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There are problems that must be tackled much earlier on. Sir Paul Judge, the president of the Association of MBAs, says that to get an MBA, the most internationally recognised degree in the world, requires a minimum of 500 hours of classroom teaching. At the other end of the scale, our children spend roughly 6,000 hours in school between the ages of five and 11. If an MBA can be taught in 500 hours, then one would expect that all but children with the most severe learning difficulties could learn how to read in 6,000 hours. Indeed, teachers largely agree that a child should be taught to read and write in less than 250 hours, yet nearly half of children leaving primary school at 11 do not reach the required standard in basic reading, writing and maths, and just over 90 per cent of those below standard in English at age 11 are still below standard at 16. Something in the system is very wrong, and it is tragic because without

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those basic building blocks all the excitement that education has to offer and the moral imperative to let young people unlock their potential, of which the noble Baroness, Lady Warwick of Undercliffe, spoke, will not be realised.

The business community recognises that though there is a pressing need for skilled workers, it will not be fixed by forcing people to continue for an extra two years in an education system that has already failed them. Miles Templeman, director general of the Institute of Directors, criticised the proposals for being all about new duties, duties for parents, duties for local authorities and duties for young people, adding,

The issue is particularly worrying for small businesses. As the daughter of parents who had a small cake shop, I saw at first hand the strain it put on my parents and the few people who worked for them when, for whatever reason, a member of staff was absent. I worry that the compulsion element to accredited training will simply mean that small businesses will not employ 16 year-olds. They might just be the entrepreneurs the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh of Hudnall, spoke of.

Like my noble friend Lord Pilkington, I have the highest regard for the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and do not doubt for one moment his desire to see standards rise and for each child to fulfil their potential. But when the Government have failed at the basics, it is not enough simply to spend more money, pass more laws and add more regulation to fix the effects of the problem and not the cause.

In a similar fashion, the Government’s proposals to institute a diploma scheme to improve vocational training cannot be criticised for their intentions. The reform of vocational learning is an important and worthy goal. We support it but feel that the Government again are going about tackling the issue the wrong way.

We would never criticise an attempt to create robust, recognisable standards for vocational training, and we see the value of a vocational qualification that reflects the completion of a strong practical course designed to equip young people with the necessary skills to make serious contributions to the workforce.

In seeking to ensure that diplomas offer the highest possible vocational standard, it is important not to confuse this search with the parallel necessity of ensuring strong academic standards. The new diplomas in academic subjects muddle these two different ideas. As my noble friend Lord Pilkington of Oxenford said in his barnstorming speech, to gain respect vocational qualifications have to stand in their own right. The Government suggest that the new diplomas will focus on science, languages and humanities as broad subjects. That seems to suggest a confusion of emphasis between academic knowledge and rigour and a more practical skills-based approach. I do not want to suggest that skills-based teaching is, or should be, without some sort of academic component. However, we must not let the

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praiseworthy ambition of reforming vocational learning weaken our attempt to improve academic standards.

I turn very briefly to apprenticeships. The noble Baroness, Lady Morgan of Huyton, mentioned apprenticeships and how important they were. We will look carefully at the draft Bill because we are concerned that of the current 150,000 apprenticeships, as the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, many are never completed. It is possible to go through a whole apprenticeship without having any practical experience.

The Government are right to be ambitious for our young people. We look forward to a lively and busy Session, and to playing our part in improving the outcomes of our children and young people by improving government legislation. That is what your Lordships’ House does best. As my noble friend Lord Howe said, I have more than just a feeling that along the way a few such improvements may be forthcoming.

5.03 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, this has been a wide-ranging debate with excellent speeches from all sides of the House. I should tell the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, that it was indeed my ambition as a young teenager to become chairman of British Rail. The great stars in my firmament were Sir Peter Parker and the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. There but for the grace of God I might have gone. Instead I ended up with the much more challenging logistical task of replying to this debate, with its 33 speakers covering a vast spectrum of issues from the Roundhouse to NHS dentists via human fertilisation and the sale of the student loan book. Trying to reply to all of that is like trying to reply to a symphony orchestra with a recorder. Rather than seek to do the impossible I will concentrate in particular on comments made in the debate on the five Bills announced in the gracious Speech in the spheres of health, education and social policy.

Let me start with the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. It is hard to think of a piece of legislation—encompassing some of the most serious ethical, legal and medical issues of our age—which your Lordships are more fitted by means of expertise and experience to consider.

The current legislation, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 1990, stems largely from recommendations from a committee chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, in the 1980s. The fact that it has stood the test of time so well is a great tribute to the noble Baroness and her colleagues. It is also a tribute in no small part to the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, who for eight years until 2002 chaired the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority—a body which, as she said, has been copied worldwide.

Since the 1990 Act, the House has contributed expertise to help frame and improve the IVF legislative structure in a number of respects. Those include the 2001 regulations that extended the use of embryos to stem cell research, the Human Reproductive Cloning Act 2001, which prohibited reproductive cloning, and the 2002 Stem Cell

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Committee of the House chaired by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries.

