The right honourable John Francis McFall, having been created Baron McFall of Alcluith, of Dumbarton in the County of Dunbartonshire, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Graham of Edmonton and Lord Myners, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
Simon Adam Wolfson, Esquire, commonly called the honourable Simon Adam Wolfson, having been created Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise, of Aspley Guise in the County of Bedfordshire, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Wolfson of Sunningdale and Lord Leach of Fairford, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The right honourable Hilary Jane Armstrong, having been created Baroness Armstrong of Hill Top, of Crook in the County of Durham, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Baroness Morgan of Huyton and Lord Griffiths of Burry Port, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.
The Commercial Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Sassoon): My Lords, the Office for Budget Responsibility was established to make independent assessments of the economy and public finances. The terms of reference for the interim OBR describe its independence. They make it clear that the OBR's assessments are produced with no ministerial involvement and that the OBR has the freedom to publish information at its discretion. Sir Alan Budd will be advising the Chancellor on the arrangements for the permanent OBR, including on issues relating to independence.
Lord Barnett: I thank the Minister for his Answer. Can he tell us whether it was the sheer incompetence of the Government in not letting the OBR have independence that led Sir Alan Budd to resign, or was it my Question? Is not the real problem the reliability of the OBR's forecasts? Is the Minister aware that the OBR has itself expressed great uncertainty about its forecasts? In the circumstances, and given the possibility that it could be wrong, as many leading economists have said, is it set in stone that the OBR should continue with its actions even if the economy has actually gone into a downturn even faster than the OBR had forecast?
Lord Sassoon: My Lords, in answer to the first question, I am sorry to pour cold water on a newspaper story, but Sir Alan always planned to leave in the summer. He was appointed to provide forecasts for the emergency Budget and to advise on the establishment of a permanent OBR, which is exactly what he has done and will continue to do. The noble Lord, Lord Barnett, asked, secondly, about what he described as "uncertainty" around the forecast. The whole point about the way in which the OBR has presented its forecast is that it has given a transparent probability distribution. The Treasury has never done that before in its forecasts; it has simply given a line and not explained the variability around it. Forecasts are of course subject to probability distributions and the OBR has followed the best practice for forecasts that the Bank of England and others have used for many years. As to what will happen if the forecasts change, the Chancellor has set a fiscal mandate and it is the responsibility of the OBR following each Budget or other fiscal event to report on whether his latest announcement still sets a course that has a 50 per cent or greater probability of meeting the mandate.
Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is vital for the OBR not just that it is independent but that it is seen to be independent? As the Government bring forward their detailed proposals for the OBR, will they ensure that, for example, it is housed outside the Treasury building and that all appointments to it are publicly advertised?
Lord Sassoon: I thank my noble friend for reminding us that independence is at the core of what the OBR is about and key to its permanent design. The Chancellor will shortly receive the advice of Sir Alan Budd on the setting-up of the OBR and I am sure that Sir Alan will consider the various factors that my noble friend mentioned.
Lord Peston: My Lords, did I hear the Minister right when he said, I think, that the fan charts that are to be found in the Budd committee's report are best practice? In fact, as a matter of technical economics, they are not. Best practice is to publish confidence limits with appropriate probability distributions, which all the independent forecasters do-the Treasury is perfectly aware of that because it publishes their forecasts on the website. Given that the Government wish to save public expenditure, is not the best thing that can possibly happen the abolition of this body before it starts wasting even more money?
Lord Sassoon: I defer to the noble Lord on what is best practice in economics. All I can say is that, as between Treasury forecasts that were produced in the past, completely untransparently and without distributions or fan charts, and Bank of England and other forecasts that had a degree of variability-I see the noble Lord nodding-I think that we have moved to a vastly better place.
Lord Myners: My Lords, the heart of the Question relates to the independence of the OBR. The House should be reminded that the OBR is based in the Treasury; it is staffed by people seconded from the Treasury; press inquiries are handled by the Treasury; Sir Alan Budd's appointment letter is signed by Mr Dave Ramsden, the head of economic forecasting at the Treasury; and Sir Alan reports to Mr Ramsden, whose work he is meant to be reviewing. Will Sir Alan, when he leaves, be subject to any restrictions on his future employment-in particular, taking the knowledge that he has gained in this post back to his occupation in the hedge fund community?
Lord Sassoon: On an interim basis, the OBR has been housed within the Treasury to save costs and to give it early and easy access to Treasury models. Part of the advice that Sir Alan Budd gives will be about the location and other governance arrangements for the OBR on a full-time basis.
Lord Eatwell: My Lords, if the Treasury was always aware that Sir Alan was going to leave in the summer, why has his replacement not been announced right away? Will the Minister give us the essence of the disagreement that has led to this resignation? Is it not substantially to do with the issue of independence, which my noble friend raised in his Question?
Lord Sassoon: I thank the noble Lord for his questions, but I thought that I had addressed the main point already. There has been no disagreement. Nothing has happened. It has always been the case that Sir Alan Budd planned to leave in the summer and that is exactly what he is going to do. My right honourable friend the Chancellor is enormously grateful for the important work that he has done to get the office up and running. As for appointments, it would have been strange to appoint somebody before Sir Alan Budd had even announced his departure. The appointment process for his successor will take full account of the need for continuity.
Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in nine out of the past 10 years Treasury forecasts for growth exceeded the actual growth levels? Is he therefore not entirely entitled to review the process by which government statistics are worked out?
Lord Sassoon: I thank my noble friend, who points out that Treasury forecasts have been as fallible as anybody else's. That underlines the importance of our now having an independent office up and running to make the forecasts for us.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Baroness Wilcox): My Lords, the Government have no plans to make Sundays work-free. Sunday working brings significant benefits to employers, consumers and employees alike in terms of convenience, flexibility and availability of work.
Lord Hylton: I thank the noble Baroness for her reply even though I cannot say that I find it very encouraging. Can I persuade her that a known national day of rest each week would bring huge benefits-for example to family life, amateur sport, voluntary social activities, and even the environment by reducing the pollution arising from commercial activities?
Baroness Wilcox: What a lovely thought. However, British workers already have their right to a day's rest a week, or two days in two weeks, and it is not for the Government to decide for their people which day best suits the individual. We firmly believe in a freedom of choice in this matter. It would be lovely to follow what the noble Lord is asking for, but a significant proportion of people would still be working, because one person's rest is another person's work.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, the noble Baroness will recall that when the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, yielded to the commercial pressures of the major superstores and liberalised Sunday trading, concern was expressed about the likely effect on family life. Is it not now the time to say to what extent the experiment in liberalisation has been a success and to have some form of independent inquiry to evaluate what has happened over that period?
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, we see no evidence of requests for change. Nobody is forced to work on Sundays in Great Britain. Employees of large retail and betting shops have special rights to refuse Sunday working, while other employees can negotiate working patterns with their employer. The option to work Sundays gives individuals the flexibility to find employment and working hours that best suit them and their families and take their weekly day of rest when they wish.
Lord Razzall: My Lords, can the Minister confirm, after the last question, that the coalition Government have absolutely no intention whatever of reforming the Sunday trading legislation, thereby throwing us back to those dull Sundays that we all dreaded as teenagers?
The Lord Bishop of Gloucester: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Government have no intention to relax the current Sunday Trading Act in a way that would alter Boxing Day this year, which is on a Sunday, to be a normal shopping day, which would undermine the rights of workers to a proper Christmas break?
Baroness Deech: Does the Minister recognise the gender imbalance in this Question, in that men will always want their pubs open on a Sunday and their sporting fixtures, whereas working women-indeed, women work seven days a week, but I mean those who work outside the home-would be greatly restricted if shops and so on were not open on a Sunday? We should all be allowed to choose our own day of rest-not to mention the diversity issue. Sunday is not a special day for everybody.
Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, it is right that everybody should be able to choose the way they spend their day of rest, and there is no pressure for women to be looked at as a special case at this time. However, I am sure that, with the work that the noble Baroness has done on equality, she will bring anything to my attention that she feels we can do something about.
Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that in a multifaith and in many cases no-faith, multicultural and multiracial society, Sunday does not have the same significance for all people? Can she also confirm that employees and workers will maintain their right under current employment law not to work on Sundays?
Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, does the Minister not think that there is a slight misrepresentation in it being put to her that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, bowed to big pressure from big business? Those of us involved in the legislation at the time mostly remember very clearly the splendid campaign run by the noble Baroness, Lady Jay, on Sunday trading.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, will the Minister explain to your Lordships the role of the European Council in this matter? Do we really have to go cap-in-hand to Brussels to seek permission not to work on Sundays? If so, is that not the final nail in the always fraudulent concept of subsidiarity?
Baroness Wilcox: I think not. We know that the European Union does the broad legislation, which is then devolved to the individual countries to do as they wish to do. Britain certainly does as it wishes to do-within the European Union, of course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Henley): My Lords, we gave an undertaking in the coalition agreement to investigate ways to share with livestock keepers the responsibility for preparing for and dealing with outbreaks of disease. We will take stock of the recommendations of the independently chaired responsibility and cost sharing advisory group before bringing forward our proposals.
Baroness Byford: I thank the Minister for his response. Will the group take into account those farmers who already have good biosecurity measures in place? Will the Government put in much stronger measures to ensure that the illegal importation of bush meat and other meats is ended?
Lord Rooker: Given that the Government are willing to share this issue, would a clean solution not be an insurance-based system that could be made compulsory for animal keepers? The problem at present is that no company would carry the risk, which, by definition, would be too great. The solution would therefore be to have the same system for animals as exists for terrorism: there would not be a commercial market were it not for the pooling system of the contributions, backed up at the end of the day by the Government. This would not be an open-ended commitment, but it would be a very practical solution. I admit to failing, when I was in the Minister's position, to get that kind of system up and running.
