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House of Lords

Monday, 24 October 2011.

2.30 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds.

Introduction: Lord Singh of Wimbledon

2.39 pm

Indarjit Singh, Esquire, CBE, having been created Baron Singh of Wimbledon, of Wimbledon in the London Borough of Merton, was introduced and made the solemn affirmation, supported by Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws and Lord Carey of Clifton, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord Curry of Kirkharle

2.44 pm

Sir Donald Thomas Younger Curry, Knight, CBE, having been created Baron Curry of Kirkharle, of Kirkharle in the County of Northumberland,was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Plumb and Baroness Byford, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Health: Cardiology

Question

2.49 pm

Asked by The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, the review of children's congenital heart services is a clinically led NHS review, independent of government. The consultation ended on 1 July and an independent analysis of the responses and interim health impact assessment was published in August. The joint committee of primary care trusts expects to make a decision later this year. This will be based on an independent analysis of the consultation, reports from overview and scrutiny committees, a health impact assessment and other evidence from the consultation.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, I am very grateful to the Minister for that Answer. Does he agree with me that, especially where children from deprived backgrounds are concerned, it is crucial that social and personal issues are considered alongside the clinical? Will he ensure that geographical proximity of services to children's homes is taken into account when the time comes to make final decisions in this matter?

Earl Howe: I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate. All that he says is very pertinent. I am confident that the review will take those matters into account.



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Lord Alderdice: My Lords, given that the review of paediatric cardiac surgery services presented earlier this year suggested a requirement for 400 or 500 cases per year, which is a level that cannot be provided in Northern Ireland so the service there would not be allowed to continue, can my noble friend reassure me that the Department of Health has been in discussion with the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety in Northern Ireland to see what the Department of Health here can do to ensure that paediatric cardiac surgery services are available to the children and young people of Northern Ireland?

Earl Howe: As my noble friend knows, the children's heart surgery unit in Belfast is not part of the Safe and Sustainable review as it is the responsibility of the healthcare systems in the devolved Administration. It is for the Northern Irish health service to take a view on the safety and sustainability of those services and to consider the recommendations that flow out of the review in this country. We will, of course, share the learning from our experience in England, but I emphasise again that this is a matter for the NHS, and not Ministers, to resolve.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that the north of England is a special case because of deprivation, long distances and cultural problems around the Bradford area? Does he agree that both Leeds and Newcastle need their children's heart surgery units, and that deprivation is an important factor as far as travelling is concerned?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I agree that deprivation is an important consideration. The population density of the West Midlands conurbation and the very high case load of Birmingham Children's Hospital suggested that the Birmingham service should be, as it were, a fixed point. However, I am afraid that the same cannot be applied to Leeds because although the Leeds catchment area has a high population it has a much lower case load than that of Birmingham. The analysis of the expert group suggested that there needed to be two centres in the north of England because of the population density; that was either Liverpool and Leeds or Liverpool and Newcastle. It was not possible to have a Leeds and Newcastle combination since Newcastle could not achieve a credible network.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, as a Bradfordian I have to say that that is a very great shame because I cannot see how the people in Bradford will find it easy to go to Newcastle to visit their children in hospital. When you add up the number of surgical cases performed on adults as well as children in England each year, you reach a figure which would require nine or 10 centres across England, not the six or seven proposed by the Safe and Sustainable review. Therefore, does the Minister share my concern that, by deciding the future of children's heart services without reference to adult congenital heart services, the review is not looking at the full picture? Indeed, why are adult and children's services subject to two reviews?

Earl Howe: My Lords, surgery for children with congenital heart disease is much more complex than surgery for adults with congenital heart disease. The

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focus of the review has been on paediatric services up to now. As the most immediate concerns were around the sustainability of the children's services, the paediatric cardiac services standards include the need for links with adult services and for good transition services between the two.

Lord Woolmer of Leeds: Will the Minister confirm that in Yorkshire and Humber, there are 5.5 million people-more than in Scotland-and that there are nearly 14 million people in the catchment area of the Leeds children's heart unit? Does the Minister imply by his remarks that he rules out Leeds as continuing to have a heart surgery unit? Will the Minister play any role at all in bringing good sense to the need for a major unit in one of the largest regions in this country?

Earl Howe: My Lords, I cannot rule anything out, because, as I emphasised, this is a matter for the NHS. In the final analysis, however, this could be a decision that falls on to the desk of the Secretary of State, so it would be unwise of me to be drawn into commenting in too much detail on particular centres of surgery. All I can say about the service at Leeds is that it received a very low score as an outcome of the assessment by the independent expert panel. It was ranked 10th out of 11 centres; that is one above the service at the John Radcliffe Hospital which, as noble Lords will know, was suspended over safety fears in February 2010.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Does the Minister accept that the lessons to be learned from Bristol represent an important critical mass for highly specialised services, and that a hub-and-spokes model allows families to access really high-quality, high-tech services, leaving the lower-tech services to be delivered nearer to home? That requires integration at all levels across providers, but the concern with the NHS reforms is that that integration will be threatened.

Earl Howe: I hope to persuade the noble Baroness in our debates on the Health and Social Care Bill that her fears on the Bill and its provisions in regard to integration are not well founded. However, I agree with her remarks in the first part of her question. It is very important that surgeons have sufficient clinical work to maintain and develop their skills and to train the next generation of surgeons. The need for change in this area is widely supported, and it is only by taking a national perspective that the optimum configuration of services can be effectively assessed.

Lord Newton of Braintree: Am I not right in thinking that this process of review is currently the subject of judicial review initiated by the Royal Brompton? What will the Minister do if the process is found to be flawed?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend is quite right. A judicial review has been launched by the Royal Brompton into the fairness of the process being followed. I am not in a position to comment on that. We expect a decision well before the end of the year and if that decision is not one that allows the process to continue, then clearly those in charge of it will have to look again at how to set about it.



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Health: Healthcare Assistants

Question

2.58 pm

Asked by Baroness Wall of New Barnet

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, there are provisions in the Health and Social Care Bill to enable the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence to establish a process for accrediting voluntary registers for healthcare workers. Assured voluntary registration for healthcare assistants would build on existing safeguards such as the Care Quality Commission's registration requirements and the vetting and barring scheme, and would include setting national standards for training, conduct and competence for those on the register.

Baroness Wall of New Barnet: I thank the noble Earl for his response, but is he aware of the worry and concern he has caused in his comments in the Timesthis morning? At my hospital, the director of nursing is very concerned that there are many reasons why nurses are reported to the statutory body and some of that can just be that they are not caring properly. The noble Earl's remarks do not take that into account. Will he also accept, in a positive way, that many healthcare assistants would like to be regulated so that they can assure their patients and themselves that the skills they have and the service they are providing are of the very best?

Earl Howe: I agree with the latter part of the noble Baroness's question in so far as I am quite sure that many healthcare assistants would like to be recognised for their skills. The question is whether statutory regulation or voluntary registration is the best and most proportionate route to achieve that. As regards the first part of her question, I regret the slant that the Times took on my remarks, because if a nurse has been struck off because they are considered to pose a risk to patients, then they must be referred to the Independent Safeguarding Authority, which would have the power to bar them. On the other hand, if a nurse is struck off for, say, misprescribing drugs to patients but is still capable of performing care tasks such as washing and bathing, they could still work as a healthcare assistant under appropriate supervision-depending on the circumstances. So there is no blanket prescription in this area; one has to look at the competencies of the individual and whether they are safe to work with adults.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the same article in the Times referred to people without any experience whatever being appointed as healthcare assistants. While that might be splendid in terms of more people helping in the hospital, is it not important to develop training standards of some level to replace the lost SENs-state-enrolled nurses-and to be sure that these care assistants are reasonably competent in what they are being asked to do?



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Earl Howe: I agree with my noble friend and it is why we are proposing a system of assured voluntary registration that would provide those training standards. We need to bear it in mind that the health and social care sectors are already subject to numerous tiers of regulation, including the important requirement on employers who are providing regulated activities to use only people who are appropriately trained and qualified. That means taking up references, having proper induction processes and so on. No national set of arrangements absolves employers of their responsibility to ensure that the people they are employing are suitable for the roles that they are fulfilling.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, does not the problem lie with nursing having been made a wholly graduate profession, whereby nurses are taught nothing but theory and not how to nurse people at all? Indeed, I recently heard a nurse on the radio complaining that being asked to minister to the needs of patients was very inconvenient because it got in the way of completing their paperwork. Should it not be the case that nurses are taught the traditional skills of nursing that are directed at meeting patients' needs, and that if nurses are to be helped by healthcare assistants it is important that the job of nurses is not simply delegated to the kind of untrained people that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, was talking about?

Earl Howe: I can agree in part with what the noble Lord says. I do not agree that the training of nurses is skewed against what one might call the traditional caring activities that we associate with nursing, because my understanding is that the division is around 50:50 between the academic and practical elements of the training. We recognise the important contribution of nurses, not just in the new roles that they have taken on but in the fundamental aspects of care. They have the reach and relationships to improve outcomes and experiences for patients. We are doing our best to support them by various means.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords-

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I often take my lead from the noble Baroness, Lady Masham. In an article in the Times today she said that a voluntary register was no cure. This, taken with the confusion created by, I am afraid, the noble Earl's remarks about struck-off nurses, underlines the point at issue. I ask the Minister: is it really satisfactory that there is a chance that no one would know that a nurse was a struck-off nurse? Is it satisfactory that thousands of nursing care assistants are taking blood and carrying out procedures, but patients cannot know whether they are on a register and properly regulated? That is the problem. The noble Earl needs to think about the kind of juggernaut that is heading towards him on this one.

Earl Howe: No, it is not satisfactory that people should not know that a nurse has been struck off and is on the barred list. That is why it is incumbent on employers to make exactly those inquiries when taking on a new employee. As regards patients, the presence or absence of statutory regulation will not change one jot the responsibilities of employers or the responsibility

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of nurses to delegate appropriately on a ward or in a care home. Unsupervised, unregistered healthcare assistants should not be working without the proper authority and supervision.

Crime: Youth Justice

Question

3.05 pm

Asked by Lord Warner

The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice (Lord McNally): No, my Lords, it remains the Government's intention to abolish the Youth Justice Board and to carry out its main functions within the Ministry of Justice.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I suppose I ought to thank the Minister for that reply, because he has the disadvantage of his department having lost some of the responses to the summer consultation. However, is he aware that the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Magistrates' Association have written trenchant letters to Mr Crispin Blunt, his colleague, saying that the Government have got this wrong and that the board should not be abolished? How many other organisations have written in similar terms in response to the consultation?

While he is about it, can the Minister explain to the House why it is right to abolish one commissioning board in order to improve ministerial accountability but in another department it is appropriate to install the daddy of all quangos at the same time-the National Commissioning Board, for the Minister's information-and can he assure the House, as the noble Earl will later, that that in no way affects ministerial accountability?

Lord McNally: My Lords, perhaps fortunately, I am responsible for the Ministry of Justice, and, there, we have come to the clear conclusion that we can operate the responsibilities of the Youth Justice Board better by creating a new youth justice division, which will be a dedicated part of the MoJ sitting outside NOMS, and maintaining continuity and expertise by agreeing that John Drew, the current chief executive of the YJB, will lead the division.

We have indeed received a number of responses-70 in all, I think-to the consultation, which closed on 11 October. The department is studying those responses and will report in due course.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, Mr Crispin Blunt, in his evidence to the Justice Committee in another place, said that there were complaints from youth offending team managers about the Youth Justice Board. How many complaints were there and what was the nature of those complaints?

