Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]

– in the House of Lords at 8:35 pm on 15th February 2000.

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House again in Committee on Clause 50.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 186:

Page 20, line 26, leave out paragraph (e).

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 188.

Education and training are the remit of higher education, not further education. Therefore, it is my view that teacher education falls outside the scope of the Bill. The Secretary of State should not be able to use the subsequent regulations, which I understand is the plan, to extend inspection to areas that are not properly within the scope of the Bill. I do not know what the Minister will be able to say in order to discount my assumptions in my reading of the Bill.

Furthermore, the adult learning inspectorate should not be able to inspect within an LEA sixth form, and schools should not be subject to two different inspection bodies. We have already debated at length the way in which schools would be subject to inspections.

In response to a previous amendment, the noble Baroness talked about a single inspection of a school. She said that Ofsted would continue as now, but would, as I understood her, inspect sixth forms differently. The inspection cannot be the same, given the noble Baroness's explanation that there has to be coherence between the inspection of 16-plus young people in sixth forms and 16-plus young people in FE taking similar courses. In that case, the nature of the inspection of sixth forms by Ofsted would be different from the inspection that Ofsted would do at the same time--the noble Baroness's point was that the inspections would be simultaneous--for 11 to 16 year-old pupils, unless the nature of that inspection is also going to change, consistent with the inspection of 16-plus schoolchildren. In that case, the whole nature of inspection in schools will change. It is important for schools to know that.

The paragraph in Clause 50 which I suggest should be deleted refers to,

"such other education or training (which may, in particular, include training of or for teachers or lecturers) as may be prescribed by regulations".

It would be helpful if the noble Baroness would explain the reference to "other education"--because the provision refers only to training for teachers or lecturers.

Clause 51(5) states that,

"The Chief Inspector is to have such other functions in connection with education and training within the Inspectorate's remit, including functions with respect to the training of teachers, lecturers and others".

The clause refers to the functions of the inspectorate and the chief inspector, and a similar reference is included in the inspector's remit in Clause 50.

There are two issues here. One is that the provisions extend the confusion already referred to. The second is the whole issue of encroaching now, not on the school sector, but on the higher education sector. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

We do not support the noble Baroness on this amendment. My reading of the clause is that it relates to in-service training on the part of teachers and lecturers. It is extremely important that we endorse the basic principle that all teachers and lecturers need to go on training. Having been in a university where the assumption was that one basically taught oneself, I think it is extremely important to recognise that training needs to continue throughout one's life.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I shall do my best to answer the points raised in the amendments. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, seeks to remove an important power from the Bill; namely, to extend the remit of the adult learning inspectorate through regulations.

We agreed that the Bill's provisions generally exclude higher education, but the scope of the Bill does allow minor miscellaneous provisions relating to higher education. The Bill's scope will not, therefore, exclude the use of this power, if needed, to cover the training of teachers if that is what the Government decide in due course.

We described the reasons for seeking such a power in our memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. We indicated that the power at Clause 50(1)(e) is designed to allow minor additions to the principal remit to ensure that the expertise of the adult learning inspectorate can apply to other relevant areas of education and training as provision develops over time. It is impractical to have a full list of these types of education and training on the face of the Bill, but the regulation-making power will allow the Secretary of State to add to the remit if that proves appropriate. That may be the case, for example, because of the fast-changing nature of post-16 education and training, particularly with the growth of "virtual" or distance learning; and with provision being made increasingly in new, non-traditional locations.

The remit may also need to be extended because of the possibility of partnership with new types of provider. Clause 50(1)(e) already mentions the possibility of using this power to prescribe the training of FE teachers. We see this as a possibility, but it will be sensible to determine the extent to which ALI will be involved in new areas only when ALI is established and able to demonstrate its capacity.

The regulations made by means of the power will represent only comparatively minor additions to ALI's remit. This provision is analogous to the power to confer supplementary functions on the LSC as described in Clause 18(4), which we debated the other day. As with that provision and its precedent in the 1992 Act, the negative procedure is appropriate in this case.

The Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee was completely satisfied with my department's memorandum. It commented that,

"The comprehensive nature of the department's memorandum and its sensitive appreciation and application of the criteria to govern the control of delegated legislation has enabled [the Committee's] report to be shorter than might have been the case".

It saw no reason to draw to the attention of the House the Government's proposed use of secondary legislation, nor their proposals for parliamentary scrutiny through the negative procedure.

The noble Baroness may have thought that the Government have a hidden agenda for this regulation-making power. I can assure her that that is not so. I hope that in those circumstances the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 9:00 pm, 15th February 2000

I do not believe that the Government have a hidden agenda; the matter appears fairly openly on the face of the Bill. The noble Lord has answered my concerns about the Bill by referring to procedure. I do not criticise the procedure. If it is the Government's intention to inspect teacher training and/or education the provisions appear to be a perfectly proper way to do it. Regulations which are subject to the negative procedure are entirely in order, and I have no quarrel with the procedure. It is not the job of the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee to concern itself with how the Government intend to use the power as long as the process by which they use it is set out properly, as it is.

My concern is linked with a point raised just now by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. The noble Baroness understood the provision to refer to formal and informal training, including in-service training, undertaken by teachers as part of professional development. My understanding, based on the noble Lord's response, is that the provision is concerned with teacher training and education. If that is what it is and the Government have it in mind to extend the powers to areas which include this one--therefore, it is just one of the activities to be covered--this is a substantial matter. Therefore, it would be helpful if the Minister could indicate whether that is what he really means.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

If the noble Baroness presses me for a specific example, I refer to prison education. The FEFC and TSC already inspect prisons on behalf of the Home Office. That is a specific example where ALI's work and expertise may be appropriate. I ask the noble Baroness to consider whether it is sensible to provide on the face of the Bill that ALI can do this work if required to do so.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It may please the noble Lord to know that I believe it to be entirely sensible to extend ALI's remit to the quality of education in prisons, which is a subject close to my heart. I have no quarrel with that. I look at the words on the page,

"(which may, in particular, include training of or for teachers or lecturers)".

Do the Government intend to inspect the

"training of or for teachers or lecturers"; in other words, the training colleges for teachers within the compass of higher education? Is it intended that when an individual is under training to become a teacher and, for the purposes of inspection, comes within higher education, the remit of ALI is extended and that function is taken away from the higher education inspection system?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

The best I can do is to repeat what I have already said. The remit may be extended. Clause 50(1)(e) already mentions the possibility of using this power to prescribe the training of further education teachers. I stress that we see this as a possibility, but it will be sensible to determine the extent to which ALI will be involved in new areas only once ALI is established and able to demonstrate its capacity. That is about as far as I can take the matter this evening.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful for that response as far as it goes, but the provision does not refer to further education teachers but simply to teachers. Does it mean only further education teachers or lecturers, in which case why does it not say so?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

It is intended to mean all teachers in the post-16 age group.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It does not say that either. The provision now reads,

"training of or for teachers or lecturers".

If it refers to teachers or lecturers of 16-plus students that is rather different. If one is talking about those who are trained to teach in schools then they are teachers of 11 to 16 year-olds, not just 16-plus. For example, when teachers are under training for secondary education, is it intended under this Bill that they should be inspected by ALI?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I am reminded that we are talking here of further education teachers. I have now repeated myself two or three times.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The noble Lord may have repeated himself. In the spirit of Pepper v. Hart, it will be on record that the Government mean further education. If that is so, the Government should promise to table an amendment to make that absolutely clear beyond a peradventure. If it is not clear perhaps I should table an amendment myself. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 186A:

Page 20, line 28, at end insert--

("( ) facilities for providing information, advice or guidance about education or training or connected matters secured by the Council under section 12(5) of this Act or by the Secretary of State under section 9 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 for persons over the age of 19").

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

The amendment concentrates on adult career and course guidance. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, used the expression "a dog's breakfast". If one is charitable one could use the term "guidance" as being "the longest salad bar in the world". Everyone seems to be undertaking work on adult guidance and course guidance.

It is more difficult to give guidance to adults because they may not have the same structure of career goals. The amendment aims to bring adults within the remit of the ALI. The initials "ALI" make me think of a distinguished boxer rather than an inspectorate!

The Government give money for certain aspects of this area. However, the more I read regarding the amendment the more confused I became. Surely the inspectorate oversees the quality of advice given and therefore we may achieve a more coherent system. Adults will always have more diverse personal circumstances, employment histories and needs. They may be looking for occasional work, part-time work career choices, career breaks and so on. It will always be a more difficult area. Some careers companies choose whether they will take on adults as part of their remit.

I believe that the amendment is a step forward in clarifying the position. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

As the noble Lord explained, Amendment No. 186A would place the inspection of information, advice and guidance about education and training within the remit of the adult learning inspectorate. We intend, however, that the inspection and quality assurance of information, advice and guidance provision should be carried out by the independent Accreditation Board that was set up last year by the Guidance Council with support from my department. So there is an existing body with specialist expertise available to carry out this work.

Providers of guidance in receipt of public funds will be required to comply with the Guidance Council's quality standards, which command wide support among practitioners. The role of the Accreditation Board, in return for a fee from individual providers, will be to assess whether those providers do indeed comply with the relevant standards.

There are several reasons why it is most appropriate to secure the inspection and quality assurance of information, advice and guidance for adults through the route I have mentioned. First, the delivery of information, advice and guidance for adults is extremely diffuse. It is delivered by an extremely wide range of organisations, including community and voluntary organisations and libraries as well as employers. So it is quite unlike much of the other provision that is being inspected. The plans we have been discussing with the Guidance Council are based on the assumption that up to 1,500 provider organisations will need to be accredited between now and the end of 2001-02.

We need a light-touch accreditation regime of the kind that is already in operation. Placing the relevant responsibility with ALI would increase significantly the number of organisations with which the inspectorate would have to deal, for little obvious gain. Secondly, and most importantly in responding to the noble Lord, information, advice and guidance is a specialist activity. Many of those providing information, advice and guidance are not learning providers. They operate in a quite different context.

Thirdly, the arrangements with the Guidance Council that I have described are already in place and are now established. Placing responsibility for inspecting that provision with ALI would delay the implementation of a good, high quality regime for this area. I do not believe that that would be in the interests of clients.

Following that explanation, which I hope has been helpful, perhaps I may urge the noble Lord not to press the amendment.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

There is no real disagreement that there is a problem. The Government believe that the independent Accreditation Board set up by the Guidance Council is the correct way forward.

I should have preferred a more central and holistic approach which seeks to bring together the many outside bodies into one unit. The Minister referred to libraries. That makes me think of the numerous leaflets that are handed out in place of a proper guidance service.

However, the Minister meets me at least half way in our thinking. I shall consider whether at a later stage we can improve upon the provision. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 187 not moved.]

Clause 50 agreed to.

Clause 51 [Functions of the Inspectorate and Chief Inspector]:

[Amendment No. 188 not moved.]

Clause 51 agreed to.

Clause 52 agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 189:

After Clause 52, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:AREA INSPECTIONS BY THE CHIEF INSPECTOR

(" .--(1) The Chief Inspector of Adult Learning may, on his own initiative, conduct an inspection of--

(a) the quality and availability of a specified description of education or training, in a specified area of England, for persons who are aged 16 or over;

(b) the standards achieved by those receiving that education or training; and

(c) whether the financial resources made available to those providing that education and training are managed efficiently and used in a way which provides value for money.

(2) The Chief Inspector of Adult Learning must carry out such an inspection if asked to do so by the Secretary of State.

(3) If the Learning and Skills Council or a local education authority has applied financial resources in respect of education or training which is being inspected under this section, the inspection may extend to considering the manner in which the Council or that authority has applied those resources and whether they have been applied in a way which provides value for money.

(4) The education or training that may be made the subject of an area inspection is any education or training within--

(a) the Adult Learning Inspectorate's remit; or

(b) the remit of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for England.

(5) If, in connection with an area inspection, the Chief Inspector asks Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools for England for advice on a matter relating to education or training within his remit, he must give such advice as he considers likely to be appropriate for the purposes of the inspection.

(6) A person providing education or training which is the subject of an area inspection must provide the Chief Inspector with any information reasonably asked for by him in connection with the inspection.

(7) Any local education authority whose area, or part of whose area, is within the area which is the subject of an area inspection must provide the Chief Inspector with such information as the Chief Inspector may reasonably ask for in connection with the inspection.

(8) "Area inspection" means an inspection under this section.").

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

In moving this amendment, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 190 and 191 and to the Motion that Clauses 62 to 64 shall stand part of the Bill.

The purpose of these amendments is to place on the Chief Inspector of Adult Education a responsibility, analogous to that given to Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England, to initiate and undertake area inspections which relate to his remit of inspecting all further and adult education institutions in England.

Our reasons for putting forward these amendments are similar to those which I have already discussed in relation to amendments that we have tabled for extending the adult learning inspectorate's remit to all further and adult education institutions outside the school environment.

It may be obvious that the learners, the teachers and the planning and delivery of learning opportunities for adults all differ significantly from schools. The factors which shaped the approach, methods and style of Ofsted are not the same as those which have shaped the existing Further Education and Funding Inspectorate and the Training Standards Council Inspectorate. Ofsted's experience of inspecting post-16 education outside schools is limited and it has hitherto shown itself to have little interest in developing its existing remit to inspect adult education.

The 1992 Further and Higher Education Act specified that the Chief Inspector,

"shall have a general duty of keeping the Secretary of State informed about the quality of education provided in local education authority institutions; the educational standards achieved in such institutions, and whether the financial resources made available to such institutions are managed efficiently".

