Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]

– in the House of Lords at 3:25 pm on 17th February 2000.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment 3:25 pm, 17th February 2000

My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 98 [Inadequate sixth-forms]:

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 209:

Page 43, line 34, leave out ("(inadequate sixth-forms)") and insert ("(sixth-form centres)").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

My Lords, in moving the amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 210.

The amendments that I have tabled will almost inevitably necessitate further consequential amendments, but I prefer to leave it to the Government, with the help of parliamentary counsel, to resolve how that may be best accommodated. I have tabled the amendments because many outside the Committee and certainly a number of Members of the Committee believe that the Bill as set out constitutes a threat to the future of sixth forms.

The Bill will change the way in which school sixth forms are funded, but it will also give the local skills council significant new powers over them, which is where a great deal of uncertainty begins. At present, funding for school sixth forms is distributed via LEAs' individual formulae for their secondary schools. Under the new system, the local skills council will make grants to local education authorities for sixth-form provision, which they in turn will distribute to schools as part of their local schools' budget. The question arises as to the formula that the local skills council will use in distributing funds to the local education authorities. Of course, there may be winners and losers, not least because different LEAs currently have different funding priorities, directing either more or less money to school sixth-form provision than is suggested by their standard spending assessment.

The National Association of Head Teachers of course supports the changes in funding mechanisms, but on the important proviso that they will deliver enhanced resources for sixth forms to support them in delivering the wider post-2000 curriculum for 16 to 19 year-olds. The detail of how the funding system will work is of crucial importance to the sixth forms themselves. It needs to be teased out from the Government as soon as possible. The local skills council is also being given the power to develop schemes for the assessment of the performance of those providing post-16 education and training and, crucially, it will be able to base its funding decisions on those assessments. It may also attach conditions to grants. Therefore, the Bill seems to allow the LSC to determine how much money individual sixth forms may receive; indeed, whether they will receive any money at all.

There are also questions about whether a local learning and skills council could look at sixth forms in its area, make value for money judgments and determine what is taught and where, such as rationalising the teaching of minority subjects at the expense of parental and pupil choice. Both situations would be unacceptable. The National Association of Head Teachers has expressed its concern on this point.

This form of intervention is unwelcome. Not only will the LSC have wide-ranging powers to intervene, but both LEAs and the Secretary of State will retain their respective powers of intervention as well. School sixth forms will have to be mindful of yet another line manager, in addition to remaining focused on what they should be concerned about--that is, standards in the classroom.

One of the greatest threats to school sixth forms rests in Schedule 7, where the local skills council's powers to propose the closure of inadequate sixth forms are spelt out. A sixth form is considered inadequate if it is failing or likely to fail to give an acceptable standard of education or if it has a significant weakness in one or more areas. In a rural primary school, only a small number of students may be taking a subject. Is that determined to be a weakness? Do we know quite what will constitute a weakness?

Unlike under the School Standards and Framework Act in relation to schools, no procedures are set out to tackle problems and help turn the sixth forms around. Instead, if two inspection reports identify the sixth form as being inadequate, proposals for closure can go forward. It is important to note that not only may the inspections be carried out by persons other than Ofsted inspectors, but there is also no minimum period between inspections. That would give sixth forms no guaranteed timeframe within which to turn problems around. It goes even further. The Bill allows the first report to be counted retrospectively.

With the local skills council having such wide-ranging powers over 16 to 19 provision, it is important that sixth forms have representation on the national and local councils and are consulted properly on any changes to provision, particularly as they account for at least one-sixth of the £6 billion--or £5 billion, depending on which Minister one listens to--which is to be the LSC budget. The Bill raises so many issues that will need careful examination. Those include the powers for local education authorities to create new 16 to 19 maintained schools, which again will have an impact. Indeed, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, introduced an amendment on the previous day in Committee about the creation of new schools impacting on existing provision in an area.

Despite attempts to assure those who are concerned about sixth forms, they face an uncertain future under the Bill. Their demise would be a great loss to many pupils. It would much reduce their choice of the type of educational establishment they wish to attend. These uncertainties are greatest in the rural areas of this country. In such areas it would be quite easy to exercise a subjective judgment that there was a weakness simply because in a rural secondary school one gets considerable fluctuations from year to another. Indeed, many schools are very innovative in how they work co-operatively together or with their local FE colleges to overcome some of the difficulties. In A-level classes in many rural schools both first and second year sixth-form studies will be taught. Such schools will resort to all kinds of innovations. But the power is there to make a subjective judgment that that constitutes a weakness and thereby could trigger the closure proposals. The Minister shakes her head, but it is important not just to give verbal assurances but to put something on the face of the Bill to give some assurance to those schools that that kind of judgment not only will not be made but cannot be made. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Boston of Faversham Lord Boston of Faversham Crossbench

As Amendment No. 110 is also being spoken to, I must point out to the Committee that if that amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 210A to 210E inclusive.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 3:30 pm, 17th February 2000

Before we add to the weight attributed to the results of Ofsted inspections, we should take a short pause to consider whether the judgments of Ofsted are of sufficient quality and reliability to allow that to be a sensible course to take. I admire and approve of many of the things Ofsted has done. I think that it was one of our fine creations when in office. But one of the things I least admire about Ofsted is that it has not submitted itself to any form of research or evaluation. There has been no research into the validity of its inspection system; there has been no comparison of pre-announced and surprise visits; there have been no studies of how long inspectors need to spend in schools to achieve a reliable judgment; and no comparisons of results. In fact, there was one tiny study, using inadequate research criteria, of whether different inspectors inspecting the same school and the same lessons come to the same conclusion or whether there is too much variation between the conclusions that different inspectors reach about individual teachers. There has been no comparison between the results of inspection and independent evidence of how well a school is doing, such as value added data.

It is not right for an organisation such as Ofsted to stand out against a proper evaluation of how good its judgments are, particularly when they are to be put to the use which we are considering in this part of the Bill. It should be a research oriented, research-based and respectful-of-research organisation. It is not. I hope that the Government will set their mind to changing that approach.

We also need to consider the difference in style between Ofsted and the FEFC. The FEFC has run what might be called a professional audit style of inspection. It has worked with the organisations it has inspected. In the judgments it has made it has carried with it not only the organisation but the individual teachers through feed-back from individual inspectors and from the teams of inspectors working in a school. Ofsted has maintained throughout a purity of stance which has made it difficult to live with in a school. It has refused to provide or even contemplate providing advice to a school on what it should do or to work with the school, let alone individual teachers, in order to provide feed-back on inspectors' views on individual lessons, on the school or on how the school might work to improve itself.

I understand the purity with which the Chief Inspector of Schools approaches this matter. But when one is coming down to a delicate decision about whether a school should have a sixth form or whether it is inadequate in relation to the local demands of its customers, one needs a much more participatory style of inspection in order to arrive at an answer which will be seen as valid by the people who at the end of the day will be subject to the results of that inspection. There is a great deal to be done by Ofsted in moving towards the old FEFC model of inspection if its verdicts are to be accepted as well-based, well-founded and in tune with what is required by the local people. Beyond anything else, if we are to have Ofsted involved in this kind of decision, it must operate in a much more transparent and open mode than it has heretofore. It must be possible for people to understand what its judgments have been and why its judgments have been and to criticise intelligently the judgments it has arrived at.

At the moment, Ofsted is a closed organisation. It is sometimes hard to understand how it has reached its judgments. That must change. Until those things have been changed, we should be cautious about expanding its powers in the way envisaged in this part of the Bill.