Lord McNally: I have not seen in detail the evidence given by my honourable friend. I suspect that almost in the order of things there are occasional irritations

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between a central and a local body. Throughout the life of the YJB, there have been various debates about where the onus of responsibility should lie. We believe that by slimming down the central role of the YJB, we can give youth offending teams more responsibility, in keeping with the Government's localism policy. I will investigate whether the exact exchanges that Mr Blunt was referring to are available on the public record and what they contain, and if I can reveal them to my noble friend, I will.

The Earl of Listowel: My Lords, will the Minister thank the Secretary of State for the care with which he has listened to your Lordships' concern across the House at this change? Does he know of any chief police officers who support the change? Does he understand my concern, as vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Looked After Children and Care Leavers, and as treasurer of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children, that this will not only be less safe for the public but will be a step back for those children in the criminal justice system and will mean fewer children going on to make a better life for themselves having had a bad start?

Lord McNally: I am well aware that the YJB is a much loved organisation and that a number of organisations have come to its aid. The noble Lord, Lord Warner, has voiced a number of concerns about this. We will return to this when the Public Bodies Bill returns to the House. I do not see that creating a new youth justice division within the MoJ, maintaining continuity and expertise, retaining the expertise of the staff who have worked on the Youth Justice Board, strengthening its focus on youth justice by establishing an advisory board on youth justice, and agreeing that Dame Sue Street, a non-executive director of the MoJ who has experience and knowledge of the youth justice system, should take a direct interest in youth justice matters, is in any way a retreat from the kind of commitments that the noble Lord wishes for.

Lord Bach: My Lords, the Minister has time after time from that Dispatch Box praised the work that the Youth Justice Board does. Everyone agrees that it has kept down the number of young people in custody and that it played a vital role in the aftermath of this summer's riots. Why on earth are Her Majesty's Government still determined to abolish it? Is it sensible or wise to abolish an organisation that everyone, including Ministers, thinks is doing a first-class job? How ridiculous is that? Would it not be sensible and rather more mature for the Government to drop these plans now?

Lord McNally: My Lords, we believe that the job can be done better. We have acknowledged-and I have certainly acknowledged from this Dispatch Box-that the YJB has overseen a considerable amount of success in treating young offenders. As I have just read out, the governance for youth justice within the Ministry of Justice will be better because it will have a more direct responsibility to Ministers. The buck will stop with the Minister responsible for justice, not with an arm's-length body. We believe that that is an improvement.



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Baroness Butler-Sloss: My Lords, will the Minister ensure that the new youth justice division will work collaboratively and regularly with the Department of Health and the Department for Education?

Lord McNally: I can give that assurance absolutely. One of our key approaches across the criminal justice system is to make sure that we have an holistic approach to offending, which particularly applies in the youth justice system.

Schools: Sex and Relationships Education

Question

3.13 pm

Asked by Baroness Gould of Potternewton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, we are reviewing personal, social, health and economic education, including sex and relationships education. The review is considering how to improve the quality of teaching, the core outcomes that we expect PSHE to achieve and the core of knowledge and awareness that the Government should expect pupils to acquire at school. It is looking at existing research and also welcomes submissions of evidence and good practice before 30 November.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: I thank the Minister for that reply. I am very pleased that we now have a date for the ending of the review, but it does seem to be taking rather a long time. Why, when all the evidence was already available, has it taken so long? He will appreciate that the majority of parents, teachers and school governors believe that PSHE and SRE should be taught in schools, and that advice should be given for use in the home as well. Can he elaborate on what support parents are receiving to give them the confidence to discuss the issue along with the school? Further, when the review is over, when will the teaching start?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I know that there has been a lot of eager anticipation about the review starting and that a number of noble Lords wish that we could have started sooner. We were keen to try to set up the review properly and I am glad that it is now going. We recently had a very useful meeting with a number of noble Lords in which they gave us a lot of helpful advice. I welcome contributions from all noble Lords in this House who have a range of different perspectives and who would like to contribute to the review. One important issue that the review is looking at is how to improve the quality of teaching. When Ofsted looked at PSHE, it found that it was good or outstanding in three-quarters of schools but that there were problems in some. That is important. Clearly, the role that parents play is vital as well. The guidance from the Secretary of State-it was issued by the previous Government and we have retained it-talks about that, and it is something that we will need to look at as the review progresses.



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Baroness Sharples: Can my noble friend explain why children here go to school at the age of five when in virtually every other country they go to school at the age of six or seven?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I am not sure that I can provide an easy answer to that, other than to say that practices vary from country to country in all sorts of different ways.

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, is the Minister aware that many parents are concerned about the teaching of sex and relationships education to very young children and that sometimes the children are too young to understand these subjects? Do the Government have any plans to force sex education on to the national curriculum, and does the Minister think that it is teachers who should decide whether such things are taught in their schools?

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, of course I am aware of the sensitivities around this issue, and I agree with the noble Lord about the important role that parents play. Perhaps I may read from the guidance which the previous Government issued in 2000 and which is still in place. It is very clear on this matter:

"Schools should ensure that pupils are protected from teaching and materials which are inappropriate, having regard to the age and cultural background of the pupils concerned. Governors and head teachers should discuss with parents and take on board concerns raised, both on materials which are offered to schools and on sensitive material to be used in the classroom".

That seems very clear and it is absolutely right. We are not proposing any change to the current legislation on sex education or to make the whole of PSHE statutory.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, the Minister will know that teaching children how to avoid sexually transmitted disease and HIV/AIDS is a compulsory part of the curriculum. Can he explain to me, as a doctor, how you can teach children that without teaching them about sex and relationships?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I agree with my noble friend that children understanding STIs and HIV/AIDS is extremely important, and I am glad that the most recent figures show that there has been some improvement in that respect. I also take the point, which is often raised in this House, that, when we talk about sex education, the SRE or relationships bit, which I think is an important part of the process, often gets missed out.

Lord Elton: In his last reply but one, the Minister referred to the age of children. Can he tell us whether the regulations refer to calendar or biological age, which are often very different, and whether they take account of the views of the parents of the children being taught?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I tried to make it clear that they should indeed pay attention to the interests and views of the parents concerned. On the specific point about calendar age, I shall need to write to my noble friend.



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Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge the consistent evidence that the teaching of sex and relationships education reduces, rather than increases, sexual activity? Does he agree, as I think he indicated, that teaching young people about relationships, and in particular young girls about the nature of informed consent in sexual relationships, is vital? Does he also agree that that is best achieved by teaching sex and relationships as part of compulsory modules in statutory PSHE education?

Lord Hill of Oareford: I think I was with the noble Baroness right until the very last bit of her question. I accept the thrust of her points but, as she will know because we have discussed it before, the overall aim in the Government's plans is to slim down the curriculum, which we think has become overcrowded. Therefore, as she knows, we do not plan to make SRE a statutory part of it. The purpose of our review is to try to share best practice, to look at how we can raise the quality of teaching and to identify the core elements of PSHE which we think children should study.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: Can the information on the annunciator screen be changed? I am not Lord Gould of Brookwood.

Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) (Amendment) Regulations 2011

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

3.20 pm

Moved by Lord Strathclyde

Motion agreed.

Coinage (Measurement) Bill

Bill Main Page

Third Reading

Bill passed.

Education Bill

Bill Main Page

Report (2nd Day)

3.21 pm

Clause 18 : Abolition of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body

Amendment 55

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

55: Clause 18, leave out Clause 18

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, Clause 18 abolishes the School Support Staff Negotiating Body, which was set up to design a national framework of pay and conditions for support staff in maintained schools in England. Its remit was to do so by combining,

to avoid a rigid pay structure that was not applicable to the needs of all schools.



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As I reported in Grand Committee, the SSSNB has played a crucial role in preparing core documents setting out the range of non-teaching roles carried out in schools. This is an important personnel resource for employers. As we know, school support staff cover a wide range of functions and include teaching assistants, welfare support staff, specialist or technical staff and, for example, business management staff.

As colleagues from the Benches opposite acknowledged in Grand Committee, in abolishing the SSSNB now the Government are scrapping it before it has had time to deliver the job profiles that it was set up to produce and that would, in due course, reduce the bureaucratic load on schools as well as set the scene for fair employment practices and protect employers from equal value claims.

The abolition of the SSSNB is counter to the widespread support that it had from teachers, heads, governors and parents. Most employers welcomed the work being done. Many regarded it as long overdue, particularly as the job descriptions would have been recommendations and not prescriptions, and would therefore not have hindered schools or given rise to an unduly heavy administrative burden. Indeed, only last week, I received an e-mail from the Association of School and College Leaders urging me to put down an amendment to allow the SSSNB to stay.

In Grand Committee the Minister argued that to implement the scheme would have been too time-consuming for school leaders, who would have to re-evaluate their staff. On the contrary, having profiles that self-governing schools could use as benchmarks could cut the time and costs that they would otherwise have to spend creating their own job descriptions. They would be a tool for schools to use rather than a mandatory, new employment structure.

School support staff are an increasingly central feature of the education team in schools. They impact directly and indirectly on the success and achievement of schools. However, the abolition of the SSSNB is a clear signal from the Government that they do not value the contribution or status of support staff. It also sends a signal to the largely female staff carrying out these roles that they are somehow expendable and that it is okay for the gap in pay between teaching and non-teaching staff working side by side to widen while the differing levels of responsibilities narrow.

As we mentioned in Grand Committee, Ofsted argued for such an initiative. It recommended that the Government should,

The work of the SSSNB is half complete. If we are concerned about value for money, what is the point of abandoning the project half way through? We are close to having a resource that employers would find useful and that would at last go some way to recognising the crucial role that support staff increasingly play in educational achievement. I hope that noble Lords will see the sense in the SSSNB completing the work in hand and will support the amendment.



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Lord Knight of Weymouth: My Lords, I support my noble friend Lady Jones. This will not be a surprise to the Minister, because when I was in his office it was my job to put together this negotiating body. I take this opportunity to remind your Lordships why we felt that that was important and why we legislated to do so. We were pleased to enjoy the support of all parties at the time, which was just a couple of years ago.

First, as we have heard, support staff perform increasingly important roles in our schools. They perform their roles in the school community as caretakers, catering assistants or dinner ladies-whatever one wants to call them-in a variety of roles outside the classroom, and also, increasingly, inside the classroom as teaching assistants and higher-level teaching assistants. That latter group of support staff do some of the hardest work educationally to support those with special educational needs. They free the qualified teachers to focus on the majority. There is a fair argument to say that, at times, the deployment is the wrong way around, and perhaps the professional expertise should be used on the hardest to teach, leaving those less qualified to focus on others.

As a demonstration, I will give an example of a member of staff in a school in south Wales. Her name is Bev Evans. I refer noble Lords to my entry in the declaration of interests about my work with TSL Education. Bev was a learning support assistant in a school in Pembrokeshire. As a parent of someone with cystic fibrosis, she was asked to come onto the school support staff as a learning assistant. I can inform Members of your Lordships' House who are not aware of the status of a learning support assistant that they are normally paid around £10,000 to £14,000 per year. These are very low-paid roles in schools. As a former community artist and a parent of someone with this condition, Bev looked after one child in a brilliant way, producing materials on a daily basis so that the child could be educated in a mainstream setting alongside children of her own age who did not have the condition from which she suffered. Bev was asked to publish her materials so that the whole school could use them; then so that other schools in the authority could use them; then so that schools across South Wales could use them. She then started uploading them onto TSL's TES resources site. Now 1.2 million children have benefited from downloading resources from the learning support assistant. It is a demonstration of how much qualified teachers can value individuals doing that sort of work, motivated entirely by wanting to help children. These people deserve better recognition than will be given if this negotiating body is closed down before it has had a chance to get going.