This is not a role to which Ofsted has attached much priority. Between 1992 and 1998, Ofsted conducted just 12 inspections of local authority adult and community education. During 1998 and 1999, Her Majesty's Inspectorate carried out full inspections of just three LEA adult services. Her Majesty's Inspectorate also inspected access to adult learning in 13 local authorities and family learning in 28 authorities. This contrasts with 4,520 Section 10 inspections in that year: 3,508 of primary schools, 704 of secondary, 239 of special and 69 of pupil referral units.

In contrast, in its first year of operation, the Trading Standards Council carried out 300 inspections of work-based training between May 1998 and February 1999 in 14 different occupational areas ranging across agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, retailing and health care.

It is for these reasons that these amendments seek to give the new adult learning inspectorate powers to conduct area inspections, so as properly to ensure that, whatever the level of public funding provided by the learning and skills council, area inspections can be carried out to investigate the coherence of provision within the area. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

In speaking to these amendments, I underline the importance of Clauses 62 to 64, which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, has indicated she will oppose. Instead of Ofsted being responsible for leading area inspections of 16 to 18 provision, we should have broadly analogous provisions making the adult learning inspectorate responsible for area inspection of provision for all ages. I am grateful for the opportunity to reiterate our position on this rather important issue.

Area inspections represent an important new policy. The focus of our concern is the very pressing need to raise the standard of 16 to 18 provision in certain parts of the country. These are mostly, but not exclusively, urban communities where both participation in full-time education and, I am afraid to say, attainment are particularly low. The inspections will make a major contribution to raising the standard and relevance of provision for young people who must have access to high quality education and training if they are to obtain jobs and remain employable.

It is perhaps worth explaining further that these inspections will provide the means by which we can judge whether the entitlement that we have given to young people between the ages of 16 to 19 is being discharged properly. If young people are being let down in a particular area, if resources are being misapplied, we need to instigate action on their behalf.

The same issues do not arise in post-19 learning. As the noble Baroness probably knows, our intention is to expand greatly the number of adults in learning and certainly to improve the quality of learning that is available. But, where there is no entitlement to education and training, we do not have quite the same requirement for inspections such as those intended in the clauses.

In replying to earlier amendments, I explained how essential it is for Ofsted to be involved in post-16 work. Let there be no mistake: Ofsted already makes a crucial contribution to the inspection of 16 to 18 education. It has inspected every school with a sixth form. Using this extensive inspection database, it has published influential reports on the characteristics of effective sixth forms and on level 3 qualifications; and it is one of the most potent levers we have for raising standards.

That is why Clauses 62 to 64 are constructed on the principle that Ofsted will lead area inspections, albeit with the assistance of the adult learning inspectorate. I cannot accept a series of amendments which would give this vital work to the adult learning inspectorate alone, to the exclusion of Ofsted. The logic is absolutely clear: Ofsted not only has the most extensive expertise in this area, it has the majority of the 16 to 18 remit under the Bill's provisions. Ofsted should lead. It would be ludicrous to cut Ofsted out of the equation or to make its role a very minor one.

Area inspections are needed to ensure that local providers meet local labour market needs; to see that we get best value for money from the substantial public funding being invested; and that where standards need to be raised, there is a sound basis for intervention.

The role of Ofsted is essential for the same reasons that we need Ofsted to take on the 16 to 18 remit. At the risk of repeating arguments, let me once again stress the existing crucial contribution it makes to the inspection of 16 to 18 school education. It knows what to look for and it will do the bulk of the work. I have every confidence that Ofsted, ably assisted by ALI, will make a massive difference to the educational and eventually economic well-being of these disadvantaged areas.

We shall need the provisions in Clause 63 in full. There must be a single report made by Ofsted, as it is the lead inspectorate, but the report will of course reflect the views of ALI where it has made a contribution to the area inspection. I do not believe that the noble Baroness has argued against the principle that we need single reports to be handled in this way--only on the question of which inspectorate should lead. For the reasons I have given, the duty to make the report needs to fall to Ofsted.

It is also self-evident that we need action plans after area inspections. At present, there is no obligation for anything to happen once an area report is received. The clause will make sure that the funding bodies--the LSC and the LEAs--in consultation with schools, colleges, employers and all other relevant bodies concerned with education and training in the area, take matters forward. The issue of ensuring good 16 to 18 provision is far too important to allow the possibility of inertia.

Those are the arguments why Clauses 62, 63 and 64 must stand part of the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment and agree that those clauses should stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do about her amendment, perhaps I may press the Minister further to define what the Government see to be the problem. I understand the Bill to bring coherence to 16-plus education. Much has been said about raising standards, not only among those not attaining an education, but also among those who could do better. No one can argue with that mission. However, it would be interesting to know what evidence and survey work the Government have done to let the world know that standards are not as good as they should be and must be improved. What in the Bill is destined to raise those standards? Perhaps the Government will put that information in the Library.

I have always had enormous admiration for the colleges of further education. One of their predominant tasks is to take up those young people who, for all kinds of reasons--health, poor family support, or the chemistry has not been right, for one reason or another, between the individual and pupils in the school--have not gained what they should have done from school between the ages of 11 to 16, or even between the ages of 11 to 18 years.

Therefore, the colleges of further education have had to take up those people in addition to those who genuinely move out of school-based education into further education as a stepping-stone either into the field of work or into higher education. It would be helpful to know from the Minister what has been failing there and also what is the evidence for that. I would like the noble Baroness to tell us what in this Bill is destined to raise those standards.

Thirdly, as regards the world of work and the national training organisations, seen from the outside, as providers they do a pretty good job. Therefore, one wonders what there is in this Bill that will raise those standards in training for the world of work. We know that there are employers who take their responsibilities towards young people in training very seriously. There are others who leave them to get on and hope that they will pick up the skills and training that they need on the way.

I am at a loss to know what the noble Baroness defines as the problem which underpins the need for this Bill and then link it to the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to bring some coherence to area inspections. Can the noble Baroness say why it is, from that purely observational culture of inspection, Ofsted should be given the remit to carry out all the area inspections which take into account all these various forms of education, training and skills training?

These questions are not playing politics with the Bill, but arise as a result of genuine bemusement about the definition of the problem and the specific pointer in this Bill to tell us how this Bill will make life different. What will make the institutions behave differently? Can the noble Baroness say in what the way these different inspection cultures are going to make sense of what is happening for 16 to 19 year-olds?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I am not going back into the issue of different cultures. We have been through that. I will do my best to answer the new questions that the noble Baroness has raised. She asked about the evidence that school sixth forms are inadequate. I suggest that she looks at the recent annual report of the Chief Inspector, Mr Chris Woodhead. It sets out very clearly how he perceives the situation. One of the great problems is that there are enormously wide variations in the quality of what is provided in sixth forms from the very best, which is superb, to the totally inadequate.

The noble Baroness asked about further education. I was given what I believe to be a slightly odd definition of the intake of the further education college sector. She suggested that it is those who did not get what they hoped from their schools and those needing a stepping-stone into the world of work. That is a rather strange definition of its composition.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I included also those going through further education into higher education. There are people who are making up lost time in school education; those moving through further education into higher education and those going through that sector into the world of work.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

If the noble Baroness will let me finish, I could then comment on the third point that she made. The further education sector is filled with students who have made a choice, not because they are students whom the schools have failed, or going into further education as the route to the world of work or because they are returning in order to go into higher education. They are people who sometimes live in areas where are there are only schools for the 11 to 16 year-olds in any event and there is a tertiary solution to the provision of education for 16 to 19 year-olds.

However, I should like to move away from what is perhaps a red herring and turn to our proposals to address the problems and then improve the quality and standards of further education. Unfortunately, retention figures in some FE colleges are inadequate; attainment figures are poor and overall standards need to be improved. In some areas, we have a mix of provision, some of which is in good sixth forms, some in bad sixth forms, some in FE colleges and some in sixth-form colleges. The whole purpose of the area inspections--which, adding to my earlier response to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, address 16 to 19 provision rather than adult provision--is to seek to come up with better solutions for those areas where the provision is poor.

The inspections will examine those areas where outputs are poor and devise solutions for raising standards; making recommendations for more collaboration across the different sectors or possibly making recommendations for mergers where that would provide better value for money. More choice should be made available to individual students within an institution.

I should like to make a final point. The national training organisations to which the noble Baroness referred are not providers. They do not provide education and training. They are central bodies offering advice based on employers' needs in a particular sector to the actual providers in FE colleges and training organisations. That is a different matter and not relevant to this group of clauses and the proposed amendments.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 9:30 pm, 15th February 2000

I thank the Minister for her reply to the amendments. We do not dispute the need for area inspections; nor do we dispute that at present there is far too much variation in the quality of provision across areas and that improvements need to be made. However, we are concerned that in such area inspections, Ofsted will always take the lead, as specified in Clauses 62 to 64. However, when looking at the country as a whole, it is clear that in many areas school sixth forms play only a minor part in the provision of post-16 education. For that reason, we feel that the chief inspector of adult learning should be given at least an equal role to that of the Chief Inspector of Schools. That is the burden of these amendments. The chief inspector of adult learning should be put on a par with the Chief Inspector of Schools and should be able to call on the schools inspector to provide advice and guidance in relation to school sixth forms when necessary.

I say again that we do not dispute the need for a team effort here. However, under the provisions of Clauses 62 to 64, there is no doubt that the chief inspector of adult learning will play second fiddle to the Chief Inspector of Schools. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment, but we may want to return to this on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 190 and 191 not moved.]

Clause 53 agreed to.

Clause 54 [Right of entry and offences]:

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 192:

Page 22, line 24, leave out paragraph (b) and insert--

("(b) a right of entry to premises used in connection with the provisions of that training and development;").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

In moving Amendment No. 192, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 193. I return here to a debate we have had on a previous occasion on rights of entry to premises where there is a suspicion that resources are being abused or something else may be amiss. Those rights of entry and the definition of offences are the subject matter of Clause 54.

I am not principally concerned here about the importance of ensuring that public resources are protected and that the interests of taxpayers are paramount, but I am concerned about rights of entry to the premises of a person; namely, to a teacher's or lecturer's own home. In other words, I am concerned about the home of the teacher or lecturer who is providing that education--not the premises on which the education takes place--and about the right of entry to premises of the person who provides the education and training used in connection with that provision.

Clause 54(2)(c) deals with a "right to inspect" and extends to taking copies of,

"any records kept by that person, and any other documents containing information relating to the education or training, which the inspector requires for the purposes".

Subsection (3) goes on to deal with,

"The right to inspect records conferred by subsection (2)(c)", to which I have just referred, and

"includes the right to have access to, and to inspect and check the operation of, any computer and any associated apparatus or material which is or has been in use in connection with the records in question".

I am trying to separate two things: first, the rightful pursuit of wrong-doing; and, secondly, the personal privacy of the individual person--the teacher and/or lecturer--who provides the education. It may be that I am missing something here, but I am reading the words on the page and I have read the Explanatory Notes. I am concerned about what appears to be a very wide power.

In addition, if someone has committed an offence and a right of entry is forced, which one has to assume might in some circumstances be so, my understanding is that that is done by police with a warrant and not by just anyone; that is, by a member of the inspectorate or someone whom the inspectorate determines should do it. Therefore, it would be most helpful to hear from the Minister exactly what is the extent of this power, what protection there is for the individual teacher and/or lecturer, and what right anyone has to hack into personal equipment which may or may not have been used for purposes relating to the education provision.

I am concerned that the only way that one can find out whether or not a piece of equipment has been used is by hacking into it, thereby discovering either that there is nothing on it or that something on it has been secreted away, indicating that the person has been up to no good. Therefore, I am concerned about including a mechanism which will deal with the protection of the individual teacher or lecturer and the circumstances under which that will take place. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

These amendments relate to access to premises and to computers. The noble Baroness argues that we are giving the adult learning inspectorate unreasonable powers. We do not believe that to be true. As she said, this is "round two" of the debate that took place last Tuesday on access to computers. She will recall that I agreed to write to her about that following the Committee stage and I shall, of course, do so.

My first point is fairly fundamental. There is good precedent for the provisions which she seeks to amend or to delete. The wording in Clause 54(2) and (3) follows very closely the provisions of Sections 2(8) and 42(a) of the School Inspections Act 1996. I am not making a cheap point and I do not believe that it answers all that the noble Baroness said by pointing out that that was, of course, a Bill passed by a government of which she was a leading member. In making that point I am trying only to say that in effect we are replicating here the powers which previously have been given to Ofsted in respect of schools of all types. We are not doing anything new.

There is no dispute between the noble Baroness and myself as regards the principle that all inspectors must have reasonable access to provision to carry out their duties. The issues raised by the noble Baroness relate to how the powers will be exercised. The answer is that they will be exercised reasonably by the inspectorate, as happens now. There is no question of breaking and entering into private property, which was the expression used by the noble Baroness last week. Clause 54 gives a right of access only at reasonable times and for the purpose of carrying out an inspection. So breaking in at three in the morning is not an option. Indeed, if ALI were to act unreasonably in the exercise of any of its statutory powers, it would be susceptible to review by the courts. Let there be no doubt. ALI has a right of entry at reasonable times in order to carry out its statutory functions. In doing so, it must behave reasonably.

The current TEC licence or contract requires providers to permit the Training Standards Council, as the representative of the Secretary of State, to examine documents and records; to provide oral or written explanations and all other reasonable assistance at any reasonable time. The FEFC inspection handbook similarly sets out clearly the expectation that FEFC inspectors will have access to records, marked work, registers, teaching materials and so on wherever they are held; and that there will be meetings on the premises between inspectors, managers and governors.

The point is that reasonable access is an integral part of inspection. Providers are used to it. We have no reason to doubt that ALI will use the powers in Clause 54 with circumspection and reasonably for the purposes of inspection. If there are any doubts whatever about this, I remind Members of the Committee that the Secretary of State may use his powers under Clause 51(6) to advise ALI on that point.

