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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as I said, the bonuses are a matter for Network Rail’s independent remuneration committee, not for government. I understand the concerns expressed by my noble friend. The Office of Rail Regulation is now consulting on changes to Network Rail’s network licence, which is

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aimed at strengthening the company’s accountability. This includes a proposal to require Network Rail to publish its remuneration committee’s bonus-level deliberations.

Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, we are probably in for a summer of chaos on the railways. There were track problems on the line from Liverpool Street to Norwich on three evenings last week. People were discharged in villages, with no transport; there were almost riots as people tried to get taxis. This is unacceptable. Should not the Government encourage Network Rail to do rather better in repairing its track, not simply fine it, as they did at Christmas? They should do something to encourage an improvement to the track in this country.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, there have been record levels of investment in the rail network. For that reason, punctuality has improved. Something like eight out of 10 passenger trains now arrive on time, which is a rather higher figure than we experienced some years ago. The Government are committed to increasing the amount of money spent to ensure continued improvements in reliability. That is an indication of our commitment. We meet rail industry executives regularly, on the basis of delivering improvements to the network. There have been many improvements to the network and to how repairs are carried out.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the Government will have any influence on the appointment of a new chairman for Network Rail, which will happen shortly, and whether, in so doing, they can do anything to make sure that the organisation lives up to the promises it is making, for example, about having a railway that is open on weekdays and weekends?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is extremely important that the railway network is open at all times, but one has to acknowledge, and I am sure the noble Lord would, that we have to ensure that there is a proper programme of repair works; otherwise the network will begin to fail. We have experienced the worst of those failures. It is right that we seek those standards, and whoever heads Network Rail will be charged with those responsibilities.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, to get to the basis of this, roughly what percentage of the bonus is represented by public money?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, as has been said many times in your Lordships' House, the railway network is funded by the farepayer and the taxpayer, and we seek to achieve the appropriate balance between those two elements of its funding. I cannot give the noble Lord a precise answer to his question, but the independent remuneration committee reflects on the performance of the rail network, and in some years, performance bonuses are reduced. Roughly speaking, only 3 per cent of bonuses paid to staff employed

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across the network are paid at the executive level. The vast majority of bonuses are paid to frontline staff, quite rightly so.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester:My Lords, while my noble friend is undoubtedly right that the performance of the railway has improved considerably in recent months compared with, say, 12 months ago, does he not agree that one of the fundamental responsibilities of Network Rail is to establish a proper method of working with the train operating companies and that it is in nobody’s interests for there to be stand-offs between the TOCs and Network Rail, which have led to some of the problems that occurred in the summer, which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, my noble friend always speaks with great wisdom on these matters, and he is absolutely right. We want to see all parts of the industry working well together to deliver a safer rail network that is well invested in and that continues to expand to ensure that we have extra capacity to meet the increasing demands that are made upon it.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, having been employed by this organisation, my view is that there is very little justification for believing that politicians make a better deal of running large companies than the people who spend their professional lives doing it.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, only the noble Lord could make that observation.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: My Lords, do the Government agree with the award of a knighthood to Moir Lockhead, chairman of First Great Western, which is the worst performing rail franchise in the country? Do they think that that is a suitable reward for such inefficiency?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, tempting as it is in your Lordships' House to speculate and discuss the awards that people get for work in the public service, it is an invitation I shall decline this morning.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I agree with the Minister that there have been improvements in rail services, and I welcome the fact that the Office of Rail Regulation will look at this. The Government set up Network Rail. There are no shareholders, as far as I can tell. It is run as a self-perpetuating oligarchy, and the Government say they have no responsibilities. Somebody must be in charge of it. It is our money. Who?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, in the end, Network Rail is responsible as a not-for-profit organisation to the stakeholders in the industry. There is a defined structure that sets that out. It has measures and levels of accountability, ultimately to government. I know that from time to time there is speculation about how effective that structure is, but it is what we have at the moment, and our objective in government is to make it work well.