Lord Henley: My Lords, I am surprised to hear the noble Lord admit to ever failing in anything, but he makes an interesting suggestion and we will certainly look at it. He will understand, however, that I would rather not comment before the independent advisory group produces its report, which is due to come out in December. When it comes out the noble Lord will want to see it, as will I and, indeed, the Government.
Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, does the Minister remember that the 2001-02 foot and mouth outbreak cost the nation in the order of £6 billion? I speak from memory. What will he do in his planning to ensure that the farming community does not have to go to such lengths to pay that sort of sum?
Lord Henley: My Lords, like my noble friend, I remember that outbreak well; I live up in Cumberland, where it started. We will take on board all that we learnt from the 2001 outbreak. If I may correct my noble friend, the cost to the United Kingdom was in the order of £8 billon, while the costs to the Government-to the taxpayer-were something like £3 billion. We will do everything that we can to ensure that such an outbreak does not happen again, but that if it does, we will react to it in exactly the right manner.
Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, as the Minister is well aware, many of these animal diseases are episodic and, thankfully, those such as foot and mouth occur perhaps only every 30 or 40 years. One of the problems is that lessons are lost with regard to the administrative experience and the backup necessary to deal with them. Will the Minister ensure that his department has in place a lesson-learning system so that, if ever we face foot and mouth again, we are prepared for it? This applies to the non-veterinary side.
Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Lord and I are both old enough to remember the 2001 outbreak. I can just about remember the 1967 outbreak-I was in short trousers-and other Members of this House who are older than me might also remember it. The noble Lord will also remember that there was a good report from, I think, the Duke of Northumberland into that outbreak from which lessons could have been learnt, and lessons could have been learnt from the 2001 outbreak. I appreciate that these outbreaks happen only rarely; I would have hoped that they would have been even rarer, but we will certainly want to continue to learn lessons on each occasion.
Lord Plumb: My Lords, I doubt whether the Minister will remember that some 40 years ago I had the privilege of announcing that we had totally eradicated bovine tuberculosis. He will know that 40,000 animals are lost to it every year at the moment, at a cost of £100 million. How are we going to deal with that in the future?
Lord Henley: My Lords, I would not want to make any comment about how we will deal with bovine TB, but my noble friend is right to stress how much it costs us each year. The figure that I have is in the order of £80 million and rising. We will, again, look at all evidence. We want all decisions to be made on an evidence-based model. We will make appropriate responses in due course.
Baroness Quin: My Lords, in his reply to the noble Baroness, the Minister seemed to herald a possible change in government policy. Before the election the current Minister of State ruled out cost-sharing, but the Minister wisely prefers to wait until the outcome of the report-which the previous Government set in place-and its recommendations. Is the Minister therefore saying that a change in policy on this matter, which would be welcome, is possible?
Lord Henley: My Lords, as I said, we will wait until we see what the report says. If the noble Baroness is suggesting that we changed our minds I should remind her that, having set up this review, the previous Government then proceeded, almost straightaway, to publish their draft Bill. That seems a very odd way of going about it. It is distinctly odd to institute a review and then suggest that there should be a Bill. We will look at the results of that review when they come out in December and then we will make the appropriate decisions.
Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior: My Lords, I ask the Minister for his assurance that, despite any reduction in funding that may apply to agriculture and animal and plant health, the surveillance systems in this country are safeguarded, particularly with regard to exotic diseases. As has been mentioned by my noble friend Lord Plumb, their introduction can be devastating. It is very important that our surveillance systems are kept in place to safeguard against any incursion from overseas.
Lord Henley: My noble friend is right to remind the House of the financial constraints facing the Government as a result of what the previous Government managed to achieve in their 13 years in office. Nevertheless, I can assure my noble friend that we will make sure that the appropriate surveillance continues to be in place to deal with all animal diseases.
Lord Henley: My Lords, as we have made clear, we will look at the evidence from the pilot projects that have been conducted by another Administration-that is, the one in Wales. We will make a decision based on the science that comes before us, but we will not make a decision until it is appropriate to do so.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): We welcome the committee's second annual report on the UK's progress in meeting its carbon budgets. The Government believe that climate change is one of the most serious threats that the world faces and we are committed to playing our part in moving to a low-carbon economy. The Government will consider the report in detail and formally respond to it by 15 October 2010, as set out in the Climate Change Act.
Lord Haskel: I am glad that the Government welcome the report, which argues that the voluntary and light-touch regulation has not really worked. The committee's strong and urgent recommendation is for much tougher and stronger regulation. How do the Government reconcile this with their free market policies and their promises of less regulation?
Lord Marland: I thank the noble Lord for his question but, as I said, we will look at the report in detail and respond in October. We will have a debate on that in the Lords, as we did last year. If I may say so, that debate held this House in very good shape. We had a strong debate of all the arguments from both side of the House. Obviously, I have read the report and, in fact, have it in front of me. We agree with many of the recommendations that the committee has made, particularly the main one that we must not rely on the recession to meet our targets. The report gives us a platform from which to accelerate and we clearly need to have a step change. All these things, including regulation, will be considered by us in greater detail as we take on board what the committee has said.
Lord Teverson: My Lords, one of the key areas for action in the report is road transport travel, which accounts for 25 per cent of emissions. How do the Government intend to fulfil the coalition agreement and set up a system of national charging networks for electric vehicles without putting undue pressure on public expenditure?
Lord Marland: I thank the noble Lord for that. The electric vehicle charging network is a very key and fundamental part of the coalition's policy, but it cannot be done by magic. It needs detailed planning and a lot of work needs to be done, including assessing what it will cost the taxpayer and what incentives are needed to establish it. As I said, we shall look at that in the recess to establish what is required.
Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Government's own adviser, Mr Bob Wigley, has added his recommendations to those of the Committee on Climate Change? Included in his recommendations are increased rates for companies that do not take energy conservation measures and penalising householders who fail to undertake insulation measures. Are the Government telling us that we will have to wait till October to hear their view on their own adviser's supplementary recommendations?
Lord Marland: Yes, he was, absolutely. I thank noble Lords for listening to what I am saying. That is a great start. He was encouraged to set up a plan for the Green Investment Bank, which he has done. Therefore, he is not a government adviser. He has pointed us in a number of directions in terms of reforming the climate change market and we are grateful for his views.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, in the debate on the Queen's Speech, I drew the House's attention to the recently published Hartwell paper, which argues that there needs to be a new approach to dealing with the huge problem of climate change, to which my noble friend has referred. Will he give me an undertaking that the Government will study the Hartwell paper, as it seems to me to have a good deal of wisdom in it?
Lord Marland: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for inviting me to comment on the Hartwell report as I have studied it, which gives me a few brownie points. It raises a number of points of interest, some of which we agree with and some of which we do not. Among other things, it draws attention to the need for energy efficiency, which is high on our list of priorities, and investment in non-carbon energy supplies, which again is high on our list of priorities and is hard to argue against. A lot of things in the report were agreeable but some were not. We shall consider them in the recess and bring them together in a debate in the autumn.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, in reading the report has the noble Lord looked at the section relating to the committee's concern about the delays in the development of wind farms due to delays in the planning system? He will know that the previous Government established the Infrastructure Planning Commission as a way through this. Why are the Government now abolishing the IPC? Will that not bring about the very concerns about which the committee has complained; that is, insecurity and indecision inhibiting the development of wind energy in this country?
Lord Marland: I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, was not present at yesterday's Question Time-of course, we missed him-when that question was posed by noble Lords on his Benches. We disbanded the IPC because it was not making enough progress on planning. As the noble Lord rightly said, planning is critical. However, it has been slow and logjammed. We intend to change that.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, can my noble friend explain why temperatures have not increased at all-if anything, they have slightly reduced globally since 1998-while the amount of carbon dioxide introduced into the air has increased enormously?
Lord Marland: I do not know where my noble friend gets his information from, because temperatures have increased by more than 0.15 per cent per decade since the mid-1970s, and since 1997 we have had the hottest 10 years on record. So I am afraid that I cannot answer his question.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, it is anticipated that proceedings on the Academies Bill this afternoon will last for around two hours. At its conclusion, my noble friend Lord Strathclyde will repeat a Statement on treatment of detainees.
"( ) In considering an application by any person to enter into any Academy arrangements, the Secretary of State shall inter alia take into account the potential impact on schools which may be affected."
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am supported in my amendment by my noble friend Lady Williams of Crosby. This amendment, although different in terminology, covers much the same ground as what was the Amendment 4 that I moved in Committee. I do not propose to rehearse in detail the arguments that I then advanced in favour of that amendment. Suffice it to say that the nub of this amendment is to ensure that before any academy is converted from a maintained school or created completely afresh, the Secretary of State shall take a strategic view of the need for such an academy and, in particular, shall be required to consider its potential impact on other schools -plainly those in the vicinity. It is commonplace to observe that a brand new academy will have to draw its pupils from somewhere. The amendment will require the Secretary of State, in considering whether to grant a request for a school, to consider how that could impact on other good schools in the vicinity. Therefore, the amendment is bang in line with an oft repeated objective of the coalition. In the words of my right honourable friend Michael Gove, we have the most segregated education system of almost any sophisticated democratic country and we need to raise up those who go to schools in underprivileged circumstances. I pay tribute to the previous Labour Government, who strove manfully to do just that, by the creation of the first wave of academy schools.
That is the purpose of the amendment. Not to have such a vital consideration plainly and simply in the Bill would be wrong. I take into account what my noble friend Lord Hill said in Committee, namely that it was his and the Government's view that even without an amendment of this kind they would be under a duty to consider the impact of new academies on neighbouring schools. However, it is a good rule for legislators not to leave principle measures out of a Bill, not least because many of those who in future have to make the Bill work, such as headmasters, governors and local education authorities, will not have access to expert education lawyers who can pick up some of the implications that my noble friend Lord Hill rightly said were in the undergrowth of the Bill. This measure is designed to make plain what is implied.