I turn to the details. Amendment No. 192 would not give ALI the right to enter the premises of a provider of further education which were not used directly in the provision of education. For example, the effect would be that where a college maintains its records on a site separate from but perhaps adjacent to its classrooms, ALI would not have a right of entry to that site. It could not be sure of access to those records. I do not know whether that is what the noble Baroness had in mind or intended but that would be the consequence if her amendment were passed.

The extent of the provision in Clause 54(2) is necessary because it allows ALI access to education and training provision which is sub-contracted. The premises where education and training takes place may not be owned by the provider. It is reasonable also for inspectors not only to be able to see education and training taking place, in whatever setting, but also to visit and talk to the provider at head office about that education and training. Clause 54(2)(b) secures that for the avoidance of all doubt. The amendment does not do that.

The person providing that education or training in Clause 54 is not the individual teacher or lecturer in a college. Otherwise, there would be dozens, even hundreds, of providers running an institution. The provider would be the college.

As regards, Amendment No. 193, it is obviously necessary and reasonable for the inspectorate to have access to records including, for example, records of student attendance. That information may be stored electronically. Because of the increasing likelihood that people will undertake distance learning, the inspectorate will need access to such relevant materials however they are stored. Of course it may be possible and easy to download the material into an accessible format; or it may not. But whichever way it is done the inspectorate really must have access.

This is not a draconian power. Obviously in most cases--the vast majority of cases--the inspectors will have easy and simple access to the material they need to see. Indeed, we are not aware of any problems or disputes in that area during inspections by the FEFC Training Standards Council, which has the same powers as are intended in the Bill. There is no hidden agenda here. We are not planning to invite the inspectorates to conduct forensic audit or detailed fraud investigations. ALI is not the KGB or even the Stasi. I am sure it will want to ensure at all times that providers do not face unnecessary burdens. I hope that having heard my comments, which are now on the record, the noble Baroness will consider some of her fears unfounded and withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am left with one or two questions. First, the Minister said that ALI would have to act reasonably. The word "reasonable" refers to the times of day, not the action. Subsection (2) provides:

"has, at all reasonable times".

The Minister rightly referred to the fact that breaking and entering would not be done in the middle of the night but at reasonable times of the day. I totally accept that. However, there is not an obligation to act reasonably or to have reasonable access. The access would not necessarily be reasonable. If ALI really wanted to get in, it would do so. It has the power here to force entry, if absolutely necessary.

Secondly, I have no argument with the Minister about the importance of the inspectorate receiving all the information and data it needs in order to carry out its job and function of being the protector of public moneys and of the people who provide those public moneys; that is, the public. The difficulty I have, which may be due to my lack of understanding, is that the right of entry is not simply, as in (a),

"a right of entry to premises on which the education or training being inspected is provided", but a right of entry to the premises of the person providing the education. If I am a lecturer, and I am the person providing the education, my premises are my home. Is the Minister stating that the premises of the person are what I think they are, or does this have some other connotation? I simply do not understand.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

I rise to support the noble Baroness. I believe this is another occasion where the drafting is extremely sloppy. I am delighted to have the Minister's assurance that ALI will not only enter such premises only at a reasonable time but will do so in a reasonable way. Nevertheless, if it is for the purpose of carrying out its functions, that should be stated on the face of Bill rather than the provision being left vague and sweeping.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I shall do my best to reply to the points raised by the noble Baronesses. There has recently been much reference in this Chamber to the term "reasonableness". The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will know that in public law a body with a statutory function must always act reasonably. If it does not, it is susceptible to judicial review and is in danger of being subject to court proceedings.

The person in this context is a legal person; that is, the college. The term is not intended to cover individual natural persons who work for the college. I hope those two points satisfy the understandable concerns raised by the noble Baronesses.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

No, I am afraid they do not. Subsection 2(a) refers to the college premises. It refers to:

"a right of entry to premises on which the education or training being inspected is provided".

That relates to the institution where the education takes place: the college, the workplace or wherever the education takes place. In addition to the right of entry to the college premises, subsection (2)(b) refers to the right of entry to the premises of the person providing the education. That can have only one meaning. If I am the lecturer and there is a right of entry, in statute, to the premises of the person providing the education, if the person means the college, that right is subsumed in subsection (2)(a). I simply do not understand the meaning of the wording in (b).

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

Perhaps I may give the example I gave when addressing the Committee earlier. The effect of the amendment would be that, where a college maintains its records on a site separate from but perhaps adjacent to its classrooms, ALI would not have a right of entry to that site. We need to ensure that ALI has a right to enter a site which may not be used directly in the provision of education but where its records are maintained. That is why subsection (2)(b) is necessary.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

In that case, perhaps I may suggest that the wording should be,

"premises other than that on which the education is directly provided but which are related to the provision of education".

When the subsection refers to,

"a right of entry to premises of the person providing that education", there is only one connotation that one can put on it. If I understand the noble Lord correctly, he is saying that there may well be information and data stored in an area that is not directly used for the provision of education, but which is, nevertheless, related to the provision of education. Therefore, the reference ought to be to premises other than those used directly for the provision of education but which hold information and data related to the provision of education. The paragraph should not speak of,

"entry to the premises of the person providing that education".

I believe that to be sloppy wording. I hope that the Minister will agree that it needs to be reconsidered.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

For once, I have to say that I disagree with the noble Baroness. I think that the wording is fairly clear and I cannot agree to look at it again on this occasion.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I wish to test the opinion of the Committee.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 192) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 24; Not-Contents, 56.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 193 not moved.]

Clause 54 agreed to.

Clauses 55 and 56 agreed to.

Clause 57 [The extended remit]:

[Amendments Nos. 194 and 195 not moved.]

Clause 57 agreed to.

Clause 58 agreed to.

Clause 59 [Inspection of further education institutions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 59 shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 9:58 pm, 15th February 2000

I have already spelt out in some detail why on these Benches we consider it ill advised to extend the remit of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England to include institutions in the further and continuing education sector. I do not want to repeat the arguments that I have already given.

We are of the view that the experience of education and training in this sector differs markedly from school-based experience. The experience of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England is wholly school based. His remit within that sector is already wide. Clause 59 would give Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England the residual (or "mopping up") responsibility of inspecting any institution in the further education sector which did not fall wholly within the responsibilities of the adult learning inspectorate.

Under our proposals, ALI's responsibilities would be widened to include all further and adult education establishments. Therefore, the residual role is, by definition, that of ALI rather than that of the Chief Inspector of Schools. Clause 59 is therefore, in our eyes, redundant and should not stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

This clause places a duty on Her Majesty's chief inspector to secure the inspection of institutions within the FE sector, except where the responsibility is solely within the remit of the adult learning inspectorate. There are also provisions for reports of such inspections and for the writing and publication of action plans by providers, where an inspection report has been produced, which are analogous to those applying to ALI under Clause 51.

I understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, opposes the clause: it runs counter to her alternative proposals, which were debated earlier, that ALI should be the only post-16 inspectorate. But that amendment was withdrawn and I am a little surprised that the arguments are being reopened. For the avoidance of doubt, let me again explain briefly why this clause must stand part of the Bill.

I have argued that two inspectorates will be better than one to cover the vast range of post-16 provision; that the common framework will add value by providing clear principles for the new regime, allowing all providers to know what the inspectorates are looking for; and that co-operation and collaboration will bring additional benefits.

Ofsted is integral to our proposals. As I have already said, it has a vast wealth of relevant experience in 16 to 18 provision through its work in school sixth forms. It would be wasteful and, indeed, irresponsible, to ignore that experience: the database of inspection evidence from every school; the way in which those data have been distilled into influential reports on what makes sixth-form provision effective; the reports on modular A-levels, and so on. All that expertise would go to waste.

Finally, Ofsted has substantial influence on standards in schools. It can have the same influence across the new remit set out in Clause 59. I therefore urge the noble Baroness to withdraw her opposition to the clause.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

The Minister is right in remarking that the debate on whether Clause 59 should stand part of the Bill should really have taken place on the first group of amendments that I moved this evening. In that sense, I accept that we have already discussed the issues. As I mentioned before, we may well return to them on Report. For the moment, I withdraw my opposition to the Question that the clause stand part of the Bill.

Clause 59 agreed to.

Clauses 60 to 67 agreed to.

Clause 68 [Joint inspections]:

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Labour

moved Amendment No. 196:

Page 29, line 9, after ("England") insert (", where the majority of the students attending the institution are aged under 19; or

(b) the Inspectorate, where the majority of the students attending the institution are aged over 19,").

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Labour

At Second Reading, the Minister spoke about the overlapping responsibilities of the two inspection regimes; that for 13 to 18 year-olds and that for those over 19. Indeed, we have had a lot more discussion on that subject this evening. The Minister told us that the adult learning inspectorate will be responsible for the inspection of adult work-based training and adult provision in FE colleges and that Ofsted will be responsible for other inspections.

As we have heard, there will be joint inspections of FE colleges and at work-based training where both adults and young learners are being trained. However, there must be a leading inspection body. It seems that there will be some turf wars, in particular, at the FE colleges, where both inspection teams may apply. Other noble Lords have referred to the possible difficulties.

The purpose of the amendment is to try to be helpful over such a possible conflict. It is reasonable for the relevant inspectorate to be determined by whichever is the largest group of learners to be inspected; Ofsted where the majority are under 18, and the adult learning inspectorate where the majority are over 18.

My amendment will relieve teachers at FE colleges of having to prepare for two inspections. The Minister will be well aware of the amount of effort that goes into preparing for inspections. For a start, there will be only one lot of paperwork. My proposal will be more efficient and effective in raising standards of preparation at FE colleges and in building a working relationship with the inspectorate. In that way, the Government can avoid the risk of the two inspection regimes having unequal status and so avoid the turf wars. After all, there are two different cultures to inspect: the part-time adult students and the full-time young learners. Each inspectorate has something to contribute and so they should be equal, as the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, said earlier. I hope that the Government find the suggestion helpful. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Dearing Lord Dearing Crossbench

I rise to speak in broad support of the amendment. I have been involved in education for a number of years and throughout that period I have been concerned that we have had two cultures: the culture of what I describe as academic education and the culture of vocational--applied--learning. There has been a tendency for each to engage in disparagement of the other, to be proud of its own culture and not to profit from what the other has to offer. It is in pursuance of that feeling that in one report in which I was engaged I recommended to the previous government that the body I chaired--the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority--should merge with the National Council for Vocational Qualifications, so that the two cultures could learn from each other to the benefit of students. That recommendation was accepted and there is now one body comprehending both segments of learning. I was also engaged in a report in higher education, which was concerned with developing a unity and a coherence throughout the whole field of learning. Therefore, contrary to what others have argued, I see positive advantage in drawing on the expertise of both inspectorates--HMI-Ofsted and the FE Inspectorate. Each can profit by working with the other.

It was only because of my concerns about the specific provisions of Clause 68 that I spoke on the earlier amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. In contradistinction to Clauses 66 and 67, where the Bill proposes that the two heads of the inspection regimes should collaborate in working out an approach, under Clause 68, without qualification, Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools is put in the lead. It is for him to direct the inspection; it is for him to make a plan; it is for him, under the draft regulations, to determine how many from each inspectorate should be engaged; it is for him to make the report. I wonder why the Government should have concluded that the adult learning inspectorate should be placed in such a subordinate position when it is, I presume, the repository of the greatest experience and expertise of inspection in FE colleges.

It might be that one thought that the FE Inspectorate has not established the reputation--the well deserved reputation--of Ofsted for forthright, hard and effective inspections. Yet when I looked at the last annual report of the FE Inspectorate I did not find that it was a soft, punch-pulling report. Indeed, had the head of the FE Inspectorate the same remarkable talents of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools to capture public attention and to catch the headlines, a remarkable critical headline could have been derived from his last report. Having said that 11 per cent of colleges did not have effective leadership, the report went on to say that,

"we do not have a sufficient number of effective principals if the management of one in nine colleges (11%) is unsatisfactory".

As I read that, he was saying plainly that 50 principals were not up to their job. That is tough talk.

I do not see evidence in the report that the FE Inspectorate is a soft number. I am therefore concerned that there should, in this clause, have been a decision to put Her Majesty's Inspector of Schools unequivocally in the lead in every aspect of the inspection.

I invite the Government to consider, as the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, has proposed, leadership according to where the majority of the students are. I understand that in further education there are 4 million students, of whom 3 million are adult and 1 million are young people. That suggests that there might be scope in relation to the needs of pupils for the FE inspectorate to be in the lead.

The Government may consider that suggestion over-adventurous. They may be prepared to consider importing the principle that they have adopted in the two preceding clauses; namely, that there should be joint leadership of the inspection. Is that impossible? I cannot see why. For example, it is proposed in the draft regulations that the chief inspector must reflect the collective judgments of the inspectors who have conducted the joint inspection. If it is a requirement to reflect the judgment of the inspection team, which is a collective one, I cannot see a problem in the report not being that of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools but a joint report by the two inspectorates.

I wonder whether the Government feel it essential, in advance of any actual experience of joint inspection--which, as I have argued, has much to commend it, bringing the experience of two cultures to bear--I wonder whether they feel it imperative, to enshrine so much of the detail of the arrangements in the main statute rather than in regulation. Are the Government prepared to consider at least--so as not to demean the standing of the adult learning inspectorate and thereby discourage first-rate people from applying to be its members (no one likes to be cast permanently in a subordinate role in one's career)--that the reports should be joint reports, and that the composition of the team should reflect the balance of the students in the institution?

