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Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 132:

"section (Admission arrangements to make special provision for looked-after children) (admission arrangements to make special provision for looked-after children);"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 19 [Repeals]:

Lord Filkin moved Amendment No. 133:

"Parliamentary CommissionerAct 1967 (c. 13)In Schedule 4, the entrybeginning "RegisteredInspectors of Schools AppealTribunals"."

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 121 [Commencement]:

Lord Hanningfield moved Amendment No. 134:

"( ) The following provisions may only come into force after the regulations have been laid before and approved by both Houses of Parliament—
(a) section 98, and
(b) Schedule 16."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment is as clear as it is important. The changes to the funding system as proposed under Clause 68 amount to a complex piece of legislation. As mentioned in Committee, we on these Benches welcome in principle the idea of a three-year funding cycle, yet we have a number of continuing concerns not only about the Government's proposals under the clause but about the way in which they have gone about implementing them.

As stated in Committee, much of what the Government intend to introduce will be implemented at a later date through regulations and guidance. We have been given the green light to these proposals with scant knowledge of their details or how they will operate in practice. The consultation on three-year education budgets, for example, was published only last week.

Indeed, the decision to move to two or three-year ring-fenced budgets was taken without consultation with local government and without the outcome of the ODPM's own consultation, as stated by the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, earlier. It will mean that school funding will be placed on a completely different footing to other local authority government services.

Given the importance of the funding issue and the desire of the Committee to get it right, it is therefore imperative that the Bill and any subsequent regulations
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or guidance relating to the future of schools' funding receives proper parliamentary scrutiny and is not rushed through in undue haste.

Amendment No. 134 would therefore ensure that future regulations which would bring in Clause 98 and the reformed funding system must first be debated by Parliament. This, we believe, is a sensible and rational approach designed to ensure that the proposals are properly scrutinised and vetted and that we do not have a repeat of the funding fiasco of two years ago when new funding was hastily rushed in with almost predictable consequences. I believe that even this year there have been funding problems—Buckinghamshire got Bromley's amount and another authority got someone else's amount. However good modern technology and however good our intentions, funding 20,000 schools in a new way could be difficult and complex and could go terribly wrong. We therefore believe that the Government must put much thought and effort into the implementation. I beg to move.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I understand and agree with the interest in the detail of the regulations and the importance of getting them right. However, the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, will not be surprised to hear that I do not believe that the amendment is necessary or appropriate, although the fulfilment of his concerns is. I am told that on the Buckinghamshire/Bromley issue, the money was capital and I am sure that that makes a great deal of difference to the noble Lord. I was also thinking, "I bet that the one which got more kept quiet but the other one didn't". Let me not be flippant.

The regulation-making powers in the Bill were set out in our memorandum to the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee and the committee agreed that they were proportionate. It did not suggest that affirmative resolution was necessary in relation to Schedule 16 powers.

The Government have also made it very clear how they propose to use the new powers for schools forums. Our intentions were set out fully in the memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, in the notes on clauses and during the debate at Committee stage. The regulations will not be complex. They will simply give effect to those proposals—that is, that forums should in future be able to agree to proposals from the LEAs to vary the detailed operation of the minimum funding guarantee or to exceed the limit on central expenditure to reflect local circumstances. Where it is not possible to reach a local consensus, the LEA may ask the Secretary of State for a decision.

In relation to three-year and academic-year budgets, the Government have now published a detailed consultation paper setting out how we propose that the new arrangements should work. Copies were sent to
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Front Benchers and also to the House Library. Although the detail is still subject to the outcome of consultation, the main elements which will be covered in the regulations are clear from the consultation paper. The principle of three-year budgets based around the academic year has received support from all sides of the House, as well as from key stakeholders outside. The detail is still to be resolved but it is not particularly controversial; it is just a matter of finding technical solutions that will work best for LEAs and schools.

It has also been suggested that all regulations under Schedule 16 should be subject to affirmative resolution. We do not believe that that would be a good use of parliamentary time. Schools funding regulations are currently updated every year—for example, to set the level of the minimum funding guarantee for the year ahead. Much as we love being here, I think that it might test us a little if we persisted with that level of detail. I shall not go into our reasons, but we cannot accept the amendment because it is also technically flawed.

I hope that that has been helpful to the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield. In particular, I draw attention to the report of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee, which thought that this was an appropriate level of scrutiny. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will feel minded not to press his amendment.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I reiterate my concern: how the measure is implemented will need to be thought through very carefully. Again, I am supportive of the whole initiative of three-year funding and, in turn, of moving to an academic year. But, because of that complication, it could go dramatically wrong. I shall read in Hansard what the Minister said and reflect on it further. But, with that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Electoral Registration (Northern Ireland) Bill [HL]

The Bill was returned from the Commons agreed to.

Royal Assent

The Deputy Speaker (Lord Brougham and Vaux): My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Act:

Electoral Registration (Northern Ireland) Act 2005.

24 Feb 2005 : Column 1459

24 Feb 2005 : Column 353

Official Report of the Grand Committee on the

Commissioners for Revenue and Customs Bill

(Second Day)

Thursday, 24 February 2005.

The Committee met at quarter past three of the clock.

[The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale) in the Chair.]

Clause 11 [Treasury directions]:

Baroness Noakes moved Amendment No. 26:

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