Finally, I have drafted the amendment to make it clear that it is not the only consideration to be taken into account by the Secretary of State in considering an application for an academy school-it is one inter alia. The prospects to which the amendment relates are important, and there will be a significant number of situations where the amendment will allow sensible, long-term strategic planning of our secondary school system and of our primary school system-but particularly of our secondary school system. I hope that it will commend itself to the House and to the Minister. I beg to move.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I support my noble friend, because this is a crucial amendment that would greatly strengthen the Bill if it were to go through. This is not only because a local authority has a profound responsibility in arranging for the provision of adequate education for every child in its area, but for another reason that is very close to all of us at present: namely, the financial issues facing the Department for Education and many other departments. It is to those issues that I will address a few remarks.
It is worth pointing out-I looked up the figures recently-that in primary education there are 4,000,237 places, with 482,930 surplus places unused and unfilled at present which cost the Government a good deal of money. In secondary education, the figures are slightly, but not a great deal, better. There is a surplus in secondary education of 307,712 places, which is 9 per cent of the total. In the case of primary schools, 11 per cent of all places are empty. That puts a heavy burden on those, whether they are local authorities or churches, who are responsible for running the schools. Therefore, it becomes all the more important that, in creating a new school, whether it is a converted academy or a new school altogether, careful consideration is given to the impact on the number of places already being supplied.
An academy can do one of two things: it can add to the number of schools that already exist or it can replace those that are taken out. As many noble Lords know very well-I certainly do-it is not easy to close schools. There is usually a great deal of passionate commitment to them, especially primary schools, and the procedure for church schools can be long involving dioceses, parents and others in agreeing to such a provision being made. On the coolest statistics of all-the effect of financing education by having a large number of surplus places that are then added to-it is crucial that such an amendment is accepted.
From 1999 to 2003 the birth rate in Britain fell-not hugely, but by about 40,000. Those children who are just at the age when they go to school will be entering schools with already surplus places, which will increase because of the drop in the birth rate. That change in the birth rate goes back to a modest increase in 2003-04, which means that that group of children will not be reaching school until next year. For all those reasons, therefore, I strongly urge the Government to give due consideration to my noble friend's amendment. I hope that they will consider it and feel inclined to accept it on grounds of cohesion, the satisfaction of people involved in schools and because of the fundamental financial difficulties.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I support the amendment and the comments of the two previous speakers. It is an important amendment in the context of yesterday's announcement on Building Schools for the Future. I shall be interested to hear the Minister's comments, given that Building Schools for the Future began in those areas of greatest educational need. By definition, those are the same areas where parental dissatisfaction is likely to be highest and where parents are most likely to want to start their own free school academies. That raises the scenario of brand new, state-of-the-art, beautifully designed schools effectively having to close down because parents send their children somewhere else and the schools end up being white elephants. That would be a scandalous misuse of resources. I shall be interested in the Minister's comments and hope that he will support his noble friend's amendment.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: My Lords, I also support the amendment for two reasons. First, building on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, we are anxious that church schools should be part of a
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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I support the amendment, although I did not get round to adding my name to it, for which I apologise to my noble friend. The amendment is one of the best that we see on Report because it evolved from an amendment-I think Amendment 4-that my noble friend tabled in Committee. The Minister pointed out that, if my noble friend's initial amendment were carried, no academy could be formed if there was to be any effect on any school in the local area, whether good or bad. My noble friend's amendment has evolved to enable the Secretary of State to take into account whether any good local schools will be adversely affected by the creation of a new academy.
My noble friend's amendment is particularly important given that government Amendment 30, which is about consultation, refers only to existing schools converting into academies and not to brand-new schools. When a brand-new school is introduced, the local community will have to rely on the common sense of the Secretary of State to make sure that that school does not take all the pupils from other perfectly good schools in the locality.
My noble friend's amendment comes out of his experience in Suffolk, which I think he mentioned in Committee. I, too, have been approached by one of my honourable friends in another place, Mr Don Foster, the Member of Parliament for Bath. He has had similar problems with an academy that was created under the Labour Government and is having an effect on very good schools locally. Of course, we must not underestimate the effect of the view that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. A new school, which seems to offer something novel, especially if it has a shiny new building, could well take pupils from other schools that really do not deserve to lose them. The amendment would give the Secretary of State the discretion that he requires, in the Bill, so that we can all be reassured that he will take these matters into consideration when looking at an application.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: My Lords, I support the amendment. The point has been well made by noble Lords on both sides of the House that there needs to be an element of planning. I suppose that it is for the Minister to make a decision about whether his Government spend money on surplus places or on building schools for the future. It is interesting that one day there is no money for the Building Schools for the Future programme and the very next day, from the same department, there is money to fund surplus places. Surplus places cost money and do not contribute to standards.
I want to raise a slightly different point, which I do not think has been mentioned so far. I should like an assurance that the Minister understands the impact of a new school on another school that might already be doing a good job of raising standards. I start from the premise that it is not only academies that will raise standards; many good schools that do not have academy status are already on the journey of turning round underperformance. They are in a fragile state but are improving-going from failing and underperforming to being successful does not happen overnight. During that important period, when they have good leadership and are changing their reputation within the community, and when parents are understandably nervous but are restoring their confidence in those improving schools, they need a bit of protection. I worry that if an academy opens with a blaze of glory, with new money from the Building Schools for the Future programme, as was indicated yesterday, that will undermine the progress that the school makes.
I am not in the business of defending failing schools-I have done my share of closing failing schools and replacing them with either maintained community schools or, indeed, academies. However, I am in the business of trying to support and nurture schools that have put in a lot of effort and are now improving. Quite honestly, if surplus places are built into a local system, it will not be the schools that are already strong and successful that are damaged but those that have already had a lot of state intervention and support and are on the journey to becoming good schools. I should like to hear the Minister's comments on that aspect of the amendment. It is an excellent amendment and I look forward to supporting it.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I, too, am sympathetic to the amendment. It is particularly important to emphasise the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, about the number of places in schools that are already free. Quite apart from the complications that exist with new free schools entering into academy status, I should like to hear from the Minister whether the powers that he already has will allow him exactly the same right to make a decision, and whether having that in the Bill will make any difference whatever, given that presumably he will retain the right to make a decision based on whatever evidence may be brought to him that such a school will have a bad effect on other schools.
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. Most of the issues have already been raised and I certainly agree with the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Crosby, and my noble friend about surplus places. Later, many of us will be speaking to amendments relating to the role of local authorities. We do not know what the Government's attitude to those amendments will be. The role of local authorities ensures that the key role of schools in their local community is properly considered. At the moment, that role is not present in the Bill, because local authorities are excluded from it. If local authorities in their current role continue to be excluded, the importance
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Lord Bates: My Lords, I understand why the amendment has been tabled and in many ways find the argument that has been put forward persuasive. I wonder whether the reason why it is necessary in the first place is that it is proposed that catchment areas will be too narrowly drawn. If catchment areas for new schools are too narrowly drawn, they will clearly have a disproportionate effect on neighbouring schools. Would not therefore an answer, along with the amendment proposed by my noble friend, be to broaden out the catchment area of schools to cover, perhaps, a local education authority area or even two local education authority areas? There is a precedent for that. When my noble friend Lord Baker introduced the Education Reform Bill in 1987, which allowed for city technology colleges, the Government overcame the problem of too great an impact on one, two or three schools by broadening the catchment area to cover two local education authority areas. In that way, the impact on neighbouring schools was diminished a little.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, as I said in Committee when we discussed this last time, establishing new schools is, I know, what exercises my noble friends and, I think, noble Lords across the House, in particular, the new free schools, to which the noble Lord, Lord Knight, referred. I take this opportunity to welcome the noble Lord formally to this House. I hope that I made it clear in Committee that it is very much the Government's view that the implications for other schools in an area should be considered. The amendment moved by my noble friend brings us back to that debate.
I start by thanking my noble friends Lord Phillips and Lady Williams, and other noble friends, for the time that they have spent with me on this issue. I think that it is fair to say that they accept the reassurances that I have given that the Secretary of State would certainly consider any representations from those affected by academy proposals and that he would want to support only proposals for new schools that lead to an overall improvement in provision. As I have argued to my noble friend Lord Phillips, the general requirements on the Secretary of State to act reasonably will, in our view, provide sufficient protection. That is the answer to the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. We think that the protection is there.
However, I certainly accept that my noble friends Lord Phillips and Lady Williams, and other noble Lords, have made the case to me for some further reassurance in the Bill with a great deal of tenacity and great courtesy. I have listened to those concerns and, having listened to this debate today, decided to
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Lord Phillips of Sudbury: I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Hill and am more than happy to leave the matter today on the basis that he suggests. I look forward to an amendment coming forward at the final stage of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I shall speak also to Amendments 12A, 19, 19A and 28A. The purpose of this group of amendments is to probe a little further the proposed financial arrangements in the setting up of academies. Amendment 2 has unfortunately been placed on the wrong line. It should have been on line 7 and would, therefore, have amended Clause 1(2)(b) to read:
We are talking about the financial assistance route as distinct from the agreement route for former maintained schools. This amendment is linked with Amendment 28A, which puts the amendment in its proper place and becomes subsection (4) of Clause 4. It requires that where the Secretary of State makes a grant of financial assistance under Section 14 of the Education Act 2002,
The purpose of these two amendments is to ensure that all those responsible for the school are fully aware of the terms under which financial assistance is given. When we discussed this issue with the Minister in Committee, he made it clear that for existing schools, as distinct from new schools, the financial assistance route would be the exception rather than the norm. The financial agreement route requires the full co-operation of the governing board, which is kept informed all the time because it is party to the agreement. With the financial assistance route, Section 14 of the 2002 Act gives the Secretary of State considerable powers to decide unilaterally how much finance to give and to set the terms under which that finance is given. This amendment ensures that the governing board is aware of the terms that are being asked for by the Secretary of State before the terms of the grant are agreed. We think it only right that, just as with academy agreements, where the governing board is kept fully informed, when a school goes down the financial
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Amendments 19, 19A and 20 relate to numbers and needs. They elucidate the terms of financial agreements and financial assistance. The Minister made it clear that that part of the school's budget that is retained by the local authority-funding for special educational needs and transport-will remain with the local authority. This is often the larger part of the moneys kept by local authorities. The remainder goes on such things as payroll and property management and general support services. However, included among general support services are important services; for example, educational psychologists and language and behaviour specialists. They provide valuable support, especially to smaller primary schools, particularly where special educational needs funding comes from the school for school action and school action plus. If the resources that are left are distributed evenly between schools on a per capita basis according to the number of pupils, schools with a disproportionate number of pupils with learning difficulties of one sort of another and pupils with other disabilities will receive less funding than they do under the present arrangements.
