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House of Lords

Monday, 24 November 2008.

The House met at half-past two: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Winchester.

Schools: Disability Equality

Baroness Howe of Idlicote asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin):My Lords, the Government have taken a range of actions including the production of two sets of guidance, Implementing the Disability Discrimination Act in Schools and Early Years Settings and Safe to Learn: Embedding Anti-bullying Work in Schools. We have also made available new units for the primary teacher training undergraduate programme that will develop understanding of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. However, I am sure she is aware of a Mencap survey published last week that revealed that fewer than one in 10 schools has a disability equality scheme in place, despite now having a legal duty to do so. What are the Government’s intentions here, not least because eight out of 10 children with a learning disability are still being bullied at school? What further action do the Government intend to take to inform and support school heads and governors with regard to their disability equality responsibilities and to ensure that all teachers receive sufficient training and retraining to support the full range of children with special needs in our schools?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the Government’s intention is that all schools should comply with their legal duties and that all schools should publish a disability equality scheme and an accessibility plan. We believe that schools are working towards achieving that and doing better year on year, but there is still a long way to go. Much needs to be done to support head teachers and governors, whose roles are key, to promote further and better teacher training. The Government are using all channels available to us to promote this important development.

Baroness Verma: My Lords, why do the Government continue to close down special schools, which are a lifeline for a great number of children and young people with both learning and physical disabilities?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the Government are committed to providing world-class education to all children and young people, whatever the appropriate setting for them. We work to ensure

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that appropriate education is available to children in mainstream settings and specialist schools. The Disability Discrimination Act 2005 is an important step towards mainstreaming equality for all young people who experience disability.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, despite the actions of the Government in trying to implement the Act and to stop bullying, many children are still bullied. Many of them are unable even to think of equality because of the way in which they are dealt with by bullies in schools. Can we have a more vigorous implementation of the Act by the Government and more pressure on head teachers to ensure that children have a degree of equality?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I support the sentiments expressed so eloquently by my noble friend. Disabled children experience far too high a level of bullying in schools. Last week was National Anti-Bullying Week and we issued new guidance on the bullying of children with special educational needs and disabilities. We also issued a DVD to raise awareness of the effects of bullying in schools because that is where children, ultimately, have a real opportunity to change attitudes.

Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, the main focus has been on children with disabilities in schools, but have the Government taken any initiatives to attract adults with disabilities into teaching? Many people with disabilities are perfectly capable of holding down such a very challenging job as teaching and they would, of course, provide tremendous role models within schools for children with disabilities, teaching them that they can do anything.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right that the DDA applies not just to schools and the delivery of education but also to employers. That is why an accessibility plan is very important for children and for adults. The new teacher-training units which we are developing are about creating awareness of schools’ responsibilities in the widest possible sense with regard to disability discrimination and the role of the Act in promoting an inclusive school community.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords, are the Government satisfied that Ofsted is taking sufficient action through inspection to ensure that schools are properly implementing their duties? How many primary and secondary schools published disability equality scheme annual reports in December last year?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, Ofsted plays a key role in inspecting schools’ compliance with the disability discrimination duties. We know from Ofsted that 75 per cent of schools feel confident that they are complying fully with their duties. However, that is not good enough and we aspire to see a much higher number, Ofsted being in a position, in the future, to report a much higher and more successful achievement of compliance in our schools.

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Lord Elton: My Lords, what the Minister said in response to my noble friend Lady Verma was an interesting reaction but did not amount to an answer. Can she tell us the reason for the closure of the special schools to which my noble friend referred?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, to give a detailed reason, I would need to know to which special school in particular the noble Baroness was referring. If that is required, I should be happy to do that.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, what percentage of schools are fully wheelchair accessible?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord that answer, but I am happy to do my best to find an appropriate answer for him.


2.44 pm

Lord Morris of Aberavon asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Malloch-Brown): My Lords, the ISAF is a NATO-led force. Formally, it is NATO's responsibility to ensure that the ISAF has all the resources it needs. However, as the Prime Minister said in another place last year, there is a need for,

Therefore, the UK maintains a vigorous dialogue with ISAF partners and the wider international community on burden-sharing.