Photo of Baroness Warnock Baroness Warnock Crossbench

I should like to say a few words in support of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. Not enough thought has gone into the concept of inadequacy in a sixth form. Provision, particularly in rural schools, may be exceedingly good but not cover all possible ranges that are now open to people of 16-plus. It should be made known on the face of the Bill what the criteria for inadequacy are to be: whether they are a matter of poor provision, bad teaching, and all the things that point to proof of inadequacy, or whether the question of breadth of provision will also be taken into account in judging whether a school is inadequate. Given the huge range of options which are properly spelled out in the Bill as being open, with luck, to people of 16 onwards, there is a very limited number of institutions that can feasibly provide all of those options. Questions of transport between different schools and colleges of further education will become enormously important. The business of timetabling a student's whole programme seems a schoolmistress's nightmare.

Apart from that, it is totally unclear from the Bill as it stands what criteria will be used. A new Sword of Damocles is hanging over schools. They will not be clear from reading the Bill what it is their duty to provide. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment 3:45 pm, 17th February 2000

I should like to consider Amendments Nos. 209 and 210 together. No one, I hope, doubts the Government's commitment to investing in high-quality school education. We have increased funding and ensured that more of is it passed on to schools to spend on improving pupil performance. We have also increased the rigour with which poor standards are tackled in following up inspection reports.

The Bill demonstrates our commitment to ensuring that the learning opportunities available to all students aged 16 to 19 are of similarly high quality. That is why we have in the Bill established a level playing field in inspections, with Ofsted looking across the piece at 16 to 19 provision in schools and colleges and applying similar standards. It would be quite wrong to apply different standards in one sector from the other--to suggest that a student choosing a school rather than a college at age 16, or vice versa, was thereby opting for a sector where the standards applied were different and possibly less rigorous. But that would be the precise effect of the noble Baroness's amendments. They seem to be driven by an attachment to sixth forms which is perhaps a little blind to the need to take action to address poor standards.

Having secured a level playing field in inspection, we need to ensure that it is followed up with equal rigour in both sectors. If any provider of post-16 education fails to provide the standards which students deserve, it must make the necessary improvements without delay, or face the possible consequences. The Bill secures exactly that for further education colleges, in respect of which the LSC and CETW will have significant powers to intervene where necessary. The councils must have parallel powers in respect of inadequate sixth forms.

Schools providing high-quality education for their sixth formers have nothing to fear from the proposals in Schedule 7, under which the LSC and CETW would have powers to propose the closure of inadequate sixth forms. I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock, that that is defined in Schedule 7--after two successive reports to that effect.

These powers are part of our strategy for ensuring high quality throughout post-16 learning, as was outlined in the White Paper. They are consistent with the principle that intervention should be in inverse proportion to success. Where any provider fails to meet the necessary standards of quality, firm action will be needed. In the first instance, it will be for providers to take that action, so as to secure the necessary improvements within a reasonable time. In the case of schools, that action will involve the governing body and the LEA. But where their response is inadequate, we shall look to the LSC and CETW to propose remedial action.

I must stress that the powers in relation to school sixth forms are a fallback to operate where the local education authority and the school governors have not managed to sort out persistent failure. I am confident that in most cases they will do so, as they currently do under the arrangements that this Government have developed for schools in special measures and introduced for schools with serious weaknesses. Those arrangements are working well: during 1999, the number of schools in special measures fell, as did the average length of time that schools spent before coming out of special measures. We expect similar success in turning round inadequate sixth forms, thus ensuring that all students get a fair deal. Inspection reports will be clearer about inadequacy in sixth forms, and so the school and local authority will have a more focused agenda for action than has been the case up to now. Improvements must be secured quickly.

But we have to recognise the possibility that, in a particular case, for whatever reason, the governing body and LEA may not succeed. The powers to which Clause 98 and Schedule 7 give effect are powers of last resort in those circumstances. In that respect, they are consistent with the Secretary of State's and the National Assembly's existing power to direct the closure of a school in special measures.

No school should allow standards in its sixth form to fall to a level which results in an adverse inspection report. But, if that happens, the school will have the opportunity (with support from the LEA and, if appropriate, the diocesan body) to make the necessary improvements, as will be secured by government amendments that we shall discuss later.

Only where a second consecutive adverse inspection report is made about a sixth form will the LSC's or CETW's powers to propose closure be triggered. We shall ensure that schools and LEAs have a reasonable time to make the necessary improvements before re-inspection. I hope that that is helpful to Members of the Committee who have taken part in this short debate. That will generally be around two years, as it is for schools with serious weaknesses. If schools have failed after that time to do what is needed to provide their students with the standard of education that they need and deserve, the situation cannot be allowed to continue.

The powers which are then triggered are not of summary closure. The power is for the LSC to publish proposals which will be subject to the usual statutory decision-making process by the school organisation committee and the schools adjudicator. Proposals published by the CETW will be subject to the usual procedure for approval by the National Assembly. That means that the LSC and CETW would need to consult widely before deciding to publish proposals; that there would be an opportunity for objections to be made; and that the decision-makers would consider all the relevant arguments and evidence before deciding whether to approve the proposals. The school organisation committee contains all the main partners in the provision of school education, including post-16 education--LEA, diocesan authorities, governing body representatives and, in the future, the LSC.

So I do not accept the noble Baroness's suggestion that school sixth forms must be directly represented on the local LSCs. If the committee fails to agree on a proposal, the final decision is made by the adjudicator, who will be looking to ensure that local needs and wishes are given full weight, alongside quality judgments. The parallel arrangements in Wales provide equal safeguards before the National Assembly could make a decision.

These provisions are not a threat to sixth forms in general, or to small sixth forms in particular. I want to give the noble Baroness that reassurance. She mentioned rural sixth forms and was supported by the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock. But there is no wish in any way to be punitive about arrangements such as a doubling-up of teaching to first-year and second-year sixth forms in rural schools. Indeed, the Government would certainly want to encourage that kind of initiative and are saying that that might happen in some other schools in urban areas where groups are very small in minority subjects. So that is the last thing that we should want to do.

The issue is this: if students are achieving the standards of which they are capable, there should be no question of Ofsted deeming a sixth form to be failing or seriously weak for such reasons, or even for value-for-money considerations, which may have been behind the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Warnock.

These judgments can be triggered only where students are achieving significantly below comparable standards elsewhere. In such cases, we should be doing the students no favours by protecting such provision. These arrangements are not in any way about limiting choice between what are equally good alternatives, but are part of a crusade for high quality across the 16 to 19 spectrum, for which I would have hoped and expected enthusiastic support from Members of the Committee all around the Chamber.

Regrettably, not all sixth forms are of high quality. A-level students at about 10 per cent of maintained schools achieve an average points score of less than 10 compared with 19.3 in school sixth forms overall. The students who attend that minority of sixth forms are not getting the opportunity that they deserve at a key moment in their education and, as a result, their ability to move on to further study or employment may well be seriously compromised.