There are worries in two directions. First, will academies with a disproportionate number of pupils, as well as the remaining maintained schools, receive enough funding in these situations? Secondly, many of the schools that are outstanding and are therefore being fast-tracked to academy status are often located in better-off areas and have a relatively low number of children from disadvantaged homes. Dividing local authority funds on a straight per-pupil basis would give them rather more funds than they have traditionally received and would leave a lesser amount in the kitty to be shared out among the SEN services of other schools.
The key amendment in the group is Amendment 20, which stipulates that the funding should follow needs, not numbers. It also raises five additional questions to which I would like the Minister to respond. Will the Young People's Learning Agency, which is to distribute funds to the academies, distribute the dedicated schools grant in the way that the local authority would have distributed it to each school, or will it have a separate funding arrangement? How accurate is the ready reckoner on the DfE website? Does the money proposed for the removal from local authority expenditure replicate the costs of services that schools will lose from their local authority? What will be the effect on those local authority services, including services outside children's services, if a significant proportion of schools become academies? Lastly, the pupil premium is not discussed in this Bill. We presume that it will come up in the next Bill, but will the Minister elucidate?
Finally, Amendment 12A is different and arguably should not have been in this group, but I will speak to it now. It is fairly straightforward and brings us back to an issue that we raised in Committee: monitoring the characteristics of an academy as listed in Clause 1(6). In Committee, we asked who was going to monitor how far academies actually adhered to the commitment that they had made to retain those characteristics. The Minister assured the House that the Young People's
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Baroness Walmsley: My Lords, I support my noble friend's remarks. The Minister will, I hope, recall that I asked him in a private meeting last week about the ready reckoner on the department's website. I pointed out that our colleagues in York told us that if several schools in York applied to become academies, they would get more money than the whole of York local authority for the same services. Have the Minister and his officials had the opportunity to check the ready reckoner? When local authorities find themselves in situations like this, some of them will be left thinking that they will not just be left with no money, but that they will be left with a negative amount. I am sure that the Minister does not intend that. Therefore, I wonder if he can explain.
Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, I wish particularly to support Amendment 20 in this group, the direction of which seems to be just and fair for future academies and for schools choosing to remain under the direction of local authorities. Any clarification that the Minister can give us would be very helpful.
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the thrust of these amendments, which are about the concern that, under the new pattern of arrangements, funding for essential services to schools will be depleted. This morning, at a meeting on child protection, the head teacher of a large secondary school in north London said that he would like to have a social work team attached to his school because it would make the world of difference. But he cannot get access to that resource. I have heard of other schools with similar resources, which they find extremely beneficial. It would simply take the strain off teachers who could pass that responsibility to social workers who have the relevant expertise and know-how to connect with the necessary services for the child. I hope that in this process we do not lose the push towards proper partnership with all the services which are working to improve the protection and safeguarding of children.
At the same meeting, the director for quality management of Ofsted said that his research at Ofsted indicated that a very important factor in improving the protection of children is seeing that there is a close partnership between schools, social care and all the
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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been a short, interesting debate. I too support the amendments moved by the noble Baroness. In relation to funding, three issues have been raised today and in our previous discussions. First, there is a need for much greater clarity about how these financial arrangements will work. Secondly, there is the question of equity between schools. Thirdly, as the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, suggested, there is a question of whether there will be sufficient resources for the kind of special services that some schools will require.
On clarity, very shortly before our debate today, I received the model funding agreement, as I am sure other noble Lords did. While it is always welcome to receive the funding agreement, in the short time available we have not been able to study it carefully. It therefore would not be amiss to have an opportunity to come back at Third Reading after we have had time consider it more fully. It is helpful to us in these debates.
Which of these provisions would apply to those grammar schools which select their pupils and choose to become an academy? To what extent does this model funding agreement apply to those schools? In terms of equity, it is very important that we know the answer.
"Funding of academies will be broadly comparable with that of maintained schools, taking into account their additional responsibilities. While converting to academy status will give schools additional freedoms, those who opt to stay within local authority control will not be financially disadvantaged".
That is a welcome statement of intent. But, as the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, has pointed out, there is some concern within educational circles that this may not prove to be the outcome following publication of the ready reckoner and the technical note. I am not going to bore the House by going into the details of the ready reckoner, but it is a point that the noble Lord may wish to come back to.
In Committee we discussed the different approach of the seven-year arrangement with schools, and those are the arrangements that are likely to apply to free schools. The noble Lord said then that there would need to be, in a sense, a get-out clause if for one reason or another it was shown that a free school was perhaps not able to handle the funding arrangements or there were problems which meant that the Secretary of State would not want to get himself into a long-term commitment. I understand that, but it identifies a problem with the whole process of approving free schools by this route. It suggests that the Government are not confident that they will have a rigorous process in place, and that is why they are unwilling to agree to the seven-year commitment. For that reason, I strongly support the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness.
Finally, I come back to the whole question of clarity. I believe that we need further clarity because these financial arrangements are complex and it is important that all schools feel that the system is fair and equitable. Further, I would remind the noble Lord of the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Adonis that there is a case for having some kind of independent process of assessment and reporting on the overall scheme for funding academies. I know that the noble Lord has put forward his proposal for how that is to be done, but my noble friend's suggestion of an organisation like the National Audit Office, one that stands well outside the educational establishment, would command greater confidence. Overall, however, this debate has shown that much more remains to be discussed in relation to the financial consequences of this legislation, and I for one hope that the noble Baroness might press her amendment today.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I start by saying to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and other noble Lords that I am sorry that the model funding agreement did not get to them any earlier. I know that there is a lot to take on board and that it is a long document. On his particular point about paragraph 17, the model will need some changes to reflect the particular circumstances of individual schools, which I hope answers his question.
Like the noble Lord, I am grateful to my noble friends for raising the issue of grant funding and for giving me the opportunity, I hope, to reassure them and the rest of the House as far as I am able. On Amendments 2, 19 and 19A, as we discussed at an earlier stage and to which the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has just referred, the rationale for allowing the Secretary of State to fund via a grant in what is likely to be a small number of cases is to provide more flexibility, and as we have also discussed, we envisage a grant being used particularly in response to proposals for a free school where by definition there is no track record. We think that this flexibility makes more sense than committing to seven years at the beginning, but I want to emphasise that we expect this to be a minority of cases.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: Perusing the model funding agreement, I have one question on the specific issue of the general academies grant. Clause 50 talks about the amount of grant that would be available in the first year of conversion, and that the money would be on the same basis as that used by the local authority for determining the budget share of the predecessor maintained school. In the case of an academy free school where there is no predecessor, how would the funding for the first year be calculated so that people who are interested in setting up these interesting new schools can have some certainty?
Lord Hill of Oareford: I accept entirely the need for giving certainty to people who are setting up new schools. This process has just started and the question will be worked through with the first group of schools that have expressed an interest. It is a good point to which we will need to return when we have done that work.
On the point my noble friends have raised with me, particularly in relation to Amendment 28A, I stress that any academy funded via a grant will be subject to
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Amendment 20, to which a number of noble Lords have spoken, would require academy funding to be based on the needs of pupils as well as on their numbers. I agree with my noble friends and others who have spoken that the needs of pupils as well as the numbers of pupils must be taken into account. The primary driver of academy funding will be the numbers on the roll because that is the best way to begin to measure the total amount of teaching and other resource that is likely to be required in a school. However, the local authority funding formula which is used to fund an academy also contains factors which measure special educational need and the level of deprivation among pupils. Some do this directly-for example, by measuring prior attainment-others use proxy indicators such as free school meals. The sixth-form formula used for academies and maintained schools also contains a measure for deprivation. In no case is an academy funded simply on the basis of its pupil numbers.
On the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Knight, we intend developing a simple funding model for free schools based mainly on a per pupil amount. However, of course-I think this point was raised by my noble friend Lady Walmsley; she will forgive me if it was not her-the pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils, on which we will bring forward proposals in the autumn, will also be in operation and so needs will be recognised.
On Amendment 12A and the establishment of an independent monitoring system, as we discussed in Committee, the Bill requires that the academy arrangements will oblige the academy proprietor to comply with these characteristics when establishing and running an academy. The Secretary of State ensures at the outset-
Baroness Thornton:I am still not sure about the answer to my noble friend's question. In layman's terms, if the money for a new free school is to come from the money that is available to a local authority to fund all its schools, what happens to the other schools?
Lord Hill of Oareford: We discussed this point in connection with the free schools announcement, which was raised in the first group of amendments. It also relates to the amendment tabled by my noble friend Lord Phillips and the desire of people to have some reassurance that the effect to which the noble Baroness refers will be taken into account by the Secretary of State. One of the purposes of the free school measures
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Continuing compliance with the characteristics and all aspects of the funding agreement is monitored by the Young People's Learning Agency. The Secretary of State has intervention and, ultimately, termination powers that can be used if an academy is not complying with the fundamental characteristics. I say in response to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Sharp that the YPLA has the capacity and capability to do that, but we shall certainly keep it under review.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley asked about the ready reckoner, picked up on also by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. I understand that there have been issues with the ready reckoner. I shall write to my noble friend about the situation in York.