The second reason why it was important to set it up was to protect schools and employers from equal pay claims. I am no employment lawyer and I certainly do not want to start getting into the ins and outs of equal pay claims, but schools were vulnerable if they were not acting fairly and using the job profiles that had been developed by the negotiating body. They were avoiding that risk around equal pay claims which was an important part of persuading employers to come to the negotiating body.



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3.30 pm

My final point is that this is a negotiating body between employers and employee representatives from the trade unions. It is nothing that the Government should be scared of, although my guess is that they have an instinctive reaction against negotiating bodies, which is at the root of their proposal to close it down. Things will be agreed on a negotiating body only by employers and employee representatives through the trade unions agreeing them. If they are not in the interests of the schools or of the employers they will not be agreed. I cannot understand why, after the hard work that employer organisations and UNISON, GMB and Unite have done to get this thing up and running, and the time taken in both Houses a couple of years ago to set it up in statute, it is now being allowed to wither and die for very little gain.

Instead, we could be helping people like Bev, who is now happily a qualified teacher, and many thousands of people-an extra 120,000 support staff have been working in our schools over the past 10 years. There are hundreds of thousands of people working in a very unregulated way, some of whom are paid very poorly but others who are better rewarded. It is the luck of the draw as to where they live. Many of them get a salary that does not cover them during the summer holidays; they are paid only for term time. They are some of the poorest paid people in our society doing some of the most important work to support our children, and they should be protected. The negotiating body gave that protection to them and the Government should be ashamed of themselves for proposing to withdraw it.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I hope that no one in this House would for a moment argue that the value of teaching assistants is in any way diminished by what is happening. Because we value so highly teaching assistants and the work that they do does not seem to lead directly to the need for a national negotiating body for their pay. In fact, I would have thought that because of the wide variety of work that teaching assistants perform, there is a very strong argument for their being allowed to have different terms and conditions of service and different rates of pay according to the job that their employer wants them to do. As the number of academies and free schools is increasing, employers of such people will not be subject to national negotiations. Their employers will be the immediate school in which they are working. Most teachers value the opportunity to have flexible conditions for their teaching assistants so that they can use them for a whole range of things. As the noble Lord has just said, in some cases they are highly professional and the work that they do has national recognition. Others perform much more lowly roles. That is the choice of the school, the teachers the assistants work for and the employers who employ them. I would hope very much that we would recognise the value of teaching assistants more by allowing flexibility than by any rigid national code.

Baroness Walmsley: I agree with what has been said about the importance and value of support staff. There are several such people in my own family and I know what a good and important job they do. I am sure that my noble friend the Minister will agree with

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that when he responds. I am a little surprised that the Government are ignoring the recommendation of the ASCL. That is rather unusual. I hope that my noble friend will explain how the proposed system will be better.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, as we said in Grand Committee, a debate about the value of the School Support Staff Negotiating Body should not be confused with a debate on the value of support staff themselves. We all agree that support staff have a vital part to play in the life of their schools. There is no disagreement on that score with the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, or the noble Lord, Lord Knight. However, we do disagree, as my noble friend Lady Perry set out, over whether we should set up a new piece of control machinery to determine the pay and conditions of school support staff or whether we should stick with local decision-making by employers, local authorities and schools which best know local conditions.

Organisations representing employers of support staff, such as the Local Government Group, take the latter view. The group draws its members from across the political spectrum and is a firm supporter of the Government's decision to abolish the SSSNB. If we retain the SSSNB and act on any agreements it reaches, schools would be required to review the pay and conditions of more than half a million support staff, requiring a massive investment of time by schools. The impact assessment that accompanied the ASCL Bill suggested that this might take more than 200,000 hours of head teacher or senior leadership time alone-time that we think could be better spent on pupils and their learning.

We should also remember that for the majority of support staff working in community and voluntary controlled schools, there is already a national pay and conditions framework in place, the Green Book. This long-standing voluntary agreement negotiated by the Local Government Employers, UNISON, GMB and Unite is already used for those staff in all but three local authorities. Of course, in all schools, existing employment law ensures that individuals are treated equally with regard to their terms and conditions when assessed against their colleagues.

In Committee my noble friend Lady Walmsley asked whether the SSSNB could be allowed time to complete part of its work, believing that the results of its work would be useful if made available for schools to choose to use. In response to that and to her other point, the SSSNB process is not that flexible. The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 sets out the process that must be followed once the SSSNB has reached an agreement. That process can involve many twists and turns, allowing the Secretary of State to request the SSSNB to reconsider agreements that it has submitted to him. However, ultimately it requires the Secretary of State to make an order that is binding on schools and local authorities in respect of how they determine the pay and conditions of their support staff. It is that rigid legislation that this clause seeks to abolish.

However, we agree with my noble friends Lady Walmsley and Lady Perry that some of the materials the SSSNB has begun to develop could be a useful

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optional reference tool. We also know that the trade union members of the SSSNB are keen to continue to work with support staff employer organisations independently of government to complete a set of job role profiles for support staff. That is why we have already agreed to arrange for the intellectual property rights-in other words, the copyright-of all materials that are owned by the Department for Education to be reassigned to Local Government Employers. This means the materials can then be used freely by the unions and employers that made up the membership of the SSSNB.

When the Secretary of State met the three unions that represent school support staff-UNISON, Unite and GMB-on 12 October, he was able to confirm that unions, together with the other SSSNB member organisations that represent employers, already own the materials developed during the final months of the SSSNB activity. This means that they are free to work with employer organisations to finalise the job role profiles. This is the piece of work that unions and employers agree will be of most use to schools. Abolishing the SSSNB will spare schools from the burden of a wholesale review of support staff pay and allow them to keep the level of freedom they currently have in relation to support staff pay. It is right that we do all that we can to ensure that the good work that SSSNB member organisations have done so far is not wasted. On that basis I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have reiterated the crucial role that support staff play in the classroom and the added value that they bring to the classroom. My noble friend Lord Knight made the particular point that they can often free up teachers to carry out other roles. Of course, they can also in themselves grow into and eventually qualify as teachers, so they do have a significant role in the classroom. My noble friend Lord Knight also pointed out the crucial work that the SSSNB was doing in protecting schools from equal pay claims. As he said, rightly, it is the luck of the draw as to how well people are paid from one school to another, from one local authority to another, and that cannot be right.

The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, and others talked about the need for flexibility. I do not think that I was denying that need. This was never going to be something that was handed down from on high as a prescription. It was always meant to be a resource that schools could access. The Minister has said that there would have been a lot of time taken working through and implementing it. My answer to that is that that time is going to be taken anyway, and may even be duplicated over and over again if schools do not have this core resource.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, quite rightly picked up the point that the Minister seemed to quote whichever of the employers are in favour at the moment. I quoted the ASCL. The Government found another employer which is said to have a different view to quote back at us. I found that interesting. Without getting into a competition as to who is on top among the employers, there is nevertheless a need to complete this work. The Minister seems to me to be saying, "Okay, the copyright has been handed over to another

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group of people. If they want to, they can carry on that work". My question is, why stop and start again? We are already half way on a journey, in a particular way of doing it. It seems unnecessary to stop and start again with a different group of people.

Nevertheless, I realise that I am not going to persuade a number of Members on this matter, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 55 withdrawn.

European Council

Statement

3.40 pm

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Lord Strathclyde): My Lords, with the leave of the House, perhaps this might be an appropriate moment to repeat a Statement which has been made in another place by the Prime Minister on the European Council. The Statement is as follows.

"With permission, I would like to make a statement on recent developments in Libya, and yesterday's European Council.

Yesterday in Libya, after 42 years of tyranny and seven months of fighting, the National Transitional Council declared the formal liberation of its country. Everyone will have been moved by the pictures of joy and relief that we saw on our television screens last night. From Tripoli to Benghazi, from Misurata to Zawiyah, Libyans now dare to look forward, safe in the knowledge that the Gaddafi era is truly behind them.

This was Libya's revolution. But Britain can be proud of the role we played. Our aim throughout has been to fulfil the terms of the UN Security Council resolution, to protect civilians and to give the Libyan people the chance to determine their own political future. With the death of Gaddafi, they now have that chance.

The whole House will join me in paying tribute to our Armed Forces for the role they have played-over 3,000 missions, some 2,000 strike sorties, with one-fifth of the total strike sorties missions flown by NATO. As the Chief of the Defence Staff has written this morning, it has been,

and I believe it is something the whole country can take pride in. The decision to intervene militarily, to place our brave servicemen and women in the line of fire, is never an easy one. We were determined from the outset to conduct this campaign in the right way, and to learn the lessons of recent interventions. So we made sure this House was provided immediately with a summary of the legal advice authorising the action. We held a debate and a vote in Parliament at the earliest opportunity. We made sure that decisions were taken properly throughout the campaign, with the right people present, and in an orderly way.

The National Security Council on Libya met 68 times, formulated our policy, and drove forward the military and diplomatic campaign. We took great care to ensure that targeting decisions minimised the number of civilian

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casualties, and I want to pay tribute to my right honourable friend the Member for North Somerset for his work on this. It is a mark of the skill of the RAF, the British Army and other coalition pilots that the number of civilian casualties of the air attacks has been so low.

The military mission is now coming to an end, and in the next few days, NATO's Operation Unified Protector will formally be concluded. It will now be for Libyans to chart their own destiny, and this country will stand ready to support them as they do so.

Many learned commentators have written about the lessons that can be learnt from the last seven months. For our part, the Government are conducting a rapid exercise while memories are still fresh, and we will publish its key findings. For my part, I am wary of drawing some grand, overarching lesson, and still less to claim that Libya offers some new template that we can apply the world over. I believe it has shown the importance of weighing each situation on its merits and of thinking through carefully any decision to intervene in advance. But I hope it has also showed that this country has learnt not only the lessons of Iraq, but the lessons too of Bosnia. When it is necessary, legal and right to act, we should be ready to do so.

Let me turn to yesterday's European Council. This European Council was about three things: sorting out the problems of the eurozone. promoting growth in the EU, and ensuring that as the eurozone develops new arrangements for governance, the interests of those outside the eurozone are protected. This latter point touches directly on the debate in the House of Commons later today, and I will say a word on this later in my Statement.

Resolving the problems in the eurozone is the urgent and overriding priority facing not only the eurozone members, but the EU as a whole, and indeed the rest of the world economy. Britain is playing a positive role proposing the three vital steps needed to deal with this crisis: the establishment of a financial firewall big enough to contain any contagion, the credible recapitalisation of European banks, and a decisive solution to the problems in Greece. We pushed this in the letter we co-ordinated to the G20 and in the video conference between me, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and President Obama last week. We did so again at the European Council this weekend and will continue to do so on Wednesday at an extra European Council meeting.

But ultimately the way to make the whole of the EU, including the eurozone, work better is to promote open markets, flexible economies and enterprise. This is an agenda which Britain has promoted under successive Governments and successive Prime Ministers, but it is now an agenda which the European Commission is promoting too. We have many differences with the European Commission, but the presentation made by the Commission at yesterday's Council about economic growth was exactly what we have been pushing for. It drove home the importance of creating a single market in services, opening up our energy markets and scrapping the rules and bureaucracy that make it take so long to start a new business. Both coalition parties are pushing hard for these objectives. This may sound dry, but if

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we want to get Europe's economies moving, to succeed in a competitive world, then these are the steps that are absolutely necessary. These are arguments which Margaret Thatcher made to drive through the single market in the first place, and which every Prime Minister since has tried to push. I am no exception. If the countries of the EU were as productive as the US, if we had the same proportion of women participating in the economy and were as fast and flexible at setting up new businesses, then we would have the same per capita GDP as the US.