The provisions in the Bill which allow proposals to be brought forward in the case of persistent failure are already surrounded by the safeguards that I have mentioned. They ensure that schools have a real chance to make improvements before any new intervention powers apply, and that proposals which are made by the LSC or CETW are subject to full and open decision-making processes of the kind to which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred. But the need to safeguard the interests of schools must be balanced against the need to safeguard the interests of students by ensuring that all 16 to 19 education is of high quality. Paragraphs 1 to 5 of Schedule 7 are needed to provide the same safeguard for students in sixth forms as those in other types of post-16 provision.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about the formula for the distribution of funds to sixth forms. We are consulting on the technical details. We shall consult schools, LEAs and others on exactly how the funding process will operate. The National Association of Head Teachers is among those to be consulted. Indeed, the association has already been consulted on earlier stages of the whole process and welcomes the suggestion that the LSC should be involved in distributing funds to sixth forms.

It is not the case that the Bill allows the LSC to determine how much money individual sixth forms may receive. That will be a matter for the LEA. The LSC will not fund individual schools directly. We shall provide funds to the LEAs and are working with them to determine over the coming months the most sensible way to distribute funding from the authorities to the sixth forms.

The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, questioned whether Ofsted was the right organisation to do the job and asked a variety of questions about its performance. Her Majesty's Chief Inspector has direct responsibility under legislation for managing a high quality inspection system and answers to the Select Committees of Parliament for that function. I have confidence in Ofsted. There is wide agreement that so far the process has had a significant impact on standards. Ofsted and Her Majesty's Chief Inspector are committed to continuing improvement in quality, and I am sure that they would be interested in any suggestions by the noble Lord about further research that might be done to evaluate and monitor performance.

I hope that I have managed to respond to all the issues that have been raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and I do not always agree, but I think that she shares with me a passion for maintaining and improving standards in sixth forms. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness will not press her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am afraid that I do not agree with the noble Baroness. The Minister's answer was disappointing. The noble Baroness began by referring to the increased funding that had gone into schools. That is simply not true. The £3.3 billion this year and the £3 billion-odd in the following two years is subject to unprecedented deductions at national level. Not all of that money finds its way into schools. As a result of the way in which money is allocated by the department, the core funding for schools is simply not getting down to the classrooms. Governing bodies up and down the land, including my own local authority, are bemused as to where this large amount of extra money is in the system. To take just one case, the need to meet this year's teacher pay awards causes great angst among many local education authorities. The schools are very concerned that even if, as the Secretary of State suggests, the money that is deemed to be passported down reaches the schools, the money takes no account of those LEAs which are spending at, above or even below their SSAs. Therefore, schools will be at the receiving end of budgets that leave staffing provision wanting, and that impacts on their ability to sustain sixth form education.

I turn to the point that the noble Baroness made about the need to avoid different standards for different sectors across sixth-form provision. There are different standards between sectors. While no one wants a different standard of education, everyone wants standards of educational quality to be raised. The truth is that the sectors are different one from the other. As for schools, rural schools are very different from urban ones. It will be necessary to look differently at rural schools and to take different views about what does and does not constitute a weakness in terms of numbers. It is also important to make a distinction between judgments that are made purely on the criterion of value for money as opposed to educational quality. For example, can we have an assurance that if value for money is the criterion it will never stand alone or aside from the importance of the quality of education? If whoever makes the judgment is of the view that a sixth form is simply uneconomic, however well it is doing, and that comparable education can be provided at a sixth form centre or FE college, that will be justifiable grounds for closing it. Schedule 7 does not properly define "inadequate" or "weakness". Those matters are left to the subjective judgment of those who decide. What is the interpretation of "inadequate" and/or "weakness"?

The noble Baroness was confident that it would be all right on the night. My amendment is not about that but about having something firm in statute: either to leave the inspection arrangements and the procedures for closing inadequate schools as they are or to give greater force to some of the assurances to which the Minister has referred.

Parents choose sixth forms of their own volition. Their daughters and sons are beyond compulsory school age. Their choice needs to be given some credence in terms of whether they believe the school is performing well. The noble Baroness also said that reasonable time would be given, and the Minister even referred to the possibility of a two-year period. There is nothing in the Bill which says that. If schools are to be given that opportunity, why not spell out the procedure for that and provide a timescale which allows a sixth form to address some of the critical comments in a report?

As for my next point, I anticipate some glimmer of support from Members of the Committee on the Liberal Democrat Benches. We have never supported organisational committees and the power of the adjudicator. They second guess local authorities and do the dirty work for the Secretary of State so that he has clean hands in relation to any decision to close a school and/or sixth form. I was given assurances by the Minister in writing that organisational committees would not be able to remove a sixth form from a school, but there is now a mechanism in the Bill which allows that to happen. We were told that that would not be the case.

The Minister also said that sixth forms should be represented on the organisation committees. That is not necessarily so. There will be heads of schools on the organisation committees; schools will be represented. No provision states that schools for 11 to 16 and 11 to 18 year-olds must be represented. Sixth forms in schools are not there as an entity in themselves. Nothing in the School Standards and Framework Act states that.

Further education is represented. As we all know, the FE element has looked hungrily for a long time at school sixth forms. It is always possible that it comes with a pre-conceived view that if there were no sixth forms in an area it would benefit as a result and would, therefore, have a vested interest in taking a negative view about the future existence of a sixth form.

Will some of the assurances given in good faith by the Minister be forthcoming in amendments to the Bill from the Government to assuage some of the concerns held by those of us concerned about the future of sixth forms as part of the tapestry of post-16 education?

Money will be top sliced at national level, fed through the national skills council, cascaded down through the local schools councils, given to the LEAs, and then to the schools. First, there is real concern about that administratively circuitous route. Secondly, we are legislating for change, and the detail comes later. Once we have legislated, it is a matter of how the system will work rather than whether the schools will take a different view of the system when they know the formula. The schools and the National Association of Head Teachers are in a difficulty. Until they know what will happen, they have given a temporary welcome to the changes with provisos. Those provisos cannot be delivered while the Bill is going through Parliament.

Finally, the Minister referred to funding being a matter for the LEA. That may be so, but it is dependent on the quantum of money that comes down from the Secretary of State through the local councils and then to the LEAs. As I understand the funding document, it will be money for post-16 provision in an LEA area; there will be other calls on that money apart from funding the sixth forms. So if the quantum of money is not sufficient--it may be required for other forms of post-16 education--there will not be enough money for the LEA to do what it determines and would like at local level. There is a practical issue. As always, the aspirational comments are fine. However, in practice the delivery of the service is a very different matter.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 4:00 pm, 17th February 2000

Perhaps I may reply briefly to the Minister's comments on my arguments.

The chief inspector has long been aware of the arguments I have put forward and has long ignored them. I believe that a Government who, much to their credit, have introduced more emphasis on evidence-based medicine should do the same for schooling. We have a system for assessing schools which is essentially unchecked and not evaluated. It would not take much to evaluate what Ofsted is doing. We are basing some serious decisions on the future of schools, teachers, and so on, on the judgments of Ofsted. They should be independently and properly evaluated. It is an argument which elsewhere has been accepted by the Government and acted upon. I hope that the Government will take it up as regards education.

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

Perhaps I may respond to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. It is open to him to try again with Her Majesty's Chief Inspector. I suggest that he does so. He is, of course, independent and I am sure he would be interested in any suggestions the noble Lord might like to put to him.

Perhaps I may return to some of the issues raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. I do not want to rehearse all the arguments about funding for schools. We are now dealing with a specific amendment about the way in which we ensure high quality education in sixth forms. However, I should like to reiterate what I thought I had stated fairly clearly in answer to the noble Baroness's first speech in the debate. What the Government are doing here in no way hits institutions which are small and, by comparison with very large sixth forms, have high unit costs. The judgment we make is entirely about the quality of provision. That is what we expect Ofsted to do. It is not about its cost. I can give the noble Baroness that reassurance.