If anyone has concerns that an academy is not complying with its statutory characteristics or the terms of its academy arrangements, these can be brought to the attention of the YLPA or the Secretary of State, who will look into them and take such action as is appropriate.
I hope that I have provided some reassurance to the House generally and to my noble friends in particular on these matters relating to the funding arrangements. In the light of that, I ask them not to press their amendments.
On needs versus numbers, I am still a little uncertain. If a free school is to be set up, it will have projections of how many pupils it will take but will not necessarily know how many it is going to enrol. How will the Government set its grant in the first place? Is the first year of grant taken from local authority funding when they do not know how the school is going to do?
Will the Minister copy to me the letter that he writes about the York ready reckoner? I am a little unhappy about that, because it seems to set expectations unduly high for a quite a lot of schools. The bulk of money kept back by local authorities goes to meet special educational needs and transport. When that is deducted, the sum likely to be distributed will not be very great. The ready reckoner is leading a number of schools to have quite inflated ideas as to how much they might receive. If the Minister is unable to respond to any of these issues now, perhaps he could write to me. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I shall speak also to my Amendments 5 and 7. Primary schools are always a matter of particular interest and certainly were to your Lordships when we discussed them in Committee. A number of concerns were expressed on this side and other sides of the House about the potential rapid conversion of hundreds of primary schools to academy status. I make it clear that my raising these matters is not born out of any objection to allowing the freedoms being granted to existing academies to be extended to primary schools; more, they come from some very practical considerations, stemming often from their relative size and community location of those schools.
In Committee, my noble friend Lady Royall raised a number of important points about the implications of the Bill for primary schools. She referred to the comparatively small size of many primary schools and to their potentially increased overheads. She said that the resources for shared services could be swallowed up by the extra administrative costs that would have to be borne one way or another. My noble friend also warned that many primary schools would have less capacity to budget and plan for the future. Other noble Lords also made those points in our debate.
Today's earlier discussion on the financial arrangements and the uncertainties there are at the moment reinforce that point. Thinking of primary schools and of the limited managerial capacity that one often finds in those schools, one can only worry at the burden that is likely to be placed on the head teacher and the governing body, and the responsibility that is likely to be put on them.
My understanding from local authorities is that the most dependent group of schools that rely on their advice and support are primary schools. The vast majority of their schools are community schools. They will not have had even the experience of being foundation schools in managing the enormous range of responsibilities that would come with academy status. There is a real issue of capacity here. We know that most secondary schools employ a range of staff to deal with the increased administrative requirements placed on them. Often, in many primary schools, there is only one school secretary and the head teacher. One also has to think in terms of public finance and the appropriate monitoring and spending of those moneys
There are also some real practical issues. What would happen, for instance, if a primary school developed a serious structural fault or there were fires on school premises? The normal first port of call for primary schools at the moment is the local authority, which would step in. My understanding is that once a school becomes an academy, Department for Education advice states that it would expect schools facing such problems to take out loans. But could some of the smaller primary schools really be able to take that risk and afford the repayments, even if they could get a loan in the first place?
We know that most primary schools depend on the local authority to pick up the cost of redundancies, employment tribunals and legal costs associated with challenges over accidents and similar incidents. Would smaller primary schools even be able to find the cost
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There is another concern about the immediate conversion of primary schools to academy status. A great deal of work has been done over the years in managing the process of transition from an early years setting to the first year of primary school. I hope that the review of the early years foundation stage announced by the Government will not reverse that very good work. But the reality is that the overlapping responsibilities between early years settings and the children's trusts-the abolition of which would cause concern on this side of the House-raise concerns about the number of childcare and early years settings sited with primary schools which, if they then move to academy status, could have major consequences. The problem is that we have so far seen little evidence that any serious thought has been given to those consequences.
I know that the Minister is being extremely helpful in our debate, but I was disappointed with his response. He acknowledged the importance of the matters that have been raised and said that he understood some of the concerns. He said that he was committed to thinking through the practicalities raised by noble Lords in Committee. But in the end, he gave no comfort to those of us who think that the practicalities ought to be dealt with first before primary schools become academies.
Our Amendments 3, 5 and 7 seek to remove primary-only schools from the Bill entirely. This is done for reasons of practicality. Of course, if the Government are determined to find a way in which to make the academy programme applicable to primary schools, why do they not do some preparatory work, look at the issues and return with proposals at a later date? They have undertaken to bring at least one other education Bill during this Session of Parliament. Surely, that would give them time to prepare some fully worked-through proposals.
I know that the other amendments in this group seek variously to delay the introduction of primary academies, which would obviously give the sector and the noble Lord's department time to work through some of those issues. We would certainly support those amendments, should our own amendments not succeed.
We on these Benches do not favour a complete ban on primary schools. However, as the Minister knows, we have considerable concerns as we feel that the issue of primary schools should be approached with considerable caution and careful thought. I leave my noble friend Lady Williams to speak to Amendments 22A and 24, which set out our ideas, briefly referred to just now. Amendment 5 paves the way for one of those measures, which is to allow schools to apply as groups. Clause 1(5) says:
It is a very small amendment, but it paves the way to the idea that my noble friend Lady Williams will address in a moment that we should perhaps encourage primary schools to apply as a group or federation rather than a single school.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, as the Minister knows, we have given careful thought to the whole issue of primary schools, and I am grateful for what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, had to say about it, with which I very much agree. Primary schools have about them a number of characteristics that are simply nothing like as typical of secondary schools. Many of them are relatively small schools in rural areas, and 25 per cent of the population of primary school children in England and Wales attend 75 per cent of the number of schools. In other words, there are a great many very small schools in small towns in rural areas, which no less than 25 per cent of all our schoolchildren attend between the primary school ages. Secondly, of this group of schools no less than one-third are either church voluntary or church-controlled schools, mainly Anglican but some Roman Catholic and others of other denominations. That is a factor about primary schools that is far more significant than would be the case with secondary schools.
Furthermore, as the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, implied-and we have tried to indicate on this side of the House that we share his view-primary schools are often at the heart of the community, the centre of civic life and the place where people meet to discuss things, where they feel themselves drawn to support the school. At a time when schools will need more support-among other ways, financially-that is a very crucial asset that should not be easily put at risk. I suspect that many noble Lords other than myself spend a certain amount of time attending school fetes and competitions and this and that, which all help to contribute some money to the financial needs of the school.
In addition, as briefly said by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, primary schools are peculiarly dependent on local authority support, whether for SEN, management issues, financial issues or simply to deal with a very difficult governor or parent. As chairman of the judges of the Teaching Awards, which I declare as an interest, I have repeatedly been approached by primary school heads who talk about the support of their local authority and say how important it has been to them. That is not something that I have tried to elicit from them; it is something that they freely mention themselves, over and again. That is even truer if the school is small, isolated or on its own.
My noble friend Lady Walmsley has pointed to what some of the solutions may be in future for over 17,000 primary schools. One possible solution is to group them together. Geographically that may be almost impossible in some areas, such as the Pennines or Northumberland, but in other areas it is conceivable to bring together a group of schools, possibly under a
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All these developments have occurred a little, but development has frankly not gone very far. That is one reason why I believe that in this area it is crucial to have more time than the Bill gives us. The Minister will know that I have tried to argue this point to him-successfully, I hope.
My amendment has two parts to it. The first part is that there should be no move at the moment by schools with under 500 children to put forward a suggestion that they should become academies. The figure of 500 broadly takes in most primary schools but not all; some are bigger or are linked to secondary schools.
The second part is that there should be a two-year delay before consideration is given to accepting any primary schools for academy status. Despite what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, said, three months, with the summer holidays intervening, is not going to be long enough except for a tiny handful of schools. The issues here are extremely difficult. In many cases there are more authorities than simply the local authority, including the whole diocesan and church authority structure for the one-third of schools in the controlled and aided status group, which I have already referred to. My amendment therefore proposes that there should be a two-year hiatus, not least because we could learn a great deal from what happens to secondary schools in terms of how one achieves and what the problems of academy status are. As someone who deeply believes in the idea of trial periods and pilot schemes, I think that might be the best possible answer to this difficult situation.
The Lord Bishop of Lincoln: The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, has kindly referred to the percentage of Church of England primary schools-over one-third. I declare an interest as chair of the Church of England's board of education, which has oversight of our care for those schools.
I support this amendment. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, I do not do so because I oppose in principle the possibility of primary schools becoming academies. We can see circumstances in which that may well be appropriate. Rather, it is about ensuring that we do not rush to do something quickly at the expense of doing something well.
There is potential here for real improvement to the Bill if further thought is given to some of the detail that has emerged. I pay tribute to the Minister and the Secretary of State for their willingness to engage with us in a detailed way about some of the implications that in certain cases were foreseen but in other cases have emerged as the conversations have developed. All that seems to point to saying, "If it is possible for there to be a little longer to go on having those conversations to arrive at something even better than what the Government have in mind, then surely that must be as much in the Government's interest as it is in the interests of those for whom the Bill is being promoted".
In the dioceses, it is our diocesan directors of education who have an immediate care for the church schools-in the diocese of Lincoln we have 150 primary schools-and they met yesterday. They were very encouraged by this amendment having been tabled. Again, this is not because they are opposed in principle-the point is that they are not entirely sure what they might be asked to promote or oppose when it comes to advising the schools for which they have a care-but because they want to know more, they want to be clear and they want to know that the details have been sorted. Then they will be in a position to provide such support, encouragement and advocacy as may be appropriate to take forward this legislation.
What is there that is lost here? Very little time in the overall scheme of things. What is gained? Perhaps a great deal that could prove to be, in the long run, in the best interests of our children and even our children's children. If that is the case, we as a revising Chamber will have done our job, which is to have enabled a little more time to be taken, so that something which might well have been done quickly will be done more slowly, but will be done well.
