Labour suffers setback on bill

March 13, 1998

The Teaching and Higher Education Bill completed its House of Lords stages this week, but not before the government had suffered another defeat.

The government went down by 137 votes to 112 on an amendment by the Conservative Baroness Young that will give the planned General Teaching Council control over standards of teaching, teachers' conduct and their medical fitness to teach.

Opposition peers said the amendment would convert the GTC from an expensive talking shop into a body that is taken seriously by teachers.

Baroness Blackstone said the amendment was irresponsible as it would fragment responsibility for child protection. It would also diminish the role of the Teacher Training Agency.

When the bill reaches the Commons next week, the government plans to reverse this amendment and earlier defeats restoring grants for students from low-income households and on equal treatment for all students taking four-year degrees.

The two opposition front benches failed with an amendment to require that tuition fee income be devoted to higher education and to prevent the funding council from penalising institutions that receive fee income.

With many peers who had voted in earlier divisions absent as the session went on into the evening, the government won by 87 votes to 56. A Liberal Democrat attempt to postpone tuition fees until after the next general election fell by 106 votes to 37.

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