The noble Baroness referred to the formula and suggested that there may be concerns about the money going down to LEAs from the LSCs. We have had a wide welcome for this change from many of the parties involved. I accept that there are more details, at the very detailed level, to be gone through. I have already said that we are consulting on that. That is common in legislation of this kind.

I do not feel that I can offer to take this issue away. The provision on the face of the Bill is perfectly adequate. I have explained the matter at some length and responded, I think, to all the noble Baroness's questions. Therefore, I hope that she will not press the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I take it that the answer is "no" to bringing forward any more amendments to give force to some of the assurances the Minister gave.

I accept, as I believe I said, that the funding system has been welcomed. But there are provisos, and they relate specifically to the detailed work after the Bill receives Royal Assent. That gives no assurances to those who have these concerns.

I must have one more question answered before deciding what to do with the amendment. The noble Baroness said that there was no question of cost being an issue. Because it is so stated in the Bill, can I take it that cost effectiveness and value for money will not be considerations when making judgments about provision for sixth forms?

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

I said that the judgment that a sixth form is inadequate will in every case be made by Ofsted's independent inspectors; and that the judgment will be about quality of provision and not its cost. I am sure that, when looking at quality of provision, the chief inspector will have to take into account whether money is being misspent, whether there is a total failure to make provision in a sensible way and using resources properly. In that sense, of course value for money is part of it. But I want to reiterate that small sixth forms, especially in rural areas, which of course will have somewhat higher costs than larger sixth forms' unit costs, will not be punished because they have higher costs.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful for that answer. I am not talking only about small sixth forms in rural areas. The sixth forms may have small subject areas either because of the number of takers for a subject or because a minority subject is provided by a school. It is the subjectivity of the people making the judgments on cost. Unit costs could be high as a result of teaching a minority subject or small numbers of people taking a subject.

I am not satisfied with the answer. I wish to take the opinion of the Committee

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 209) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 79; Not-Contents, 114.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 98 agreed to.

Schedule 7 [Inadequate Sixth Forms]:

[Amendment No. 210 not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 4:18 pm, 17th February 2000

moved Amendment No. 210A:

Page 69, line 33, leave out ("5") and insert ("5B").

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

A number of other amendments are grouped with this amendment. On behalf of my noble friend Lady Blackstone, I shall deal with them in two sets. The first, which amends part I of Schedule 7 and Schedule 8, relates to inspection and reporting arrangements. The second set, consisting of Amendments Nos. 211 and 212, amends Part III of Schedule 7. It relates to the decision-making process on statutory proposals to close an inadequate sixth form or to discontinue an inadequate 16 to 19 institution.

The significant amendments in the inspection and reporting set are Nos. 210F and 210L which will put in place the necessary legal underpinning for the actions to be taken following an adverse inspection report about a school sixth form or LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution.

These actions come into two categories. First, there are provisions for inspection reports to be made and copies to be sent to those who have an interest, including parents of pupils at the school or institution concerned, and made available to the wider community. Amendment No. 210F provides for the same requirements to apply where there is a report that a school has an adequate sixth form as are already in place for school inspection reports. Amendment No. 210L similarly provides for the same requirements to apply where a report on an LEA-maintained institution states that it has serious weaknesses as are already in place for reports which state that a school requires special measures. These include procedures, where an adverse judgment is made in a contracted-out inspection, for the chief inspector to decide whether an adverse report is indeed appropriate.

Secondly, there are the procedures which governing bodies and LEAs will be required to follow in the light of the adverse report, which will form the basis of their efforts to restore the sixth form or 16 to 19 institution to health. The governing body will draw up and publish an action plan and the LEA will prepare a parallel statement of the action which it will take to support the school.

Amendment No. 249B provides that a report on an LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution as part of an area inspection can trigger the powers of LEAs to intervene in schools causing concern, and so provides consistency with other types of inspection. The amendment will also secure that, if such an institution previously had an adverse report, a subsequent report as part of an area inspection which states that the school is no longer causing concern will mean that LEA powers to intervene are no longer triggered.

All of these provisions will ensure that procedures for dealing with inadequate 16 to 19 provision in schools and LEA-maintained institutions will follow very closely those which have resulted in a higher success rate in turning round schools in special measures or with serious weaknesses. These procedures are explained in the department's circular No. 6/99. We intend to issue similar guidance about inadequate 16 to 19 provision, which will also cover matters for which no statutory provisions are required; for instance, the monitoring of schools' progress by Ofsted's inspectors.

Of the other amendments in the group, I would mention only Amendment No. 249A, which provides for the LSC/CETW to receive copies of all inspection reports for schools with sixth forms and LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institutions, not only adverse reports. The remaining amendments are technical or consequential.

I turn briefly to the second group of government amendments, Nos. 211 and 212. They correct a technical omission in Schedule 7 in relation to the decision-making process on proposals by the LSC to close a sixth form or discontinue a 16 to 19 institution maintained by a local education authority. The amendments thereby bring Schedule 7 into line with the equivalent provisions in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That Act provides for proposals for change in school organisation made by LEAs and school governing bodies in England to be considered by local school organisation committees, with referral to the schools adjudicator in certain circumstances.

There are four sets of circumstances in which the school organisation committee must make referrals to the adjudicator under the 1998 Act: first, where the committee has voted on school organisation proposals, but has been unable to reach a decision; secondly, where the committee has not voted on the proposals by the end of the period set out in regulations and the person who published the proposals requests referral.

The third and fourth sets of circumstances apply to the committee's consideration of changes to proposals already approved; for example, to modify the date of implementation or to remove the duty to implement the proposals. These cases are similarly referred to the adjudicator where the committee has not been able to reach a decision or where it has taken no action within a specified time.

The amendments secure that all these circumstances are fully applied to the consideration of proposals made by the LSC under the Bill. Regulations will be made to match those applying to the consideration of LEA and governing body proposals under the 1998 Act. We shall, for example, provide by regulations made under Schedule 4 to the 1998 Act that, in voting on LSC proposals and any subsequent changes, the members within each group on the school organisation committee will collectively have a single vote and that the voting must be unanimous for a decision to be reached.

I am sorry that I have taken so long in explaining the purposes of these government amendments. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It will come as no surprise that we do not agree with the whole process of organisation committees and adjudicators. It is almost a contradiction. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure that standards are maintained in their schools, yet another body which is divorced from them and on which they have only partial representation will make the recommendations and the decision. That will then go to an all-powerful, single person.

We have already seen the quality of the judgments made by adjudicators who have not performed well. They have cost the taxpayers considerable sums of money when they have acted beyond their remit. I therefore have grave reservations about the proposals, but I should like the Minister to answer one or two questions.

First, what period do the Government have in mind beyond which a decision will automatically be taken from the organisation committee and referred to the adjudicator? Secondly, will the Minister be kind enough to repeat the fourth criterion for reference to an adjudicator?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

As regards the noble Baroness's second question, the third and fourth sets of circumstances apply to the committee's consideration of changes to proposals already approved; for example, to modify the date of implementation or to remove the duty to implement the proposals. These cases are similarly referred to the adjudicator where the committee has not been able to reach a decision or where it has taken no action within a specified time.

In reply to the noble Baroness's first question, the period is likely to be about two months.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Perhaps I may come back on both of those points. I thought that the period of time was the third criterion. I had not realised that it was also the fourth and that the Minister had read them out as being separate.