The remainder of the Council was spent on the safeguards needed to protect the interests of all 27 Members of the EU. The Council agreed that all matters relating to the single market must remain decisions for all 27 member states and that the European Commission must,

This leads me directly to the debate we are having in this House later today. Members of my party fought the last election committed to three things: stopping the passage of further powers to the EU, instituting a referendum lock to require a referendum, by law, for any such transfer of powers from this House, and bringing back powers from Brussels to Westminster. All three remain Conservative Party policy. All three are in the national interest. In 17 months in government, we have already achieved two of the three: we have yielded no more powers to Brussels-indeed, the bailout power has actually been returned-and, of course, the referendum lock is in place. I remain firmly committed to achieving the third, which is bringing back more powers from Brussels.

The question tonight is whether to add to that by passing legislation in the next Session of this Parliament to provide for a referendum, which would include a question on whether Britain should leave the EU altogether. This was not our policy at the election and it is not our policy now. Let me say why I continue to believe that this approach would not be right, why the timing is wrong and how Britain can now best advance our national interests in Europe.

First, it is not right because our national interest is to be in the EU, helping to determine the rules governing the single market, our biggest export market, which consumes more than 50 per cent of our exports and which drives much of the investment into the UK. This is not an abstract, theoretical argument; it matters for millions of jobs and millions of families in our country. That is why successive Prime Ministers have advocated our membership of the EU.

Secondly, it is not the right time, at this moment of economic crisis, to launch legislation that includes an in/out referendum. When your neighbour's house is on fire, your first impulse should be to help him put out the flames, not least to stop the flames reaching your own house. This is not the time to argue about walking away, not just for their sakes but for ours. Legislating now for a referendum, including on whether Britain should leave the EU, could cause great uncertainty and would actually damage our prospects of growth.

Thirdly and crucially, there is a danger that by raising the prospect of a referendum, including an in/out option, we miss the real opportunity to further

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our national interest. Fundamental questions are being asked about the future of the eurozone, and therefore the shape of the EU itself. Opportunities to advance our national interest are clearly becoming more apparent. We should focus on how to make the most of this, not pursue a parliamentary process for a multiple-choice referendum.

Those are the reasons why I will not be supporting the Motion tonight. As yesterday's Council conclusions made clear, changes to the EU treaties need the agreement of all 27 member states. Every country can wield a veto until its needs are met. So I share the yearning for fundamental reform and I am determined to deliver it.

To those who are supporting today's Motion but do not actually want to leave the EU, I say to you this: I respect your views. We disagree not about ends but about means. I support your aims. Like you, I want to see fundamental reform. Like you, I want to refashion our membership of the EU so that it better serves this nation's interest.

The time for reform is coming. That is the prize. Let us not be distracted from seizing it. I commend this Statement to the House".

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.53 pm

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, I am grateful to the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement by the Prime Minister.

On Libya, I join him in expressing deep and abiding gratitude to members of the British Armed Forces. Over the last seven months in Libya, once again our service men and women have been a credit to our nation. We take pride in their role and in the role of NATO. We on these Benches have maintained that, after UN Security Council Resolution 1973, there was not just a right but a responsibility to act-a responsibility to the Libyan people and a responsibility to uphold the will of the United Nations. That is why we have supported the Government in their actions.

If I may, through the Leader of the House, I commend the Prime Minister on the role that he has played in taking the right and principled decisions on this issue. It is for the Libyan people to determine their future, but they must do it in the knowledge that the international community, including the European Union, stands ready to provide support. Do the Government agree that alongside the responsibility to protect is the responsibility to help rebuild and, in particular, to provide the expertise that the new Libya will require? We all have great hopes for the future of Libya, and its people rightly have high expectations and aspirations. Does the noble Lord agree, however, that embedding institutional and structural change in Libya will take time? We must not be too impatient.

I now turn to Europe. We in this House all know that the other place is today debating the question of a referendum on remaining in the European Union and on other related matters. It is not our job in this House to replicate either the arguments within the Conservative Party over Europe, which have sharply re-emerged, or the political arguments of the other place. However, we on these Benches are clear, and we have been

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consistently clear, that getting out of the European Union is not in our national interest. Does the noble Lord the Leader agree that cutting ourselves off from our biggest export market makes no sense for Britain? The overwhelming majority of British business, whatever their feelings may be about this or that aspect of the EU, knows that too. What is more, at this moment of all moments, the uncertainty that would ensue from Britain turning inwards over the next two years to debate an in/out referendum is something that, frankly, our country cannot afford.

The context for the debate about Europe is the huge dangers facing the UK and eurozone economies. Growth has stalled in Britain since the autumn and is now stalling in Europe. Unemployment is rising-a particular concern is youth unemployment-and we now face the threat of a new banking crisis. That is why acting together is so important. We need to stop standing on the sidelines. I welcome the commitment in the Statement that all decisions relating to the single market should be taken by the 27 member states; that is right. It is important, though, that Britain should at least be present in all discussions pertaining to the European Union. My fear is that, with a strong inner core, Britain is going to be sidelined in discussions generally, not just those relating to economic policy.

We should have been arguing for weeks, probably for months, that the problems of Greece were not being met by the austerity solution. We should have been pointing out the need for the recapitalisation of the banks. We should have been arguing for a plan for growth in Europe. So I have some questions for the Leader of the House.

On banking, do the Government believe that the amount of recapitalisation being discussed is sufficient to ensure financial stability across the European banking systems? In particular, can the Government explain why the estimates of recapitalisation at €100 billion by the European authorities are half the €200 billion that the IMF suggested was needed?

On Greece, do the Government believe that the lessons of previously announced Greek bailouts are being learnt and that this bailout will provide a genuinely sustainable solution?

On growth, do the Government understand that Europe will not get to grips with its debt problems until it gets to grips with its crisis of growth? What actions will the Government be taking to work with colleagues across the European Union to ensure growth across our continent?

Jobs and growth must be our priorities in the EU. We do not believe that it is in Britain's interests to see the Conservative Party-not, significantly, the coalition as a whole-trying to resurrect its old issues of trying to get out of the Social Chapter, to withdraw employment rights and to renegotiate Britain's membership of the EU. This matters because in December the Prime Minister is likely to be negotiating with our European allies on the nature of treaty change and what Britain wants out of this. We say that it is not in the interests of Britain for us to spend our political capital trying to water down employment rights by getting rid of four weeks' paid holiday and maternity leave provision. That will not help jobs and growth in Britain.



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Instead, the completion of the single market-CAP reform, budget reform, reform of state aids policy-should be our priority. The Government's job is to act in the national interest and in the interests of Europe and the world economy. With globalisation, isolation cannot be the answer. Our national interests have to be considered in the wider economic context. As the debate in the other place is showing today, the Government are entangling these interests with the interests of the Conservative Party.

The issues facing Europe are serious-too serious to see Britain's national interests being caught up in party interests. We on these Benches urge the Government to put their party interests aside and act in the national interest, because by working with and within the EU we will then be able to deal with our crisis of jobs and growth. We urge the Leader of the House now to make a clear statement that it will indeed be jobs and growth that will be the real priority for our Government in the European Union.

4 pm

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I begin by thanking the noble Baroness for the tribute she paid to the people of Libya who have fought so bravely over the course of the last seven months, and some for far longer, against the tyranny and dictatorship represented by Colonel Gaddafi. I also thank the noble Baroness for what she said about our Armed Forces and for commending the Prime Minister. I very much agree with what she said. I also agree that embedding change will take time and that the process will be long and difficult. We, the European Union and many others will be involved in that. Libya is an important country and we have been much involved with it. It is right that we should continue to help and support the National Transitional Council and the new regime, whenever that comes, for as long as they want us.

On the European Union, the noble Baroness began by saying there was no need for this House to replicate the debate happening today in the House of Commons. I agree with that, although I am sure that there will be an opportunity in the next 20 minutes or so of Back-Bench time to deal with some of these issues. The noble Baroness reminded us that the Labour Party is opposed to leaving the EU. She did not tell us about its line on joining the euro, but I am sure that that was an omission. The noble Baroness shakes her head, so I presume that means the Labour Party would not join at the moment. That is a good thing indeed.

The noble Baroness said that we needed to act together. I agree with that. It is the same reason why we are opposed to an in/out referendum. We need to act together. Major decisions are being taken about the single market-both this weekend and again on Wednesday-which is something that successive British Governments and British Prime Ministers have been championing since the days of Margaret Thatcher. The single market is an immensely important mechanism for us. The fact that the single market is not yet complete is something that should concern us; the fact that the European Commission now wishes to complete it is something that we should welcome enormously. I also agree that these decisions should be taken by the 27 member countries and not by a small group. The

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noble Baroness fears that we may be sidelined during the course of this process if there is a core eurozone caucus, for want of a better word. We would very much like to avoid that, and we are doing everything we can to bring that about.

The noble Baroness asked some specific questions, particularly about the amount of recapitalisation that has taken place in the banks and whether it is enough to ensure future stability. That was exactly what the ECOFIN meeting was about on Saturday. The Chancellor of the Exchequer spent 10 hours in the meeting to ensure that the system in place was proper and correct. As far as whether lessons have been learnt from previous bailouts, decisive action has been taken and it was right to do so.

Where I agree most with the noble Baroness is on growth. This has slowed in Europe and there are a number of structural reasons for that, such as bureaucratic centralisation. We will not get to grips with many of the financial problems without addressing the growth issues. That is why we support what the European Commission is doing on growth, particularly on completing the single market. What is also required is real political leadership. I am pleased that in this country at least, in the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary and the Chancellor, we have a united leadership developing the way forward.

I will not join the noble Baroness in her praise of the Social Chapter. I take the view that all those things that the noble Baroness thinks are important are important, too, but they could just as well be decided in a British Parliament by British Members of Parliament and, indeed, British Peers.

The noble Baroness finished by saying that these are serious questions, which is right. The issue of Europe is always taken immensely seriously, not least in this House. I like to think that we always put the national interest first; that is one of the reasons why I am a member of this Government. These are extremely difficult and complicated times, and it is vital that we put the national interest first to get the solutions that we need.

Baroness Royall of Blaisdon: My Lords, in answer to the noble Lord the Leader of the House's question about the euro, I remind the House that it was my Government who decided not to go into the euro and that they did so in the national interest.

4.06 pm

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, will the noble Lord the Leader of the House accept my warm welcome for the extremely determined way in which the Prime Minister led this action with President Sarkozy? However, could he perhaps clear up one area that slightly baffles me-that is, the statement about not acting on the basis of any overarching principle? My understanding-perhaps the noble Lord will confirm this-is that we were in Libya, doing what we were, because we subscribed to the responsibility to protect people whose citizens cannot or will not be protected by their own Governments. That was something that we, with 191 other UN members, subscribed to in 2005. If that is correct but it is not an overarching principle, I am not sure that I would recognise one when I saw it.



