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16 July 2007 : Column 8

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: Gaudeamus, my Lords.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is the Minister not slightly concerned—

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is the turn of the Lib Dems.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I hope I have greater success than with my previous Question. Does the Minister agree that this is a nonsensical regulation that attacks no habit? Is it not time that the Government immediately went through that? Could it be in contravention of listed building consent in some places?

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, we are talking about a cultural change. When the Bill passed through this House last year there was not one single amendment about this issue. Does it contravene historic monuments legislation? No; a small piece of paper on a notice board inside the church does not contravene such legislation.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, if the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, will permit me, may I ask the Minister whether she is not slightly concerned about the profound lack of logic in the Government’s position? In the past, when smoking was permitted in some public places but not in others, it might have been a help to the public to have a notice to indicate where smoking was not permitted. Now, when smoking is not permitted in any public place, there is no need for notices to warn people, but notices are required.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, that is an interesting point, but I do not think it is illogical. The Government, with the support of many noble Lords, are trying to bring about a cultural change so that we have a healthier nation that does not smoke.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords—

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords—

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, it is the turn of this corner.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches. We have to be fair.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, the Minister may not be aware that last week I was wheeling through the cloisters of Westminster Abbey and I saw a cigarette butt stuck in the stones, so I assure her that some people must be smoking and it may still be there.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that information.

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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, the Minister said that no amendment was moved in Committee on the Health Bill. I took part in all the clauses referring to smoking. There was a lot of debate about signage, but noble Lords taking part did not believe that anybody, especially the Government, would be stupid enough to insist that there should be “no smoking” signs in churches.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I, too, participated in that debate. I remember it well and know that the noble Baroness, Lady Cumberlege, raised this issue. She spoke of her concern that such notices would deface any building. I hope that at that time I was able to allay her fears by explaining that such notices would not deface buildings.

Schools: IGCSE

2.58 pm

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, the results of International General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations sat in the United Kingdom will not be included in this year’s key stage 4 performance tables, as those qualifications are not accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority for use in maintained schools. It is, however, open to the two awarding bodies of the IGCSE to seek such accreditation, and proper consideration will be given if they do so.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that, but was it not a daft Answer? We now have the prospect of performance tables that will show some of the best schools in England failing to give their children an adequate education merely because of the amour propre of the QCA in not admitting a particular qualification to the league tables. We may not wish to offer that qualification in state schools, but surely, to provide proper information to parents about how schools are doing, we should reflect the examinations that those schools take and not some quasi-religious decision taken by a government agency.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, this has nothing whatever to do with the amour propre of the QCA. It is open to the two awarding bodies that offer the IGCSE to submit that qualification to the QCA for accreditation in the manner required of all other qualifications. If they do so, the QCA will consider the request.

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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, does the Minister accept that many schools are attracted to the IGCSE because they are not convinced that GCSEs stretch and challenge the full range of students? When that happened with A-levels, the Government agreed that extra sections and harder questions should be put into them. Will he consider doing the same thing with GCSEs? While he is about it, will he just scrap the discredited league tables?

Lord Adonis: No, my Lords.

Standing Orders (Public Business)

3 pm

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Standing Orders relating to public business be amended as follows:

Leave out sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of paragraph (1) and insert:

“(a) except in the case of a draft remedial order or remedial order laid under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998, or a draft order proposed to be made under Part 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, or a subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, there has been laid before the House the report thereon of the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments;

(b) in the case of a draft order proposed to be made under Part 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006, or a subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001, there has been laid before the House the report thereon of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee; and”

In paragraph (1), leave out from “but excluding any Order in Council” to the end and insert:

“but excluding any remedial order or draft remedial order under Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act 1998, and any draft order proposed to be made under Part 1 of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006 and any subordinate provisions order made or proposed to be made under the Regulatory Reform Act 2001; and”

In paragraph (2), leave out “any statutory instrument made by a member of the Scottish Executive or by the National Assembly for Wales” and insert “any statutory instrument made by the Scottish Ministers or otherwise under an Act or Act of the Scottish Parliament or by the Welsh Ministers”.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Parliamentary Constituencies (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Offender Management Bill

3.01 pm

Read a third time.

Clause 3 [Power to make arrangements for the provision of probation services]:

The Attorney-General (Baroness Scotland of Asthal) moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble and learned Baroness said: My Lords, these amendments are technical in nature. They were identified as necessary by parliamentary counsel during his final proof-reading of the Bill. We hope that they will be entirely uncontroversial. Amendment No. 1 simply brings the wording in Clause 3 into line with that used elsewhere in the Bill, so that we talk consistently about individuals being “authorised” rather than “designated”.

Amendments Nos. 4, 5 and 6 to Clause 10 and Amendment No. 13 to Schedule 3 clarify the definitions of providers of probation services and officers of providers of probation services, to enable consequential amendments to work properly.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 apply to the offences related to prison security in Clauses 25 and 26. They simply bring consistency to the way in which “specified” is dealt with in the various subsections. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 3 agreed to.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire moved Amendment No. 2:

(a) a copy of any model contract produced under subsection (1),(b) a copy of any model contract amended under subsection (3),(c) a notice of the withdrawal of any model contract.”