While I should like to support the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, I suggest to the Government that, if that provision is too much, there are lesser proposals that could be offered. I invite the Government to consider whether, on Report, they would see merit in moving from their present position.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 10:15 pm, 15th February 2000

There was a chief education officer in Cambridgeshire, when community education was first being piloted, who used to sit around the table with worthy people who used to talk stratospherically about education, ideas, and piloting this, and piloting that. Every now and again, he used to say, "What about the children?"--and brought everyone back to discussing what the whole thing was about.

I understand that this provision ought fundamentally to be about the quality of the teaching and learning of the students who are passing through the system, whether they are attending a school or college, or training in the workplace. The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, is material to one of the real issues; namely, the practical delivery. We can all use fine words about what we should like to see, how we should like people to work together, and how co-operation is better than being at odds with each other. But we are talking about two very separate cultures; and the way in which they interact practically on the ground is very important. The question I ask myself is: what about the institutions and the impact of what is happening on the students passing through them?

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, relates to preparation for inspection. It is a very real issue in schools. It has been said by the chief inspector, and with some force, that many schools over-prepare for inspection. After all, the inspector is coming to make judgments about the quality of the teaching and learning in a school and to form a view about the outputs of that effort. Often, for very good reason, teachers are earnest and anxious to do the best and to show off their schools in the best possible light. But in order to prepare for the inspection, they overdo it. I have heard descriptions of vast numbers of laundry baskets lined up in halls filled with documents which the inspectorate team may want to see. The tradition of FEFC, which one presupposes ALI will follow, is very different. Preparation for that kind of inspection is also very different. It takes place over a long period and involves more visits to look at the systems in place and to test their robustness. If they are to merge in a practical sense so that individual inspectors work together in a single team within the same framework, something somewhere must change. Not only the inspectors and the framework within which they operate must change, but the way in which the very people in the institutions prepare for inspections must change. I do not believe that thought has been given to that. Certainly, there is no suggestion that there are to be regulations to that effect.

There are many in the school system--I referred earlier to the Association of Teachers and Lecturers--who look over the fence and see that the grass is greener on the other side. They rather like the adult approach to inspection and the idea of testing on the basis of self-evaluation. But if the Government are to put that system in place, it is important to spell out the way in which it is to work in practice. Schools, colleges and workplaces must change in order to prepare for what may be a very different form of inspection. One cannot simply put together the observational and evaluative-type cultures and expect nothing to change. If there is to be change, the nature of that change needs to be spelt out; the dots and commas must be in place. Because these institutions are very hard pressed because of the other demands on their time, not least their core task of teaching and training the young people who pass through their doors, the Government must say rather more than they have said up to now.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

The noble Baroness has returned to points that she made earlier in relation to previous groups of amendments. I repeat what I have already said. This will be spelt out not by the Government but by the chief inspectors in the consultation documents which will be available to the noble Baroness and many others for comment when the time comes. My noble friend Lord Haskel, with the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, set out his arguments in a helpful way, and I am grateful to him for providing me with an opportunity to explain these provisions. I am particularly glad to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, at least for our overall approach which is to have a common framework in which two inspectors work together. That is extremely helpful at this point.

I turn to the issues raised by my noble friend Lord Haskel. I begin by clearing up an important preliminary point. There should never be two inspections of an FE college, one by ALI and one by Ofsted. Every college, like every school, will have a single inspection that involves one team, usually comprising some ALI, and some Ofsted, inspectors. There will be a single report. In a few sixth-form colleges with no adults, there will be a sole inspection by Ofsted; and in a few adult colleges with no 16 to 18 year-olds, there will be a sole inspection by ALI.

In supporting the amendment, noble Lords have argued that in the case of joint inspections, the lead inspectorate should be determined according to whether 16 to 18 year-olds or adults are in the majority. I can see the logic of that. Unfortunately, it is not quite that simple. If we rely on a headcount of students above and below the age of 19, we shall have a completely misleading guide to the work of the two inspectorates. Nearly all 16 year-olds in FE are full-time students. In contrast, nearly all adults are part time, typically taking courses which amount to one-fifth, perhaps one-quarter, or occasionally one-third, of a full-time course. In terms of "full-time equivalent student numbers"--what we might term "volume of provision"--the split between the two inspectorates is approximately equal.

I shall illustrate the problem with some practical examples. In terms of headcount, there are only 87 colleges--one fifth of the sector--with more 16-18 year-olds than adults. Virtually all these are sixth form colleges. Yet noble Lords may be surprised to note that not all sixth form colleges have such a majority. Over 20 in fact have more adults than young people. And many others have nearly as many adults as 16-18 year-olds.

The explanation is that many sixth form colleges have considerable numbers of part-time adult evening class students, perhaps studying for as little as two hours a week. This may be completely worthy and desirable community education, but I should be very surprised if any sixth form college regarded this as its main mission. And in terms of hours of taught provision it will of course be less than the A-level and advanced GNVQ work in the sixth form college. It would be completely wrong, therefore, for the ALI to direct inspections in these circumstances, although I would expect an Ofsted-led team to have good support from the ALI in looking at the quality of the evening class provision to which I have just referred.

These arguments are not confined to sixth form colleges. In many general FE colleges, tertiary colleges and agricultural colleges there will be a similar pattern of large numbers of 16-18 year-olds on full-time courses; and numerically more part-time adults. But the volume--and volume is important here--of 16-18 provision will be greater in at least half of all colleges. Even where the numerical balance seems overwhelmingly in favour of adults, there are caveats. For example, at Bracknell and Wokingham College there are nearly 12,000 adult students, compared with only 1,100 16-18 year-olds. But the number of 16-18 year-olds is still greater than in very many sixth form colleges. It is therefore right that Ofsted will have a very substantial role in the inspection of these colleges. These are practical illustrations of why the amendment would not be acceptable, but I wish also to make a few points of general principle.

First, the Government do not intend to prescribe responsibility by formula, either on the face of the Bill or in subsequent regulations. Let us imagine for a moment a college where the provision is almost equally divided between adults and young people. It would make no difference whether we were using headcounts, full time equivalents or any other formulation. Let us imagine that a few weeks before the inspection, it is discovered that the proportion of adults to young people is 51 per cent to 49 per cent. The ALI therefore prepares to direct the inspection. But at the time of inspection, because of new enrolments, the proportion may have changed to 49 per cent-51 per cent the other way. The ALI no longer has the vires to lead, and the law is brought into disrepute.

A numerical formula, however constructed, simply would not work. And because of the wide variation in character in colleges, alternatives such as giving Ofsted the lead for sixth form colleges and the ALI the lead for general FE colleges would not be workable. A lot of general FE colleges--tertiary colleges in particular--have a major focus on 16-18 provision. Only in the case of minimal overlap of remits--for example, in the adult residential colleges where there would be at most a tiny handful of 16-18 year-olds, should the ALI take the sole lead.

The Government want to avoid formulaic prescription, and to give the two chief inspectors a good deal of operational freedom, so that the complex planning for joint inspections in FE colleges can be done on a case by case basis. The general principle of having inspection teams composed in a way which broadly reflects the volume of provision is a good one, and I intend that this shall be enshrined either in the regulations made under Clause 68 or in the common inspection framework. In this way, using a harmonised approach with multi-disciplinary teams working collectively, joint inspections will be highly effective operations and, I hope, potent levers, which is something that we all want, to raise standards.

Nonetheless, in a joint inspection process there has to be some clarity about who is in the lead. That is why I have some reservations about what the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, has recommended. I believe that colleges will expect such clarity. If we did not set out clearly in the Bill who should lead, we could properly be accused of ducking the issue. The Government have chosen Ofsted. I do not in any way detract from the experience and skills of the other two inspectorates. However, unlike the ALI, Ofsted is already fully established with a proven track record of improving standards.

I have spoken at some length because this amendment raises important issues. For both practical reasons and those of principle, the Government have set out a clear policy. I recognise that the choice we had to make was a difficult one. However, I believe that it is a clear solution which will be acceptable. Reluctantly, therefore, I cannot accept my noble friend Lord Haskel's amendment and I hope that he will not press it.

Photo of Baroness Seccombe Baroness Seccombe Conservative 10:30 pm, 15th February 2000

Before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may ask about the position of the 11 to 16 schools where adults sit in the same classrooms as young people under 16 and where there is a high proportion of adult learning in the evenings.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

The adult learning that goes on in the evenings is simply a matter of schools letting their premises to adult and community provision. That kind of letting of premises is not relevant, except in that the adult learning inspectorate should, of course, inspect the adult community provision that happens to be in schools, as in a church hall, as in an FE college or anywhere else. With regard to schools that have a very small number of adults sitting in, normally at the top end of schools, Ofsted will continue to inspect that provision because the numbers would be very small and they will presumably be undertaking courses of the same kind as those being undertaken by school pupils.

Photo of Lord Haskel Lord Haskel Labour

I thank the noble Lords who have spoken to my amendment. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, for the benefit of his experience and the way in which he made his point.

I believe that it is very important to make clear to the colleges what my noble friend has just said, because it was an FE college that prompted me to put down this amendment. I therefore hope that my noble friend will take whatever steps she can to ensure that the FE colleges understand what the regime will be, how Ofsted will take the lead, yet how Ofsted and the ALI will hopefully be on an equal footing, and how the system of joint inspections will work. That matter was not understood by the people who asked me to table this amendment. I thank my noble friend for the explanation and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 68 agreed to.

Clauses 69 and 70 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Boston of Faversham Lord Boston of Faversham Crossbench

I must point out to the Committee that, if Amendment No. 197 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 198.

Clause 71 [The Extended Remit of the Chief Inspector for Wales]:

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

moved Amendment No. 197:

Page 30, line 38, leave out paragraph (b).

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 198.

My first purpose is to find out what the Government have in mind for the single inspectorate proposed for Wales. It makes sense to combine the administration of the adult learning inspectorate with the schools inspectorate in Wales, as proposed in this and subsequent clauses, provided, of course, that those who carry out the inspections are qualified in their field for the tasks that they are to perform. It is quite clear that, to inspect the training provided by an employer in the workplace, different inspectors will be needed from those required for sixth forms or the Careers Service. Having said that, I hope there will be a cross-fertilisation of ideas and that the inspectorate as a whole will not become too fragmented or excessively sectionalised.

Perhaps I may return to the detail of the amendments. Subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) are virtually identical, apart from the word "contemplating" in line 39. Those two paragraphs could have been combined without too much difficulty. Are the providers given financial support in paragraph (a) of the same genre as those to whom financial support may be given in paragraph (b)? What lies behind these subsections, which could so easily have been rolled into one?

We could speculate ad nauseam, but it would be easier to listen to the Minister's reply. I should be grateful if she could also tell us what additions are expected in the staffing of the inspectorate to undertake the additional tasks consequent upon the extended remit. Out of kindness, I draw her attention to subsection (2)(b), which does not make much sense to me and I am sure will not make much sense to anyone else either. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat

We on these Benches support the extension of the existing remit of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in Wales to this type of education. We share the puzzlement of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, about what precisely is meant by the additional paragraph (b). I hope that we shall receive enlightenment.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

Driving up standards and quality are key factors in the Bill and I know that the noble Lords, Lord Roberts of Conwy and Lord Thomas of Gresford, will agree that that is the correct approach. It is also right for us to ensure that prospective providers of education are up to the quality mark that we would expect to see. Therefore, it is wholly appropriate for Estyn to be given the power to conduct preliminary inspections of prospective providers where publicly funded education is being considered. That may answer the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. It is to cover the eventuality of funding provision, then inspecting and finding that the provider is not of the appropriate quality. The preliminary inspections will provide the CETW and the National Assembly with reassurance that public funds are not being directed towards prospective providers whose offerings are inadequate.

The noble Lord asked about staffing levels. That will be a matter for the chief inspector following an imminent review. That is essential to establish the appropriate levels and the level of individual skills and experience. I hope that, with that explanation and the fact that the provision was inserted at the request of the National Assembly, the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister for explaining what the Government have in mind. I quite understand that some authority is required for a preliminary inspection of a prospective provider. But my criticism of the drafting is still valid in that both these paragraphs could have been rolled into one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 198 not moved.]

Clause 71 agreed to.

Clauses 72 to 77 agreed to.

Clause 78 [Inspections of education and training provided under 1973 Act arrangements]:

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

moved Amendment No. 199:

Page 34, line 22, leave out (", at the request of the Secretary of State or the Adult Learning Inspectorate,").

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

At first sight it appears odd that the Secretary of State for Education and Employment--I am sure he is meant here, although it could be any Secretary of State or indeed the adult learning inspectorate for England--should request an inspection in Wales. But I believe that the clause is intended to enable some current ongoing work to continue. Perhaps the Minister will enlighten me.

I personally welcome such co-operation across the border. We could all learn, including inspectors, from each other. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has responsibility for education and training under Section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973. That includes, for example, the New Deal for the unemployed aged 18 to 24. The adult learning inspectorate will have a duty to inspect such provision in both England and Wales.

In Wales, Estyn has no remit to conduct inspection of provisions such as the New Deal. If we had left it at that the adult learning inspectorate would become involved in the inspection of all provision under the New Deal across Wales and Estyn would be excluded from such inspection. That would cause confusion among providers and make poor use of resources. Therefore, our policy is to ask Estyn, where it agrees, to inspect New Deal provision in Wales. Estyn will of course be fully competent to conduct such inspection. With that reassurance I feel fairly confident that the noble Lord will be able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I thank the Minister for her explanation, which is clearly intended to benefit the inspectorate in Wales. I certainly welcome that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 78 agreed to.

Clauses 79 to 83 agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment 10:45 pm, 15th February 2000

moved Amendment No. 200:

After Clause 83, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:PRELIMINARY TRANSFERS: FEFC FOR ENGLAND

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may make a scheme providing for the transfer of any of the property, rights and liabilities of the Further Education Funding Council for England to any of the listed transferees.