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Special Educational Needs

11.30 am

Lord Addington asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Lord Adonis): My Lords, our Children’s Plan includes £18 million of extra funding over the next three years to support teacher training and development in special educational needs and disabilities. We have asked Sir Jim Rose to make recommendations on identifying and teaching children with dyslexia in both primary and secondary schools. The Education and Skills Bill, which raises the education participation age to 18, includes provisions for SEN assessments to be carried out by local authorities for all students beyond the age of 18.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. Has special attention been paid to how you explain to somebody of 17, for instance, in a way that they can understand, that the reason they have failed all their exams is not because they are stupid? How do we explain to their parents and carers what they can to do support that person? Unless that person accepts that they have to take new action, virtually anything the education authorities do is bound to fail.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I should make clear that the duty on local authorities to carry out assessments begins at the age of 16, not 18 as I said a moment ago, for those who have come to the end of compulsory school-leaving age.

The noble Lord is absolutely right that support for students with special learning needs is unlikely to be effective unless their parents are fully engaged too. The statementing process, as the noble Lord will know, fully engages parents. It is a joint process between parents and local authorities. In most cases local authorities, schools and parents reach joint decisions on the best provision for a student. Of course, many students with special educational needs do not have statements. Schools seek to ensure they have the best possible relations with parents in agreeing patterns of provision. This is one of the prime responsibilities of special educational needs co-ordinators in schools. We are in the process of introducing mandatory training for special educational needs co-ordinators, part of which will be how they can engage as effectively as possible with parents.

Baroness Morris of Bolton: My Lords, many young people with special educational needs are extremely bright but if their problem is undiagnosed they can become frustrated and disruptive, and often end up being excluded. Are young people who are persistently difficult screened for learning difficulties?

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Lord Adonis: My Lords, that should be the case but it depends on action at school level. As I was saying a moment ago, one of the responsibilities of special educational needs co-ordinators is to see that schools have in place reliable screening processes which will see that children who may be disruptive or exhibiting serious behavioural issues, as mentioned by the noble Baroness, are screened and, if they have special educational needs, that those needs are properly addressed.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, many of those young people who do not want to stay on in learning after 16—the ones the Government are now intending to force to stay on—have complex needs. Not only do they have the underlying problems such as dyslexia but they have probably experienced serial failure over many years because of the lack of diagnosis of that problem. Given the Government’s intention to raise the learning leaving age, what are they doing to train those organisations that are supposed to support those 16 to 18 year-olds so that they understand the complexity of their problems and make sure that the resources are there to deal with them in a completely new way?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, I do not accept the premise of the noble Baroness’s question—that young people with complex needs are less suited to staying on in education and training in some appropriate form beyond the age of 16. In all my experience of schools and colleges, those that have good provision in this area, that engage effectively with parents and have the right pattern of special needs provision engage successfully with students with complex needs. They find appropriate provision for them to stay on. As the noble Baroness, Lady Morris, was saying a moment ago, a large proportion of students with complex needs are not short of capacity to engage in education and training. The job of institutions is to see that the provision is appropriate, including vocational provision and provision tailored for students with special educational needs. Providing that they have that provision in place, we should have the same expectations of success for pupils with learning difficulties and disabilities as we have for all other young people.

Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that a late diagnosis is the signal of a tragedy in an individual’s life? His announcement about resources directed at early diagnosis is extremely welcome. As we can see by looking at the prison population, if no other, we have a school population with a very high incidence of undetected dyslexia and it is on the way up. How will those who are caught between the new provisions at 18 and the new provisions for early diagnosis be screened and caught, or will they be left at risk?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the noble Lord is absolutely right: it is a tragedy for the individuals concerned and for society at large if special educational needs are not diagnosed at an early stage. That is why the £18 million of investment, to which I referred, to upgrade systematically the quality of training available to new teachers is so important. However, the fact that diagnoses are not made at the earliest stage in education does not absolve schools and local authorities from their responsibility to see that proper provision is made at a later stage. As the noble Baroness said, if

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students start to exhibit behavioural issues later in their school career, that should be one of many spurs to ensuring that proper screening assessment takes place and that, where special needs are identified, that provision is put in place.

