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I regret that the legislation was not forthcoming earlier. I nevertheless appreciate that the Government were persuaded and it is a tragedy that, at this late stage, at the behest of the Conservative Opposition, it is being withdrawn. It is not only a tragedy for those young people who will lose out, but it is a cause of great distress to all those who have campaigned vigorously for so many years. I can only say to noble Lords opposite that there were people on the telephone to me this morning in tears because they had campaigned so long and so vigorously for something that they fundamentally believed in and it was being taken away from them at this last moment in this strange way. I shall vote against the withdrawal of these clauses, but I do not see it as a vote against my Government, but as a vote for my Government's original policies, which I absolutely and fundamentally support.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: I realise that feelings are running very high among noble Lords who have spoken so far, but there is a real danger that in speaking with such strong feelings the case is being completely misrepresented. It is being suggested that by taking these clauses out we are denying young people access to personal, social and health education. It would be almost impossible to find a secondary school, and very rare to find a primary school, that does not teach personal, social and health education. The Bill would have put that on a statutory basis and would have put in a lot of detail about what PSHE should include, but because of the shortage of teachers trained in this subject, I do not think that it would have made any difference to what was given of quality. Many schools teach PSHE in a high-quality way. Many young people have excellent access to all the elements that are in the Bill. Other schools that are unable or unwilling to do it would not have been helped by the Bill because there was always a provision for schools of a religious or other nature to opt out. However strongly noble Lords feel, and I respect their feelings because I believe that PSHE has a useful place in any school's organisation, it is important that we debate on the facts about what is being suggested and not on some imagination.
Lord Howarth of Newport: I have one brief thought to add to the powerful, and surely incontrovertible, arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley-she was absolutely right to make the case as fully as she did-and to the impassioned speeches made by my noble friends Lady Massey and Lady Gould.
With the global AIDS pandemic, in a world in which criminal drug trafficking is ubiquitous, and in a society such as ours that has a horrifying and mounting problem of alcoholism, this is not just a matter of safety-the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, understated the issue, if anything; it can be matter of life and death. Young people should have the opportunity of really well considered and really well delivered PSHE. I should say to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that while it is true that some schools teach excellently in this field, we know that this education is all too patchy and inadequately delivered and that it needs to be greatly improved. The curriculum needs to be properly
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This matter should not be determined simply in families. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, was absolutely right to make the case that parents should not have the right to opt their children out of this, because young people have responsibilities to other young people, and young people should be entitled to be protected from the hazards in contemporary society. For all these reasons, it is utterly lamentable that these provisions should be lost from the Bill. What the Conservative Party has done in forcing us to this point is a major scandal.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I was also going to point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that while there are many excellent examples of PSHE teaching in schools, there are many schools in which it is not good. In answer to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, made, the advantage of making it statutory is that teachers are trained better and we get a better standard teaching of this subject in schools.
I must say how much I agree with the sentiments that have been expressed by the noble Baronesses, Lady Massey and Lady Gould, and the noble Lord, Lord Howarth. We are at the culmination of many, many years of campaigning to get PSHE on to the curriculum and taught properly in schools. We thought that we had got that with this Bill, but now we have lost it and it looks as though we may have lost it for another 20 years. This is really appalling. Those who rail against poor parenting should recognise that one is trying to get greater understanding of personal and family relationships and of what contributes positively to those relationships. We are very sad indeed that the Government have capitulated on an issue on which they themselves put such store when they introduced this Bill.
Baroness O'Loan: My Lords, statutory does not necessarily equal excellent when it comes to teaching. Many areas of the curriculum are statutory, and we have many failing schools. It is important to say that, because we will not necessarily make PSHE better by making it statutory. The reality is that the contexts in which PSHE is delivered and its effectiveness will depend on a range of factors that are totally outside children, such as the funding that is given to the school, the staffing and the catchment of the school, and the context in which education is delivered. All those factors will affect the teaching of all subjects in any school, and making something statutory does not necessarily help.
By making something statutory, you also impose a further level of bureaucracy on schools that are already struggling under a mighty weight of bureaucracy. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, is right to say that we have heard hugely emotive language here tonight. No noble Lord among us would want children not to know about such things as child abuse, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy and so on. Those are all very significant and serious issues, which are provided for in most of the schools in this country. It is right that, if we are to legislate and to place this on a statutory footing, we should get it right.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: Is the noble Baroness aware that there are many surveys in which young people state quite firmly that they are not getting this kind of education either at home or at school?
Baroness O'Loan: Thank you. I am aware that there are surveys of that nature. I am also aware that there are other surveys and other statistics, such as the 69 per cent of parents who do not agree with the proposal that was in this legislation.
In conclusion, there is no correlation, nor has there been, between the teaching of personal, social, health and economic education and any reductions in teenage pregnancy or abortion. We cannot point to that. The legislation has not provided a context within which such would be achieved. There was a project in Glasgow, of which I am sure noble Lords are aware. What was described as an ideal programme of PSHE was delivered. There was a follow-up across 25 schools, covering some, I think, 8,000 students, to see whether there was a reduced incidence of teenage pregnancy and abortion. The result was that there was not.
We need to know a lot more about what would make this proposal effective. If we are to do it, it needs to be done with families, children and teachers. Then we can move forward in a way in which I am sure that all noble Lords would agree. This is not the time.
Baroness Gould of Potternewton: Perhaps I may disagree with the noble Baroness. In making such provision statutory, you provide a framework for implementing all the things for which she is asking. If you do not have that, schools will be able to go off, as they do now, and either provide it or not at whim. We will not have the things that we ought to be looking for-good education and well trained teachers who can provide that. Without it being in a statutory framework, we will not get it. That is why people have campaigned for 20 years. They have done the research and the work in order to create a situation which would provide that.