Given the length of time that previously the Secretary of State has taken to make decisions, we know that they can be complicated and extremely complex when more than one school in an area is being reorganised. Two months is a short time in which to make a decision. The proposition appears to be totally inflexible; it appears to be two months unless the Secretary of State determines otherwise. As regards the third and fourth criteria, if the organisation committee cannot reach a decision it can refer the matter to the adjudicator. Must that also be a unanimous decision?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I shall be frank with the noble Baroness and say that I cannot answer that question now, but I promise to write to her with an answer. If one is forthcoming, I shall give it to her in order to save the stamp!

I repeat that the fourth set of circumstances is where the committee votes but is not unanimous. However, that is not a complete answer to the noble Baroness's question. So, I shall pay the price of a stamp and write to her with the correct answer.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful to the noble Lord. It will be most helpful to have a full answer. There appears to be a first, second and third set of criteria, but no fourth. Some clarification and confirmation on the other questions I have put to the noble Lord would be very helpful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip 4:30 pm, 17th February 2000

moved Amendments Nos. 210B, 210C and 210D:

Page 70, line 9, leave out ("in the same way as") and insert ("for all purposes of this Schedule and the School Inspections Act 1996 as if it were").

Page 70, line 10, leave out ("the School Inspections Act 1996") and insert ("that Act").

Page 70, line 17, leave out ("or a report under paragraph 3 of this Schedule").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

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

moved Amendment No. 210E:

Page 70, line 26, at end insert--

("(3) Sub-paragraph (2)(b) above shall not apply where a report is made within six months of the previous report.").

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

In moving Amendment No. 210E, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendment No. 210M. We welcome the Minister's assurance that the proposals put forward for Schedule 7 will not target small sixth forms, in particular those in rural areas. We accept that high standards are necessary and that it is usual for Ofsted to make such inspections.

However, we have reservations about the details of Schedule 7 and have thus tabled a series of amendments. Amendment No. 210E refers to sub-paragraph (2)(b) to ensure that it,

"shall not apply where a report is made within six months of the previous report".

This aims to ensure that, if a second inspection report becomes a trigger for the publication of proposals to close a sixth form, it should not be made within six months of the previous report, thereby giving the school sixth form a reasonable period of time in which to make rapid improvements and turn itself around.

Amendment No. 210M removes the provision to allow an inspection report made before the Act is passed to be counted for the purposes of allowing publication of a proposal to close down a school sixth form or sixth-form centre. The amendment would ensure that the mechanisms of the Bill come into play only once the Bill becomes an Act, and not before. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I rise to support the noble Baroness. We have already touched on the issue of the period between inspections. I believe that there is a strong argument for the period to be longer than six months and I gather from the Minister that it is likely to be so. However, I agree with the noble Baroness that a form of words giving effect to that should be put on the face of the Bill.

I support absolutely the removal of retrospection. It is a bad thing in principle, and I certainly support Amendment No. 210M.

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

I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her support for the necessity to maintain high standards in this area.

First, on Amendment No. 210E, the Government's policy is that where post-16 learning provision is not of the quality expected, the provider will be given a reasonable amount of time to make the necessary improvements. Only where adequate progress is not made by the end of the period would we look to the LSC or the CETW to propose remedial action. In the case of inadequate sixth forms, we intend that the time to be allowed for a school to make the necessary improvements will generally be around two years. However, we want to have the necessary flexibility to deal appropriately with each case. I am sure that the noble Baroness will accept that a little flexibility here is desirable.

At the end of the period, the sixth-form provision will be reinspected and an adverse report from that second inspection would, as noble Lords know, trigger the LSC and the CETW's powers to propose closure. I understand the concerns expressed by the noble Baroness that this power should not be triggered by a reinspection after an unreasonably short interval. Together with the National Assembly, we shall certainly be guarding against that risk when we agree with the respective schools inspectorates the detailed arrangements for reinspecting inadequate sixth forms. I can reassure the noble Baroness that no sixth form will be placed in jeopardy by a premature reinspection; namely, before it has had a real opportunity to make the improvements needed after an adverse inspection report. I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Perhaps I may now turn to the second amendment in this grouping, Amendment No. 210M. The inclusion of paragraph 11 in Schedule 7 again reflects our commitment to high quality in post-16 education and the need for any necessary improvements to be made quickly. After all, students have only two years in a sixth form. Those are two extremely important years in terms of their futures. Where a school or LEA-maintained 16 to 19 institution has had an adverse report, action needs to be taken straightaway. That is no less true where an adverse report is made before this Bill is passed and the schedule comes into effect.

If the second inspection report finds that students continue to be short-changed because the necessary improvements have not been made, we would not want the LSC or the CETW to be prevented from proposing remedial action until there had been a third adverse report. Under current inspection arrangements, the school as a whole may be deemed to require special measures because it is failing to provide its pupils with an adequate standard of education. A school supported by an LEA must take action to tackle the problems. If a school sorts out a number of problems but fails to address the inadequacy of the sixth form, a further report under the arrangements now planned may state that that sixth form is still failing. In such circumstances, the provisions now under debate would allow the LSC to take action.

I recognise that the amendment is intended to provide a safeguard for schools. However, we have already written into the provisions a number of safeguards: at least two adverse reports, statutory processes and so forth. Paragraph 11 of Schedule 7 provides a safeguard for students against low standards, which is the other side of the coin. We believe that the need to ensure high quality should take priority in this case. I very much hope that the noble Baroness will share this view and that she will feel able not to move this amendment.

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

I thank the Minister for her reply and for putting on the record her assurances in relation to the first amendment in the group.

As regards the second amendment, I am somewhat less happy. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has already said, retrospective legislation is not satisfactory. We shall not press the amendment today, but we may wish to return to this matter on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

moved Amendments Nos. 210F, 210G, 210H, 210J, 210K and 210L:

Page 70, line 37, at end insert--

("5A.--(1) This paragraph applies to a report of an inspection under Part I of the School Inspections Act 1996 which--

(a) states an opinion that a school has an inadequate sixth-form, and

(b) is made by a member of the Inspectorate or states that the Chief Inspector agrees with the opinion mentioned in paragraph (a).

(2) The person making a report to which this paragraph applies shall send a copy (together with a copy of the summary, if there is one)--

(a) to the Secretary of State or, in the case of a school in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, and

(b) if the person making the report is a member of the Inspectorate, to the appropriate authority for the school.

(3) The following provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996 shall apply (with the necessary modifications) in relation to a report to which this paragraph applies--

(a) section 16(3) (additional copies);

(b) section 16(4) (publication by appropriate authority);

(c) section 17 (action plan by appropriate authority);

(d) where the local education authority receives a copy of a report about a school the governing body of which have a delegated budget, section 18(2) and (3) (measures by local education authority).

(4) In the application of those provisions--

(a) a reference to a report and summary shall be taken as a reference to a report and, if there is one, its summary, and

(b) a reference to a summary alone shall be taken, in a case where there is no summary, as a reference to the report.

5B. Section 13(2) to (7) of the School Inspections Act 1996 (inspections by registered inspectors) shall apply, with the necessary modifications, where the inspector is of the opinion that a school has an inadequate sixth-form as it applies where he is of the opinion that special measures are required to be taken in relation to a school.").

Page 70, line 39, leave out ("10") and insert (10B").

Page 71, line 12, leave out ("in the same way as") and insert ("for all purposes of this Schedule and the School Inspections Act 1996 as if it were").