More recently, several noble Lords were members of the Joint Committee that scrutinised the draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill, which is now brought forward in amended form as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill. The Government appreciate the committee’s very helpful work and welcome its recommendations. I was glad to hear the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, describe the Joint Committee and the government response as “a model” of good parliamentary and governmental practice. It has led the Government to revise their view on a number of issues, as he and other noble Lords recognised in their speeches. In particular, as the House knows, the Government initially proposed merging the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the Human Tissue Authority to form a single regulator. That proposal was questioned by the Joint Committee because, for reasons set out by the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, the committee believed that the regulatory oversight provided by the HFEA and the HTA separately was likely to be better than that of a single regulator. We have accepted that key recommendation, among others, and I am glad that our decision was welcomed by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, the noble and right reverend Lord, Lord Harries, and other speakers in the debate.

The Bill to be brought forward aims to keep regulation abreast of ground-breaking scientific advancements, including embryonic stem cell research for the treatment of serious diseases. The fundamental structure of the 1990 Act, informed by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, remains none the less unchanged. Our aim is to regulate the capacity—unforeseen in 1990—to screen embryos for serious genetic diseases and to offer legal recognition for different family forms.

The Government recognise that there will be a range of opinions in the House on these matters. My noble friend Lord Warner, in particular, alongside the noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Cumberlege, mentioned the provision for fertility clinics to take account of the child's need for a father. I should make it clear that there is currently no ban on access to assisted reproduction in cases where there will not be a father. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act requires that a woman,

However, that duty is the subject of guidance by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, which currently states:

Therefore, the current situation is unclear and the Government, having carefully considered whether research evidence supported the continued reference in primary legislation to a duty on clinicians to give specific attention to the need for a father, concluded

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that the findings of research in that area tend to show that the factor of prime importance is the quality of parenting, rather than parental gender per se. On balance, therefore, the Government have decided to remove the reference to the need for a father, but to retain in primary legislation a general duty to take account of the welfare of the child. In doing so, we have taken account of the view of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee in its 2005 report, which says:

I do, however, accept that there are strongly held opinions on this matter, and they will be debated as the Bill proceeds.

Strong opinions about other issues were also expressed in the debate today. The noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, talked about organ donation, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester talked about clone embryos, and the noble Earl, Lord Howe, talked about abortion. The noble Earl asked me whether we would allow a free vote on any proposals to amend the law on abortion. Like him, I hope that this issue does not overwhelm our consideration of other issues as the Bill proceeds, but there will be free votes on the government side on any amendments relating to abortion.

Earl Howe: My Lords, my question was whether the entire Bill, rather than simply the abortion issue, would be subject to a free vote on the government Benches.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, we will take a decision on that before the Bill reaches Committee. However, any amendments relating to abortion will certainly be subject to a free vote on the government side.

Children in care are a vulnerable group about which Members of the House—not least the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, who addressed this issue with his customary passion today—have long been concerned. We seek to improve the lot of children in care through the Children and Young Persons Bill. There are 60,000 children in care at any one time, the majority of whom are in care because they have suffered abuse or neglect. They deserve the best possible support and nurturing, but as the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leicester so rightly said, the reality is that their levels of educational attainment and progression into employment remain deplorably low. They have improved, but are still deplorably low.

My noble friend Lord Darzi gave statistics earlier in the debate. As the Minister for special educational needs, I should add that 28 per cent of children in care have a statement of special educational needs, compared with the national average of 3 per cent. The startling statistic, which we simply cannot get away from, and which the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, and the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, mentioned, is that a quarter of adults in prison today have spent time in the care system. The noble Lord,

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Lord Ramsbotham, talked about the plight of those in custody with his customary eloquence, as did my noble friend Lady Massey. I could not agree more that the quality of education in prisons and young offender institutions has a major bearing on rehabilitation rates. That is why we have increased funding substantially for prison and young offender education. In the past six years, our spending on the education of young people in custody has increased fourfold, alongside significant increases in the number of hours and the quality of provision made available to them.

My noble friend Lady Massey asked what my department was doing to liaise with other departments on youth justice. Following changes to the machinery of government in June, youth justice policy, including the sponsorship of the Youth Justice Board, became the joint responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and my department. The Youth Justice and Children Unit has now been created. One of its key aims will be to ensure that children and young people in contact with the criminal justice system achieve all five outcomes of Every Child Matters: to be healthy; to stay safe; to enjoy and achieve; to make a positive contribution; and to achieve economic well-being. The joint unit will be launched with external stakeholders at the Youth Justice Board convention on 13 November.

The Bill seeks to promote good parenting on the part of professionals in the care system, and will provide a stronger voice for each child in care. It will also give great emphasis to ensuring stability for children in care, recognising, as so many speakers have said in the debate, that it is the lack of stability in care placements that goes to the heart of the problems that so many young people in care experience.

The noble Baroness, Lady Young, emphasised that although the provisions that we have put in place for ensuring that children remain stable in their school placements in years 10 and 11 are good, it would be ideal if we could extend them more widely. I can tell her that part of the role of the designated teacher in respect of children in care, which we are putting on a statutory basis in the Bill, will be to liaise much more closely with social workers, foster carers and others to address the educational needs of children in care, not only in years 10 and 11 but much earlier in their education.