Baroness Perry of Southwark: My Lords, I almost feel that I should declare an interest. As the daughter of a primary school head, I feel my mother's ire rising in my bones, particularly when the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, mentioned the lack of managerial capacity in primary schools. That may well be true in some small primary schools. However, not only are there are many which have extremely intelligent, competent and well educated heads and deputy heads in charge, but even a small primary school has a governing body. Exactly as the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, said, many of these primary schools, particularly in rural communities, are at the heart of the community and can attract very senior and experienced businesspeople and professionals from the community to their governing bodies and the chairmanship of those bodies. Therefore, they do not lack that kind of hard-edged business experience in running their affairs. The right reverend Prelate mentioned the primary schools in his own diocese. I have had two meetings in the past two weeks with church primary schools, both of which are very keen to become academies quickly. I also met their chairmen of governors, who were very competent and in both cases well able to cope with the business affairs that would be involved in running an academy. We should not underestimate the importance of governors in this whole pattern.
The right reverend Prelate's final point about the one-third of primary schools that are church schools seems important. They have a diocesan board of education; they are a natural federation to start with. At one of the meetings that I referred to, the diocesan director of education was present. She outlined the various ways in which she could support schools in the diocese that become academies. There will be a natural leadership in the diocese, coming from the diocesan board, which in many cases replicates the sort of support-perhaps not financially, but in other ways-which a local authority has previously given to schools.
Finally, in urging that we write delay into the Bill, it seems that we totally forget that any application to become an academy goes to the Secretary of State and
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Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: My Lords, two important points weigh with me in considering these amendments. The first is the principle of whether primary schools should have a place as academies in the future. I assent to that: I think that they should have the option of becoming academies. The second is the practical point of whether all primary schools are capable of operating under such a system. The answer is clearly no. I made that point at Second Reading. Then the question is-this was put by my noble friend Lady Perry-whether we deny that opportunity now through legislation or look seriously at the fact that there is a double lock on this door. The first lock is whether the head teacher and governing body are prepared to apply for such status. If they apply mistakenly, because they have 23 pupils, perhaps the judgment will be made against them. The second lock is that of the Secretary of State giving assent. We should stress to Secretaries of State-some of them are exceptionally good, although I shall not name names-that they are taking responsibility for this and will be judged on the decisions that they make on primary schools. As has been pointed out around the House, some primary schools may well be in difficulty. The Secretary of State will be judged on the decisions that are made but we should not rule out having this option in legislation.
Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I support the amendments in the name of my noble friend Lord Hunt in respect of primary schools becoming academies. We wrestled with this question in the three years that I was Schools Minister in the old Department for Children, Schools and Families. In discussions on this issue with my noble friend Lord Adonis, it was necessary to go back to first principles about why we were having academies in the first place.
Many people think that the secret of academies lies simply in their freedoms from the constraints of the national curriculum, teachers' pay and conditions and other matters. Freedoms are a part of it, but it is a question of how they are used. It is important to have the leadership capacity, supported by strong governors, to deploy those freedoms effectively to improve children's education. Academies also offer opportunities for
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England has some of the greatest state schools in the world but we also have some weak schools. Our problem is variability, not the overall standard. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that we have some wonderful leaders in our primary schools and some great governing bodies, but I say with the greatest respect to her that we also have some slightly less good leaders and less good governing bodies. We have to be cautious about how we design a system that is dependent on them all being excellent. I advocate-I did so as a Minister-that we pursue primaries becoming academies as part of all-through academies. I greatly encouraged all-through academies when I was a Minister and we are starting to see more of them spring up.
I am not completely against the notion that there might be circumstances where groups of primaries could become academies, but that needs further consideration. I was interested in the arguments of the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, in respect of Amendment 5, but my caution about groups of academies in some ways relates to what the right reverend Prelate said about the religious foundation of schools. The obvious form of a group of primaries would be on a geographical basis, but then you start to lose choice and diversity. My experience of dealing with various diocesan boards is that they are very nervous about joint governance of academies-for example, between the Anglican Church and the Catholic Church. In the communities that I represented in Dorset, we could not get boards to agree to single primary schools entering such arrangements because of the importance of their being able to preserve the tenets of their faith and wanting to represent that in the school. Parents also value that choice and diversity in being able to send their children to a school with the sort of foundations that they value.
There is a great example of an all-through school in Portland in Dorset. Will the Minister in passing look into whether or not the announcements today around funding would have an effect on the academy development there, which will be the most fabulous example of all-through education, bringing together a series of primaries and a secondary? For the first time on the island, the academy will be able to offer education beyond 16 to 18, with a wonderful sponsor.
There may also be groups of primaries that are chains of schools. If we explicitly want to design chains of primaries into our school system, we need to be a lot clearer on exactly what we are talking about, how they would work, who the potential sponsors would be, their ethos and so on. There may also be some merit in forming groups of schools that include special schools. I have reservations about the attitude of the Government on inclusion. You may be able to have the merits of special schools, but in an inclusive environment, through a group of primary schools.
Fundamental issues around primary academies relating to economies of scale have been explored. Mention has been made that integration with wider children's
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In summary, I agree with the right reverend Prelate: do not hurry this. There is no need to rush to primary academies. The offer has been made by my noble friend Lord Hunt to come back with future legislation that we know is in the stocks and to make the case then, having made progress with secondary school academies. Therefore, I say yes to all-throughs but, for now, no to isolated independent primary academies.
Baroness Morris of Yardley: I support the amendments and wish to raise two questions. I agree with all the comments about the difficulty of primary schools becoming academies and I shall not repeat them. However, I am a bit concerned about two suggested ways forward.
One is the notion of schools grouping together, which the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, talked about. I am absolutely an enthusiastic advocate of federations and clusters. They are at the heart of school improvement. However, I worry about the Government seizing on that as a way of managing the capacity of primary schools to become academies, as that would be the wrong reason to create a cluster or a federation. There are a lot of reasons for schools getting together to form a federation, which should be about what is best for school standards and for local provision of education. If schools get together to form a federation or a cluster merely to apply for academy status, that would be the wrong reason and I fear that the federation would not do a good job.
Another concern is that the academy will have a legal contract. It will, if you like, be a legal entity in terms of the academy agreement. If in three, five or 10 years' time the academy sees the possibility of a better partnership that is in the interests of the children in the community, it might be more difficult to form a new set of relationships with the school. Therefore, I have some worries-not about federations but about the wish to become an academy being the purpose that brings the schools together.
I am also concerned about the second lock which the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, mentioned. I am a bit of a doubter on this, because nothing that the Secretary of State has said so far leads me to believe for one second that he is likely to exercise that amount of discretion and say to a primary school, "You are not ready for it yet". All that I have heard from the Government is that they are enthusiastically campaigning for as many schools as possible to become academies. If the Government become interested in that second lock, the Secretary of State would need to publish a list of criteria against which he will make the decision and to say under which conditions he would accept an application from primary schools to become an academy. Can the Minister say whether that is likely?
The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, I support the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. I understand the Government's desire to push this flagship policy forward as fast as possible to keep their momentum after a successful election. However, when one is making a revolution-this might be momentous in the culture of education-it cannot hurt and must be helpful, where there is an opportunity to delay for some months until another Bill arrives, to talk more with head teachers.
My concern all the time is that perhaps there has not been sufficient strategic thinking about what the impact of this change will be on every child. I do not doubt that many primary and secondary schools will welcome and want this. My concern is that we may be moving towards a three-tier system of public schools, academy schools and the rest, with many of our children in the poorest areas experiencing a poorer quality of teaching when they need as good teaching as-or even better than-those in more wealthy areas. That may not happen-I may be quite wrong and I hope that I am-but the more time that we give to thinking this through carefully, the more chance there is that I will be wrong.
I talked to a head teacher today who said how frustrated he was with the current system. Certainly things have to change, but I emphasise that the Minister has only recently taken up his Front-Bench post. I am sure that the Secretary of State has put a lot of time into consulting teachers, but it cannot hurt for there to be more time for the Minister to talk with head teachers and to think through what could be the consequences for all our children of these changes. I support the amendment.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, it has been an extremely interesting debate and all sides have contributed a lot to one's thinking. I am sympathetic to the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. Perhaps I should declare my interest as president of the NGA, because I think that the vast majority of governing bodies are responsible organisations that represent local areas considerably.
I agree that there are two points. Should primary schools be part of the scheme? Yes, I think that they should be. Are they so different that we have to wait for the next Bill to come through? I rather doubt that. We could begin the process now. The Secretary of State has considerable powers already and bodies such as diocesan boards are clearly strong partners.
Bearing in mind the issue of special educational needs, which is important to us all, I would like to know whether SEN pupils will be disadvantaged if we go down this route because they will not have the same backing from the local authority to provide the extra resource support that they are getting. That is my test. We could certainly begin with experiments now. I hope that the Minister can convince us that he will take a view on all these things before he gives the appropriate timescale for schools to apply to become academies.
Lord Mackay of Clashfern: My Lords, I very much follow the line that the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, has taken. Assuming that some primary schools would eminently qualify-I rather thought that the
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I believe that it is right for the Secretary of State to have discretion to receive these applications and to refuse those that he considers to be unsuitable or to delay them. I have no reason to doubt that he will exercise that discretion wisely. Apart from anything else, as the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, said, the Secretary of State will be judged and, if the schools are failures, that will come home to roost. I have no doubt that the noble Baroness is aware of that problem.
Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am grateful for the comments made in this interesting debate. There have been three broad sets of comments. Clearly, some are not at all keen in principle that primary schools should become academies. Some on the Cross Benches who have spoken eloquently have said that primary schools should be given the chance to become academies, that there is no reason in principle why they should not and that there are safeguards to provide some reassurance. There is a third group, including some of my noble friends, who agree in principle that academy status for primary schools is good and that they should not be excluded but given the opportunity. But they want reassurance on the timing and the pace. I hope that I can provide that.