Lord Morris of Aberavon: My Lords, I admire the continued gallantry of our troops, but does not history show that, for more than a century, no invading country has won enduring success in Afghanistan? Will the Minister comment on the candour of NATO’s General Craddock that there are more than 70 national operational restrictions or caveats demonstrating, in his words, that their national will is somewhat wavering? The most recent, by Belgium, states that its potential reinforcements will not operate to the south of the country.

When I asked the Minister a similar question last year, he preferred not to give a fuller account out of respect for the allies. General Craddock seems to have no such inhibitions, and while there are more than mere numbers involved, would it not be better to have an open discussion on these matters?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there are two reasons why we are reticent about commenting on this. The first is respect for allies which are, after all, putting their troops at risk—even with caveats. The second is

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that we do not wish to give away to others comprehensive battlefield intelligence about the conditions under which different troops will operate. Let me assure the noble and learned Lord, however, that we are working hard to get as many of those caveats lifted as possible.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, one country that has put its troops at risk is Canada, but it is due to withdraw most of its personnel by 2011. What discussions have the Government had with our NATO counterparts about making up that specific shortfall?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, there were plenty of discussions with Canada before it arrived at that decision; I, and others, gave evidence to the Canadian commission looking into it. The noble Lord is correct that the decision to set a date by which it would withdraw will create a future gap. At the moment, President-elect Obama has made it clear both that there will be a major surge deployment into Afghanistan, and that he will expect more from his NATO allies. It is through that leadership, which we strongly support, that that gap will be covered.

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, in Bucharest the member states agreed to establish a trust fund so that those countries which did not wish to contribute forces could contribute equipment or cash. Will the Minister update us on its progress?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, I am glad to be able to report that the trust fund, which was established in April, is doing quite well. It is for purchasing equipment and other support for the Afghan national army, so that it can start to play its proper role in this strategy. Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, Norway and the Netherlands have all contributed to that fund.

Lord Hamilton of Epsom: My Lords, will the Minister not accept that the caveats to which the noble and learned Lord, Lord Morris, referred apply mainly to our European allies, which are not prepared to commit their troops? Indeed, by putting on those caveats they are contradicting the rules of engagement that they, as nations, have signed up to. Does that not make a complete nonsense of the idea of European defence and the European army, as floated by President Sarkozy the other day?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, those caveats are, unfortunately, becoming a disease across many peacekeeping operations around the world. They have a terrible and contagious dimension: in the Congo last week, I saw caveats operating as regards contributors to that force. We need to tackle them conceptually, as they deeply affect the operational competence of peacekeeping wherever it is done and whichever armies apply them.

Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, the Minister has told us—and we are encouraged—that the Government are actively and robustly seeking to reduce the number of caveats. How many have been removed in the past 12 months?

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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, touché, I think; I cannot say. I would be delighted to try to respond if an answer existed.

Lord Soley: My Lords, what are the views of those countries which are not making a sufficient contribution about the link between development and security? It is the UN’s view that one cannot have development without security. Various opposition groups in Afghanistan know that, which is why they kill not just our troops but women and employees of non-governmental organisations. Do states, particularly those in NATO, understand that the UN link between development and security is critical to the outcome in Afghanistan?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend is correct that obviously they are linked. The difficulty is that some countries, while they do not doubt the link, remain concerned about putting their soldiers’ lives at risk in this very dangerous environment, and they have chosen for whatever reason to conclude that the candle is not worth the wick.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, what would be the strategic effect of giving up on this operation?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, Afghanistan was a failed state that had produced the al-Qaeda attacks on the United States on 9/11. I think that we are all aware that around the strategic purpose of this operation, which is to build a stable Afghanistan able to keep itself free of such threats in the future, is a global objective that we should all share and be committed to.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, when British troops operate alongside American troops in Afghanistan, do they operate on British or American rules of engagement, and are there any aspects of British rules of engagement which are more restrictive—let us say, “caveatish”—than the American?

Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, we operate without restrictions under NATO rules of engagement, to which we have made no limits, as does the United States in its ISAF operation. There is a second US operation which has its own rules of engagement and the very different task of hunting down al-Qaeda.

Carbon Emissions

2.52 pm

Lord Lawson of Blaby asked Her Majesty’s Government:

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government intend to reduce emissions radically by 2050, but one cannot accurately predict economic and technological conditions 40 years ahead. Nevertheless, analysis for the 2007 energy White Paper suggests that, without its additional policies, the UK’s emissions in 2050 could be around 600 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, which would correspond to between 0.7 and 1.5 per cent of global emissions in scenarios from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, is it not extraordinary that we should at this stage be introducing a unilateral, unconditional requirement on this country to reduce carbon dioxide emissions when no other country is committing to do the same, to the degree of 80 per cent, even though we account only for the insignificant amount of 1.5 to 1.7 per cent of total emissions? In pursuit of this absurd and masochistic policy for this country, has the Minister’s department made an estimate, as it should have done, of how big an increase in energy prices for business, industry and the consumer will be required to achieve this objective?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there will be some costs attendant on the transfer of energy production, but there are also huge opportunities. The noble Lord seemed to indicate that only the United Kingdom was concerned about global emissions, but he will appreciate that the European Union has its target. He will recognise that the new Administration of the United States are also taking Kyoto seriously. In that context, being in the lead, which is where Britain intends to be under this Government, will reap rich rewards in terms of opportunities for producing the technologies for the future.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, does not the strategy of the Government, whose carbon targets are supported by these Benches, go broader than just carbon emissions and mean that this country and its economy will be ahead in energy security, and ahead of the problems that will arise out of peak oil and peak gas?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, we have to have energy security in mind. We recognise that, with the reduction in our indigenous resources in the North Sea, we will become increasingly dependent on sources from elsewhere if we are not careful. There is no doubt that the Government’s green energy strategy helps to increase the levels of self-sufficiency of energy generation in this country.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, bearing in mind the huge technological changes of the last 50 years, I note that the Question asks about a “business-as-usual basis”. Do the Government assume there will be no further great technological changes in emissions in the next 50 years?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government will do their utmost to promote those technological changes which are of benefit to both the people of the

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United Kingdom and the world as a whole. That is why we are encouraging, for instance, the development of motor-car transport beyond the internal combustion engine. My noble friend will recognise the rewards already for those companies that have advanced down this track and the costs borne by those that have not responded.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, given the Government’s abilities to forecast what has happened over the past 42 months, what confidence does the Minister have in the Government’s capabilities to make economic forecasts over the next 42 years?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord is right about projections, though he will have noticed that in my opening statement I indicated the difficulties of projecting the position 50 years on. It is less difficult to project the degree of temperature growth from carbon emissions over that period if we do nothing. In that, we are dependent not on UK internal resources but on world scientific analysis and resources, which of course countries take seriously.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, in a Written Statement last Thursday, my noble friend Lord Myners cites the first auction in the second round of the Emissions Trading Scheme in the UK. He says:

“Four million allowances were offered for sale ... at a total value of £54 million”,—[Official Report, 20/11/08; col. WS 96.]

but that it was “four times oversubscribed”. Surely if it were four times oversubscribed, the price would have gone up rather than the sale being at a fixed price.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is a fairly complex question from my noble friend—I emphasise the last word. The Government wish to encourage participation in the development of the new technologies and the new opportunities. In pricing those opportunities, we will not get everything right on every occasion. I hope my noble friend will accept, however, that the Government ought to err on the side of encouragement of the new developments, because nothing could be worse than failing to take the opportunities provided to us.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, I am all for being market leader in the right green and other environmental technologies, but the European Union is now considering drawing back from its original target of 20 per cent renewables by 2020 on the grounds that this will be highly uncompetitive unless the whole world goes in the same direction. Has the fact that it is rowing back from its target while we seem to be stuck on the previous target influenced government thinking in any way?

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