Lord Lucas: Yes, but if you do it in that way you fossilise a concept of PSHE in legislation which is 20 years out of date. New Section 85B(1), to be inserted in the Education Act 2002 under Clause 11(4), provides a list of things that should be the result of good education and not elements of it. It will merely become a collection of targets and imperatives which will be delivered without any underlying concept. Much good and really advanced work is going on in schools, which I celebrate whenever I see it. But it is not tick-box stuff as set out here. There are other ways of providing incentives to schools. It can be done through inspection. There are all sorts of ways in which schools can be motivated to take this matter seriously and do it well.
The noble Baroness was extremely unfair to say that this is something that was taken away. It was never given. There was no way in which this part of the Bill was going to get through without proper discussion and the Government never provided time for that. This part of the Bill was never on serious offer. It was there as a phantom and no more.
As to the right of withdrawal, a tiny proportion, a fraction of a per cent, of children are withdrawn from sex and relationship education. There are no data to
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Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, after 44 minutes on this subject, it is absolutely obvious that this is not a matter for wash-up. It is too important. I was undecided when I came to the Chamber to listen and I remain undecided. It is a matter that requires careful consideration because there are arguments both ways. I am not at all sure which way I want to go. I know that we should not be doing this at 10.40 pm on wash-up on the last but one day of this Parliament. For that reason, I think that I shall vote with the Government, who I believe are probably right. Since they have not given us the time to argue it properly in Committee, it should be argued at another time. Whichever party forms the next Government, I hope that this will be top of the list in a Children Bill.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I appreciate that the hour is late and that a number of passionate, well informed and eloquent contributions have been made to this debate. My job now is to explain and put on the record the Government's position. Before doing so, I should say that my understanding is that these clauses received a great deal of scrutiny in another place and that a lot of work was put into crafting them. However, the Government will be opposing the question that Clauses 11 to 14 should stand part.
Let me be clear that the Government believe that PSHE should be statutory in all state-funded schools. As we have heard, statutory PSHE is regarded by many as essential in preparing young people for adult life. By reducing the age of opt-out to 15, we had intended that all children should receive at least one year of sex and relationship education before leaving compulsory education. We see that as extremely important. A large body of evidence shows that good sex and relationship education correlates well with young people waiting longer to have their first sexual experience and thus reduces teenage pregnancy rates. However, I suggest that now is not the time to go through all that.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am going to continue to make a number of points that I am sure the noble Baroness will be interested to hear. I would argue that we must be concerned to do all that we can to tackle teenage pregnancy and all the other issues that noble Lords have raised. We know that children born to young parents are much less likely to secure the outcomes to which we are all committed. It is because of that that the provisions received such significant support in Parliament and more broadly across the sector, as well as among faith groups, as my noble friends Lady Gould and Lady Massey pointed out.
I need to make it clear that the insistence that parents should have the right to withdraw their children until they reach the age of 16-the age at which they
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Just to make it absolutely clear, noble Lords will know that, on introducing a Bill to the House, I would have to sign a Section 19 statement confirming that in my view the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. I am advised that, if the Bill had been drafted on the basis of the proposed right of withdrawal until the age of 16, I would not have been able to sign such a statement.
Baroness Walmsley: I am sorry to interrupt the Minister again, but will she accept that, with the support of the Liberal Democrats, she could have resisted an attempt to get the withdrawal age up to 16?
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am being absolutely clear that it was not possible for the Government to accept that children should be withdrawn from sex and relationship education until the age of 16. Again, it was not possible for us to do that. On that basis, I have made it clear that this Government believe in statutory PSHE and that we were committed to an age of withdrawal up to the age of 15. It is therefore with deep regret that the Government are in a position where we must oppose that these clauses should stand part.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I am not going to say anything further about Amendment 16 because I should like to move to the question of whether the clauses should stand part. I withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, we on these Benches regret that the Government wish not to proceed with Clause 27, which grants the framework power which would have allowed the National Assembly for Wales to regulate home education in its own way. While we are quite in favour of withdrawing Clause 26, which was unworkable and did not have general support, we believe that home education is a matter which should be devolved to the National Assembly. We on these Benches would rather have left the clause in the Bill, but we shall not oppose its removal tonight.
Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: I do not wish to detain the House any further. The House is aware of the discussions that have taken place as part of wash-up, in which we agreed that we would oppose stand part.
"(4A) Only a person with parental responsibility for a child within the meaning of section 3 of the Children Act 1989 can justify battery of that child on the ground that it constituted reasonable punishment.""
Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment 40 in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Judd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Stern, who apologises for not being able to be present. This proposed new clause would restrict the availability of the defence of reasonable punishment, which can be used to justify common assault on a child, to those who have legal parental responsibility for the child. The amendment uses the term,
rather than "parents" because it is important to include step-parents, grandparents and other legal guardians who have gained full parenting responsibilities, and equally important to exclude fathers who have not sought or been granted parental responsibility-for example, because the child was the result of a rape.
I first make it clear that my party would like to see the defence of reasonable punishment removed completely. Full prohibition of all forms of physical punishment is the only safe and just solution. That has been affirmed by relevant international human rights bodies. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has now recommended three times that the UK reforms its legislation to ban physical punishment, and two other UN treaty bodies have also made this recommendation. But the Government have resisted these calls. Noble Lords will recall that they have even refused their party members a free vote on this issue.
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