I understand the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the particular sensitivity of primary schools and the special part that they play in local communities. The local primary school is very much part of the village where I live and I know that that is true throughout the country. On a general point, in the first instance we are talking about only a relatively modest number of outstanding primary schools. By definition, any that do not fall into that category will involve a longer process of establishing the criteria to enable us to work these things through. If an outstanding local primary were to become an academy, it is not clear why it should automatically become less of a part of the local community, village or town life. It will have the same head, staff, parents and children with some additional freedoms. I am not clear why the change of status should suddenly make those people in their villages, towns and communities suddenly start to behave differently.
Our starting point is that we are keen that schools should determine whether academy status is right for them but I accept that in some-perhaps many-primary schools, it may not be the right decision for them. They may not have the right experience or feel comfortable, in which case they will not want to make the change. Even though there may be many schools for which it is not suitable, that does not mean that those that want to become academies and believe that it is a viable option for which they have the appetite should be
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I certainly accept the case made, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt. Small primary schools might be more dependent on their local authorities than other schools, in which case academy status might well not be right for them at this stage or, indeed, later. They will not be under any pressure to convert. That, again, picks up on the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Morris. She is shaking her head at me but I cannot do more than state what I have said in this House and what the Secretary of State has said. We are not hell-bent on a plan to force every primary school in the country to convert. I and, more to the point, the Secretary of State have said consistently that the whole purpose of the Bill is to be permissive and not coercive. Having a plan to force them all to convert would be utterly against the spirit and purpose of this legislation.
One difficulty with Amendment 3 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, is that it would prevent all-through schools becoming academies. Of course, there are already many successful all-through academies-23, I think-and it would be wrong to prevent all-through schools which want to convert from doing so simply because they offer primary as well as secondary education.
I certainly agree that federation or partnership arrangements can make sense for primary schools-a point made in relation to an amendment tabled by my noble friends and picked up on by the noble Lord, Lord Knight. I think that the Government would encourage that type of arrangement, as well as any sensible proposals for all-through academies. Under the Bill, federations of maintained schools could apply for academy status in the same way as all other schools, and any federation wishing to convert would simply need to submit a single application. If approved, those schools would be able to continue to work together as an academy federation. We are keen to preserve the excellent work done in federated schools-we know that they work well. A number of academy trusts run groups of academies, such as that established by my noble friend Lord Harris. Therefore, we think that that is worth considering, although we do not believe that it would need to be referred to explicitly in the Bill, as the existing legislation allows for it.
I agree that shared or co-located services, such as children's centres, raise a sensitive and important point. We would work through the issues with all relevant partners to ensure that services were maintained without interruption. It would obviously mean that the process of conversion would take longer but it is important to do it right.
Overall, I recognise the points that have been raised, in particular by my noble friends but more generally in this House, including by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Lincoln, and I shall try to offer this reassurance.
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Therefore, I recognise the points that have been made by my noble friend and by other noble Lords about primaries and their place in our national life, and we have reflected on them. I hope that my answer provides some reassurance and that, in the light of that, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.
Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, can the Minister give the reassurance that I was hoping for? In the consideration of an application, I hope that the special educational needs side will be borne very strongly in mind, not least because early diagnosis of problems is very important for the future development of that group.
Lord Hill of Oareford: I am happy to give that reassurance, but also to make the point that, as the noble Baroness, will know, because of other amendments which I have moved on SEN, with the support of this House we will include in the Bill a commitment that there should be absolute parity in all academies on SEN comparable to that in all maintained schools.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, this has been a very good debate and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for trying to take over her amendment, Amendment 5. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams, put it right at the start of our debate when she talked about the role of primary schools being at the heart of many local communities. All noble Lords agree with that. That means that we should be especially careful about legislation which could have an impact on those schools. That is why noble Lords want to be assured that there will be a rigorous scrutiny process enabling us to understand whether schools are ready to take on the responsibilities which academy status will bring.
The point which has not been responded to fully is that all evidence suggests that primary schools depend the most on local education authorities. That is why
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It has been said in our debate that there are two locks. The first lock is that the Secretary of State himself will have to approve any application. We are reassured that there will be a rigorous process in so doing. I make two points about that. First, the message coming from the Secretary of State is that he is anxious to secure as many academy schools as possible. That is why I question the rigour of the process. Secondly, I come back to the point that I raised in Committee. I know that the Minister has now tabled an amendment about consultation, but the fact is that, none the less, the Bill gives the Secretary of State a huge amount of power without parliamentary scrutiny. That is why I am very worried, particularly in relation to primary schools, about just letting the Bill go through.
The second point, raised by the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland, concerns the second lock, which is that of the governing body. Of course, governing bodies will be able to decide whether or not to take an application forward, but in our previous debate, we discussed the many financial uncertainties that are readily apparent in the academy programme at the moment. I question whether governing bodies, especially of primary schools, are really in a position to make those decisions on the basis of the information that they have at the moment.
My noble friend Lord Knight spoke about the potential of all-through academies. My amendments are not intended to remove all-through schools from the legislation. Third reading is always an opportunity to tidy up legislation, but I want to make it clear that the amendments do not seek to remove all-through academies from the Bill.
Like the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, I am at heart concerned about the pace. We are going too fast, particularly in relation to primary schools. I understand the point the Minister makes about holding back; he made it in Committee. It is one approach, but I think it would be much better to get the policy sorted and to understand where the support for primary schools will come from. Primary schools will need support. The Minister happily has another Bill coming to your Lordships House in a matter of months. Surely we should leave primary schools aside until that point to give his department some months to sort this out. Then I am sure we would look with confidence to agreeing to legislation that would embrace primary schools.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, perhaps I may assist my noble friend. As a result of being a Teller for the Division, I was caught in the wrong position on the other side of the House. I apologise for that. There is an agreement that we would spend two hours or so on the Bill. I understand that it is for the convenience of both Front Benches if we halt Report at this stage in order to resume tomorrow. I hope that that assists my noble friend. The House will now go on to the next business, the Statement, which I understand is ready to be taken. We will then move on to the other business. Again, I apologise for taking some time. It was to make sure that we had people in position.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, I think that now is a convenient moment to take the Statement made by the Prime Minister in another place a few minutes ago on the treatment of detainees. The Statement is as follows:
"Mr Speaker, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in paying tribute to the Royal Marine who died on Thursday, the soldier from the Royal Dragoon Guards who died yesterday and the soldier from 1st Battalion the Mercian Regiment who died from wounds sustained in Afghanistan at hospital in Birmingham yesterday. We should constantly remember the services and sacrifices made on our behalf by our Armed Forces and their families.
With permission, I would like to make a Statement on our intelligence services and allegations made about the treatment of detainees. For the past few years, the reputation of our security services has been overshadowed by allegations about their involvement in the treatment of detainees held by other countries. Some of these detainees allege they were mistreated by those countries. Other allegations have also been made about the UK's involvement in the rendition of detainees in the aftermath of 9/11. These allegations are not proven.
But today, we do face a totally unsatisfactory situation. Our services are paralysed by paperwork as they try to defend themselves in lengthy court cases with uncertain rules. Our reputation as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law-indeed, for much of what the services exist to protect-risks being tarnished. Public confidence is being eroded, with people doubting the ability of our services to protect us and questioning the rules under which they operate, and terrorists and extremists are able to exploit these allegations for their own propaganda.
Myself, the Deputy Prime Minister, the coalition Government-we all believe it is time to clear this matter up once and for all. So today I want to set out how we will deal with the problems of the past, how we will sort out the future and, crucially, how we can make sure the security services can get on, do their job and keep us safe.
But, first, let us be clear about the work they do. I believe we have the finest intelligence services in the world. In the past, it was the intelligence services that cracked the secrets of Enigma and helped deliver victory in World War II. They recruited Russian spies like Gordievsky and Mitrokin and kept Britain safe in the Cold War. And they helped disrupt the Provisional IRA in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, these tremendous acts of bravery continue. Every day intelligence officers track terrorist threats and disrupt plots. They prevent the world's most dangerous weapons falling into the hands of the world's most dangerous states. And they give our forces in Afghanistan the information they need to take key decisions.
They do this without any public-or often even private-recognition, and despite the massive personal risks to their safety. We should never forget that some officers have died for this country. Their names are not known. Their loved ones must mourn in secret. The service they have given to our country is not publicly recognised. We owe them-and every intelligence officer in our country-an enormous debt of gratitude. And, as Minister for the Intelligence Services, I am determined to do everything possible to help them get on with the job they are trained to do-and we desperately need them to do.
However, to do that, we need to resolve the issues of the past. While there is no evidence that any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11, there are questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services that were treating detainees in ways they should not have done. About a dozen cases have been brought in court about the actions of UK personnel, including, for example, that since 9/11 they may have witnessed mistreatment such as the use of hoods and shackles.
This has led to accusations that Britain may have been complicit in the mistreatment of detainees. The longer these questions remain unanswered, the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country that believes in freedom, fairness and human rights grows. That is why myself and the Deputy Prime Minister are determined to get to the bottom of what happened. The intelligence services also are keen publicly to establish their principles and integrity.
So we will have a single, authoritative examination of all these issues. We cannot start that inquiry while criminal investigations are ongoing. And it is not feasible to start it when there are so many civil law suits that remain unresolved. So we want to do everything we can to help that process along. That is why we are committed to mediation with those who have brought civil claims about their detention in Guantanamo. And wherever appropriate, we will offer compensation.
As soon as we have made enough progress, an independent inquiry, led by a judge, will be held. It will look at whether Britain was implicated in improper treatment of detainees held by other countries that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11. The inquiry will need to look at our security departments and intelligence services. Should we have realised sooner that what foreign agencies were doing may have been unacceptable and that we should not be associated with it? Did we allow our own high standards to slip,
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We should not be naive or starry-eyed about the circumstances that our security services were working under in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. There was a real danger that terrorists could get their hands on a dirty bomb, chemical and biological weapons or even worse. Threat levels had been transformed. The urgency with which we needed to protect our citizens was pressing. But let me state clearly: we need to know the answers. If things went wrong, why? What must we do to uphold the standards that people expect?
