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Lord Triesman: My Lords, the right response is to say what we are doing about it. The Better Regulation Commission has urged us to be ambitious. In March 2005, its report, Regulation—Less is More, led to three specific proposals on which we are acting. We measure and set targets to reduce administrative costs on business and in the voluntary sector. We work on the principle of one-in/one-out approaches to new regulations—there could be an argument for one in and rather more out, but I understand the point—and on regulatory simplification programmes across government. That is what we are urging on other people. I think that it is right to do so.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that European laws are the best protection that we have in many of our main export markets against the rising tide of economic patriotism, which is sometimes known as that and sometimes known as protectionism?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, that is the case. If we look at the things that we regard as well regulated and well dealt with in our society, we will find that there is European thinking about them—for example, health and safety and many other things on which we rely to lead a decent, sensible life.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, are not the suggestions so far from the Tory Benches hyperbolic and histrionic? Does the Minister agree that the balance is even lower
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with the Commission's policy now of more policy formation and less legislation, broader framework directives and the principle that only absolute necessity dictates the formulation of a European proposal that has to be presented by the Council of Ministers? However, with reference to the need for Union-wide legislation, will the Government look again at the Frits Bolkestein directive to see whether it can be still rescued from the regrettable nationalism of some of the political groups in the European Parliament recently and see whether that much-needed services directive can be restored to its proper place in the single market creations?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there is a case for looking at that again. We have never ruled out anything that creates greater efficiency for businesses of all kinds. I broadly agree with the noble Lord's conclusions.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, does the Minister accept the Better Regulation Task Force's estimate that regulation now accounts for more than 10 per cent of our entire GDP as a burden on business? Should the Government not take the matter more seriously, as we slide down the league table of competitiveness?

Lord Triesman: My Lords, there are different estimates, as the noble Lord will know, about the impact of regulation. We have an extremely robust system for assessing the impact of regulation, which tends to come to a lower figure. I will go back and remind myself of what the Better Regulation Task Force has said. I should declare an interest: I was a member of it at one time. I suspect that there are a number of factors that have an impact on competitiveness. That may be one, but there are a number of others.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that between—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, we are now in the 23rd minute.

Schools: Admissions

2.59 pm

Baroness Walmsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Lord Adonis): My Lords, a government submission to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee includes analysis of the relationship between the proportion of schools in each LEA administering their own admissions and the distribution of pupils eligible for free school meals. It finds that by far the most
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significant factor affecting the distribution of poorer pupils is the presence of grammar schools, whether they administer their own admissions or have them administered by the local authority.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply, but why does his department feel the need to do its own research when there is already a mountain of recent, credible and independent academic research that should convince the Government that they are going in the wrong direction? Is not any admissions system that requires so much tinkering and so many safeguards basically a flawed system?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we were asked to do the further research ourselves by the Education and Skills Committee and have therefore been conducting it. I do not accept the points made by the noble Baroness at all. We think that the admissions system is robust and that it ensures fairness in access to the overwhelming majority of schools. Where there are concerns about its operation in particular cases, there are means of redress, which will be strengthened in the forthcoming education Bill.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, Caroline Hoxby, the noted Harvard academic, has said that school choice is the tide that lifts all boats. Is the path to social cohesion and better standards not admissions policies but more good school places and real parental choice?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we are keen to see more good school places, but it is also essential that schools have fair admissions policies. That is why we welcome the fact that the noble Baroness's party has now committed itself to not extending further selection and has made what could turn out to be a historic statement in not supporting the establishment of new grammar schools. That is a big change in Conservative Party policy, which we on this side of the House strongly welcome.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, given the proposal that trust schools appoint the majority of their governing bodies, what guarantees will there be that such people will be drawn from the locality and therefore will help social inclusion?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, many trust schools and foundations that support schools draw heavily from local communities in the appointment of the members of their trusts. There will also be a continuing requirement to have community governors as part of a school's governing body, including for trust schools.

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, have the Government considered giving a real alternative to academic selection—that is, the excellent technical schools that some people want, as in Holland? Have the Government looked across the Channel to see whether we should offer the same? It seems that the
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dialogue concentrates on academic selection. There are some people who like doing history, Latin and Greek—not so many as used to in my youth, but that is the point. Have the Government considered offering real choice, so that people who want technical education can have it?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, there is a real alternative to the grammar school; it is called the comprehensive school, and it is one which we on this side of the House strongly support. However, we are also strongly supportive of the drive for more vocational education, including technical education, in all schools, including comprehensive and grammar schools.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, why did the Government dismiss so readily the research from the Sutton Trust, Bristol University and the LSE, which clearly indicates that, where schools are their own admissions authorities, social segregation increases?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I do not dismiss the Sutton Trust's work at all. Indeed, I heartily endorse the conclusions of Sir Peter Lampl's report, to which the noble Baroness referred. His conclusion was:

That latter part is our policy. It is up to schools whether they choose to go down that road and become their own admissions authority.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind Enoch Powell's great dictum that wherever the word "social" is used as an adjective, it will surely reverse or negate the meaning of the noun to which it is applied? In the light of that, would he be so kind as to define social exclusion and social cohesion as he understands them?

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