Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]
Baroness Blackstone (Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment; Labour)
My Lords, as this is the Report stage, perhaps I shall allow the noble Lord, Lord Tope, to respond to that question when he rises. Amendments Nos. 121 and 130 relate to Clause 22 of the Bill, under which local learning and skills councils must prepare plans which assess the needs of the local area. These two amendments would link both the adult learning inspectorate and Ofsted closely to that process by requiring them to have regard to the assessment of a local area's needs and to inspect the implementation of the local LSC's plans. I do not believe that that would be a very good idea. I believe that it would blur the distinction between the roles of two quite independent bodies--the inspectorates on one hand and the LSC on the other. The inspectorates are not really planning organisations; they examine the whole area of the quality of provision made by learning providers.
Under Clause 22, the local LSC acts as a planning body to ensure that local provision matches the aspirations of local communities. Of course, as a matter of routine, good inspection will encompass a knowledge of local conditions and current trends, as I believe was implied by the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton. However, as I have said already, neither the adult learning inspectorate nor Ofsted is interested primarily in the process of planning. They should be independent, objective organisations which are interested in the outcomes achieved by education and training providers. During the course of an area inspection, where it is necessary to examine the effectiveness of the way in which the LSC has applied its resources, the Bill already contains the necessary provisions. For those reasons, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, will understand why I cannot accept the amendments and that he will not press them.