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I shall give way in a moment.
The Secretary of State's contempt is even greater for Conservative councils than for Labour ones. No one has ever said that local councils should have complete control over the education service, but they should have a say in it and their right, as elected representatives, is significant. A substantial part of further education should not be passed to unaccountable, unelected quangos, as the Secretary of State proposes. His failure to acknowledge that right has already led him into a policy that is grievous to him—the privatisation of the schools inspectorate—and I regret to say that it is leading him into another.
In a few weeks' time, Ministers and Conservative Members will expect Conservative councillors to work for them in an attempt to bring them back into office. It may be sensible if they listen to what their Conservative colleagues in local government have to say about the Bill. For example, the Prime Minister's Conservative-controlled local authority, Cambridgeshire, said:
There is widespread and deep concern in both the FE and schools sector that the proposals are fundamentally flawed, that they lack a convincing and cogent rationale and that ultimately they will not work".
The Secretary of State was disparaging when I suggested that that would lead to central control—a phrase that the Secretary of State for the Environment seemed to imply.
Conservative-controlled Essex council said:
In reality, the apparently free-standing colleges would be controlled by new remote national councils in England and Wales which would, in turn, be controlled by their respective Secretary of State who would appoint their membership, and ration their funding. This represents an unhealthy centralisation of power over a service that is essentially concerned with meeting the needs of individuals locally".