(2) The listed transferees are--

(a) the Secretary of State;

(b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England;

(c) the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

(3) A scheme under this section may include such supplementary, incidental, consequential or transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks are appropriate.

(4) A scheme under this section comes into force on the day it specifies for it to come into force.

(5) When a scheme under this section comes into force it has effect to transfer (in accordance with its provisions) the property, rights and liabilities to which it applies.

(6) The day specified by a scheme under this section for the scheme to come into force must fall before the day appointed under section 116 for the commencement of section 83.").

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

In moving this amendment I am also speaking to Amendments Nos. 202, 245, 250 and 258. I recognise that these are significant government amendments to bring forward, but the scale of the changes that we are making put a premium on ensuring that effective transition arrangements are in place. We have been working closely with partner organisations at national, regional and local level both before and after the introduction of the Bill to identify and address the key transition issues. These amendments, which reflect those discussions, create the essential legal framework for a smooth transition.

Since publishing the White Paper we have put a major effort into managing the transition process effectively. The detailed transition plan we published alongside the White Paper was a sign of our commitment to doing so in line with "Modernising Government" principles. It sets out what needs to be done, by whom and by when. It was produced jointly with the DTI and sets out clearly who within each department is leading on each aspect of the plan.

Since that plan was published, we have continued to develop and refine it with the support of a wide range of partners at national, regional and local level. We have set up a range of mechanisms to ensure that we learn from the experience and expertise of a wide range of organisations, including TECs, local government, careers services and the FEFC. I am very grateful to all of those bodies and other organisations for the positive and constructive help that they have given.

We published an updated version of our transition plan in November and we shall continue to review it in the light of experience. This process has also helped us to identify the necessary legal provisions we need to make which are now contained in these amendments. We recognise that the scale of the changes we are making requires a significant financial investment in the transition process. The work we have done with partner organisations has also helped us to develop a clearer assessment of the transition costs.

We currently estimate that the transition costs of establishing the LSC and ALI over the next two years will be between £60 and £65 million. These costs include the development of new IT systems, premises and, of course, a significant investment in staff training and development. There are also likely to be some restructuring costs in the DfEE and government offices.

It is too early to be precise about TEC transition costs. The position depends greatly on decisions yet to be made on LSC premises and the location of small business services franchises. It also depends on how many staff transfer under TUPE to the LSC and other successor bodies.

In the coming year we shall be making available £25 million to meet the start-up costs of the LSC. This up-front investment will ensure that the LSC gets off to the best possible start. We shall meet the remaining costs from the savings we shall make and from reprioritising other work. This investment in transition will quickly be repaid by the savings we intend to make. In Committee last week, the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, questioned the level of savings. To me it is self-evident that the changes will create a system more efficient than that which has gone before. We are moving from 73 organisations developing their own funding systems to one. We are moving from over 80 sets of premises to fewer than 50. Furthermore, we are moving from duplication and overlap to a single and more coherent approach.

We are confident that at least £50 million-worth of savings will be made each year and we shall invest those savings in the quality of learning. The budgets we set for the learning and skills council will reflect this.

The noble Baroness also raised a number of specific issues about the transition for TECs, which we promised to address today. We recognise that this is a challenging period for TECs and we have been extremely impressed by the commitment and hard work of TEC board members and staff both in managing difficult transition issues and in helping us to develop the new arrangements. The fact that TEC performance continues to hold up well is a great credit to them.

Many TECs have evolved over time into complex organisations with a wide variety of functions. Some have merged with chambers of commerce, others have a Business Link as part of the same company, while others have developed wider commercial activities. We are therefore working with each TEC to agree a detailed transition plan which will take into account both the nature of the organisation and local circumstances.

We recognise that one of the important issues for TEC staff is to get a clear understanding of their position in respect of TUPE. Depending on the nature of the TEC, current functions may well be transferring to the LSC, the Employment Service, a new small business service franchise, or another successor body. We have made it clear that we expect many TEC staff to transfer under TUPE to the LSC, to the Employment Service, or to other bodies to which functions are to be transferred. We are working with TECs, the FEFC, the Employment Service and other partner organisations to map out a detailed process for handling transfers and we shall publish that next month. Given the complexity of TEC structures and their status as independent companies, we believe that the detailed position on TUPE can be resolved only on a TEC-by-TEC basis.

The noble Baroness also asked about the position in respect of TEC assets. Under our contract with TECs, certain assets purchased out of funds provided by the Secretary of State must be returned to him on termination of the contract. It is our intention that such assets, if appropriate, should be made available to the LSC for the continued benefit of the local community. These amendments will allow the Secretary of State to do so.

Before I explain each of the amendments in turn, first, I shall say a few words about their general purpose. They contain essential provisions to ensure that the assets, rights and liabilities of the two funding councils can be transferred as appropriate to the successor bodies. They will also allow the Secretary of State to make available other assets, such as those returned to him by TECs, which I have just mentioned, and the Training Standards Council to the LSC and ALI. They also ensure that the LSC can make the necessary preparatory steps before it assumes its full functions. The amendments do not cover LEA assets. Until this legislation comes into force, LEAs continue to have a duty to secure adequate facilities for further education outside the scope of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. Under this Bill, LEAs will continue to make an important contribution to community and adult education.

The Government are also guaranteeing that each LEA will receive funding in the first two years of the LSC's operation at a level comparable with their current spend provided they produce and implement suitable plans which at least maintain their current spend. The effect of these arrangements is that LEAs will need to ensure that the necessary assets continue to be available within their areas to provide the facilities which local people need. Therefore, there is no need to cover LEA assets in the Bill.

I now turn to the amendments themselves. Clause 83 provides that on the day that the FEFC is dissolved, its property, rights and liabilities will transfer to the LSC. In practice, the situation will be more complex as some assets which are linked with the FEFC's current inspection work are likely to be transferred to the new adult learning inspectorate or Ofsted. Therefore, Amendment No. 200 provides for transfer schemes so that the Secretary of State may make any necessary transfers of FEFC assets, rights and liabilities to the department, Ofsted and ALI in advance of the dissolution date. Any assets, rights and liabilities of the FEFC which are not covered by such a scheme will then transfer on the date of dissolution to the LSC by virtue of the provisions of Clause 83.

As I mentioned a moment ago, under the terms of the licence agreement between each TEC and the Secretary of State, any property and assets which were issued to the TEC or funded under the licence are to be returned to the Secretary of State on termination of the licence. Amendment No. 202 provides for schemes whereby the Secretary of State can transfer any such former assets, rights and liabilities to the appropriate body once they have been returned to him by TECs or by the Training Standards Council. It will also allow for any necessary residual transfers between the LSC, ALI and Ofsted. The right of the Secretary of State to transfer new liabilities to the LSC is limited to three years after the appointed date.

As we set out in our Explanatory Notes to the Bill, the LSC will be established before it takes on its full functions in April 2001 in order that it can make the necessary advance arrangements. As it stands, Clause 116 enables the Secretary of State to confer upon the LSC such powers as he considers will help it to carry out its full functions. The National Assembly similarly is enabled to confer such powers on the CETW.

However, the transition between the two funding councils and the new councils will be complex and we must make transitional provisions for the LSC and the CETW to take responsibility for a number of the FEFCs' remaining statutory functions or other responsibilities. They include requirements--for which the amendment makes specific provision--to complete the final accounts of the FEFCs; to make a report to the Secretary of State and the National Assembly on the previous year's provision for disabled people under the terms of the requirements of the Disability Discrimination Act; and to take over the FEFCs' responsibilities in any legal proceedings in which they may be involved at the point of dissolution.

Amendments Nos. 245, 250 and 258 provide for that period of transition before the LSC and the CETW assume their full functions from April 2001. The LSC and CETW can become legal entities once the first two council members--namely, the chairman and the chief executive--are appointed. They also provide the framework to enable the FEFCs for England and for Wales to help in that process.

The amendments provide the necessary provisions for an orderly and efficient transfer to our new structures and I commend them to the Committee. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for such a detailed explanation of those arrangements. Perhaps I may ask some residual questions which arise from them.

First, the noble Baroness will understand that those members of staff throughout the country who work for TECs will be very anxious at this moment about precisely what the future holds for them and whether or not they will be in a job. The noble Baroness has given us a great deal of detail this evening, but it would be helpful to know what is the time-scale for them knowing whether or not there is a future for them with the new bodies and the time by which they will have some indication of where they stand.

Secondly, it is my understanding that TECs are predominantly made up of voluntary members. I am not sure of the arrangements for paying allowances and expenses of one sort or another. But my understanding is that the members of the national skills council will all be salaried. I am not the only person who was fairly shocked this week to learn that the salary for the RDA chairman for only two days per week was £44,500 rising to £66,000 for three days per week. That is even more than the salary for a Member of Parliament. It would be helpful to know what salary the Government have in mind for the chairman, the chief executive and other members of the national board.

Thirdly, is the noble Baroness in a position to say what budget has been set aside for the two standing committees: the young people's committee and the adult learning committee? They may be the forerunners of many others. What is the budget for paying those allowances as set out in the schedule, for the housing and servicing of those committees and for the logistics of keeping those committees in being?

Fourthly, there are to be 47 councils with more than a dozen members on each plus the members for the national council. That will involve a massive recruitment campaign. It would be helpful to know from the Minister when that campaign will start. The Minister has referred to chairmen and chief executives, but it will be a huge campaign. As I understand it, all the appointments will be subject to Nolan procedures. The applications must all be processed. We were told by one Minister in another department this week that the appointment of the latest replacement for Jennie Page at the Dome could not be subject to the Nolan procedures because it would take too long; that it would take about six months to complete the process. What is the time-scale envisaged by the Government to have all the members of each of those committees in place, ready to do their job, having completed the sifting of the applications, the recruitment, and compliance with the Nolan procedures for approving those appointments? Each and every appointment--not only of those on the boards of the local and national skills councils but also of every single member of staff who is to work for them--must be approved by the Secretary of State if one accepts what is written on the face of the Bill.

There are some other important points. The Minister explained in part the TUPE arrangements. I understand that the negotiations in relation to that are still ongoing. But at the end of the day, those in most immediate need of information are those who are presently working with and for the TECs who may be in or out of work as a result of these changes.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 11:00 pm, 15th February 2000

I rise to endorse the statements made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and to thank the Minister for the clarification given in the draft clauses about the transition arrangements.

I echo the concerns expressed about the position of people in the TECs. There is real concern among those employed by TECs as to where they will be. I urge the Minister to speed as much as possible the issuing of the requisite regulations so that people may know what their position will be.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for listing a number of questions. As regards the staff in the TECs, I entirely accept the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. They are bound to be anxious about their future; that will always be the case when major changes of this sort are being made. She asked about the timescale. As I have said, we shall be publishing a timetable for handling transfers by the end of March, a copy of which I shall send to the noble Baroness. I hope that that will provide answers to many of the staff who may want to make a transfer under TUPE during the summer and early autumn.

Perhaps I may clarify another point raised by the noble Baroness. The staff of the council are not appointed by the Secretary of State, only the council members. With the exception of the chief executive of the national council, which will be an appointment made by the Secretary of State, the staff will be appointed by the councils.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Schedule 1(5)(1)on page 56 states:

"The Council may appoint such employees as it thinks fit".

However, subparagraph (3) states:

"A determination under this paragraph requires the Secretary of State's approval".

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

The staff of the learning councils, whether national or local, will not be appointed by the Secretary of State but by the council members when established.

The noble Baroness also asked about salaries. The salaries of the successful candidates must obviously be commensurate with the extensive responsibilities they are likely to undertake and will vary a great deal. They will depend on the size of the LSC and the number of staff employed. However, we would expect the salaries of chief executives of the local learning and skills councils to range between £50,000 to £80,000. The members will be paid expenses but there is no present intention to pay them salaries.

The noble Baroness asked about the budget for the adult and young people's standing committees. That will be a matter for the LSC when established.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Again, I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. Under the heading "Salaries, pensions, etc", Schedule 1(4) states:

"The Council must pay in respect of its members such salaries and fees and such travelling, subsistence and other allowances as the Secretary of State may determine".

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

That is exactly right and is what I said. I said that this would be a matter for the Secretary of State to determine. I mentioned that expenses would be paid. We will pay salaries to national council members. I correct myself on that point. However, the amount has not yet been determined by the Secretary of State.

I turn to the budget for the standing committees. That will be a matter for the national LSC to determine.

The noble Baroness also referred to the issue of recruitment to the 47 councils. Of course, this will be a very onerous task. Again, plans are already in place for this recruitment. It will take place during the summer, through to the autumn. I hope that that answers the noble Baroness's question.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I thank the Minister for that correction. However, could she now refer back to paragraph 5 of Schedule l, which appears under the heading of "Staff", and explain something to me? The paragraph reads as follows:

"The Council may appoint such employees as it thinks fit ... A person is to be appointed as an employee of the Council on such terms (including terms as to remuneration and allowances) as the Council may determine ... A determination under this paragraph requires the Secretary of State's approval".

Can the noble Baroness tell me what that means?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

The general terms and conditions of the employment policies of the LSC need approval by the Secretary of State, but not the individual staff who will be appointed. I hope that that explanation helps the noble Baroness.

We have not yet published or decided on some of the details on which the noble Baroness is now asking for information. However, we shall be publishing such details as soon as decisions have been made. I shall ensure that the noble Baroness receives the information that she has requested.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am partly grateful for that response. However, my understanding of paragraph 5 is as follows. Paragraph 5(1) says:

"The Council may appoint such employees", and paragraph 5(2) refers to remuneration, allowances and conditions. Subparagraph (3) says:

"A determination under this paragraph requires the Secretary of State's approval".

