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, they cannot delegate their responsibilities as local education authorities to teachers, schools or police. The idea, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, was that somehow local authorities would simply foist their responsibility for discharging the duty onto others. What I was trying to make clear is that they cannot do so. The guidance makes it clear that they cannot do so. Unless and until the governing body of the school accepts, with the head teacher, and agrees that that should be done, it would be impossible for a local education authority to do so.

The important point is that if the school, the governing body and the local education authority agree that this is an appropriate thing to be entrusted to the school, they will do it. If they do not, they will not. There will be local education authorities, which, knowing their schools and knowing their head teachers, may prefer to keep the determining power to themselves, with the agreement of their schools and governing bodies.

However, there will be other local authorities where the schools, through the head teacher, the governing body and the LEA agree that this will inure to the advantage of their school and their children, and choose to invest that power in this way. These provisions would deny those schools that have a hunger for the opportunity to have this power available to them—only as a back-stop, only there in the background, only probably to be used in extremis. None the less, it would be a useful backstop. Many schools would wish to have that privilege. These amendments would deprive them of that opportunity. We do not think that that is right.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I am sorry she felt that I put forward the same old arguments as I did on a previous occasion; I thought that I had made one or two new points for her. I raised them because there is real concern among teachers. It is not a matter of trust; it is not a matter of not being trusted. It is a matter of what are the appropriate responsibilities to put on head teachers on this occasion. Many head teachers do

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not think that this is an appropriate responsibility to be put on their shoulders. They do not want that responsibility.

I accept therefore that it will be a matter of whether there is agreement. As the Minister indicated, it will be an agreement between the schools, the governing body and the local education authority. Quite rightly, it will be a provision in the Bill that is honoured in the breach rather than being used. Extremely few head teachers will want to take up and use the responsibility. That may well be the case.

It is unfortunate. We have seen a similar situation in other legislation that has gone through, such as curfew orders and so forth, which have not been used widely. In terms of legislation, it clogs up the time of the House and it brings the law into disrepute if we pass laws that are honoured only in the breach. However, the Minister wants to see it on the face of the Bill, but I am not convinced by the arguments produced. I shall think about the matter further. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 41 to 44 not moved.]

Clause 25 [Parenting contracts in respect of criminal conduct and anti-social behaviour]:

[Amendment No. 45 not moved.]

Clause 26 [Parenting orders in respect of criminal conduct and anti-social behaviour]:

[Amendment No. 46 not moved.]

Clause 29 [Interpretation and consequential amendment]:

[Amendment No. 47 not moved.]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal moved Amendment No. 48:

    Page 25, line 35, at end insert—

""guardian" has the same meaning as in the Children and Young Persons Act 1933 (c. 12),"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 30 [Dispersal of groups and removal of persons under 16 to their place of residence]:

Baroness Walmsley moved Amendment No. 49:

    Page 26, line 12, leave out "presence or"

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 49, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 51, 52 and 54. Amendments Nos. 49 and 51 are linked in that they both seek to remove from the Bill the liability to be dispersed for something other than actual bad behaviour; that is, simply being somewhere, in the case of Amendment No. 49, or someone thinking that a person might do something, in the case of Amendment No. 51.

The Minister has made it clear that the Bill does not apply just to young people. I accept that absolutely. However, young people think that it is aimed at them. Indeed, they fear that it does and they are very angry.

Last night I attended a lobby of young people in Portcullis House. Their main message was that young people are not all criminals and up to no good and they

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become angry when they appear to be so labelled. They are concerned that, simply because they have nowhere else to go and hang out with their friends, and nothing else constructive to do in many areas, it will be assumed that they are planning to misbehave when they gather together in public places. They understand, as one very impressive young woman called Lucy put it, that they are seen as an alien species by some of our generation. They would prefer to be understood, but they accept that often they are misunderstood.

They prefer the approach outlined by the Minister in Committee, where she described how the local authority in Harrow has handled this issue—by talking to young people and solving their problems. I could give the noble Baroness many other examples of how local authorities have dealt with this kind of problem, by getting to the root of it and finding solutions, but I shall not weary noble Lords, they will be pleased to hear, with such a litany. We have all come across examples of best practice in this area. If local authorities can find solutions without recourse to the draconian powers set out in this Bill, why do we need them?

Where there has been actual bad behaviour, I believe that the Government and the police have several remedies at their disposal; they just need to use them. It cannot be right to disperse people from an area where there has been anti-social behaviour even when there is no link between them and the problem behaviour itself. The nuisance may have been committed in the past by an entirely different group of people. Of course authorities need the power to deal with groups that terrorise neighbourhoods, but I believe that they already have such powers, and should use them. This Bill would allow the police to disperse groups of people from an area simply for being there, or if others think that they might cause a problem. That cannot be right in a free society.

I turn to the safety of young people. The House will be well aware that many young people are the victims of crime, albeit that some are the perpetrators. These law-abiding young people, some of whom spoke to me last night, are concerned that when they gather together in groups, where they feel comfortable and safe, they will be in danger of being labelled as troublemakers and be moved on. Not only does this make them feel angry and alienated, it undermines any confidence those young people might have that the justice system is also there to help and protect them, rather than simply to demonise them.

We must not criminalise the normal behaviour of young people. The dispersal power is a shallow and ineffective idea. It will simply move the problem somewhere else, without getting to the root of the cause of the gathering and finding a constructive solution. It is like giving an Aspirin to someone who complains of a headache rather than arranging a scan to find out whether they have a brain tumour, then operating to remove it. I expected better of this Government, who say that they are on the side of young people and respect their rights. I do not believe that these measures are consistent with the rights of

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young people under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are signatories, and they certainly do not meet the spirit of that convention.

I turn now to Amendments Nos. 52 and 54, which concern informing social services if a child is taken home by a police officer within the designated hours. The Green Paper, Every Child Matters, rightly talks about multi-agency working and common databases to assist in this type of work. Those who are concerned about children support absolutely that approach and have great hopes of the Government's consultation exercise on these matters. The Minister has said much recently about the benefits of multi-agency working during the course of this and other Bills.

While we are waiting for the measures which we hope will emerge from Every Child Matters, it would not be a bad thing, while we are passing this legislation, to insert into it an obligation for the police at least to inform the social services, not only if they have grounds for believing that the child is likely to suffer harm if removed to his or her home, which is what is sought by Amendment No. 54, but every time a child is taken home in the middle of the night, which is what is sought in Amendment No. 52. We must have joined-up action in these cases.

If any child below the age of 16 is roaming the streets unsupervised at two o'clock in the morning, he could be a child at risk. His or her education will suffer and there would have to be profound doubts about the level of control being exercised by the parents. Those parents may need some help and support in bringing up that child. We believe that social services are the most appropriate first port of call for that help and support. In such a case, it is hoped that social services professionals would inform the child's school. It would also be helpful for teachers to know why the child is falling asleep in the classroom the next morning.

I hope, therefore, that the Government will look kindly on these two amendments since they are clearly in line with the ethos set out in the Green Paper. I beg to move.

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