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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has been clear in the statements that he has made. We will debate elements of this before the Councilwe will have a debate in your Lordships' House and another placeto look at exactly how we take forward any
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Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I believe that the texts are being worked on at the present time. The noble Lord, Lord Grenfell, has asked us to put the texts before the EU Committee for information. That will be done very soon. I cannot say exactly when, but I am told that it will be very soon.
Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, this is a very short question. Is the noble Baroness aware that debates in either House of Parliament and assurances given by this Government or any Ministers about what will happen on ratification of the treaty are matters within the sole competence of the European Court of Justice?
Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am sure that one aspect of our debates as we bring forward the reform treaty and of debates in your Lordships' House will be the role of the European Court of Justice. I very much look forward to those debates. Noble Lords who have had, as I have, the privilege of reading the deliberations of the Select Committee in another place will know that this is one issue that is relevant and important and worthy of greater debate.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, we are aware of a range of approaches to teaching children with dyslexia. It is for schools and local authorities to decide which approach they use. The British Dyslexia Association has not, as yet, accredited the approach recently reported in the newspapers, but we are working with dyslexia organisations through the new No to Failure project, which is piloting and evaluating the impact of providing specialist dyslexia training to teachers, and specialist tuition to children with dyslexia.
Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Can he also tell us what coping strategies are being built into the new plans for the teaching of young adults, and for those who are staying on later at school? As he is undoubtedly aware, many people have been missed in identification and support in their early years. How are we to structure it so that we do not reinforce that type of failure in extra schooling?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the further education sector is under a duty to see that its institutions properly address special learning difficulties. For young people making the transition from schools to further education institutions, or wanting to access their services, that provision should be put in place by the appropriate authorities.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, does the Minister accept that dyslexia is one of a group of developmental disorders of variable severity that may occur in people of otherwise perfectly normal, or even higher than normal, intelligence? Amusia refers to those who are tone deaf and dyspraxia to those who are inherently extremely clumsy but, of all such conditions, dyslexia is the most easily recognised and characterised disorder. Is the Minister aware of the research work being done by Professor Stein and his colleagues in Oxford? It seems to suggest a new method, contrary to the traditional technique of intensive individual learning to overcome that deficit, which is well worth further exploration.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, there is a wide range of approaches for tackling dyslexia among young and older children. The key is to ensure that there are properly trained teachers who can undertake screening, so that issues are addressed as soon as possible after children start school. That is why we are investing significantly in teacher training in this area, including introducing new modules into initial teacher training; we are piloting that at the moment. As the noble Lord rightly says, if this issue is addressed we can realise young peoples full potential in education.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I am well aware of the superior intelligence of the noble Baroness as she interrogates me across the Table. As she rightly says, many people with dyslexia go on to perform extremely highly. It is essential that the education system picks up their particular problems and addresses them. As she knows, Ofsted conducts inspections of individual schools but is not able to go into that level of detail with them. However, schools are expected to complete self-evaluation assessments and part of the self-evaluation form that schools complete concerns their ability to address special educational needs.
We are also improving the training for special educational needs co-ordinators, who must be present in each school. Training for new co-ordinators will be mandatory from next year. Part of their role is to see that proper provision is in place, including the screening of children for special educational needs when they arrive in school.
Lord Redesdale: My Lords, what steps are being taken to increase the quality of teaching, in terms of teachers and education, among prisoners? There is a high level of dyslexia among the prison population.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right that that is a huge issue inside prisons. That is why we have considerably expanded resources for prison education, responsibility for which has moved to my department so that the issue is given a special education focus and is not seen as part of the normal criminal justice system.
Lord Adonis: My Lords, I shall write to the noble Baroness to give her the latest information that we have on this issue. I am not aware that dyslexia rates are significantly higher among ethnic-minority communities, but I shall see that the noble Baroness gets the full statistics available.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, has the Minister seen the research by Professor Karen Bryan of the University of Surrey, which shows that a large proportion of the speech, language and communication difficulties experienced by children and adults in prison have previously been undetected? Will he therefore reassure us that adequate resources will go into the identification of people with those difficulties as they enter the prison system?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord is completely right that too many of the learning difficulties experienced by those in youth offending and adult prisons have not been properly identified in schools. The resources that we put into special educational needs in schools have
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Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, may I revisit something raised previously? What mechanisms are there to ensure that new advances and suggestions in England are also acted upon or able to be discussed, at least, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, in the devolved educational settlement?
Lord Adonis: My Lords, officials in my department and the research communities on which we rely interact very closely with our counterparts in Scotland and Wales. On the issue of dyslexia, for example, we have worked closely with Scottish universities, which, led by the University of Aberdeen, have adopted new approaches to training teachers in addressing dyslexia. Our teacher-training institutions in England have paid very close attention to work in Scotland in that regard. So there is close co-operation.