Therefore, anything under subparagraph (3) requires the Secretary of State's approval, including the appointments, the conditions and the level of remuneration and allowances.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I have just said that this paragraph implies that the general terms and conditions of the employment policies of the LSC will need approval. It is not that the Secretary of State will give approval to the appointment of the individual staff. I hope that that clarifies the position.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It is just symptomatic of the drafting of the Bill. I shall not take this matter any further, but there are many questions begging about the drafting here. There is some concern about the appointment of 5,000 staff who will have to undergo the Nolan procedures all in the space of the summer holiday months when most people are out of their offices in any event. In particular, it seems to me that it will be people from local authorities and public authorities who will be making applications--

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

The Nolan procedures apply to the appointment of members of the councils, both locally and nationally. The appointment of staff is a rather different matter.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I was referring to the appointment of members. I did in fact say that I was talking about the 5,000 people who will be appointed as members. There will also be an issue as regards staff. This does not apply just to members; a procedure will have to be undertaken for the appointment of staff.

The noble Baroness said that it would be end of March before the Government would publish a paper dealing with the transfer of staff from the TECs to the new councils--or not, as the case may be. That is fine for those who will be transferred because their future will be secure. However, can the Minister say what period of notice will be given to those who will not be transferred?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I am not quite clear as to where the noble Baroness derived the figure of 5,000 members. That is why I was somewhat confused and thought that she was referring to the appointment of staff.

I can tell the noble Baroness that the issue of those who will not be transferred will be decided during the course of the period in which people make applications for posts in various different parts of the system. Where people apply for posts will depend on their particular expertise, and whether they are appointed will depend on whether that expertise is needed in the particular organisations and in the localities where they are working. I cannot really say any more than that at this point in time.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I understand that. I am culpable as regards the confusion over the figure of 5,000. My figures referred to staff and members. However, there is a real issue as regards using the Nolan procedures to appoint all the members and have them in place by the autumn and to recruit staff simultaneously. My concern with regard to the staff of TECs is not so much with the process of transferring staff from TECs to the new councils, as it will be a matter for the staff concerned whether they wish to apply for that; I am concerned about those who either are not eligible to apply or who are unsuccessful when they apply. What form of notice will they be given and what will be the severance terms if they are to lose their jobs?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

That would depend on the circumstances. All the staff of TECs have their own terms and conditions. Their contracts will determine the notice period. There is no single system. Training and enterprise councils across the country vary a great deal in this respect. The position will depend on the individual contracts that have been drawn up by individual TECs.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 84 [Dissolution of FEFC for Wales]:

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

moved Amendment No. 201:

Page 36, line 19, leave out paragraph (a).

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I should not like to see the Further Education Funding Council for Wales dissolved without some tribute being paid to it for eight years of excellent work under the direction of Professor John Andrews CBE, who is due to retire in May. I had a hand in its establishment as a council in May 1992, along with the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales. Currently both operate within the overarching structure of the Welsh funding councils.

The National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education, chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Dearing, saw Wales as being very much in the lead in bringing about a truly comprehensive post-16 lifelong education service. As a consequence, the committee commended the Welsh concept of a joint executive bringing further and higher education more closely together. On 1st April 1999, a joint executive for the Scottish funding councils for further and higher education came into being which follows the model successfully adopted by the Welsh funding councils. It is not often that we are able to teach the Scots a trick or two!

I am glad to say that the Education and Training Action Group in Wales has recommended that,

"the existing joint secretariat embracing Higher Education and Further Education should be maintained and built upon".

As I understand it, that is to happen under this Bill.

There have been enormous benefits from the establishment of the Welsh funding councils with a joint executive, not only with regard to the integration of support functions, such as audit, management information systems and financial health monitoring, but also in extending the links between the further and higher education sectors. By 1996--well before FE institutions in other areas of the UK--all Welsh FE sector colleges were connected to the resources of the Joint Academic Network (JANET), and thus to the Internet, via higher education institutions in Wales. The Welsh funding councils are now planning a video services network for further and higher education institutions in Wales which will benefit all clients of the institutions, students and employers.

Successive annual reports have shown the progress of the FEFCW year by year. I have a formidable list of the council's achievements, but at this late hour I shall spare the Committee recital of them. Nevertheless, there has been a first-class list of achievements in eight years.

I am sure that the Minister will wish to endorse my appreciation of the Further Education Funding Council for Wales and its work. I hope that she will tell me what will replace it and how it will be replaced. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip 11:15 pm, 15th February 2000

Perhaps I may begin by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, for inviting me to endorse the tribute that he paid to the FEFCW. I understand the concern he raised. Quite rightly, the noble Lord is seeking assurances about how its dissolution and the transfer to the new regime is to be handled. I am very pleased that he has given me the opportunity to clarify the position.

In Wales, the situation is somewhat more straightforward than it is in England. All the assets, rights and liabilities of the FEFCW will be transferred to the CETW on the day appointed for its dissolution, when the CETW takes on its full functions. There is no need for transfer schemes equivalent to those provided for England through Amendment No. 200.

However, the Assembly needs to take action to deal with such property and other assets as are returned to it by TECs under the terms of their contracts with the Assembly. Such property should be used for the benefit of future education and training provision in Wales. It may well be that we shall need some provision similar to that for England which is set out in Amendment No. 202. However, the Assembly is currently considering its position, and if it decides that such provision is necessary, the Government will bring forward the necessary amendments at a later stage.

With that explanation and assurance, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I am grateful yet again to the Minister for explaining what is to happen when the Further Education Funding Council for Wales is dissolved. She will know that what concerns me is the maintenance of the quality of service that the FEFCW has given. I do not think that one can put that into statute. None the less, I am sure that the Minister shares my hope that such excellence will continue to thrive under the new arrangements. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 84 agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

moved Amendment No. 202:

After Clause 84, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:TRANSFERS: ENGLAND

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may make a scheme providing for the transfer of any of his property, rights and liabilities to any of the listed persons.

(2) The Secretary of State may make a scheme providing for the transfer of any of the property, rights and liabilities of a listed person to any other listed person.

(3) The listed persons are--

(a) the Learning and Skills Council for England;

(b) Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England;

(c) the Adult Learning Inspectorate.

(4) A scheme under this section may include such supplementary, incidental, consequential or transitional provisions as the Secretary of State thinks are appropriate.

(5) A scheme under this section comes into force on the day it specifies for it to come into force.

(6) When a scheme under this section comes into force it has effect to transfer (in accordance with its provisions) the property, rights and liabilities to which it applies.

(7) If a scheme under subsection (1) includes provision for the transfer of liabilities, the day specified by the scheme for it to come into force must not fall after the end of the period of 3 years starting with the day appointed under section 116 for the commencement of section 83.

(8) The day specified by a scheme under subsection (2) for the scheme to come into force must not fall after the end of the period of 3 years starting with the day appointed under section 116 for the commencement of section 83.

(9) This section applies in relation to England only.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 85 [Persons under 19]:

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 202A:

Page 37, line 2, at end insert ("provided that subsection (2) shall not apply to any course intended to promote the personal, social, moral or physical development of an individual").

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

In moving Amendment No. 202A, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 202B.

These amendments are essentially probing amendments. As it stands, Clause 85, supplemented by Clauses 87 and 88, would seem to preclude the funding body--defined either as the learning and skills council, the LEA or any other body designated by the Secretary of State--from funding any course of education or training for a 16 to 19 year-old which does not lead to an externally recognised qualification. Subsection (4) clearly makes allowance for modular courses, but they still need explicitly to be part of an externally recognised qualification system.

Amendment No. 202A seeks to make explicit that students who need to add to their current qualification programme should have the right to funding for enrichment programmes. In addition, other young people aged 16-18--and, in some cases, the socially excluded--should have access to funded courses that may have the function of building confidence or of beginning to address basic skill needs in order to encourage them on to further stages of learning. That would require the provider to ensure that the provision passed the test set out in the original stem Act and therefore would not be frivolous in nature. The LSC would set a tariff system which would ensure that funding was provided on an equitable basis for all such learners. The amendment would not force the LSC to fund beyond the funds at its disposal.

I turn to Amendment No. 202B, which picks up the same issue in relation to the old Schedule 2 and non-Schedule 2 issues. As I understood it, the purpose of the Bill was to abolish that distinction. Yet it would seem that Clause 86, by creating a list of qualifications and restricting the powers of the funding body in relation to any other provision, effectively recreates Schedule 2. The practical effect is that any course leading to a qualification of any kind that is not externally approved will be difficult for the funding body to support, because it will have difficulty in ensuring that the public moneys it disburses are not used to pay for the qualification--fees, assessment costs and so forth.

The purpose of the amendment is to recognise that, where an employer or an individual makes a substantial contribution to the cost of his learning, he should not be completely precluded from accessing public support. It would permit providers to offer adult and community learning in its broadest sense--which will be of use to the learner--with some support from public funds within the range of the LSC's budget. That budget will be set by the LSC in relation to its own priorities and the range of provision that it is able to support. In other words, the amendment would not mean that the LSC would have to fund all learning.

The restriction to funding only externally approved qualifications will inhibit the growth of new qualifications, which will not be able to be offered until they have been approved. That would stultify the development of new qualifications and could impact on the development of open and distance learning in particular. As it stands, an unemployed person attending a course at a college cannot access public funds for the qualification--fees, assessment costs and so forth--because there is no mechanism to support him. Around 60 per cent of current qualifications are outside the national qualifications framework. Although that will change as more are approved, it is by no means clear that they all will be. That has serious implications for a large number of current students.

From these Benches we cannot believe, given the emphasis on the social exclusion agenda, that the wider areas of education and training covered by the amendments would be precluded from funding. We greatly hope that the Minister will be able to clarify the situation and to give us an assurance that that is not what is intended. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Amendment No. 202C is in this group. We are back with the issue of local flexibility and institutional autonomy. As Clause 86 is drafted, it requires the LSC to seek to secure that public funding is not used to pay for the cost of qualifications from external bodies which are not approved by the Secretary of State or a body designated by him. It does not directly prohibit the LSC from providing funding for courses leading to such outcomes, but there is a great deal of concern that in practice it may well have that effect.

That may arise simply because, although there are other mechanisms which the LSC could use to try to ensure that its statutory obligations are met, such as imposing a condition for funding on providers not to spend LSC moneys on non-approved qualifications, any such mechanisms would be cumbersome to police and difficult to justify. For example, audit systems will need to check how providers have used LSC resources. In practice, it will be difficult to tell whether LSC or other moneys have been used to pay examination or assessment costs. In addition, in an environment in which the LSC is likely to face more demands than it has resources available to meet, it will always need to face the question of priorities. In such circumstances, it will be hard to justify funding a provision which does not lead to a nationally approved outcome, even where some form of certification of that outcome may be of benefit to learners. That point was made by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp.

The effect of the clause is likely to be that the LSC will be driven to funding either a provision which leads to an externally approved qualification or one which leads to no certificate. If the LSC follows that path, it is likely to steer providers towards not offering certification routes at all to those who would currently gain a certificate which may not be considered an externally approved qualification. That would lead to a diminution in the opportunities available for adults for whom a certificate can provide a passport into a job, further study or increased self esteem, and it could also result in a diminution in the skills that employers need, both in technical areas which may not fall into obvious national categories, and in key or basic skills which underpin effective performance at work.

Exclusion from funding support of provision leading to a qualification which does not satisfy national approval criteria also fails to recognise the many thousands of courses that currently gain certification but are unlikely to gain the status of an external qualification. Sixty per cent of the courses studied by adults in further education colleges currently stand outside the national qualifications framework--that is, those courses accredited by QCA. While it is accepted that some diminution and streamlining of existing courses should take place, it would clearly be inappropriate to lose funding for a vast number of courses that are of considerable value to learners, have come through an approval process by an awarding body but are unlikely in all cases to gain accreditation via the QCA.

It will also be important to know whether or not courses--I shall give an illustrative list--which appear in current Schedule 2(a) will receive funding from the LSC under Clause 86, and indeed whether such courses will receive funding in full, as they do now, or whether support will be curtailed in some way. I shall give an illustrative sample of the courses: electrical installation; data processing and information systems; the Edexcel National Certificate in Civil Engineering Studies; the Institute of Legal Executives Certificate in Charity Administration; the Institute of Welfare Officers Certificate and Diploma in Welfare Studies; the Maritime and Coastguard Agency Fishing Vessel Deck Officer Class 2; National Proficiency Tests Council course in farm maintenance; the Basic Certificate in British sign language; Units in Desk-top Publishing, History of Theatre, Study Skills and Choral Singing; Photography; Certificate in Food Safety; Developing Childminding Practice; and Basic Expedition Leader Award.

As I said, that is no more than an illustrative list. But not only would any restriction of that list have an adverse effect on existing learners and their employers, it would negate the whole effect of abolishing the current divide between approved and non-approved learning embodied in Schedule 2. The purpose of abolishing that distinction was understood to be to open up a much wider range of learning opportunities than currently exist and in doing so to enrich and deepen the learning culture. If the Government intend to continue with an approach which seeks to draw a distinction between approved and non-approved types of learning, at what point do they draw the line between courses and qualifications, between those which lead to certification and those which do not? Or do they have some other definition in mind? It would be helpful to know what that is.

Again we come back to local flexibility--reading the local skills and needs market--and actually providing those courses that not only lead to approved qualifications, but also enhance the learning experience of many people in the local area, which, as I understand it, is one of the aims of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I am grateful to both noble Baronesses for tabling what are essentially probing amendments. I very much hope that what I am able to say will provide them with the necessary reassurance. The social exclusion agenda is extremely important to the Government and we have every intention of pursuing it with not just commitment but passionate commitment. That includes courses like basic skills for adults. I entirely accept that there is a need for some local flexibility. We shall expect the local learning and skills councils to look at the needs of the local labour market and respond to it.

