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The noble Baroness said: The education system in this country is not over-generously resourced and it is a pity that the value of any land that is not needed for one educational purpose should not be put to another educational purpose. In fact, the land itself could well be used for a different educational purpose if no longer needed for a school because of falling rolls.
Let me give two examples. The new children's centres will need a large amount of land and large buildings if all the different services are to be drawn together in one place. Schools are usually built in the centre of communities, which are exactly the sort of places where you would want to have children's centres.
Another example is further education colleges. An awful lot of them are in a terrible state. They need rebuilding; we need modern buildings for a modern further education system. Either the land itself or the proceeds from the sale of the land could very well be deployed in strengthening that part of our tertiary system.
I have tabled the amendment to probe the Government's feelings about these issues. The Government certainly have a lot of ideas about children's centres. Where will they get the premises? Where will they get the land? Where will they get the money? This is an opportunity to address those matters. I beg to move.
Lord Filkin: I broadly support the thrust of the noble Baroness's agenda. However, I will explain why I think that the amendment is not necessary and would perhaps frustrate what she seeks to achieve, although I recognise it is a probing amendment.
The purpose of the amendments that we are proposing to Schedule 22 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 is to ensure proper protection for local authority land transferred to the trustees of foundation schools. The amendments reinforce
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existing protection for such land so as to enable the Secretary of State to ensure that, in the event that it is no longer required for the purposes of the school which it was originally transferred to, any proceeds of sale may be retained for public benefit.
The Bill gives the Secretary of State the flexibility to determine to what use such proceeds of sale might be put. He might direct, for example, that they be paid to the local authority, retained by the school for other purposes, or made available to the governors or trustees of a different school.
Where the trustees of a foundation school sought the Secretary of State's consent to dispose of land, they would submit details of the proposed disposal and how they intended to use any sale proceeds. The Secretary of State will consider each on its merits. It would first need to be considered by the independent School Playing Fields Advisory Panel, which would recommend to the Secretary of State whether consent should be given. When consenting to the disposal, the Secretary of State generally insists that any proceeds are used for capital purposes.
The amendment seeks to ensure that any proceeds of sale would be retained for educational purposes. I understand the objective, and while I do not object to the spirit of the amendment, I point out that the purposes of a school may extend beyond purely educational ones. The Government are committed to promoting and developing schools which provide a comprehensive range of services for pupils, their families and the wider community. These services might include childcare and health services, which go beyond what may be defined as "educational purposes" in statute.
I am delighted that schools and local authorities are embracing the extended schools agenda enthusiastically. Against that background, we would not want to prevent schools reinvesting the proceeds of sale from surplus land in other, non-educational activities benefiting pupils, their families and the wider community. But of course, they would have to meet the test on this amendment and the previous one.
Baroness Walmsley: I thank the Minister for his reply. Neither would I want to prevent schools using those resources for the sort of purposes that he outlined. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
"(2) In sub-paragraph (1)
(a) at the beginning insert "Subject to sub-paragraph (2A),", and
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(b) in paragraph (a), after "enactment)" insert "under paragraph 5(4B)(c) of this Schedule"."
Page 140, line 25, at end insert
"(aa) where the trustees have power to use the land for the purposes of another foundation or foundation special school or for the purposes of a voluntary school, direct the trustees to exercise that power in such manner as he may specify;"
The noble Baroness said: I will be brief in moving this amendment because I fear that any answers could be quite technical. Although we are happy to support any measures designed to crack down on abuse and unnecessary loss of public funds, every care must be taken when dealing with such personal information that it does not pass into the wrong hands.
The Government's record on administering large IT-based contracts is not good. Therefore, we need all the assurances that the Minister can give us today that this will not end up going the same way as, for example, the passports fiasco or the Criminal Record Bureau problems. I beg to move.
Baroness Andrews: This is one of a group of amendments on data sharing in relation to education maintenance allowances and free school meals. The previous group of amendments was withdrawn and I would have given the noble Baroness a long and detailed explanation of the exact processabout who receives this information and under what conditions.
I will address the amendments, but I will briefly say in relation to EMAs that the scheme is being administered by Capita at the moment. The information has to be provided by the young people themselves. It is basic information about household earnings and so forth. The school has very little to do with the process. It has to account for the registration of the young person. We need data-sharing provisions essentially to make sure that in the best, speediest and least bureaucratic way the information provided to make a claim for EMA can be verified by the Inland Revenue or benefits people. That is a very short outline about what is happening and I will write at length to the noble Baroness so that she understands the process involved. It is complex and technical.
The answer in relation to Amendments Nos. 152CA and 152CB is particularly technical. EMAs are administered under Section 14 of the Education Act 2002. As I said, the scheme is currently administered by Capita. However, Section 17 of the 2000 Act allows
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the Secretary of State to transfer his functions in future in relation to the administration of EMA to another body. We have chosen not to rely on the use of regulations in the first instance, which is why the provision is in the Bill, but we may use them in the future, so we must have the power to do that. When I write and explain the process, which I will do with pleasure, I will explain how this particular power will be used to secure proper future administration. What the noble Baroness said about the financial accountability, privacy and security of data is extremely important and we are alert to it.
Amendment No. 152CC, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, relates to the devolved administrations. Quite simply, we have a situation in which each of the devolved administrations operates a separate EMA allowance scheme. They are all members of a cross-departmental team that includes officials from the Treasury, the Inland Revenue and the Department for Work and Pensions. They have been discussing how best to share data in a secure and effective way. They have designed what they think is the best operational process which will cover the devolved administrations by having only one nation sending data and receiving it from the Inland Revenue. Having a lead nation to do that will provide the best and most effective operational process. At the moment, because England has the largest volume of cases, the administrators of EMA in England have agreed to take on the lead nation role. Welsh and Northern Irish administrators will pass information to English administrators to be sent on to the Inland Revenue, which will return the information to the devolved administrations.
Clearly, noble Lords will find it much more helpful if I write and explain in detail how that will happen and the safeguards that are around that in terms of managing a secure process that gets the EMA where it is needed as swiftly and safely as possible.
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