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Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, the development that the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, suggested would be of great help to people such as myself who tend to use pavements or sidewalks instead of roads. Sometimes in the countryside the sidewalks have a very bad camber and it is dangerous to use a personal assistive machine on them. Alternatively, there may be no sidewalks, in which case one is bound to use the

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highway. Can the Minister suggest something for people who, like me, cannot get around other than on the road?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I suspect that for people who have serious difficulties with mobility these devices are not particularly practical. However, they may be very useful on private land and in areas where large landowners wish to use them. My noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham tells me that they are very handy on golf courses.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the Minister is obviously not very well informed about these devices because he did not respond to my noble friend’s point that the majority of European countries and the overwhelming majority of states in the US have allowed these vehicles on to the roads and presumably have some regulations under which they operate. Why cannot the noble Lord at least undertake to have a look at the procedures in the United States and Europe to see whether any of them might be applicable here?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, perhaps I did sell the noble Earl a bit short in what I said, but we are reviewing the reports on Segway trials. I know that some 42 states in the US have given the machines limited scope for usage, as have a number of EU states. However, I am not aware that that is the case in the majority of EU states, as the noble Earl said. Of course, we keep these things under review and our officials are currently looking at a number of trials that have been reported on.

The Earl of Erroll: My Lords, did I understand the Minister to say that the police could trial these devices? I understood that the police had been told that they could not do so.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I think that one UK police force decided that it would acquire these vehicles and then discovered that it would not be lawful to use them on the public highway.

Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I tried one of these machines 20 minutes ago; it is in the car park if the Minister wishes to wander out there. It took me a few minutes to learn how to use it and I was very impressed with it. The vehicle’s safety mechanism was particularly good and was demonstrated by the fact that I drove straight at the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, with his consent, and failed to do him any damage at all—unfortunately! I am sure that if the Minister would like to wander down to the car park, he could try it out on the pavement and, as it is on private land, he could do so legally.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am always game to do these things but I am not sure that I will manage it this afternoon, as we have the Committee stage of the Housing and Regeneration Bill.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I knew that that would not go down very well, but I commit to finding the opportunity to have a go on a Segway. I am

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sure that I will find it extremely interesting and no doubt a noble Lord will put down a Question to test me on how good it was.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, I apologise for coming in again, but does the Minister not understand that a major disincentive to using rail to get to a destination in the UK is the difficulty of getting from the railway station to the end destination, which may be a couple of miles? Does the Minister not see that the Segway could be very useful for that last part of a journey?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I hear what a number of noble Lords say about Segways, but there are real, practical difficulties. We must always be mindful of safety issues—this Government have a good record on road safety—and there are serious concerns; no doubt other jurisdictions have made such discoveries. Yes, we keep this under review. I take the point that the noble Earl made, but we need to take these issues more seriously.

Education and Skills Survey

3 pm

Lord Quirk asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, the Government welcome the CBI’s report, Taking Stock. We are making fundamental reforms to our skills system to create a demand-led, high-quality service delivering real economic value for employers and learners. We value the views of employers greatly. We have made significant progress, but are not complacent. To compete effectively in the global economy, we need a workforce with world-class skills from basic literacy and numeracy through to higher level qualifications.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, I thank the Minister for whatever palliative care she is able to offer. How long does she think it will take before we in this country can have the quality of education and training that is on offer in continental Europe? Does she agree with the CBI in its concern that 40 per cent of employers cannot find enough staff who can read and write properly, 60 per cent cannot find British science graduates and 36 per cent look to Asia for high-level recruits to their staff?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the Government take very seriously the findings of the CBI’s report, and obviously are concerned. We are in constant dialogue with employers. We invest in a comprehensive survey that looks at 79,000 employers—the CBI’s survey was smaller—and find that employers

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are more optimistic about the skills gap that they see in basic literacy: 15 per cent of employers, as opposed to 22 per cent, are now concerned about basic literacy. The Government are hugely committed to increasing our skills level. That is why we had the Leitch report and have Train to Gain and a basic skills strategy. I am optimistic that if we continue working hard, we will attain a higher quality education service that is always improving.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, a feature of the survey was that a significant number of small and medium-sized enterprises say they have no plans to be involved in apprenticeships. What does the Minister think is the cause of that lack of enthusiasm?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, that is an interesting question. We have survey evidence that shows that employers are investing more in training and that they value the role of the further education college in providing high-quality service. For small to medium-sized employers, apprenticeships are a big commitment. As I said on the previous occasion when we discussed this, we are looking at piloting additional support for smaller employers so that they feel they can engage. We are establishing a national apprenticeship service to go out proactively and engage with employers, particularly small employers, so that we can continue our impressive role of doubling the number of people starting apprenticeships in recent years.

Baroness Turner of Camden:My Lords, does the Minister agree that a great deal more could be done to encourage women to take up careers in science and engineering? When I was a member of the EOC, we had the WISE policy—women into science and engineering—and had a campaign to try to encourage more women to take up those careers.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I agree wholeheartedly with my noble friend. A great deal more could be done and there are some very ambitious plans set out by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, as well as the Department for Children, Schools and Families—for example, encouraging more science clubs for girls, and encouraging a general increase in the standard of science teaching, making it more interesting and less risk averse and providing more practical work. The record of involving more women in science is something that we should particularly strive to improve.

Baroness Coussins: My Lords, the CBI survey shows that half the employers that want to recruit people specifically for their language skills are looking for French or German speakers. Does the Minister agree that—in the case of German in particular—there is likely to be a very serious mismatch between the supply of qualified people and the needs of the economy, given that entries for German GCSE have fallen by 42 per cent over the past six years and that 25 per cent fewer universities are offering degrees in German compared to 10 years ago? Will she please say how the Government intend to encourage both schools and universities to reverse this decline?