I have asked the right honourable Sir Peter Gibson, former senior Court of Appeal judge and currently the statutory commissioner for the intelligence services, to lead the inquiry. The three-member inquiry team will also include Dame Janet Paraskeva, head of the Civil Service Commissioners, and Peter Riddell, former journalist and senior fellow at the Institute for Government. I have today made public a letter to the inquiry setting out what it will cover, so that Sir Peter Gibson can finalise the details with us before it starts. We hope that the inquiry will start before the end of this year and will report within a year.
The inquiry cannot and will not be costly or open-ended-that serves neither the interest of justice nor national security. Nor can it be a full public inquiry. Of course, some of its hearings will be in public. However, we must be realistic. Inquiries into our intelligence services are not like other inquiries. There is some information that must be kept secret-information about sources, capabilities and partnerships. Let us be frank: it is not possible to have a full public inquiry into something that is meant to be secret. Any intelligence material provided to the inquiry panel will not be made public, nor will intelligence officers be asked to give evidence in public.
But that does not mean we cannot get to the bottom of what happened. The inquiry will be able to look at all the information relevant to its work, including secret information. It will have access to all relevant government papers, including those held by the intelligence services, and it will be able to take evidence in public, including from those who have brought accusations against the Government and their representatives, and interest groups. Importantly, the head of the Civil Service and the intelligence services will ensure that the inquiry gets the full co-operation that it needs from departments and agencies. I am confident that the inquiry will reach an authoritative view on the actions of the state and our services and make proper recommendations for the future.
Just as we are determined to resolve the problems of the past so we are determined to have greater clarity about what is acceptable and what is not in the future. That is why we are publishing today the guidance issued to intelligence and military personnel on how to deal with detainees held by other countries. The previous Government had promised to do this, but they did not; we are. The guidance makes it clear, first, that our
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There is something else we have to address, and that is how court cases deal with intelligence information. Today, there are serious problems. The services cannot disclose anything that is secret in order to defend themselves in court with confidence that it will be protected. There are also doubts about our ability to protect the secrets of their allies and stop them from ending up in the public domain. This has strained some of our oldest and most important security partnerships in the world-in particular that with America. Honourable Members should not underestimate the vast two-way benefit that this US-UK relationship has brought in disrupting terrorist plots and saving lives, so we need to deal with these problems.
We hope that the Supreme Court will provide further clarity on the underlying law within the next few months, and next year we will publish a Green Paper which will set out our initial proposals for how intelligence is treated in the full range of judicial proceedings, including addressing the concerns of our allies.
In this process the Government will seek the views of the cross-party Intelligence and Security Committee, and I can announce that I have appointed the right honourable Member for Kensington, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, as the chair of that committee for the duration of this Parliament.
As we meet in the relative safety of this House today, let us not forget this. As I speak, al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen are meeting in secret to plot attacks against us, terrorists are preparing to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan, the Real IRA is planning its next strike against security forces in Northern Ireland, and rogue regimes are still trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
At the same time, men and women, young and old, all of them loyal and dedicated, are getting ready to work again around the world. They will be meeting sources, translating documents, listening in on conversations, replaying CCTV footage, installing cameras, following terrorists; all to keep us safe from these threats. We cannot have their work impeded by these allegations. We need to restore Britain's moral leadership in the world. That is why we are determined to clear things up, and I commend this Statement to the House".
Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement given by the Prime Minister in the other place and I am grateful to the Government for early sight of it. I join the Leader of the House and the Prime Minister
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The use of torture is morally abhorrent and has no place in this country or any civilised society. It is against the law in our country. Indeed, it is one of only two offences that can be brought to court in this country no matter where in the world the offence was committed. It is a grave crime against humanity and its prohibition is embodied in international law. There must be no hiding place for those who practise it and no excuse for those who turn a blind eye to it. The United Kingdom should always be at the forefront of international efforts to detect and expose torture and bring those responsible for it to justice. To play our part in leading the world, we must lead by example.
I note that there was only the merest mention in the Statement repeated by the Leader of the House of the USA's detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. I ask the Leader of the House to join us in our condemnation of the US Guantanamo detention centre. It is clearly in breach of the law, which is why it is not on the US mainland and why we make great efforts to secure the release of British nationals and British residents from Guantanamo. We are the only country that has successfully brought back all our citizens. Having secured the release of all our citizens and all but one of our residents, we should like to know whether the Government are continuing our efforts to bring back the final remaining British resident who is still detained.
Can I confirm with the Leader of the House that anyone who takes part in or aids or abets torture is criminally liable and must be accountable for their responsibility to the criminal court? There is of course a criminal investigation under way, which was referred to the police by the then Attorney-General, my noble and learned friend Lady Scotland of Asthal. Will he confirm that this investigation will proceed to its conclusion independently and unimpeded?
I agree with the Leader of the House that it is right that we have proper accountability for our security services and I reaffirm our support for the work of the Intelligence and Security Committee. I also welcome his appointment of the right honourable Member for Kensington in the other place to chair the committee. He will, I know, ensure that the ISC plays its part in the strong framework of accountability that includes accountability to Ministers, the heads of the agencies, the two intelligence service commissioners, both retired High Court judges, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, to whom I pay tribute, and, of course, the courts.
I also welcome the publication today of consolidated guidance for intelligence officers and the military on the questioning of suspects held overseas. I regret the insinuation that we failed to publish the guidance when in government. As the Leader well knows, the process of publication was something to which we on this side of the House were committed in government and it was under way. We are pleased that it has been completed with publication today.
I assure the noble Lord that we support the establishment of an administrative inquiry, led by Sir Peter Gibson, which he has announced to the
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As the Leader said, a number of cases are under way in the civil courts where former detainees are taking action. Can he clarify more specifically the effect that the administrative inquiry will have on these cases? Will they be superseded by the inquiry? Will this need the consent of the plaintiffs and any future plaintiffs, or will the cases run alongside the inquiry?
Will the Leader of the House acknowledge the importance of the Human Rights Act, which enshrines in British law the European Convention on Human Rights and the protections afforded by Article 3? Article 3 states:
Will he affirm his and his Government's support for the Human Rights Act, which ensures that, when there is a breach of human rights, the victim can take action in our courts rather than spending up to seven years taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg? Can he reaffirm that it is never right for us to deport from this country those who would face torture in their home country? I also invite the Leader to reaffirm the UK's support for the work of the United Nations to end torture, including the convention against torture and the 2002 optional protocol, which establishes an international system of inspections for places of detention.
On the proposed new policy framework for national security and justice, as the Leader says, we await the judgment of the Supreme Court, and we shall examine carefully the proposals that the Government will bring forward in their Green Paper next year.
Finally, I endorse the noble Lord's support for the difficult and often dangerous work of our security services. The whole country, including all sides of your Lordships' House, has reason to be grateful to officers from all branches of the intelligence services for the fearless work that they do across the world to keep this country safe.
Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply to the Statement and her broad support for the direction of travel that we are taking. She asked a question that will be of interest to many Members of the House on our view on Guantanamo Bay and its closure. The noble Baroness knows well that the UK has long held that the indefinite detention of detainees is unacceptable and that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility should be closed. The Government of whom she was a member welcomed President Obama's executive order to close Guantanamo Bay and worked closely with the United States to ensure that potential security and human rights concerns posed by the
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The noble Baroness asked about the criminal inquiries set up by the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Scotland. My understanding is that they will continue. The mediation that we have announced today is primarily to deal with the civil cases that are before the courts and to try to deal with them as quickly and rationally as possible. Apart from anything else, that is why the Human Rights Act is extremely important. The noble Baroness will know our long-term views about the Act and the potential review and commission on a Bill of Rights. The package announced on detainees will clearly be of interest to the United Nations torture committee and we will want to cover it in our fifth periodic report. We will provide that report as soon as is practicable.
Today we are setting out how we will settle the issues of the past and make clear our rules for the future and the operation of the security services, thereby building a framework for justice that enhances our security and our liberty. I am not sure whether the noble Baroness asked specifically about the role of the inquiry and whether it would work together with the mediation. We take the view that it is simply not possible to begin the inquiry while some of the allegations are still the subject of criminal investigations. The Government take the view that it is not feasible to begin the inquiry while the civil proceedings are not sufficiently resolved.
The Statement makes a number of proposals on the inquiry, new guidance for intelligence and military personnel, a proposed Green Paper, which we hope to publish next year, and the start of mediation. It is a major Statement about trying to get to grips with what has happened in the past, but it provides for a clear framework on how we can deal with the intelligence and security services in the future.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I broadly endorse the Statement and congratulate the Government on making it. I thought, with respect, that the reasons given for condemning Guantanamo Bay were slightly understated. It is not the indefinite detention that is bad; it is the fact that there was detention without any access to law and without a legal basis that was so objectionable. I congratulate the Government on setting up the judicial inquiry. I would call it a judicial rather than an administrative inquiry in the sense that a judicial inquiry implies that it is independent and separate from the organisation into which it is looking. Sir Peter Gibson, Dame Janet Paraskeva and Peter Riddell are excellent choices, but I have two further questions.
First, I agree with the Government that it is important that the approach that they take in dealing with detainees held by other countries should be clear. The three principles enunciated in the Statement seem to lack clarity. The first is that,
My second question relates to the principle applying to the courts on keeping documents secret. The principles that the courts have applied over the years have been broadly effective; they can balance the interests of secrecy against the interests of litigants. What sort of changes are the Government considering in relation to that?
Lord Strathclyde: I thank the noble and learned Lord for his general welcome of the Statement. He clarified a view on Guantanamo Bay and I hope that he would not read anything into what I said as being far from the wording that he used, which is entirely appropriate.
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