The noble Baroness, Lady Howarth, raised the serious issue of school exclusions and the impact that they can have on children in care, which is disproportionate compared with the impact on other children. As she will know, the number of permanent exclusions from school has reduced substantially since 1997. But she is right that the disruption caused to the education of children who are excluded, often for compelling reasons, is an issue that we need to address. It is precisely for that reason that we have invested in full educational provision for children who are permanently excluded, which did not exist at all before, and that we provided in legislation enacted by the House in the previous Session for support for children who are excluded after the sixth day of temporary exclusions rather than the 16th day of

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temporary exclusions, which used to be the case. That will mean that fewer children will be on the streets not properly provided for. That reform of provision for children in care will be supported by some £300 million additional investment over the next four years, including additional support for social workers, a group rightly identified by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, as crucial in all that we do in this area.

The next education-related Bill is the one that will raise the education participation age to 18. We value the general support given to this reform by noble Lords, but I recognise entirely that it will amount to nothing unless all the component parts—vocational provision and education before 16 and the range of provision available to those aged 16 to 18—are making a reality of near-universal participation by those ages by the time we come to raise the participation age in a phased way, to 17 in 2013 and to 18 in 2015. It is important that the actual raising of the participation age is, by the time it happens, a formal change reflecting practice that is already taking place and is not seen as a new, punitive regime. In that respect, everything that we are doing in the earlier phases of education, right back, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said, to pre-five education, is as important as the changes that we are making beyond 16.

There have been substantial improvements in rates of achievement before 16. I could trade statistics with the noble Baroness, Lady Morris; we do that from time to time. She quoted some selective statistics, but I could quote back a whole sheaf of statistics, including pointing out that, on all the key measures, standards are significantly higher than they were 10 years ago. The crucial point that we need to make, however, is that if we look at the current rate of improving standards at 16, and the practice of other countries internationally, we believe that this is a sensible next step if we get in place the four key building blocks enabling us to raise the participation age to 18.

Those four key building blocks are, first, a curriculum and qualifications that provide the right learning opportunity for every young person and which are personalised to their needs, aptitudes and aspirations. That includes a solid grounding for all in functional skills in English, maths and ICT, as well as stretching A-levels and having GCSEs with less focus on coursework and diplomas that mix the best of theoretical and practical learning.

I am very grateful for the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, on a personal level. We have exchanged remarks across the Chamber over a number of years on the failure of vocational education over the past century—or to be more precise, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, put it, over 140 years. Historically, this has been one of our great failings in the education system. The situation has progressively improved over recent years as a result of the growing range of vocational qualifications being taught in schools—reasonably successfully.

However, we are taking forward a significant improvement of vocational education with the introduction of the new diplomas, which are absolutely focused on the key vocational areas that have historically been of concern to the country and to which the noble

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Lord, Lord Pilkington, referred. The first five diplomas in construction—the built environment, creative and media technologies, engineering, information technology and society, health and development will be available from next September. From 2009, diplomas in environmental and land-based studies, manufacturing and product design, hair and beauty studies, business administration and finance, and hospitality will be available, and from 2010, diplomas in retail, public services, sport and leisure, and travel and transport will be available. There will be diplomas for all those great national industries where we require young people to be trained specifically. Our projections are that by 2010-11 there will be more than 300,000 learners studying for diplomas, which is 10 per cent of the 14 to 19 year-old population, on the basis of the work being done with the 14 to 19 partnerships which are gearing up to prepare for their introduction next year.

The second key building block for the reform is, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, rightly said, enhanced advice and guidance to help all young people to make the right choices, with clear specifications for local authorities to provide every young person with guidance on the educational choices available to them. Thirdly, there needs to be improved financial support, so that no one is excluded because of costs. That will include an expansion of the successful education maintenance allowance scheme to support a broader range of courses and entry to employment programmes. Fourthly, and vitally, there needs to be enhanced employer engagement, including an expansion of apprenticeships. There has been a substantial increase already in the past 10 years, but there will be an extra 90,000 apprenticeships for young people by 2013, so that work-related routes are much more widely available than at present.

On additional places—another issue which was raised—declining demographics in this age range mean that there will be little difference in the total number of 16 and 17 year-olds in schools in 2015 compared to this year. There will be a small increase in FE for which we will prepare. This also takes place in the context of massive capital investment in this area. Capital investment in schools will total—

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I do not expect the Minister to give a definitive reply, but are the Government even prepared to consider putting pressure on industry to contribute to these improved qualifications?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, industry contributes substantially to these qualifications, particularly where they help with apprenticeships. I am sure that will continue to be the case over the coming years. Industry played a key part in helping us to design the diplomas. They have all been designed by industry-led groups in the specific areas being covered by them.

We believe that in conjunction with the big capital investment which will achieve many of the objectives set out by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, this is a sensible, incremental reform which will raise our education and skills levels in the way that they need to be raised as we meet the international challenges ahead.

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