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Secondly, on Europe, it now sounds very likely-although the decision has not yet been formally taken-that there will be negotiations in an intergovernmental conference, and that this will probably be decided at the European Council in December. Is it not crucial that this country goes into such a conference with a positive agenda to secure all those points that the Prime Minister rightly made in his Statement about the primacy of the single market, the need to ensure that decisions are taken by the 27 member states and the need to protect our own position? A positive agenda will be needed to secure that, if action is also being taken to set up, for example, a restricted group of members in the eurozone to take certain decisions on economic and financial policy. Will the Minister confirm that the Government are now drawing up some positive points to make at that intergovernmental conference, and not focusing on a long list of the sort of points that, in 1974 and 1975, led to a pretty humiliating negotiation and not a single word being changed in any European treaty?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, for his warm welcome to the Prime Minister's discussions with the President of France on Libya. One can look at what happened in Libya in a variety of ways, including seeing it as following a great principle of defending the interests of civilians, which I regard as a noble principle. However, in his Statement this afternoon my right honourable friend the Prime Minister said, "I am wary of drawing some grand, overarching lesson-still less to claim that Libya offers some new template that we can apply the world over. I believe it has shown the importance of weighing each situation on its merits; of thinking through carefully any decision to intervene in advance". That is right. There were other important principles at work in Libya: the passing of the United Nations Security Council resolutions; the support of the Arab League and the neighbours of Libya; and the immediacy with which civilians were likely to be murdered on the streets of Benghazi. All played a part, so the Prime Minister is right not to see it as a template. The noble Lord is also right in saying that it is important that where civilian life is endangered, we should move swiftly to ensure that that is not the case.

I also agree with the noble Lord about the Government having a positive agenda on Europe. They do have a positive agenda, particularly as regards what he called the primacy of the single market, to complete all the provisions of the single market, of which there are directives outstanding that have a direct effect on and implication for British financial services, commerce and industry, particularly some of the financial directives, and to maintain these and many other things to be decided by the 27 member states. We are in a process of discussion and negotiation against a background of volatility-indeed, some financial turmoil-in the markets. It is important to get these decisions right.

Lord Newby: My Lords, on Libya, does the Minister agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, that the important thing now is to secure the peace? Will he give an assurance to the House that the Government will give whatever support the Westminster Foundation

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for Democracy and other bodies in the UK request in order to help the new Administration in Libya to draw up a new constitution and move towards elections? On the EU summit, does he agree with me that the most worrying event of the weekend was the spat between the Prime Minister and the French President, which demonstrated the danger to the UK of being seen as irrelevant to the major decisions being taken in the EU? Will he therefore give the House an assurance that the Government are giving systematic consideration to ensuring that any moves towards greater common activities in the eurozone which have an implication for the UK will take place with the UK at the very least sitting at the table during those discussions and when those decisions are being made?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, on my noble friend's first question, of course we are delighted that we are seeing a semblance of peace in Libya, and long may that continue; and of course we will do everything we can to support the growth of that stability and, indeed, in the longer term, of democracy. I have answered questions before on the Westminster Foundation, whose aims and objectives we fully support. We wish to see that body continue to function and to work not just in Libya but in many other countries as well. As far as the EU and the French President are concerned, I am not sure whether "spat" is the right word, but we think that we are in a position to explain to some of our European colleagues our viewpoint on what is happening in the eurozone and to underline the seriousness of it. In fact, the Prime Minister and the Chancellor have said that it is not in our interests for the euro to founder; it is very much in our interests for it to succeed. I do not think that we are being sidelined. We are doing everything we can to explain and to get our colleagues to understand that we are playing a full part and-in the words of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay-a positive part in the development of the EU.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have just returned from the World Economic Forum in Jordan, where most of the Governments of the Arab League were represented. It is worth noting that they were all relieved and pleased that the Gaddafi era is over, as I am sure we all are. However, many of my interlocutors expressed concern-some publicly, some privately-about the way in which Gaddafi met his end. Their feeling was that if the changes in the Middle East are to become embedded, they have to be rooted in the rule of law. The rule of law would have meant that Gaddafi went on trial in an open trial which everybody could see, and was then subject to the sentence of a properly constituted court. Will the noble Lord the Leader of the House assure us that this is also the Government's position and that extrajudicial killing-in the heat of the moment people in many parts of the world may at times have sympathy with it-is wrong in principle and that standing up for the rule of law is important, whoever is the victim?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, it is always good to hear from the noble Baroness first hand about her activities in Jordan and her discussing this with other Arab countries. I agree with the point that underlines her remarks. The UK was a strong supporter of the

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ICC and led the drive to refer the situation in Libya to the ICC in UNSCR 1970. We have always maintained that the ideal solution involved Gaddafi being arrested and standing trial in The Hague and getting to the truth of the many events that occurred over the course of the past 40 years. Ultimately, the fate of Gaddafi was in the hands of the Libyans. The process should have been rooted in the rule of law and we will certainly make sure that the NTC understands that. It is now for it to decide how it plans to investigate the events that led to Gaddafi's death.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, will my noble friend assure me that he is aware of the proposal that the 17 members of the eurozone should meet outside the Council of Ministers and decide among themselves by a majority upon economic policies that would affect this country, which they would then support as a bloc in the Council? Would such an arrangement constitute a substantial transfer of powers from this country such as to trigger a referendum?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I do not think that, as my noble friend explained his scenario, it would, because it would not necessitate a treaty change. My noble friend raises a question that we would not necessarily like to face, and at this stage we are not sure that it is something that we necessarily need to beware of. On Wednesday there is another European Council-an emergency Council-which will draw conclusions, and we will be in a far better position to see the outcome of these talks at that stage.

Lord Grocott: My Lords, I speak as someone who is a little wary of parliamentary procedures that lead directly from a petition to an automatic debate in Parliament, and would not have supported those procedures had I been in the Commons when they were decided. None the less, does the noble Lord agree that if a petition asks one House of Parliament to debate something and to express Parliament's view, it rather destroys the point for all three party leaders to insist that Parliament should respond in a particular way? I would not have thought that that is the best way of discovering Parliament's view. Secondly, in respect of a part of the Statement that I fully support and endorse, where the noble Lord reminds us that Parliament held a debate on the proposed conflict in Libya at the earliest opportunity, what does he think would happen if this were an elected House? Would this House-in the event of a proposition for armed conflict-also be required to express a view?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Grocott, says that he is suspicious-he did not quite use the words "new-fangled parliamentary processes", but he might have done-of the role of e-petitions and of the Back-Bench committee of the other place that decided on what should be debated. I do not think that there is any real tension between that and the three party leaders taking a view. It may be that the Back-Bench committee thought that something was important to debate and the three party leaders took a different view. It is certainly a less tidy process, but it may be that people feel that by joining in these petitions they have debates brought to the Floor of the

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House. Those who signed up to this e-petition will no doubt be very pleased with its results-at least I hope they will be.

It is very tempting to get into long debates with the noble Lord about the role of a directly elected second House. I have no view as to whether a directly elected senate would wish to vote on whether we went to war. What the noble Lord did not ask, but what he meant, was about what would happen if those two bodies disagreed in some fundamental way. Many of these questions would be ironed out once an elected senate were in place and in a position to negotiate these matters with the House of Commons.

Lord Elystan-Morgan: Can the Leader of the House say whether Colonel Gaddafi's second son and nominated heir is still alive and, if so, whether every effort will be made to capture him alive and to make him stand trial? Such a trial might cast a flood of light upon both the Lockerbie bombing and the murder of WPC Fletcher.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I do not know whether he is still alive but, on the basis that he is, our role would be to stick to UN Security Council Resolution 1973 and to protect civilians in Libya. We would certainly expect the Libyan regime-the NTC-to work within the rule of law; and if he were arrested he should be brought to trial so that we could find the answers to these questions.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords-

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords-

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords-

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: Perhaps we might hear from the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and then move to UKIP.

Lord Lamont of Lerwick: My Lords, will the Leader of the House possibly correct the attempts of the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, to rewrite history? Will he perhaps remind her that the decisions on which countries joined the euro, and at which parities, were made well before the 1997 election? At that time, the decision by the Conservative Government not to join the euro was severely criticised by both John Smith and Gordon Brown.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, it is always good to hear my noble friend, and he has of course put the record entirely right.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that the talk in the Statement about scrapping EU rules and bureaucracy, bringing back powers to Westminster and reforming the EU generally is all just a dishonest red herring, because he will be aware of the requirement for unanimity among all 27 member states before a single comma can be retrieved from the treaties? Secondly, why does he yet again come up with the often-repeated propaganda that somehow millions of British jobs depend on our membership of the European Union? Can he tell us why a single job would be lost if we left the political construct of the EU? After all, EU countries sell us

24 Oct 2011 : Column 561

much more than we sell them, and Switzerland and 62 other countries have free-trade agreements with the European Union. If we are to continue these debates, can we please drop this obvious propaganda?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I usually admire the noble Lord's questions but I cannot follow him on this occasion. On repatriating powers, we believe that an opportunity for the British Government to negotiate may well arise in a positive way. I say in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Hannay, that repatriating powers to the United Kingdom may well strengthen the whole EU. There is a clear role for the nation state. However, at the moment, we are at a very early stage and we do not know whether there will be a treaty change and, if there is, how big it will be, exactly what it will refer to and so on. I do not think that anyone should get overexcited about this, but any future treaty change will-partly because of the rule of unanimity-give us the opportunity to advance our national interests, which is of course what the Prime Minister and the Government will always wish to do.

Secondly, I cannot join the noble Lord in his attack on what he called propaganda about the single market. The single market is an immensely important part of British interests and the British economy. I will not list all the figures now. One reason to be on the inside is that all the countries that he mentioned did not have a say in writing the rules of the single market. One of the greatest advantages of being a member of the EU is that we are part of the process under which these rules are made.

Lord Cormack: My Lords-

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords-

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: That side.

Lord Lea of Crondall: The Prime Minister stated only a couple weeks ago, much to the annoyance of President Sarkozy, about the crisis that they-presumably, the eurozone-ought to sort it out. In a sense, I am responding to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit. Does the noble Lord the Leader of the House think that that is what the Prime Minister meant?

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, I must say that I am not entirely certain that I followed the noble Lord's views. The eurozone is in an immensely difficult situation. There is a huge problem which will impact not just on eurozone countries but on our economy and perhaps even wider than that. It is up to them, I suppose, to sort it out, but we can all play a part in sorting it out because it is so important to all of us.

Lord Cormack: My Lords-

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords-

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, we are out of time and we should move to Report.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: We ought to have 40 minutes, not 20 minutes.



24 Oct 2011 : Column 562

Education Bill

Bill Main Page

Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

4.27 pm

Amendment 56

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

56: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause-

"Enforcement powers

(1) Part 7 of ASCLA 2009 (the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (6).

(2) In section 151 (power to give directions), for subsection (1) substitute-

"(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to Ofqual that a recognised body has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition to which the recognition is subject."

(3) After section 151 insert-

"151A Power to impose monetary penalties

(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to Ofqual that a recognised body has failed to comply with a condition to which the recognition is subject.

(2) Ofqual may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised body.

(3) A "monetary penalty" is a requirement to pay to Ofqual a penalty of an amount determined by Ofqual in accordance with section 151B.

(4) Before imposing a monetary penalty on a recognised body, Ofqual must give notice to the body of its intention to do so.

(5) The notice must-

(a) set out Ofqual's reasons for proposing to impose the penalty, and

(b) specify the period during which, and the way in which, the recognised body may make representations about the proposal.

(6) The period specified under subsection (5)(b) must not be less than 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is received.

(7) Ofqual must have regard to any representations made by the recognised body during the period specified in the notice in deciding whether to impose a monetary penalty on the body.

(8) If Ofqual decides to impose a monetary penalty on the body, it must give the body a notice containing information as to-

(a) the grounds for imposing the penalty,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

151B Monetary penalties: amount

(1) The amount of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised body under section 151A must not exceed 10% of the body's turnover.

(2) The turnover of a body for the purposes of subsection (1) is to be determined in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State.

(3) Subject to subsection (1), the amount may be whatever Ofqual decides is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case.

