Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]
Lord Rix (Crossbench)
My Lords, being a Cross Bencher and a believer in compromise, I wish to speak to both Amendments Nos. 1 and 6, as they are grouped together. I hope that that is in order.
The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, has moved an eminently reasonable formula, simply bestowing on the Secretary of State an enabling power allowing for extension beyond the age of 19 where learners might otherwise miss out on their first opportunity on the ladder of lifelong learning. I realise that the Government may not be inclined to make further changes to the Bill at this late stage, but I would hope that, if the amendment is not pushed to a Division, the Government will be minded to enhance the Bill with this amendment in another place.
Turning now to Amendment No. 6, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, perhaps I may remind noble Lords that the word "compromise" is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as,
"the intermediate state between conflicting opinions".
In the case of this amendment, I genuinely believe that the House has reached a compromise. Protagonists of disability rights, myself included, have argued for an extension of entitlement up to the age of 25 for people with learning difficulties or disabilities--not as a blanket entitlement, but simply as an enabling power to allow learning and skills councils to provide continuity in education; levelling out the proverbial playing field.
To her credit, the Minister has reflected on this view and has proposed this new amendment, Amendment No. 6, to assess the needs of students with learning difficulties up to the age of 25, confident that providers will then make a serious attempt to meet those needs. At best, the Minister's confidence will be upheld, smoothing the passage through further education for young people with disabilities, and at worst we shall at least have a more accurate picture of unmet needs. I should like to thank the Minister for her considerable co-operation and I look forward to observing LSCs and providers working within the spirit, and perhaps beyond the letter, of the law.