Page 71, line 13, leave out ("the School Inspections Act 1996") and insert ("that Act").

Page 71, line 20, leave out ("or a report under paragraph 8 of this Schedule").

Page 71, line 40, at end insert--

("10A.--(1) This paragraph applies to a report of an inspection under Part I the School Inspections Act 1996 which--

(a) states an opinion that a school has significant weaknesses in one or more areas of its activities, and

(b) is made by a member of the Inspectorate or states that the Chief Inspector agrees with the opinion mentioned in paragraph (a).

(2) The person making a report to which this paragraph applies shall send a copy (together with a copy of the summary, if there is one)--

(a) to the Secretary of State or, in the case of a school in Wales, the National Assembly for Wales, and

(b) if the person making the report is a member of the Inspectorate, to the appropriate authority for the school.

(3) The following provisions of the School Inspections Act 1996 shall apply (with the necessary modifications) in relation to a report to which this paragraph applies--

(a) section 16(3) (additional copies);

(b) section 16(4) (publication by appropriate authority);

(c) section 17 (action plan by appropriate authority);

(d) where the local education authority receives a copy of a report about a school the governing body of which have a delegated budget, section 18(2) and (3) (measures by local education authority).

(4) In the application of those provisions--

(a) a reference to a report and summary shall be taken as a reference to a report and, if there is one, its summary, and

(b) a reference to a summary alone shall be taken, in a case where there is no summary, as a reference to the report.

10B. Section 13(2) to (7) of the School Inspections Act 1996 (inspections by registered inspectors) shall apply, with the necessary modifications, where the inspector is of the opinion that a school has significant weaknesses in one or more areas of its activities as it applies where he is of the opinion that special measures are required to be taken in relation to a school.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 210M not moved.]

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

moved Amendment No. 210N:

Page 72, line 16, leave out ("such") and insert ("the governing body and head teacher of the school concerned and such other").

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

In moving Amendment No. 210N, I should like to speak at the same time to Amendments Nos. 210P to 210V. Amendment No. 210N is the first of a further set of amendments relating to the details of Schedule 7, in particular to Part II of the schedule relating to proposals for the closure of sixth forms. Amendments Nos. 210N and 210P relate to England and require that the learning and skills council consults with the governing body and headteacher on any proposals to close a sixth form, including passing over a copy of the proposals. Amendments Nos. 210Q and 210R require the same procedures to be followed in relation to Wales.

Amendments Nos. 210S to 210V refer to sixth-form centres in England and Wales respectively. It is inconceivable that any sixth form would be closed down without wide consultation, especially with the headteacher and governors of the school. These amendments are essentially probing amendments to try to ensure that the provision is written on to the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I want to congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on picking up all the points where this raft of amendments has referred to keeping informed the governing body and the head teacher of individual schools. The Government have seen fit to name, yet again, the organisation committee and the LEA which maintain the school. However, the subject of such a proposal would be the individual institution; that is, the school and/or the sixth-form centre. Not only do I agree with the noble Baroness that it is inconceivable that they would not be informed, but I believe that it is important that they should be informed. Therefore, I believe that this provision should go on the face of the Bill and I support it.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said in so briefly and accurately moving her amendments, their aim is to ensure that the governing bodies and head teachers of schools are kept fully informed about proposals made by the English and Welsh councils to close the sixth forms at their schools or, if they are 16 to 19 institutions, to discontinue them. Perhaps I may take the amendments together.

Amendments Nos. 210N, 210Q, 210S and 210U relate to the consultations which the LSC and the CETW are required to undertake before they publish proposals. The two councils are required to consult such persons as they consider appropriate, having regard to any guidance from the Secretary of State in England and the National Assembly for Wales. Exactly the same provisions appear in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 in relation to proposals for school organisation to be published by LEAs or governing bodies.

In England, the Secretary of State has set out in the department's Circular 9/99 his views on which interested parties should be consulted by proposers. The National Assembly for Wales has done likewise in its Circular 9/99. The noble Baroness will not be surprised to hear that the parties listed in those circulars include the school in question, any LEA and other schools, parents and teachers in the area who may be affected by the proposals. We intend that the Secretary of State and the National Assembly will also give guidance on consultations to the LSC and CETW in respect of post-16 proposals and, importantly, that the same interested parties will be specified.

The Government understand the concern of the noble Baroness that the school in question should be consulted. Of course, it is right that it should be. Indeed, if I may use her expression, it is inconceivable that the two councils would not judge it appropriate to consult the school which is the subject of their proposals. In the forthcoming guidance on the councils' proposals published under the Bill, we intend to recognise that, as we have done in the guidance on proposals published under the 1998 Act. Unless and until proper consultations had been conducted, we would not expect the decision-making bodies--the school organisation committee or schools adjudicator in England and, respectively, the National Assembly for Wales--to consider their proposals.

I clarify by adding that we would expect the head teacher to be subsumed within the word "school". Communications with schools under Schedule 7 would be with governing bodies. Head teachers have the right to be members of such bodies if they wish. In the great majority of maintained schools--some 90 per cent--head teachers are also governors.

I deal now with the four remaining amendments. Amendments Nos. 210P, 210R, 210T and 210V would require the LSC and CETW to send copies of the published proposals and information to be prescribed in regulations to the governing body and head teacher of the school concerned, as well as to the school organisation committee and the National Assembly for Wales. This will be factual information which the decision-making bodies will need for their decision-making role. We envisage that the content of the regulations to be made under Schedule 7 will be very similar to the content of regulations governing information that go to the school organisation committee and National Assembly on proposals to close sixth forms published under the 1998 Act. No doubt it will include details of present and forecast pupil numbers, examination performance and details of other 16 to 19 institutions in the area. Much of that information will be in the public domain and, indeed, some may have been directly provided to the councils concerned by the schools themselves.

Perhaps I may make it clear that none of the information is intended to be secret. It will be open to schools which are the subject of proposals to request a copy of the information. Those bodies--that is, the school organisation committee or, in Wales, the National Assembly--would be expected to release the information on request. We believe that that is a far better way to proceed than to place a requirement on the face of the Bill for the two councils to provide information automatically to schools.

We understand the concern of the noble Baroness to protect the interests of the schools concerned. However, we believe that there are other ways to achieve this end and that it is unnecessary to provide for those concerns through amendments to the Bill. In those circumstances and as this is a probing amendment, as the noble Baroness said, I respectfully expect her to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 4:45 pm, 17th February 2000

I thank the Minister for his full reply to these amendments. I am much heartened by the degree to which he has given assurances that the detailed guidance from the department, which will be incorporated in a circular similar to Circular 9/99, which relates to the School Standards and Framework Bill, will apply in a similar way in this case. These concerns have been raised by the National Association of Head Teachers. Clearly, it is concerned that there have been occasions when it has not been consulted as fully as it would have wished. We have tabled the amendments on behalf of that association. As I said, I thank the Minister for his reply, and I am glad to have it so fully on the record. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 210P to 210V not moved.]

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

moved Amendment No. 210W:

Page 74, line 44, after ("issued") insert ("or assurances given").

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

In moving Amendment No. 210W, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 210X and 212A. I believe that I am right in saying that the Minister has already replied to Amendment No. 210W, which relates to the issue of publications. I should like to place on record that this amendment would require a school organisation committee in England to have regard to assurances given by the Secretary of State on the future of school sixth forms.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

Perhaps the noble Baroness will give way. If I have replied to it, I have not meant to. I shall be ready to reply to it in a few minutes' time.