Lord Macaulay of Bragar: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the figures being discussed refer only to England and Wales?

Lord Adonis: My Lords, the figures to which I referred concern England, but both Wales and Scotland are making sufficient additional provision in this area too.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, following up the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and in view of the number of wrong diagnoses that have been made, is the Minister sure that enough attention is being given to a second opinion on behavioural difficulties? Perhaps a second medical consultant’s opinion should be sought in quite a number of cases.

Lord Adonis: My Lords, in most cases, particularly those that go through the statementing process, a range of professionals will be consulted before decisions are reached on the appropriate provision. Of course, it is entirely open to local authorities and parents to seek that range of advice so that an initial judgment does not become the final judgment, under which parents are not satisfied that the required provision is being put in place.

Business of the House: Debates Today

11.37 am

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 debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Taylor of Warwick set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Baroness Park of Monmouth to two hours.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Probate Services (Approved Bodies) Order 2008

Representation of the People (Amendment) Regulations 2008

Parliamentary Constituencies and Assembly Electoral Regions (Wales) (Amendment) Order 2008

European Parliament (Number of MEPs and Distribution between Electoral Regions) (United Kingdom and Gibraltar) Order 2008

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

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Moved, That the draft orders and regulations be referred to a Grand Committee.—(Baroness Ashton of Upholland.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.


11.38 am

Lord Taylor of Warwick rose to call attention to the concept of Britishness in the context of the cultural, historical, constitutional and ethical tradition of the peoples of these islands; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, a British national newspaper once asked its readers what it means to be British. One of the responses that it received was:

That is a vivid example of why being British is not defined or explained by narrow national, ethnic or geographical origin. However, we need to understand the concept in order to adequately face the challenges of modern Britain in a fast-changing world. The question of British identity in the context of its culture, history, constitution and ethical tradition is topical and important. That is why the issue has been addressed in recent speeches by the Prime Minister, the leaders of the two main opposition parties and, two days ago, by the former Attorney-General, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Goldsmith.

There is a saying, “We should all choose our parents carefully”. For understandable reasons, that advice, though well intended, is difficult to follow. However, my parents had the good sense to ensure that I was born and brought up in a place that some regard as paradise. It is arguably one of the most beautiful and exotic spots in the world. It is called Birmingham, just off the M6 motorway, by the old gas works. This link to Birmingham I proudly share with the Minister.

What Birmingham in the 1950s perhaps lacked in scenic beauty, it made up for in its new vitality and diversity. My parents were part of the “Windrush” generation that came from a genuine paradise: Jamaica in the West Indies. They came from a group of islands in the Caribbean whose inhabitants arguably had a stronger sense of what “British” meant than those actually born and raised here. My mother’s ancestry was part Anglo-Irish. My father served as a sergeant in the British Eighth Army, otherwise known as the Desert Rats. Among his proudest possessions were medals that he won for his part in the battle of Anzio in Italy during the Second World War.

My parents were part of a generation of immigrants who came to Britain with a genuine love for the British flag, British royalty and British literature. After the war, my father demobbed to Birmingham in the country that he called the “motherland”. However, to his shock, he quickly found that the streets were more cold than gold. He was immediately asked, “When are you going back to your real home in Jamaica?”. He thought that he was home. Hope turned to despair when he realised

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that the only job that he could get was as a cleaner in the local factory. As a qualified accountant, he had hoped for something better. He became further disillusioned when, looking for a room to rent, he saw sign after sign in house windows stating, “No blacks, no Irish, no dogs”. Immigration quickly became a divisive and emotive issue. People did not realise that immigration had not started in the 1950s. Britain is a nation of immigrants: Danes, Normans, Irish, French, Spanish, Huguenots, Jews, Muslims, Indians, Pakistanis and Africans. Our food and language are derived from a rich variety of different nations and cultures.

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