The Lord Speaker (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, before we proceed to further business, may I say a word in tribute to the highly professional and effective response to the medical emergency in the Chamber last night? I think that the whole House would wish to express its gratitude to the members of staff and Members of your Lordships' House who responded so effectively yesterday evening and wish the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, a full and speedy recovery.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, with permission, I have one or two items of business. The first follows on from the statement just made by the Lord Speaker. As we adjourned the debate yesterday, I want to ensure that all noble Lords are aware of the fact that we shall resume the debate on the Second Reading of the embryology Bill tomorrow, as first business, and complete the speakers list, which was not completed yesterday.
It is nice to be able to tell the House that I met members of the family of my noble friend Lord Brennan this morning and they sayI use their words, not minethat he is absolutely fine. That is very nice to be able to report.
We shall have a Statement later today on HM Revenue and Customs, which will be repeated by my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham. We shall take it after the contribution by my noble friend Lord Rosser to the Local Transport Billthat is, after the fifth speaker.
I have one final piece of adviceas noble Lords know, it can only be advice. The Statement sets things
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Moved, in accordance with Standing Order 52, that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following Lords be appointed to join with a committee of the Commons as the Joint Committee on Consolidation etc. Bills:L ActonV BledisloeL Campbell of AllowayL ChristopherV Colville of CulrossE DundeeB FookesL Janner of BraunstoneB MallalieuL MethuenL RazzallL Rodger of Earlsferry (Chairman).
Moved, that a Select Committee be appointed to consider personal Bills and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:V Allenby of MegiddoL GeddesL GreavesV SimonL Slynn of HadleyL Templeman.
Moved, that a Committee for Privileges be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal be appointed to the committee:B Ashton of Upholland (Lord President)B Anelay of St JohnsL Brooke of Sutton MandevilleB DSouzaL Eames
Moved, that a Select Committee on the Standing Orders relating to Private Bills be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:L GeddesB Gould of PotternewtonL LukeL NasebyL PalmerV SimonB Thomas of Walliswood.(The Chairman of Committees.)
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The Local Transport Bill is an important part of the Governments strategy to improve public transport and tackle congestion. This is a very significant piece of legislation: local transport matters to millions of people in their everyday lives; an efficient transport system lies at the heart of a productive economy; and our local transport choices also affect our environment.
Before I get into the main body of my text, I would like to record my thanks to all noble Lords who have taken part in briefing sessions over the past week. I also thank the many organisations which kindly circulated briefing documents on the Billthey have been unusually helpful and they suggest that we will have very constructive debates today, in Committee, on Report and at Third Reading. I pay particular tribute to the RNIB, the LGA, the Countryside Alliance, Help the Aged, the CBI and National Rail, which very kindly circulated their thoughts and commentsmost of them positiveon the content and progress of the Bill so far.
Bus services are a key part of our local transportation system. More than 4 billion bus journeys are made each year, or two-thirds of all journeys by public transport. They play a key role in connecting people to essential goods and services, to jobs, to leisure, and to friends and family.
The Government are therefore investing substantially in local bus services: government spending on buses is expected to reach some £2.5 billion this year, up from around £1 billion a decade ago. The Concessionary Bus Travel Act, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, will guarantee free off-peak bus travel for older and disabled people throughout England from April 2008. As a result of these and other steps, we have at last seen the long-run historic decline in bus patronage level off in recent years, but we still need to do more.
The Bill includes various proposals aimed at delivering bus services that are more closely aligned to passenger needs, building on the lessons learnt from an extensive review of bus policy led by Ministers and officials in the Department for Transport. It is clear that in certain parts of the country bus services are improving and patronage is rising. But in too many places these successes are not being replicated, patronage remains on a downward trend, and services risk falling into a spiral of decline.
More often than not, successful outcomes have been delivered through strong voluntary partnerships that have been forged between local authorities and bus operators. But some authorities and operators have found themselves constrained in what they can achieve under existing competition law. What becomes a particular concern for some local authorities is when they wish to enter into discussions with more than one bus operator.
The Bill therefore includes a revised competition test for these voluntary partnership agreements, specifically designed to give greater clarity and certainty to participants. It also removes the threat of financial penalties where the Office of Fair Trading finds that an agreement, although entered into in good faith with a local authority, breaches competition law. These measures should increase the potential for voluntary partnership agreements to be entered into, particularly in areas where there is more than one incumbent operator.
The Bill would also strengthen the framework, established in the Transport Act 2000, for quality partnership schemes. It would remove existing restrictions, so as to allow these schemes to include provisions about frequencies, timings and maximum faresthings that matter a great deal to passengerswhile stopping short of enabling authorities to impose unreasonable requirements on operators. It will enable facilities and standards of service in a quality partnership scheme to be phased in over a period of time, and also includes measures to help prevent quality partnership schemes being undermined by destabilising competition from operators who are not participating in the scheme.
The Government recognise that partnership arrangements will not work everywhere. In some circumstances, it may be in the public interest for local authorities to take greater control over local bus services. The Transport Act 2000 included provisions for local transport authorities to make quality contracts schemesessentially the London-style model of bus franchising. The Bill sets out a series of public interest criteria which would need to be met in place of the
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