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

I believed that the Minister had already mentioned Amendment No. 210W. Again, this amendment concerns the issue of consultation. From these Benches, we have never been too happy with school organisation committees, but we accept that they now exist. However, it is extremely important that they take account of the assurances given by the Secretary of State on the future of school sixth forms.

Amendment No. 210X inserts a requirement that a school organisation committee in England consults the governing body and the head teacher of the school concerned or modifies proposals to close a sixth form prior to its implementation. Amendment No. 212A inserts a requirement that the National Assembly for Wales consults the governing body and the head teacher of the school concerned on any modified proposals put forward to close a sixth form. Therefore, these amendments are somewhat similar to those which I have just moved, which relate to ensuring that the governing body and head teacher are kept fully informed of what is happening. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

These are similar amendments and I shall reply as briefly as I can. However, I must deal with Amendment No. 210W. I want to remind the noble Baroness of the limited nature of the proposals which would be made by the LSC. They would be proposals to close an inadequate sixth form or to discontinue an inadequate 16 to 19 institution. As has been said by my noble friend, they would be made by the LSC only after the school had had reasonable time to secure improvements. It is only when a second consecutive adverse inspection report has been made that the council's powers to propose closure would be triggered. The period between the two reports generally would be about two years.

We believe that the fact that we are restricting the circumstances in which proposals can be brought forward by the LSC represents a substantial assurance to any school with inadequate 16 to 19 provision that it will be given a fair and reasonable opportunity to turn round its sixth-form provision.

The Secretary of State will be providing guidance to the school organisation committees and adjudicators on the factors they should take into account in considering proposals published by the LSC. It will be on broadly similar lines to that produced for the 1998 Act. The decision-makers must have regard to this guidance in considering the particular facts and circumstances of each case and all proposals must be considered on their individual merits.

We do not believe that it would be right for the Secretary of State to fetter the decision-making of the school organisation committee or adjudicator by providing blanket assurances that they should take into account in performing their statutory duty. The assurances that we are able to give today reflect the safeguards we have built into the provisions in Schedule 7. In other words, the school organisation committee or adjudicator will be involved in LSC proposals only as a genuine last resort.

The other amendments spoken to by the noble Baroness are Amendments Nos. 210X and 212A. When the school organisation committee or adjudicator in England or the National Assembly in Wales are minded to approve proposals but with modifications, they must consult such persons as may be prescribed. There are equivalent provisions under the 1998 Act. The regulations under that Act require the decision-makers to consult the body that made the proposals together with the LEA if the proposals come from a governing body or the governing body if the proposals are made by the LEA. Where the decision makers wish to make modifications to proposals to close, it must make sense for those most concerned with the proposals to be consulted.

Accordingly, we intend--and I am sure that this will give some satisfaction to the noble Baroness--that the regulations made under Schedule 7 should specify that the councils in England and Wales respectively should be consulted on modifications together with the LEA and the governing body of the school concerned. Usually, modifications to proposals to close or discontinue will be modifications to the implementation date of the proposals. We believe that these are important but are still procedural details that are best left to regulations. That is exactly how it was dealt with it in the 1998 Act.

I invite the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Before the noble Baroness decides what to do about the amendment, does the noble Lord really think that this is a limited and modest power given to the committees to cause the closure of a sixth form of a school?

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

It is clearly not a minor power. The important point is whether it is circumscribed. We believe that it is because of the reasons that I tried to outline in my reply to the noble Baroness's amendments.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Circumscribed or not, it is a power to close the sixth form of a school.

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

I thank the Minister for his full reply to this series of amendments and for his assurances on Amendment No. 210W. I do not think that we were wishing to fetter the power of the school organisation committees in any sense. It is extremely helpful to have on the record the very full explanation that the noble Lord has given. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 210X not moved.]

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 211 and 212:

Page 75, line 8, leave out sub-paragraph (5) and insert--

("( ) A committee shall refer proposals to the adjudicator if--

(a) the committee votes on a decision in relation to the proposals,

(b) the decision is required to be unanimous by regulations under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (school organisation committees), and

(c) the result of the vote is not unanimous.

( ) A committee shall also refer proposals to the adjudicator if--

(a) by the end of the prescribed period the committee has not determined what action to take in relation to the proposals, and

(b) the Council requests that the proposals be referred to the adjudicator.").

Page 75, line 39, at end insert--

("( ) A committee shall also refer to the adjudicator a question of a kind referred to in sub-paragraph (1)(a) or (b) if--

(a) the committee votes on the question,

(b) the decision is required to be unanimous by regulations under paragraph 5 of Schedule 4 to the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (school organisation committees), and

(c) the result of the vote is not unanimous.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 212A not moved.]

Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 99 [Provision of services]:

[Amendment No. 213 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No 214:

43, line 38, leave out ("may") and insert ("must").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

In moving Amendment No. 214, I shall speak also to Amendment No 217. I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, will speak to Amendment No 214A.

This clause refers to 13 to 19 year-olds and the procurement of services by the Secretary of State for that age group. Given that we are talking predominantly about young people to whom there is an obligation under the law to provide education, it seems to me that the word "may", which gives a degree of flexibility, should be replaced by the word "must". Alternatively, I should agree to the word "shall" and I would not go to the barricades for one or the other, provided that the matter is given serious consideration by the Government. The obligation under Clause 99 that the Secretary of State must or shall,

"provide or secure the provision of services which he thinks will encourage, enable or assist ... effective participation by young persons in education and training", is a relatively modest amendment. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench

I rise to speak to Amendment No. 214A. I shall not do so quite as succinctly as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has done.

On the first day in Committee I attempted to insert into the duties of the learning and skills council the obligation to support the kind of work we see identified in Clause 99 and the government's Connexions document. The noble Baroness was adamant that those duties--which include a provision for support, motivation and mentoring for all learners, but especially for those who have been alienated or excluded--should not be the responsibility of the learning and skills councils but would be adequately dealt with under Clauses 99 to 108.

We have come to Clause 99. Alas, we find that the Government propose only a permissive clause, one that would permit the Secretary of State to do these much needed things for young people aged 13 to 19. In my view, that is not quite good enough. There is serious concern in the minds of those who provide youth services that the Government's plan to achieve their admirable objectives under the Connexions programme is going to be achieved by robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I recognise that democracy forces on governments the need to provide the maximum splash with the minimum cash, the maximum effect for the minimum pain to the Treasury. It seems to me that the Bill as drafted leaves it open to the Secretary of State to do as much or as little as he pleases, or, indeed, as the Treasury pleases, towards the objectives of Clause 99. Secondly, it leaves it open to him to resource what he does either by directing the existing public services to divert resources into this programme from some other activity or by encouraging them to withdraw financial support which at present is going to the voluntary sector unless the voluntary sector does what the Secretary of State wants in terms of the kind of young people who are targeted, and also the services provided.

Those currently providing youth services--that is, a diverse range of opportunities including youth clubs, information centres, outdoor adventure programmes, street-based work and so on--are anxious that they will now be forced to focus only on the socially excluded, mainly in terms of mentoring and the advisory service, and that this will effectively reduce or bring to an end their work with those who are not socially excluded. Yet they too are tomorrow's citizens and they, too, need the kind of personal development that the youth services offer if they are to grow to their full potential and play their part in their community in the future.