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Companion to the Standing Orders says that amendments may be moved at Third Reading. The principal purposes are to clarify any remaining uncertainties, to improve the drafting, and,

When we on these Benches moved the amendment on Report, I made it very clear that this was intended to give the Government a chance to tell us more about how to manage contracts and how contracts would be provided differently for different private providers of services, such as those with profits, not-for-profits and voluntary organisations.

The Minister provided us with a very rapidly produced 25-page letter at that time, and I understood her to promise that she had given an undertaking that we would return to this on Third Reading. The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said on Report that she had raised this issue in Committee and that she had also understood that the Government would come back to her before Report. I therefore press the point further today because, to our surprise, we have not heard further from the Government. I phoned the Minister’s office last Wednesday to ask when we might hear further about this. The amendment was intended to be friendly and helpful. However, we have not yet heard from the Minister, nor have the next 25 pages on warm paper yet hit these Benches, so I wish to press forward on this. Indeed, the Minister said in answer to me on Report that,

Let me briefly reiterate the principle. We are talking about a mixed economy in the provision of an important public service. That mixed economy will consist of some with-profit providers, some not-for-profit providers and some voluntary organisations. Some of these will be national organisations; others will be regional or local. I heard an executive of one of the potentially important for-profit providers say on Friday that, if commissioning was to be local rather than regional, his company might not be interested in applying for contracts. There are some large issues at stake here to which we have not yet had a satisfactory reply from the Government. The amendment provides the Government with an opportunity to give what I hope will be a more satisfactory reply. I beg to move.

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for giving us another opportunity to discuss the important issue of how contractual arrangements will operate, particularly with regard to smaller providers. He is quite right that on the last occasion, to be helpful, we produced quite extensive documentation which noble Lords did not have an appropriately long time to look at. However, we hoped that they would have had sufficient time by Third Reading and that I would be able to explain the way forward to the House with this sample document in their minds.

The noble Lord’s amendment envisages the production of model contracts, with different models

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applying to providers from different sectors. I absolutely understand the concerns that have prompted the approach in the amendment, but it is not the right way to achieve what we all want. I shall explain why. Noble Lords will recall from our debates on Report that the National Offender Management Service is developing a contract for probation services using the concept of generic terms and conditions under which the appropriate schedules and service specifications will sit. This will allow commissioners to be clear about what they require from lead providers and from organisations to whom lead providers sub-contract. This will include provisions to ensure the protection of employee rights, including the requirement to abide by the Cabinet Office code of practice on workforce matters.

However, these contracts will, as the noble Lord has indicated, also need to cater for different factors such as variations in the type, size and location of services to be delivered, so they will have to be tailored to meet the local environment in which they operate. This is vital if we are to ensure that contracts maximise community engagement, deliver local as well as regional and national priorities, and foster innovation—all of which the noble Lord and others have commented on. There can therefore be no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why the proposed model contracts are not appropriate. Nor are different approaches for different sectors the right way forward. We need a system that supports a contracting process that is fit for purpose. If, for example, we were to request a provider to do work for £1,000, the checks and documentation required should be significantly different, and perhaps less complex, than if we placed a contract for £10 million.

The use of flexible contracts within a framework, rather than model contracts, will allow probation trusts and other providers to develop innovative ways of delivering services, which is particularly important. I know that the noble Lord, among others, has commented on what will happen about small organisations which will target their efforts on perhaps a small group of offenders or victims who may need particular help and support that others cannot provide. We would not want to drive those people from the market because they give a lot of innovation, help and support. We need to keep that richness if we can.

Work is under way on the development of new agreements. The draft scoping document and service- level agreements provided on Report, together with early stakeholder consultation—we are going out and asking people what they think about these models—are informing our thinking on which elements of the contract can be used to encourage innovation and flexibility. Detailed consultation will be held with the first wave of probation trusts as the contracts develop before formal negotiations begin.

Although I understand absolutely the concerns that have been expressed about the process of awarding contracts and how they may put the voluntary and community sector at a disadvantage, we are determined that that should not happen. The National Offender Management Service is working with colleagues across government to look at ways of reducing the burdens and barriers to contracting for the voluntary and

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community sector organisations generally. NOMS is now committed to paying voluntary community service organisations on a full-cost recovery basis to ensure that they are not unwittingly subsidising public sector organisations. We have heard that theme for quite some time, and it needs to be better addressed than we perhaps have had an opportunity to do in the past.

NOMS is supporting probation boards and trusts in its sub-contracting by providing guidance and hands-on assistance on how to procure services, including the development of a generic set of terms and conditions. A wide range of commercial workshops are under way to ensure that boards and trusts provide fair and transparent tendering processes with minimum bureaucracy. NOMS is also starting work with providers from the voluntary and community sector to develop and sustain small-scale providers. We recognise that many such organisations do not want to enter into consortia or to bid for work as a provider at a national level, and we want to cater for that too.

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