151C Monetary penalties: appeals

(1) A recognised body may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision to impose a monetary penalty on the body under section 151A;

(b) a decision as to the amount of the penalty.



24 Oct 2011 : Column 563

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the penalty is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the penalty;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as Ofqual could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the penalty, or any matter relating to that decision, to Ofqual.

151D Monetary penalties: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised body is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised body may make an appeal under section 151C in respect of the penalty, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 151C in respect of the penalty is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the penalty for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the penalty.

(5) Ofqual may recover from the body, as a civil debt due to it, the unpaid amount of the penalty and any unpaid interest."

(4) In section 152 (power to withdraw recognition), for subsection (2) substitute-

"(2) Ofqual may withdraw recognition from the recognised body in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) a specified qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the body is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the body is recognised."

(5) After section 152 insert-

"152A Costs recovery

(1) Ofqual may, by notice, require a recognised body on which a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by Ofqual in relation to imposing the sanction, up to the time it is imposed.

(2) The references in subsection (1) to imposing a sanction are to-

(a) giving a direction under section 151;

(b) imposing a monetary penalty under section 151A;

(c) withdrawing recognition under section 152.

(3) "Costs" includes in particular-

(a) investigation costs;

(b) administration costs;

(c) costs of obtaining expert advice (including legal advice).

(4) A notice given to a recognised body under subsection (1) must contain information as to-

(a) the amount required to be paid,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,



24 Oct 2011 : Column 564

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

(5) The body may require Ofqual to provide a detailed breakdown of the amount specified in the notice.

152B Costs recovery: appeals

(1) A recognised body may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision under section 152A(1) to require the body to pay costs;

(b) a decision as to the amount of those costs.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the costs is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the costs;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as Ofqual could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the costs, or any matter relating to that decision, to Ofqual.

152C Costs: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of an amount of costs that a recognised body is required to pay under section 152A(1) is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised body may make an appeal under section 152B in respect of the costs, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 152B in respect of the costs is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the costs for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the costs.

(5) Ofqual may recover from the body, as a civil debt due to it, the unpaid amount of the costs and any unpaid interest."

(6) In section 153 (qualifications regulatory framework), in subsection (8)(e), for "152" substitute "152C".

(7) In section 262(6) of ASCLA 2009 (orders and regulations subject to affirmative resolution procedure), after paragraph (e) insert-

"(ea) an order under section 151B(2);"."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Schools (Lord Hill of Oareford): My Lords, government Amendments 56 and 57 are a response to concerns first raised by my noble friend Lord Lingfield and echoed by others of my noble friends, the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wall, about whether Ofqual has a full range of effective and proportionate powers that it can use to carry out its duties and responsibilities.

The context of the concerns expressed was the events of this summer, where we saw numerous errors in awarding bodies' exam papers; many of those appeared even after Ofqual had required awarding bodies to go

24 Oct 2011 : Column 565

back and check all their papers. We all know how hard most children work for their GCSEs, A-levels and vocational qualifications. After all that work, they should not be let down by exam boards' mistakes; nor can we be sanguine about the credibility of our qualifications being brought into doubt.

The key point made by my noble friend Lord Lingfield and others in the Grand Committee debate on 13 July was that Ofqual currently has only two types of sanctions available to it: first, the power to direct an awarding body to comply with a condition; and, secondly, the ultimate-and rather nuclear-sanction of partial or full withdrawal of recognition, which in effect would prevent an awarding body from offering a qualification to maintained schools.

Obviously, those are strong powers. First, Ofqual can require awarding bodies to put things right by giving those bodies a direction; but that will often be only after they have gone wrong, so that is after the candidate has endured the two hours of stress that resulted from unsolvable problems in the paper they were sitting. Secondly, Ofqual can, in practice, strip an awarding body of the ability to offer its qualifications to the market. That certainly sounds like a strong incentive on awarding bodies not to make mistakes and to comply with Ofqual's conditions, but taking such a step could have a very disruptive impact on the whole system, as schools and colleges would have to switch providers and the courses they are teaching. Ofqual is under a duty to act appropriately and proportionately, so, given this impact, it would be able to do that in practice only if faced with an extremely serious or extremely persistent breach of a condition.

4.30 pm

For breaches of conditions that are unlikely to trigger Ofqual's nuclear sanction of withdrawal of recognition-and the errors we saw from those awarding bodies in the summer are of that kind-there is little Ofqual can currently do to impose a serious consequence that would act as a deterrent or encourage compliance. That, in essence, is why we are introducing Amendment 56 and Amendment 57, which gives similar powers to Welsh Ministers who are the regulator of qualifications in Wales. The amendments give Ofqual the power to impose a variable monetary penalty on an awarding organisation that fails to comply with a recognition condition. I hope I can give reassurance to my noble friends Lady Sharp and Lady Brinton, who had some concerns about this that have also been raised by Pearson. As a multinational it is concerned-and I understand that concern-that Ofqual's fines could take a proportion of its global turnover, of which only a small proportion is generated from the provision of qualifications in this country.

As is the case for other regulatory bodies that have the power to impose a monetary penalty, the method of calculating the relevant turnover for these purposes will be determined in accordance with an order made by the Secretary of State, which will be subject to the affirmative procedure. There will be a full 12-week consultation on these rules with interested parties, including the awarding organisations. I can also confirm that our intention is that the definition of turnover

24 Oct 2011 : Column 566

would be limited to just that turnover generated by activity that Ofqual regulates, and would not encompass turnover from unregulated international activity. Stating that there is a 10 per cent cap in the Bill is common to other regulators.

This new power to fine will help concentrate minds at the awarding bodies and send a clear signal to students and the wider public that the exam boards will face consequences where they get things wrong. The clauses include safeguards in line with regulatory best practice to ensure that this new power is used appropriately and proportionately, including a cap on the maximum amount; clear procedures for notification that must be followed; independent appeals arrangements; and the requirement for a full consultation by Ofqual before they can be implemented.

As the legislation currently stands, there are circumstances in which an awarding body may have breached one of Ofqual's conditions but Ofqual would not be able to use any of its enforcement powers. Parliament has given Ofqual a set of objectives that it requires Ofqual to secure. To secure these objectives, it has given Ofqual the ability to set conditions which it can require awarding bodies to meet and sanctions which in theory it can rely upon if awarding bodies are not complying. However, the legislation as drafted inadvertently means that Ofqual is not simply free to use its sanctions when a condition is breached as is the case with other similar regulators. Instead it also has to meet additional higher-level hurdles that are not in place for other regulators: namely, that the failure to comply prejudices, or is likely to prejudice, either the proper award of any qualification or learners seeking such a qualification.

Two brief examples illustrate the problems that this presents. Ofqual might, for example, require transparency of data on fee setting in order to secure its efficiency objective. However, an awarding body's failure to provide it would not prejudice the learner or the proper award, and hence Ofqual would be unable to enforce this requirement. Secondly, in situations where errors have been made that have affected students, Ofqual may think it valid to consider fining, or withdrawing recognition. However, an awarding body could argue that it has already taken measures such as adjusting the marking schemes to discount the part of the exam that was erroneous. Consequently, at the point when Ofqual might wish to impose a sanction, no prejudice would exist and Ofqual would be unable to act. As I have said, most other regulators do not have caveats on their ability to take action in relation to the objectives and duties that Parliament has set them. We believe that a qualification system will serve a useful purpose only if it is one in which educational organisations, employers and students have confidence. The amendment therefore removes these triggers so that Ofqual can take enforcement action if its conditions are breached. However, again, I should like to offer assurance that Ofqual will still have to demonstrate that it is acting proportionately and appropriately in any such circumstance.

Finally, Amendment 56 also gives Ofqual the power to require a recognised body on which a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by Ofqual in relation to imposing the sanction. The costs concerned

24 Oct 2011 : Column 567

would include the costs of carrying out an investigation, relevant administration costs and the costs of obtaining expert advice. New Section 152B makes provision for appeals against Ofqual's decision to seek to recover its costs and sets up the powers of the First-tier Tribunal when considering such an appeal. New Section 152C makes provision for the recovery of costs that go unpaid and for the imposition of interest on such unpaid amounts.

The main aim of the Bill is to improve standards in education, including in examinations. Having listened to the points made by noble Lords in Committee, we believe that Ofqual should have the powers to support this aim to prevent the kinds of errors that were too common this summer. It would provide Ofqual and Welsh Ministers with the flexible enforcement sanctions that are in line with other regulators, including those in the Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008, which was thoroughly debated and scrutinised by Parliament and underwent extensive consultation. I beg to move.

Amendment 56A (to Amendment 56)

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

56A: After Clause 22, line 41, leave out "not exceed 10 per cent of the body's" and insert "only relate to a body's relevant"

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: Amendments 56A and 56B are in my name and both are amendments to Amendment 56. I tabled them because we, and I suspect other noble Lords, have received a fair amount of correspondence about this provision. Two issues arise from it. One, which is the subject of my amendments, relates to a very narrow issue-the 10 per cent of turnover to which the fine should be related and the question of whether that is the total turnover of the organisation or just that part of the organisation's turnover that relates to its United Kingdom activities. As the Minister has made clear, the Government have effectively accepted these amendments, and I gather that the turnover will relate only to United Kingdom activities.

The other issue goes somewhat wider and relates to the whole process of consultation that took place. I understand that, as the Minister explained, the Government were anxious to get these powers on to the statute book because Ofqual had the choice of only either a fairly gentle reprimand or the nuclear option of withdrawing recognition of the examining board, and it wanted a further range of sanctions to apply, as is the case with other regulators. However, it is very unfortunate that the period of consultation was reduced to as little as 10 days and that the examination boards did not have a chance to respond to these proposals as fully as they would have liked. It is also unfortunate that a wider consultation with other people affected by the knock-on effects of this provision did not take place. Some of them may also have received a letter from the ASCL pointing out that a fine imposed on the examining boards is quite likely to be passed on to the schools, which pay considerable fees for their pupils to sit these examinations.

I recognise that we do not want our examining boards to make the serious errors in examinations that occurred this summer and that sanctions of some sort

24 Oct 2011 : Column 568

are not a bad idea. Nevertheless, the fact remains that an inquiry was set up to examine those errors and it is not going to report until the end of the year. Normally, one would expect to see some action taken after the inquiry reports, and I therefore ask the Minister whether it was really necessary to act as quickly as he did. Furthermore, I hope that full consultation will now take place with the examination boards. As the Government put flesh on the bones of the sanctions in this amendment, I hope that they will have proper discussions and consultations with all those concerned about how the sanctions should be imposed and implemented. This is not good practice and I hope that the coalition Government will not continue with the rapid pursuit of issues in the same way.

Lord Lingfield: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister that, following my remarks, these clauses are to be inserted.

It is worth reminding noble Lords of the unedifying accounts in the newspapers a short time ago, when we saw complaints from parents, teachers and schools. A printing mistake by the AQA board led to some schools receiving GCSE maths papers, taken by 32,000 pupils, which included questions from a previous version of the examination. The OCR maths AS-level paper, with nearly 7,000 candidates, featured an impossible question worth a whole 11 per cent of the marks. OCR's Latin paper mixed up a passage by Cicero and attributed it to Tacitus, and two characters were mixed up. Edexcel's AS-level biology paper offered a selection of wrong answers to a multiple choice question, but the correct answer was not included. The OCR guide issued to staff marking the AS-level information communication and technology paper contained four errors-staff were required to mark down students who gave the correct answer. AQA's AS-level business studies examination, taken by 41,000 students, asked about a fictitious company's factory profits, but the adjoining profile information failed to show the profits, making the question completely unanswerable. Of course, there were other examples in earlier years. The noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, who is in his place, carried out, as I am sure he will mention, a review that suggested that QCA was responsible for massive failures resulting in tens of thousands of children getting their SATs results late.