The amendments are not necessary. In giving the reason, perhaps I may begin with the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Clause 85 applies only to those courses that lead to external qualifications; that is, qualifications which are awarded or accredited by an outside body. It does not apply to courses which do not lead to external qualifications, even if they are accredited in some other way, as is the case, for example, with the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. Such provision, of course, forms an essential part of the curriculum and there is absolutely no intention to preclude it from funding. Since the approval mechanism set out in Clauses 85 to 91 will not apply, it will simply be for the department and the LSC, for the National Assembly and the CETW, to make decisions about funding for this kind of activity. We very much welcome the work that is done under this provision.

Turning to Amendments Nos. 202B and 202C, I should start by saying that I believe that the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Blatch, may have slightly misunderstood our intentions. That is understandable; I think I should have done the same given the technicality of the clauses. Let me repeat my earlier reassurance. Clause 86 does not apply to, and therefore does not affect, the availability of public funding for learning provision other than external qualifications. It does not apply to the costs of providing courses. And it does not apply to the costs of non-external qualifications--that is, those that are less formally certificated. Decisions about the funding of this kind of provision will be determined by the LSC and CETW, together with my department and the National Assembly respectively. I hope that that reassurance is helpful.

For adult learners, we want to ensure that payments made from public funds to awarding bodies for the costs associated with taking an external qualification provide a sound investment for the future. We therefore believe that such payments, whether or not they meet the full cost of the fees, should be made only in relation to external qualifications which have met robust approval criteria. Again, that is a matter of ensuring that the qualifications are worthwhile and worthy, so that students are not misled and are not taking qualifications which have not met those approval criteria. While QCA accreditation is a valuable and straightforward mark of quality, approval will reflect the appropriateness of the qualification for attracting public funding.

Although the funding framework is still being determined through consultation, it is clear that for most working adults, 100 per cent public funding will not be available in most cases. That has always been the case. There is an expectation that adult learners will contribute to the cost of their courses in further education. It will be important that public funding bodies such as the LSC, CETW and LEAs exercise control to ensure that any funds which are used for payment of fees to awarding bodies are used only in respect of approved external qualifications.

I hope that that reassurance is adequate and that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 11:30 pm, 15th February 2000

I am grateful to the Minister for her reassurances on these issues. In the light of her remarks, and now that they are on the record, I am glad to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 85 agreed to.

Clause 86 [Persons over 19]:

[Amendment No. 202B not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 202C:

Page 37, line 39, at end insert--

("( ) The requirement in subsection (2) above shall not apply to any programme of study leading to a certificate or other award which does not constitute a qualification.").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I beg to move Amendment No. 202C. Before I decide whether to withdraw the amendment, perhaps I may clarify two matters. First, I was unsure whether the Minister suggested that the points I sought to make were in the wrong place. The noble Baroness appeared to suggest that Clause 86 was not the appropriate place. Therefore, is it simply a matter of these points being attached to the wrong clause, or are they dealt with more appropriately elsewhere in the Bill?

Secondly, currently 60 per cent of the courses studied by adults in further education colleges stand outside the national qualifications framework; that is, courses accredited by QCA. Does it mean that that will not be the case in future and unless they are approved by the Secretary of State they will not qualify even for partial funding?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I did not intend to imply that the amendment moved by the noble Baroness was not in the right place. If I gave that impression I apologise. In answer to her question, "qualification" is defined in the legislation in the context of an external qualification. The term "qualification" has not been defined because it is difficult to sum up what it is in a few words. At its simplest, it is a report, certificate or other record specifying the attainment of the holder and intended to be used as evidence of that attainment. But that says nothing about what has actually been attained. A qualification could also be described as a recognition that a required standard of knowledge, skill, aptitude or capability has been demonstrated, but that says nothing about the conditions, systems and processes surrounding the demonstration of attainment and the assessment of moderation; for instance, pre-determined criteria to measure attainment to the appropriate level and to ensure that there is objective measurement to assure performance standards at the time and over time. All these things matter. Therefore, we shall continue to leave the term undefined in legislation and instead rely on the quality assurance measures taken by the QCA for accreditation to determine the nature of qualifications. I thought that I should add that, although I am not sure that it directly addresses the questions that the noble Baroness puts.

Under the existing arrangements the Secretary of State must approve qualifications of the kind that the noble Baroness listed. Although we are now abolishing the difference between vocational and non-vocational qualifications, from the point of view of the funding regime it will be necessary for approval to be given. I reassure the noble Baroness that there is no intention that courses of this kind will not continue to be funded; they will be.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I do not know whether it is due to the lateness of the hour or that we are so far through the Bill that I have become muddled by the Minister's response. Sixty per cent of the courses stand outside the framework and are accredited by QCA. I am not sure whether that system is to be replaced and courses will come within a framework whereby they must all be approved by the Secretary of State. I know that it is the intention of the Government that there should not be any less education going on out there and that all the courses that people want to do, and which meet the skills need of local people, should be provided. While I am aware of the aspiration, I am concerned about what it means in practice. Which of these courses is likely to be vulnerable under the new system?

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment

I can give the noble Baroness the assurance that the courses will not be vulnerable under the new system. They will not be subject to approval and they can otherwise fall within the scope of funding by the LSC. Therefore, Clause 86 does not apply to them and they can continue to be funded by the LSC.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 203:

Page 38, line 15, at end insert--

("( ) Payment may also be made for the Open College Network course activity other than that leading to external qualifications in respect of--

(a) devising, administering, verifying or certifying the qualification;

(b) setting or moderating examinations for the purposes of qualifications;

(c) registering, assessing or examining candidates.").

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

This amendment is designed to extract from the Government an indication as to whether the workings of the national Open College Network courses are safe under the provisions of the Bill. Having listened to the Minister, I think that the answer is "yes". If the noble Baroness will confirm that, I shall happily withdraw the amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn

Clause 86 agreed to.

Clauses 87 to 92 agreed to.

Clause 93 [Qualifying accounts]:

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

moved Amendment No. 204:

Page 40, line 32, at beginning insert--

("( ) In its application to Wales this section is to have effect as if references to the Secretary of State were to the National Assembly.").

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 206, 208, 213, 219, 227, and 229 to 233.

Members of the Committee will have noted that Clause 94, which empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations authorising grants to individuals, applies to Wales. Subsection (7) enables that. A similar subsection at the end of Clause 110 deals with assessments relating to people with learning difficulties, but a raft of clauses around those two apply to England only. I am, frankly, mystified. In order to gain clarification, I have applied the enabling subsection to probe why those clauses do not apply to Wales.

Clause 93 relates to qualifying accounts held by an individual or an institution, and the conditions attached to such holdings which may be specified by the Secretary of State in regulations. Why cannot the National Assembly make such regulations in Wales? If it is necessary to empower the Secretary of State by primary legislation on the face of the Bill, why is it not necessary to empower the National Assembly similarly by primary legislation? Are the Government applying a different interpretation to primary legislation in England from in Wales? In other words, are the Government saying that what requires primary legislation in England does not require primary legislation in Wales; and that the same legislative requirement can be achieved by secondary legislation in Wales? If so, the definition of primary and secondary legislation, and the scope, need to be looked at afresh by legal and constitutional experts.

What I have said about Amendment No. 204 to Clause 93 applies to Amendment No. 206 to Clause 96. That clause enables the Secretary of State by order to establish a further education corporation. It does not apply to Wales. My amendment seeks to empower the National Assembly to take over the Secretary of State's powers should the need arise. We may not currently foresee such a need, but who can say that it will not arise in future?

The absence of a Welsh application of this clause contrasts with the clear application of Clause 98 and the rigours of Schedule 7 to Wales. I conclude that the prospect of the closure of sixth forms up and down the land is more imminent than the likelihood of establishing new further education corporations. I doubt whether the educational world has yet woken up to that.

Clause 97, about the designation of FE institutions for funding purposes, is not applicable to Wales. My Amendment No. 208 seeks to make the provision apply. Again, I should like a comment from the Minister.

Clauses 99, 100, 102, 103 and 108 come under the heading of support for 13 to 19 year-olds. None of those clauses applies to Wales. I have sought to amend each to enable them to be so applicable. They are important clauses relating to the provision of services to encourage, enable or assist effective participation by young people in education or training. Are these services not to be provided through the National Assembly for Wales?

Clause 100 provides for consultation with the authorities listed. Is such consultation not required by the National Assembly for Wales? What is the position of the local education authorities empowered in Clause 101? Welsh local authorities cannot take advantage of this clause because it refers back to Clause 99, which refers to England only. Clause 102, which I have also sought to apply to Wales, also refers back to the introductory Clause 99, so that educational institutions in Wales will not be obliged to provide information as the clause requires. My Amendment No. 227 seeks to deal with that situation.

I do not believe that it is the Government's intention to exclude young people and authorities in Wales from these arrangements; neither can it be right to leave matters to the Assembly and to let the Assembly duplicate these clauses in secondary legislation. That would be wasteful in time and effort. There are clear-cut issues here which involve people's rights. They are being resolved for England but not for Wales. I therefore submit that the Bill is totally inadequate as far as Wales is concerned.

Clause 103 deals with the inspection of services provided under Clause 99. I am again seeking to make it applicable to Wales. In doing so, I am, of course, showing the huge gaps in the Bill as far as proper legislative provision for Welsh needs is concerned. I find it difficult to understand the Government's thinking in this area. Are they deliberately encouraging differences to develop between the arrangements in England and in Wales or simply trusting that Wales will follow England's lead? Whatever the real explanation, I believe that they have got it wrong. They should look at the whole issue again before this Bill leaves Parliament.

I speak to my Amendments Nos. 232 and 233 to Clause 108. At the risk of being accused of tedious repetition, I reiterate that there should be a subsection to Clause 108 to ensure that careers services in Wales can be inspected as they will be in England. I believe that that covers the totality of the arrangements. I should certainly appreciate a comment from the Minister. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat 11:45 pm, 15th February 2000

I have listened with interest to the points that have been rightly made by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy. On each of these points, I await an explanation as to whether there is no intention to create primary legislation on these aspects for Welsh matters.

I make the point which I have made before, and which I shall continue to make, in relation to the subsection to which the noble Lord referred; namely, subsection (5) of Clause 110, which says:

"In its application to Wales this section is to have effect as if references to the Secretary of State were to the National Assembly".

That is highly unsatisfactory. My belief is that it is wrong to try to reinterpret a clause by inserting the words "National Assembly". Subsection (1), for example, would read:

"Subsection (2) applies if ... (b) the [National Assembly] believes that the person will leave school at the end of his last year of compulsory schooling".

It is a difficult enough concept that the Secretary of State should have a belief, but for the whole of the National Assembly to have a specific belief is an extremely difficult concept. I believe that the drafting of that clause, whatever may or may not be the merits of the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Conwy, should be looked at again.

Photo of Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton Government Whip

Clause 93 sets out the conditions that will allow an account to qualify as an individual learning account. Broadly speaking, it is concerned with financial services-type matters. It has been a principle of the devolution settlements with both Scotland and Wales that financial services and similar matters have not been devolved. In the case of Scotland, such matters are reserved under the Scotland Act. In the case of Wales, no powers to make regulations in this field have been transferred to the Welsh Assembly. This means that the Bill should not confer these regulation-making powers directly on to the Welsh Assembly.

Of course, this in no way means that in the future and in the light of any changes to the devolution settlement an order could not be made under the Government of Wales Act transferring these regulation-making powers to the National Assembly. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will not press his Amendment No. 204.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 206 and 208. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, rightly draws our attention to the importance of ensuring that where powers under any Act have been transferred to the National Assembly for Wales, the power will remain transferred if the Act is amended. As always, the Committee benefits from his expert and close reading of the Bill. I hope that he will agree that this is a complex matter to resolve, especially in the very first year after devolution took place.

I can also assure him that we will bring forward an amendment in due course which will broadly secure that where the Bill makes an amendment to any provision under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which confers a power on the Secretary of State, the power will continue to be exercisable by the National Assembly in respect of Wales. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not feel the need to press these amendments at this time.

I turn finally to the group of eight amendments dealing with youth provisions which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, treats in a similar way. Once again, I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to clarify the position with respect to youth provisions in Wales. The National Assembly intends to secure services to support young people, tailored to the particular circumstances in Wales, but is still finalising its proposals. As soon as the National Assembly has completed its work, we shall be introducing amendments in due course. I am pleased to be able to assure both noble Lords that, in line with the reference made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to local flexibility in the case of Wales and the Assembly, we are seeking to work carefully to ensure that the appropriate arrangements are made.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, asked about Clause 110(5). It applies all of Clause 110 to Wales. I do not know whether that answers his question with clarity, but I fear that I cannot go further tonight. If it has not, I shall be only too happy to write to him.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and I am delighted to understand that an amendment will be tabled in respect of my Amendments Nos. 206 and 208. With regard to youth provision, I am bound to repeat that I believe that the National Assembly should have completed its deliberations on all aspects of the Bill before it came to Parliament. We are well aware of the fact that when we had the Second Reading the National Assembly's plenary session on the policy behind the Bill had not taken place. The Minister has been honest enough to tell us that the Assembly still has not completed its work on the youth provisions, but that when it does an amendment will be presented. Once again, I believe that the lesson is very clear. It must go out from here that if the National Assembly requires legislation of us in Parliament, then we must surely be able to consider its views in advance of Committee stage.

Photo of Lord Thomas of Gresford Lord Thomas of Gresford Liberal Democrat

Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, may I endorse everything that he said. It seems to me that we have to get the machinery right. It is extremely difficult for those of us who are seeking to deal with Welsh affairs to have to consider amendments before the National Assembly has come to any conclusion. It is very difficult indeed, when one is trying to put primary legislation into place, not to have the views of the National Assembly first. I hope that the Minister will convey to the Assembly our concern that it concludes its deliberations before the matter is brought before this House.