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Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the most eminent noble Lord, Lord Dearing, undertook a review of languages and the provision of language education recently. When my right honourable friend Alan Johnson was Education Secretary, he accepted that we should make the provision of language education in primary schools statutory. There is recognition that much more needs to be done with languages. I will have to study the attack of the noble Baroness on the lack of German provision and write to her in some detail. We take it very seriously and are not complacent about it.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister think it helpful—at a time when we are trying to encourage young people to study the STEM subjects—that the research council responsible for physics, the STFC, is cutting back on research grants and studentships for the study of physics at universities?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, this Government have doubled investment in science. We have debated the strategy of the STFC. It is extremely important that we look at the investment that the Government make across the board in science, and we see some very encouraging increases in the number of young people choosing to study science as a first degree.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, can the noble Baroness explain how, having doubled the expenditure in real terms on education in the last 10 years, the literacy rate in primary schools is still lower than that of the Prussian primary school system in the 1820s? I can assure her that that is true.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am terribly sorry; I cannot make that comparison. My comprehensive education did not look at that question in enough detail. However, I will take it back to my department and write to the noble Earl, in some detail I hope, answering it.

Special Educational Needs (Information) Bill

3.07 pm

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [HL]

Lord Bach: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lords have 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, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Lord Bach.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Employment Bill [HL]

3.08 pm

Report received.

Clause 3 [Non-compliance with statutory Codes of Practice]:

Lord Bach moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Clause 3 of the Bill provides for tribunals to be able to adjust awards up or down by 25 per cent where parties have unreasonably failed to comply with a relevant code of practice relating to the procedure to be followed in workplace disputes issued under Chapter 3 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. We expect the relevant code to be the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures in almost all cases, but we had originally drafted more widely to allow flexibility for other codes, present or future, to be taken into account where relevant to dispute resolution.

Clarifying a point raised by my noble friend Lady Turner in Committee, I should explain that there are currently six codes under the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act, three issued by ACAS and three by the Secretary of State. Apart from the ACAS disciplinary and grievance code, only the ACAS code for time off for trade union duties has a small procedural element.

As was said in Committee, ACAS plays an important and valued role in the resolution of workplace disputes. The drafting of this clause to refer to codes issued by either ACAS or the Secretary of State is certainly not intended to belittle the role of ACAS in any way. However, we recognise that concerns have been raised that the current drafting might create uncertainty for the parties as to which codes were relevant.

Neither we nor ACAS would wish to lose the flexibility for ACAS to restructure its codes in the future, nor would we wish to exclude the possibility of a Secretary of State code issued in this area in the future being taken into account in adjusting awards, given that TULRCA allows the Secretary of State as well as ACAS to issue codes in employment relations generally, although I add that there is no such current intention.

We are proposing, therefore, an amended definition whereby “relevant Code of Practice” is more tightly defined as one issued under TULRCA that relates exclusively or primarily to procedure for the resolution of disputes. Of the existing six codes, such a definition would apply only to the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

We believe that this amendment removes any potential uncertainty as to which codes might be considered relevant, confirms the importance of the ACAS code of practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures, as highlighted by my noble friend in Committee, and retains the underlying purpose of Clause 3, which is to encourage parties to follow good practice in resolving workplace disputes. I beg to move.

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Lord Henley: My Lords, I can be fairly brief. I congratulate the noble Lord on moving the amendment on behalf of his noble friend Lord Jones, whom we hope to see later—indeed, I am sure that he will be here. I thank the noble Lord for the letter that his noble friend sent on 2 May to all those who have been taking an interest in the Bill, setting out what the amendment would do. We are content with the amendment, for which we thank the Government.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 4 [Determination of proceedings without hearing]:

Lord Lester of Herne Hill moved Amendment No. 2:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Razzall, is a paving amendment for Amendment No. 33, as well as for Amendment No. 36 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth. I shall, if I may, give just one explanation for the amendments in this group.

The amendments are all designed to give effect to the judgment made on 27 February 2007 by the European Court of Human Rights in a chamber of the court presided over by the British judge Sir Nicolas Bratza. I will not go into the detail of the judgment, which was explored thoroughly at Second Reading on 7 January and on the third day of Grand Committee on 13 March. The European Court of Human Rights decided that the existing legislative framework governing the right of trade unions to expel or exclude members or would-be members on the basis of membership of a political party did not strike the right balance between the rights of unions and freedom of association and the rights of individuals based on conscience and belief. Therefore, it became incumbent on the United Kingdom to give effect to the judgment by introducing legislation.

3.15 pm

This debate, like the earlier debates to which I have referred will, in due course, be scrutinised by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which is responsible for supervising the execution of judgments of the European Court. How this House and the other place deal with this will no doubt be looked at by the Committee of Ministers in due course, to ensure that the judgment has been properly executed. I am grateful to Ministers and their officials for meeting with me and the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Handsworth, at our request, to discuss this. I am also grateful to have had the benefit of meeting with TUC lawyers, who have discussed their concerns with me in great detail.

It is difficult to strike the right balance. Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 the name of the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway are about ensuring that a fair balance is struck. The problem is how to respect the vital autonomy of the trade unions on the one hand,

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and how to provide effective safeguards for individuals against the misuse of trade union powers on the other. Another problem is how to discourage bodies such as the BNP, which engage in vexatious and mischievous litigation, from harrying in an abusive way in order to further their political cause. Another factor is that to exclude or expel a trade union member or would-be member solely on the basis of their membership of a political party is a strong thing to do, especially if it leads to exceptional hardship.

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