That is why I support these extra powers for Ofqual boards. I believe the penalties that are outlined seem a fair and useful way ahead, with the appropriate safeguards of notice and appeal that the Bill sets out. I hope that noble Lords will support them and they will lead to a diminution in the angst and difficulty caused earlier this year to pupils, parents and teachers after the examinations.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood: I warmly welcome the government amendment, and not only for the reason it means that one's words do not always disappear into the ether for ever, although it is nice to see a bit of thought being given to them. Examining boards do an extremely difficult and complex job. Over the years, we have built for them a system that requires too much, and too much complexity. We are now rolling back from this, and that is the right direction. However, examination boards which, for the most part, have

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done this very well, do fail from time to time. They fail in ways that are serious and, as we have heard, are deeply upsetting to schools and candidates. It is therefore right that Ofqual should have the capacity to assert some discipline over them.

As has been suggested, I have seen in great detail-more than I ever want to see again-the complexity of the procurement process for a national set of examinations. If Ofqual were committed to its only sanction being to reset the process in motion, we would have the wrong system. Under this amendment, Ofqual will have different alternatives. I say to my noble friend Lady Sharp that this should have been in the original powers of Ofqual rather than being put through at this stage. I welcome the amendments and hope that the House will support them.

4.45 pm

Baroness Hughes of Stretford: My Lords, I do not object in principle to the proposals. They were consulted on in 2009 by my Government. We decided at that stage against moving in this direction. I agree that the impact on students when these errors occur is very bad. I agree, too, with measures in general to drive up performance, although it is interesting to contrast them with the approach of this Government to driving up performance in schools, which is to absolve them of every possible requirement, whereas in this instance further financial sanctions are being sought. It is a moot point whether Ofqual needs these powers or whether the existing powers that the Minister has referred to of withdrawing accreditation or giving a direction are both more appropriate and more effective. The Minister agreed that these are strong powers.

I will make three points and will be grateful if the Minister will respond to them. First, I echo some of the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the rushed nature of this publication. It begs the question of whether the detail has been properly thought through, with only eight days for providers to have any kind of discussion with Ofqual about how it might work. Consequently, no information is available on a number of important questions. For example, in what circumstances will the financial penalties be imposed? What level of apparent errors will be the threshold for financial penalties to kick in? What will be the levels of penalties and how will they be determined? What will the maximum penalty be? What will be the mechanism for an independent appeals process for providers, and what safeguards will there be that it will be a fair and transparent process? Will the Government issue guidance to Ofqual on how it should conduct itself? The Minister may say that Ofqual will have a full consultation for 12 weeks on some of these questions, but as noble Lords are being asked to consider the measures now, it would have been helpful to have had some indication of the Government's view about how this will work.

My second question is: are financial penalties appropriate? We have heard that Pearson has replied with some comments, but I am more concerned with the majority of exam boards, which are charitable, not-for-profit organisations. Seventy-five per cent of all GCSEs and A-levels are delivered by not-for-profit organisations. There is already in the system a degree

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of potential financial instability for the exam boards, because government policy decisions, for instance on changing the structures of GCSEs, have an immediate financial impact on them. Therefore, there is a danger to the not-for-profit organisations that this may further jeopardise their financial stability. As we have heard, schools, too, are concerned that if the not-for-profit organisations take any financial penalty, ultimately they will have to pass it on to schools; they will not necessarily be able to absorb it.

Finally, I am concerned that there are clear parameters and guidance on how Ofqual must use the powers in ways that will protect it from having to respond to what will inevitably be media pressure and perhaps the appearance of political pressure concerning the way it implements these decisions and applies financial penalties. What safeguards does the Minister envisage to ensure that protection? One not-for-profit exam board has suggested that Ofqual should deal with these matters through a more distant complaints procedure, so that it will be clearly separate from government and shielded to some extent from the barrage of perhaps understandable media pressure that will accompany these issues.

Lord Hill of Oareford: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Lingfield and Lady Sharp of Guildford, and the noble Lord, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, for their broad welcome for the measures, and the recognition that this responds to a need.

On the speed of the consultation, referred to by my noble friend Lady Sharp and the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes of Stretford, we responded to the points that were raised in Grand Committee. A legislative opportunity presented itself with this Education Bill and we had before us the failures of this summer. I know that the previous Government consulted. Our case would be that, with the legislative opportunity there and the evidence of the failures that we had this summer, which the previous Government had not had, it was sensible to act while the opportunity presented itself, but I take my noble friend's point about the importance of consultation. Ofqual will consult on the detailed implementation of its powers, which will be a full 12-week consultation.

In response to the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, Ofqual will publish a statement as part of its qualifications regulatory framework, which will set out how and in what circumstances its powers will be used. That will make clear Ofqual's expectations that only serious or persistent breaches could lead to a fine.

On the question of appeals, there will be an appeal to the independent First-tier Tribunal, in line with other regulators. I know that concerns were raised about fines being passed on to schools, effectively. Ofqual will have powers to cap those fees if it thinks that it is necessary to do so. I understand the point that obviously some of the big awarding bodies are charities, but some of them are charities with very large tens of millions or hundreds of millions of pounds of turnover. Our basic point is that a pupil or student on the wrong end of a duff examination paper is not too bothered whether that paper has been set by a charity or a commercial organisation. That is why

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we think that it is appropriate to give this extra power. The noble Baroness, Lady Hughes, is right that there are two powers but we feel that in essence they are not sufficiently nuanced. Giving this additional power we hope will lead not to large amounts of fining but to better and more accurate examination papers.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for that explanation. I am reassured that there will be extensive consultation with the boards concerned on the implementation of these things. I just want to reiterate my general feeling that it is important for consultation to take place before rather than after legislation as a general principle. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 56A (to Amendment 56A) withdrawn.

Amendment 56B (to Amendment 56A) not moved.

Amendment 56 agreed.

Amendment 57

Moved by Lord Hill of Oareford

57: After Clause 22, insert the following new Clause-

"Enforcement powers of Welsh Ministers

(1) Chapter 2 of Part 5 of EA 1997 (functions of Welsh Ministers: qualifications and the school curriculum) is amended as set out in subsections (2) to (6).

(2) In section 32A (power to give directions), for subsections (1) and (2) substitute-

"(1) Subsection (1A) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition subject to which the recognition has effect.

(1A) The Welsh Ministers may direct the recognised person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with the conditions subject to which the recognition has effect.

(2) Subsection (2A) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person who awards or authenticates a qualification accredited by them has failed or is likely to fail to comply with a condition subject to which the accreditation has effect.

(2A) The Welsh Ministers may direct the recognised person to take or refrain from taking specified steps with a view to securing compliance with the conditions subject to which the accreditation has effect."

(3) In section 32A(5), for "32B and" substitute "32AA to".

(4) After section 32A insert-

"32AA Power of Welsh Ministers to impose monetary penalties

(1) Subsection (2) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person has failed to comply with a condition subject to which the recognition has effect.

(2) The Welsh Ministers may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised person.

(3) Subsection (4) applies if it appears to the Welsh Ministers that a recognised person who awards or authenticates a qualification accredited by them has failed to comply with a condition subject to which the accreditation has effect.

(4) The Welsh Ministers may impose a monetary penalty on the recognised person.

(5) A "monetary penalty" is a requirement to pay to the Welsh Ministers a penalty of an amount determined by them in accordance with section 32AB.

(6) Before imposing a monetary penalty on a recognised person, the Welsh Ministers must give notice to the person of their intention to do so.

(7) The notice must-

(a) set out their reasons for proposing to impose the penalty, and



24 Oct 2011 : Column 572

(b) specify the period during which, and the way in which, the recognised person may make representations about the proposal.

(8) The period specified under subsection (7)(b) must not be less than 28 days beginning with the date on which the notice is received.

(9) The Welsh Ministers must have regard to any representations made by the recognised person during the period specified in the notice in deciding whether to impose a monetary penalty on the person.

(10) If the Welsh Ministers decide to impose a monetary penalty on the person, they must give the person a notice containing information as to-

(a) the grounds for imposing the penalty,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

32AB Monetary penalties: amount

(1) The amount of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised person under section 32AA must not exceed 10% of the person's turnover.

(2) The turnover of a person for the purposes of subsection (1) is to be determined in accordance with an order made by the Welsh Ministers.

(3) Subject to subsection (1), the amount may be whatever the Welsh Ministers decide is appropriate in all the circumstances of the case.

32AC Monetary penalties: appeals

(1) A recognised person may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision to impose a monetary penalty on the person under section 32AA;

(b) a decision as to the amount of the penalty.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the penalty is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the penalty;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as the Welsh Ministers could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the penalty, or any matter relating to that decision, to the Welsh Ministers.

32AD Monetary penalties: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of a monetary penalty imposed on a recognised person is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised person may make an appeal under section 32AC in respect of the penalty, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 32AC in respect of the penalty is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.



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(3) The unpaid amount of the penalty for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the penalty.

(5) The Welsh Ministers may recover from the person, as a civil debt due to them, the unpaid amount of the penalty and any unpaid interest."

(5) In section 32B (power to withdraw recognition)-

(a) for subsection (2) substitute-

"(2) The Welsh Ministers may withdraw recognition from the recognised person in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) a specified qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised.";

(b) for subsection (4) substitute-

"(4) The Welsh Ministers may withdraw recognition from the recognised person in respect of the award or authentication of-

(a) the qualification or a specified description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised, or

(b) every qualification or description of qualification in respect of which the person is recognised."

(6) After section 32B insert-

"32BA Costs recovery

(1) The Welsh Ministers may, by notice, require a recognised person on whom a sanction has been imposed to pay the costs incurred by the Welsh Ministers in relation to imposing the sanction, up to the time it is imposed.

(2) The references in subsection (1) to imposing a sanction are to-

(a) giving a direction under section 32A;

(b) imposing a monetary penalty under section 32AA;

(c) withdrawing recognition under section 32B.

(3) "Costs" includes in particular-

(a) investigation costs;

(b) administration costs;

(c) costs of obtaining expert advice (including legal advice).

(4) A notice given to a recognised person under subsection (1) must contain information as to-

(a) the amount required to be paid,

(b) how payment may be made,

(c) the period within which payment is required to be made (which must not be less than 28 days),

(d) rights of appeal,

(e) the period within which an appeal may be made, and

(f) the consequences of non-payment.

(5) The person may require the Welsh Ministers to provide a detailed breakdown of the amount specified in the notice.

32BB Costs recovery: appeals

(1) A recognised person may appeal to the First-tier Tribunal against-

(a) a decision under section 32BA(1) to require the person to pay costs;

(b) a decision as to the amount of those costs.

(2) An appeal under this section may be made on the grounds-

(a) that the decision was based on an error of fact;

(b) that the decision was wrong in law;

(c) that the decision was unreasonable.

(3) The requirement to pay the costs is suspended pending the determination of an appeal under this section.

(4) On an appeal under this section the Tribunal may-



24 Oct 2011 : Column 574

(a) withdraw the requirement to pay the costs;

(b) confirm that requirement;

(c) vary that requirement;

(d) take such steps as the Welsh Ministers could take in relation to the failure to comply giving rise to the decision to impose the requirement;

(e) remit the decision whether to confirm the requirement to pay the costs, or any matter relating to that decision, to the Welsh Ministers.

32BC Costs: interest and recovery

(1) This section applies if all or part of an amount of costs that a recognised person is required to pay under section 32BA(1) is unpaid at the end of the period ending on the applicable date.