Photo of Lord Roberts of Conwy Lord Roberts of Conwy Conservative

I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for his support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 93 agreed to.

Clause 94 [Holders of accounts: grants]:

Photo of Lord Boardman Lord Boardman Conservative

moved Amendment No. 205:

Page 42, line 4, leave out from ("by") to end of line 6 and insert ("the Council").

Photo of Lord Boardman Lord Boardman Conservative

I have not been an active participant in this Bill, but having read it and spent several hours sitting in Committee here, I have reached the conclusion that it is the most unfortunately drafted Bill I have come across in the 20 years I have been in this House. It is full of complexities and potential bureaucracy.

I turn to my own amendment to part of Clause 94. It is an example of the bureaucracy and the confusion that arises. The clause authorises or grants the Secretary of State authority to make grants. There is a list of regulations subject to conditions which must be fulfilled. There are further regulations which may be imposed and so forth.

I have tabled an amendment to subsection (5). That states,

"Conditions as to the kinds of education or training which qualify may include provision for the kinds to be specified--

(a) by the Secretary of State in a way he thinks fit"--

I make no complaint about that--

"or (b) if he so decides, by a person who (at the time of the specification) is designated by the Secretary of State and who specifies in a way the Secretary of State stipulates".

Here we have further delegation of responsibility. My amendment states that it can be expressed by the Secretary of State--fair enough--or, if he so decides, by the council. The council established by Clause 1 of the Bill has responsibility for setting out the type of training required and so forth. The Secretary of State, having accepted various regulations, some of them binding and some not, and their conditions, then goes on to say that it will eventually be decided by a person designated by him.

There is plenty of room for simplicity in the Bill, but on this matter it should be decided by the Secretary of State or, if he so decides, by the council. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 12:00 am, 15th February 2000

I rise to support my noble friend in his quest to introduce a little simplification. The Secretary of State is designated in many Bills as being primarily responsible for almost all actions. If every Secretary of State physically took on the jobs for which he was technically responsible, he simply would not be able to do the job he is properly there to do.

We all know that where the Secretary of State approves every post or plan and so forth, a row of mandarins are in place to do that job in his name. He is only technically the person to carry out the specific task, which will be done by others. First, will the Minister tell the Committee why, as in subsection (5)(a) the Secretary of State may specify "as he thinks fit" and so a great deal of latitude has been provided for, it is necessary in subsection (5)(b) to provide on the face of the Bill that,

"if he so decides, by a person who (at the time of the specification) is designated by the Secretary of State and who specifies in a way the Secretary of State stipulates"?

Secondly, will the Minister give examples to the Committee of the kind of person and the kinds of tasks which would be so delegated?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

We have admired the patience of the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, this evening. He has been sitting, silent as a lamb, waiting for his amendment. It is an important amendment and if I respond to it fairly briefly, I hope that the noble Lord will not take that as a discourtesy. I cannot speak for the 20 years of experience gained by the noble Lord, but I doubt whether the Bill before us is the worst example of drafting he has ever come across. Certainly this particular clause has been deliberately worded in this way. It is not a mistake, bureaucracy gone mad, or an error of drafting. This clause is meant to be so drafted and I shall take a few minutes to explain why.

The clause gives the Secretary of State the flexibility to delegate to any person the power to decide the types of learning that will attract the benefits of learning accounts. I should like to remind the noble Lord in passing that this clause and the preceding clause concern qualifying or learning accounts.

Learning accounts will continue to be developed to fit the needs of learners and changing priorities. The provisions have deliberately been framed to give the Secretary of State and the Government appropriate flexibility. Amendment No. 205 seeks to limit that flexibility. It would allow the Secretary of State to delegate only to the LSC his power to determine which learning should be eligible.

It may well be that the Secretary of State will delegate this power to the LSC and that the National Assembly will likewise delegate to the CETW. Clauses 10 and 38 of the Bill make express provision for the councils to be able to take on this role. But there may well be good reason in the future, and in the light of changing circumstances, to delegate this power to other bodies.

Again, I should like to repeat what was said in an earlier debate; the word "person" used here is a legal person--an institution rather than an individual. In this instance, the LSC is the likely "person" who will make such a decision. However, this is a major Bill that is due to last for a number of years. Learning provision is developing all the time in important and exciting ways. While the LSC will have a comprehensive remit for post-16 and some other learning, we hope that, as circumstances change, other agencies may be well placed to contribute to decisions on what learning should attract the benefits of individual learning accounts.

At the moment we do not anticipate any other bodies. It is not government policy to say that there will be other bodies. However, we are discussing a Bill which is due to last for five to 10 years and which addresses important matters such as individual learning accounts. For that reason, we do not want to constrain the Secretary of State's power to delegate this function. We believe that it would be unwise to make this primary legislation unnecessarily restrictive. The reason why this provision has been put into the clause is because it is meant to be there in order that, as this field develops over the next few years, the powers are flexible enough to ensure that individual learning accounts have a future.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Before my noble friend decides what he wishes to do about the amendment, perhaps I may make two points. First, since when has "person" been representative of a body or an organisation? It seems to me that a person is a person. There is only one connotation for "person". A body can be an organisation; an organisation can be another group of people or an institution. However, it seems to be a most extraordinary use of language to call the LSC "a person". I have no difficulty about that.

My second point concerns the rest of the sentence. Not only does it relate to an inanimate person who, at the time of the specification, is designated by the Secretary of State, but it is a person who specifies in a way that the Secretary of State stipulates. Therefore, not only must this person, body or inanimate object determine the task given to it by the Secretary of State, but it must do so in precisely the way that the Secretary of State stipulates.

The Secretary of State must make the decision and stipulate it, and the body must carry it out exactly according to the Secretary of State's bidding. Therefore, I do not see the point in devolving the task. If the Secretary of State is to devolve it, to do so to a person who is not a person seems to be extraordinary, and I believe that my noble friend makes a very good point.

The noble Lord seemed to make reference to the LSC and to the fact that, in the scheme of things, the council will almost certainly carry out this work. The council can do so only under this paragraph, exactly as the Secretary of State stipulates. The word is "stipulate" and that is a fairly specific word, unless "stipulate" has some other meaning. We almost need a lexicon to accompany the reading of this Bill. If that is the case, it could refer to the council or to any other body which the Secretary of State thinks fit.

Therefore, one could say that it is presupposed that the work will be devolved to the council. I would argue that the council should at least be left to exercise its own professional judgment as to what it should do. However, if it must do what the Secretary of State stipulates, and, as I say, it must be a person who is not a person, it seems to me that this really is gobbledegook of the first order.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

At this time of night I hesitate to rise. However, I must agree that, once again, we have an excessive use of words here, that it is gobbledegook and that, quite frankly, if Clause 94(5)(a) means what it says--that it shall be specified,

"by the Secretary of State in a way he thinks fit"-- it covers subsection (5)(b) and we can do away with that subsection completely.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

Faced with this unholy alliance at this hour of the night, I must stand firm and tell the noble Baroness something which I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, knows: that the word "person" can have that meaning in Acts of Parliament because of the Interpretation Act 1978. I hope that that deals with that point once and for all this evening.

The meaning of the phrase which I notice the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is quick, as it were, to jump on the passing bandwagon of--not a happily phrased sentence!--is specified,

"in a way the Secretary of State stipulates", is--and I suspect that Members of the Committee understand it--that the Secretary of State can lay down general rules which the designated body will follow in deciding what courses qualify. That is the meaning that it will have and it is the meaning which is now on the record. However, I now look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, whose amendment this is, wishes to do.

Photo of Lord Boardman Lord Boardman Conservative

I find the Minister's answer very worrying and quaint. First, under the Interpretation Act "persons" may include corporate bodies, and I believe that it does. However, in general drafting of legal documents normally one does not refer to persons in that particular form. Be that as it may, the purpose of including this subsection is quite meaningless because the person will do precisely what he is told to do by the Secretary of State in the form that he is told to do it. Therefore, the Secretary of State should do it in his own name. If we interpreted all the documents coming from the Secretary of State as being his own considered resolution, we should perhaps be confusing ourselves.

It is nonsense. The Secretary of State should keep the first part of that clause as it is, giving him the right to make his decision in that way and allocating any matters which he believes should be dealt with by the council to the council for it to deal with. The members of the council are the experts and the most appropriate people to deal with those matters. The field should not be widened in respect of some unspecified person or corporate body or whatever it may be to carry out functions exactly as he has defined them.

I am extremely unhappy about the wording and I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on it before we reach a later stage of the Bill. In the light of what he said and the answer that he has given, which I find extremely unsatisfactory, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 94 agreed to.

Clause 95 agreed to.

Clause 96 [Further education corporations]:

[Amendment No. 206 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 207:

Page 43, line 16, at end insert--

("( ) Before an order is made under subsection (3) above, the Council must publish a report detailing the effect of the establishment of the proposed institution on education and training provision in the area of the local council in which it is located, and in any adjacent areas which may be affected."").

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that should an LEA or other body make use of the powers granted to it under Clause 96(3) to open a new 16 to 19 institution in an area, that there should be wide consultation and consideration of the knock-on effect of its establishment on other educational facilities in that area.

In effect, the amendment is asking for an area educational impact assessment. Although there are statutory procedures for the publication of the proposals to establish a new 16-plus institution which oblige the LEA or the LSC to consider any representations made to them before submitting the proposal to the Secretary of State, they are not obliged to attach any particular weight to those representations, nor to give reasons for rejecting them. Thus, for example, they would be able to discount, if they so wished, representations about the impact which a new institution may have on existing providers, both other schools with sixth forms in the area and further education sector colleges.

While it would obviously be unreasonable for an existing provider to have a right of veto over a proposal to establish what might be a competitor institution, it is not unreasonable to request that the LSC, as the body with a statutory duty to secure proper and reasonable provision, should show publicly the effect of the proposed reorganisation on the existing pattern of education and training provision in the area affected. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

This is a sensible proposal. I have been accused twice, I think, of accusing the Government of having a hidden agenda. On this particular occasion, I think they have. The hidden agenda relates to the illicit establishment in Hammersmith and Fulham which exists as a sixth-form college in all but name. It was established illegally; it has been existing illegally; it is still not legal. It has been receiving funding from the department, which has turned a blind eye to it for a long time. It was going to be dealt with as we left office and that has still not been done. The only point behind the power in the Bill is to make that establishment legitimate. Otherwise, I could not see the Government handing over that power to local authorities. Nevertheless, they have done that.

When that establishment was set up in Hammersmith and Fulham, interestingly, it did have a knock-on effect on the local further education college and on other schools. It seems to me to be a common-sense proposal to have some form of consultation and understanding of what the knock-on effects will be when an establishment may have a very real impact on and may cause the demise of other establishments in the area. I support the amendment.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 12:15 am, 15th February 2000

Clause 96 is concerned not with the creation of LEA-maintained 16-19 institutions but with the transfer of such an institution to the FE sector. I emphasise straightaway that the Government expect such transfers to be rare. They will only take place with the consent of both the governing body of the institution and of the LEA which maintains it, as we believe subsection (2)(b) makes clear.

When establishing or incorporating an FE institution, there must be statutory consultation with a period for objections from any party. Such objections currently fall to the FEFC and will, from April 2001, fall to the LSC for consideration before the Secretary of State makes a final decision. The incorporation of an existing institution would have minimal or no impact on other local learning providers, since incorporation effects a change in the character of an institution and not a change in the learning opportunities it offers. We believe it would be excessively and unnecessarily bureaucratic to require the LSC to undertake the detailed analysis proposed by Amendment No. 207. The original establishment of the institution would have been subject to statutory proposals. Any decision by the school organisation committee or the schools adjudicator to take forward these proposals would have taken account of issues such as the need for places and the impact of the proposed new institution on schools and other post-16 providers in the area. Incorporation would not give rise to any new impact in that sense.

Furthermore, in preparing their annual plans, each local LSC will have to consider the learning needs of the local population and propose how it intends to carry out its functions in order that those needs be met. Its consideration of any proposals for the incorporation of an existing institution within its area would be reflected in its plans.

I hope that that answer gives some reassurance to the noble Baroness and that she will not press the amendment at this stage.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Before the noble Baroness returns to the matter, from the way in which the Minister responded, I understand that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, tabled an amendment in the wrong place. She spoke to the establishment of a sixth form centre or college. I supported the noble Baroness along those lines and spoke specifically to the establishment of a sixth form. I understand the original mistake, which the noble Lord rightly pointed out. However, he then proceeded to reply on the basis of what was understood to have been the amendment in the first place, not to the amendment spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, or myself.

As I understand it, the idea behind the amendment spoken to by the noble Baroness was the power to establish a sixth form centre. Wherever such power lies within the Bill, this amendment should apply. It would be helpful if the noble Lord could at least respond to the particular point made rather than to the amendment which was tabled in the wrong place.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I am not attempting to stand on a legal nicety. However, with the greatest respect, it is important that amendments are tabled in the right place. I can only assume, if they are tabled under Clause 96, that that is where they are meant to be. If I have missed the point here--looking at the clock I see what time of the morning it now is--it may be that the noble Baroness will have the opportunity to table the amendment in the appropriate place for discussion on Thursday; I know not. That is a matter for her. However, I have said all I want to say about the amendment where it stands in the Bill at present.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the Minister. I confess that I had read this clause as giving provision to establish a new sixth form centre of some sort. From what he says it clearly does not. Given the time of morning, perhaps the sensible course would be for us to read and study what he has said, consider the matter again and possibly bring the amendment back at Report stage. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 96 agreed to.

Clause 97 [Further education institutions: designation]:

[Amendment No. 208 not moved.]

Clause 97 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-one minutes past midnight.