(2) The applicable date is-

(a) the last date on which the recognised person may make an appeal under section 32BB in respect of the costs, if no such appeal is made;

(b) if an appeal under section 32BB in respect of the costs is made-

(i) the date on which the appeal is determined, or

(ii) if the appeal is withdrawn before being determined, the date on which the appeal is withdrawn.

(3) The unpaid amount of the costs for the time being carries interest at the rate for the time being specified in section 17 of the Judgments Act 1838 (and does not also carry interest as a judgment debt under that section).

(4) The total amount of interest imposed under subsection (3) must not exceed the amount of the costs.

(5) The Welsh Ministers may recover from the person, as a civil debt due to them, the unpaid amount of the costs and any unpaid interest."

(7) In section 54 of EA 1997 (orders and regulations)-

(a) in subsection (2), after "section" insert "32AB(2) or";

(b) after subsection (2) insert-

"(2A) A statutory instrument which contains (whether alone or with other provision) an order under section 32AB(2) may not be made unless a draft of the instrument has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the National Assembly for Wales.""

Amendment 57 agreed.

Clause 24 : Abolition of the QCDA: consequential amendments

Amendments 57A and 57B had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 27 : Careers guidance in schools in England

Amendment 57C

Moved by Baroness Jones of Whitchurch

57C: Clause 27, page 28, line 8, leave out "during the relevant phase of their education" and insert "from the beginning of the school year in which the majority of pupils in the pupil's class attain the age of 14"

Baroness Jones of Whitchurch: My Lords, the amendments in this group aim to improve the careers advice to which young people would be entitled in the classroom. They cover different aspects of the provision that we think pupils have a right to expect. While each of our amendments has validity in its own right, they have also been consolidated into Amendment 57CA.

The Government's proposals in Clause 27 amend the Education Act 1997 so that in the future maintained schools and pupil referral units would be required to

24 Oct 2011 : Column 575

secure independent, impartial careers advice for pupils aged 13 to 16. However, schools will be free to decide how best to fulfil this duty based on the needs of their pupils and as the Bill stands there is no guarantee that the advice would be from a trained professional, nor that it would be face to face. Our amendments would ensure that all pupils receive face-to-face careers advice from year 8 onwards. This is the year that the majority of pupils turn 14 and start to make decisions about their study options for GCSE, and it is vital that they understand the implications of those choices for their future careers.

Our amendments also require that advice is provided by a qualified provider, not a teacher to whom the responsibility has been given as an afterthought or someone employed by an accredited service provider who is none the less not personally qualified. This is vital to ensure a consistent quality of careers advice throughout the education system. We had an excellent debate on this subject in Grand Committee and noble Lords from all sides of the House recognised the need to drive up standards in careers advice for young people, and the need to influence them early enough to make wise choices about their course of study.

I acknowledge receipt, rather belatedly, of the Minister's letter of 20 July, in which he tried to address those concerns. Regretfully, I do not think the letter goes far enough and I do not believe that his proposal of guidance to schools will give sufficient guarantees to young people who should have a right to these services. I do not believe that measuring outcomes via the destination of pupils or relying on a future Ofsted report, both of which would take time, gives pupils and parents sufficient reassurance about the provision that will take place now.

We all understand that careers decisions for young people are very complex these days, more so than when many of us were making our first career choices some time ago. There is increased competition for higher education places, a greater range of opportunities, including apprenticeships, and an awareness nowadays that jobs are less often jobs for life. Young people may need to equip themselves for a range of jobs and a degree of flexibility in their career plans. They also have to factor in the higher costs of staying on in education, which has not been made any easier by the cutting of EMA and the increase in tuition fees. Evidence shows that lack of information about the choices available is seen by young people as one of the main barriers to their participation post-16 and an even greater number see this lack of information as having placed constraints on their choices post-16. They need expert help and guidance on a regular basis to help them achieve their ambitions.

The Government believe it is sufficient to offer careers guidance by phone or online to the vast majority of pupils but we fundamentally disagree. Where a young person has access to a wide network of family and friends with a variety of careers, phone and internet advice might be helpful. Where a young person's family is able to arrange internships and job trials for them, it might be helpful. However, phone or internet advice might be helpful but it is not enough. It does not meet the challenge of ensuring that young people get nuanced guidance, tailored to their talents, drive

24 Oct 2011 : Column 576

and ambitions. Of course, this is particularly true for young people who do not have access to a social network of people in a variety of jobs or who do not have role models in different careers, and even more so for young people from families where there is intergenerational worklessness.

5 pm

However, it is not just a certain category of young people who need face-to-face advice, and I do not accept the Minister's proposal that disadvantaged pupils and those deemed to be at risk should be singled out for some kind of special personal service. Having studied the Minister's letter, I do not see any guarantee that even disadvantaged children will be given this special help. All young people should have access to someone who can talk through their skills and aptitudes and encourage them to aim high. With the best will in the world, I do not know how a computer would be able to do this. There is particular skill in drawing out young people and getting them to talk about their ambitions. This applies equally to middle-class children, as anyone who has attempted to talk to their own teenage children, or those of friends, will know.

Without high-quality careers advice for all young people, think of the waste to them and our society. If young people's ambitions and talents are not nurtured, so that they can go on to be the best that they can be, and pursue the careers in which they might flourish, think of the lost potential. Good careers advice can make a big difference in driving social mobility, in expanding pupils' horizons, and in helping them to see themselves working in different environments. If Britain is going to be successful in an increasingly competitive world, we need young people to lead the charge.

Instead, at the moment youth unemployment is at record levels, and college enrolment rates have fallen for the first time in 12 years. Interestingly, they went into decline shortly after the EMA was cut, but that is an issue for another day. It is more important than ever, therefore, that young people get high quality careers advice, so that they can go on to fulfil their potential, and we can avoid a further increase in NEETs.

I mentioned earlier the need for those providing careers advice to be qualified. I believe this to be essential. In his letter, the Minister talked about the Careers Profession Alliance creating a register of professional members. That is fine, but what is not clear is whether everyone involved in giving advice to young people therefore has to be qualified-perhaps the Minister could clarify this. In the mean time, our Amendments 59B and 59D would require the Government to issue guidance specifying the qualifications that would be necessary for every individual providing that independent careers advice.

In Grand Committee we discussed the appalling waste of Connexions centres, which are closing around the country. There are already thousands of skilled careers practitioners losing their jobs at a time when young people are facing some of the biggest challenges of a generation. If the future is to be schools-based, we should be utilising the skills that already exist, as the core of a new generation of careers professionals able to go into schools and help our young people

24 Oct 2011 : Column 577

make the right choices. This would have the added advantage that the advice would be guaranteed to be impartial, rather than subordinated to the self-interest of the school, which might be the outcome if the decisions are delegated purely to schools alone.

This should not just be an optional provision in schools: it should be a right, set out not in guidance, but in the Bill. I therefore draw your Lordships' attention in particular to our Amendment 57CA, which summarises our position, with Amendment 59D being a consequential amendment. I also give advance notice that we would like to withdraw Amendment 59A in favour of Amendment 58, the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton, on professional qualifications. I beg to move.

Baroness Brinton: I shall speak to Amendments 58, 59, 60 and 61. I welcome the Minister's letter of 20 October, which has given some helpful answers, but there are some further queries that I wish to raise in today's debate.

With regard to Amendment 58, the letter from the Minister makes it clear that there will be robust standards and quality assurance-for that, we are pleased-through the Careers Profession Alliance and its proposed online register, which will also recognise those who have achieved a level 6 standard. This is very welcome, but I wish to ask the Minister for confirmation that statutory guidance will make it clear to schools that they must use this standard when commissioning.

Amendment 59 addresses the thorny issue of face-to-face advice, which we discussed at considerable length in Committee. In a perfect world, all schools would ensure that all pupils get at least one face-to-face interview, but the Minister's letter makes it clear that that is not what the Government are looking for. Our amendment seeks to ensure that the most disadvantaged-the ones who were caught by the original inverted pyramid of the Connexions service proposals-would get face-to-face advice because it is extremely important that they do so. Let me explain why.

The Association of Colleges has recently surveyed pupils considering options for post-16, and while 64 per cent of young people considering their options know about A-levels, only a shocking 7 per cent can name apprenticeships as a qualification, just a quarter know about NVQs, and 19 per cent are able to name BTECs. Those pupils for whom A-levels are not the correct route will not know what they do not know. We have often talked about that in this House as a "Donald Rumsfeld moment". On these Benches we remain very concerned that asking them to go on to a website and rootle around to find what might be appropriate for them is not going to be enough.

Schools will need to ensure that those most likely not to take A-levels or follow an academic route, some of whom may be at risk of becoming NEETs, should have access to face-to-face advice. Our amendment makes it clear that face-to-face advice must be offered to the disadvantaged. We have kept it as a fairly broad phrase, but for the avoidance of doubt we have included free school meals and those with SEN. But it is broadly inclusive so a school can look at its pupils and make its decision about where to draw those lines.



24 Oct 2011 : Column 578

Amendments 60 and 61 cover the issue of when high-quality careers advice should start and end. I am grateful to the Minister for the discussions we have had outside the Chamber about whether a 14 year-old, as stated in the Bill, is actually a rising 14. Our amendment would make it clear that young people should be getting advice when they are beginning to consider their options for years 10 and 11 at school. If it starts later than that, after they have chosen their options, whether they want to follow an academic or a vocational route, they could compromise their future pathway. That seems wrong to us, so I ask the Minister to be clear that this is for rising 14s; that is, that those in year 9 who start the year as 13 year-olds and probably end it as 14 years-olds will be covered.

We also want to ensure that some provision is made for post-16 advice, principally again-I repeat the point-for those who may not be taking an automatic route into A-levels at school and then on to university. An enormous breadth of vocational training is available, along with an enormous number of qualifications. I know from my own experience that when, as the chair of a learning and skills council, we tried to map out the vocational pathways in our county area alone, it was almost impossible to do so. How on earth we expect 15 and 16 year-olds to make headway on their own is, I think, unhelpful.

Finally, I welcome the Minister's affirmation in his letter of 20 October that local authorities that are currently letting their careers staff go are continuing to deliver their responsibilities as regards careers advice until schools take this over next year. In particular, I welcome his comment that if local authorities prove not to be doing that at the moment, the Department for Education will take them to task.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I rise to support these amendments, in particular those mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Brinton. The whole business of giving advice to children early is, frankly, crucial-and it is not just advice, but a rather wider range of intelligence about the world in which they are going to emerge. I recall my experience in the early days at the Equal Opportunities Commission when girls' schools were not very good at giving the full range of possibilities, not least the range of likely earnings in particular careers. I think that some degree of inheritance remains that probably needs coping with. I would particularly want to target girls' schools in this respect. I notice that they have not really been mentioned in any of the briefings.

The country's need for skills at a particular time needs stressing. After all, those are the areas where you are likely to get jobs, although, frankly, it is not going to be easy in these economic conditions, whatever your age is. I have another worry about this whole area. Although I appreciate this business of wanting to give as much discretion as possible to local government in how it distributes its resources, it is important to see that some degree of uniformity is continued. Yet UNISON, having done its research, says that, of the 144 local authorities, only 15 are likely to maintain substantially what they are doing at the moment. There seem to be cutbacks everywhere. I, too, welcome the letter from the Minister of 20 October, in which he

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set out very clearly the Government's aims, particularly for those with special needs, for whom there must be a very early introduction to the kind of possibilities that are available. Indeed, a great deal of encouragement still needs to be given to employers to provide the flexibility that is going to be required in many of the job and skills opportunities for the future.


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