I cannot do better than quote from a letter from the chief executive of the National Youth Agency. He states:

"The Learning and Skills Bill is proposing to weaken further the already frail duties on local authorities to secure sufficient youth services. There is no evidence that the Learning and Skills Council is planning to step into the gap".

We know that already. He goes on:

"With whom will the Connexions personal adviser connect if the diverse infrastructure of youth services--statutory and voluntary--is no longer in place? Individual guidance is a necessity but not sufficient condition for human development. And universal services--the Connexions goal--need serious money".

Individual guidance is a necessity but not a sufficient condition for human development. Universal services--the Connexions goal--need serious money.

Either we need the Secretary of State to accept the duty--which the noble Baroness has suggested in her amendment or which I have suggested in my amendment--to provide services to all who need them or, at the very least, we need to know from the noble Baroness how much new money the Government are prepared to put into the Connexions programme; what their priorities are in terms of target groups and services; and what they propose to do about the non-priority groups.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat 5:00 pm, 17th February 2000

My noble friend Lady Sharp and I have our names to Amendment No. 217, which is being debated here. It relates to Clause 99(2) which provides that if the Secretary of State is to make provision, either because the amendments under debate are passed or under the provisions as currently drafted, he "must" rather than "may" make arrangements with local authorities, direct local education authorities and so on.

The Bill as drafted states that he "may" which means also, of course, that he may not. We feel that that is not adequate if this is to be done. I have considerable sympathy with the views expressed by both the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and at rather greater length but extremely eloquently by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. If the Secretary of State is to make such provision, that must be done through arrangement with local authorities and local education authorities. That is why we have tabled that amendment.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

As we were sitting through the debate on social exclusion yesterday, my mind was drawn back to the arguments that I made on Schedule 3 and the requirement that it should be provided in statute that the learning and skills council has separate adult and young people's committees.

Here we are again looking at adult education being provided to young people. It was extremely clear from what was said yesterday that the most crucial advances to be made in making sure that adults who find themselves socially excluded can return to the mainstream and that young people do not fall into social exclusion are to do with making available what might ordinarily be called adult education to many young people and what might ordinarily be called young people's education to many adult learners.

That is something which this Government should consider again in the way they have set out in this Bill. They should provide more flexibility to the learning and skills council as to how it sets up its committees. Yes, they should impose on it the obligations to do the work which is required in the first three paragraphs of Schedule 3, but please may we not have the rigidity of structure which is imposed on them by those paragraphs because it surely must inhibit the proper cross-fertilisation of ideas which is necessary to relieve social exclusion in this country.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

I wish to support Amendment No. 214A. When I have coached young people in a hospice in chess, I have seen how much they value the attention and how they delight in learning a new skill which helps them to develop themselves while they are in limbo, waiting for move-on accommodation. This amendment would ensure such opportunities for all. Therefore, I strongly support the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I can foresee that there may be serious difficulties if the Secretary of State directs under subsection (2) the provision of some services without acting also under subsection (3) to provide grants or other kinds of financial assistance. That may be particularly serious where a local authority is capped or it has reached the limit of its ability to raise money through council tax.

It seems to me that if the Secretary of State wants some provision made, he must also logically be in a position to make it possible.

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

As the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said so eloquently earlier in the Committee, provision for learning is about more than making facilities available. It is also about providing support, encouragement and advice, about raising aspirations and expectations, about enabling people, especially young people, to exploit the facilities which are available and to maximise their potential.

The Connexions service is an ambitious, interdepartmental initiative designed to meet exactly those needs which the noble Lord identified. It has received widespread support across the range of public, private, voluntary and community organisations, as I believe the noble Lord is aware. Everyone is agreed about the benefits for young people and for society by collaborating to provide a comprehensive, integrated service for 13 to 19 year-olds to support them in effective learning throughout their teenage years.

The legislation does not attempt, and nor should it, to prescribe in detail how the service will operate because we want it to be developed bottom-up at local level. So Clauses 99 and 100 deliberately give scope for flexibility--I say that to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas--so that the new service can accommodate local needs and circumstances and can evolve over time to meet the changing needs of young people.

The Connexions policy document set out our vision and a framework of how we expect the new service to operate. It is not, and is not intended to be, a detailed prospectus.

We have been and are continuing to consult with a range of local partners about the detail of local delivery and are considering with them which delivery models work best. Clearly, if the service is to meet local needs, we shall not be expecting all delivery partners to fit their Connexions contributions into an inflexible and standardised blueprint. The detailed prospectus, which will be published in the late spring, will reflect that.

We shall also be piloting particular aspects of the service across the country with the first wave starting in April. That will enable us to learn from experience what works well on the ground. We and our partners will continue that evolutionary process as we phase in the service.

I turn now to Amendment No. 214. As I said, the service will build on existing services for young people provided by a wide range of statutory, private sector, voluntary and community bodies. Those include health authorities, local authority social services, youth offending teams, LEAs, the Careers Service, the Youth Service and so on.

A number of the services which will contribute are already the statutory responsibility of the Secretary of State at large. As I said, the Connexions service will build on and extend those services, and I hope that that provides reassurance for the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne. It will be developed in a flexible manner in the light of experience.

A duty on the Secretary of State to provide those services would risk cutting across other related duties in respect of young people performed by the LSC, LEAs and other statutory bodies. The whole approach of our policy is to try to enable co-operation. Creating an overlap or, worse, a conflict of statutory duties in that area would only raise the spectre of disputes about responsibilities and muddle. Defining new services through a power is by far the most effective approach, enabling the Secretary of State, through the new service, to support and work alongside other agencies. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that the Secretary of State has every intention of exercising that power.

I turn to Amendment No. 217, which would make two changes. First, it would require rather than empower the Secretary of State to make arrangements with local authorities and other bodies in respect of the new service. As we have made clear in the policy document, we expect that local authorities will play a major role in the Connexions service. However, we do not intend, nor should we, to prescribe in statute the part that particular organisations will play in providing the service. That would be over-centralist and bureaucratic; something on which noble Lords have commented earlier in Committee.

We made clear that we want an outcome-driven service allowing local discretion over delivery. As we know from inspection reports, not all local authorities meet the high standards of the majority and not all afford the same priority to their youth services, as the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is fully aware.

It must remain open to local partners to test the efficiency and effectiveness of public sector delivery against delivery in other ways and to make local decisions about the provision of the Connexions service in the light of local circumstances.

The second change the amendment would make would be to require rather than empower the Secretary of State to direct local authorities. That duty would be clearly inconsistent with the parallel duty to make arrangements with the same bodies that he is also required to direct. That would also be inflexible and, as a number of local authorities have already noted and informed us, unacceptable to them. Clearly a duty to direct is inappropriate, whereas a power allows the Secretary of State to direct local authorities in those limited circumstances where services are, for some reason, inadequate or arrangements have broken down.

In the light of those explanations, I very much hope that the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will not press their amendments.

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench

Before the noble Baroness sits down, and to save me from delaying the Committee by moving my amendment in order to speak again to it, I wonder whether she would be prepared to undertake to write to me concerning the three questions I raised at the end of my peroration?

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I support the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, on this issue. I certainly agree with him. We were simply saying that if there is an obligation on the Secretary of State it should not be one that he may or may not use but one that he must use. I am sorry that even given the fulsome explanation we have had from the Minister, we are still not reassured that there would be an absolute obligation. That is unfortunate.

I shall not press the amendment. However, I shall use the next amendments to give some views on the new arrangements to be made under the Connexions document. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 214A and 215 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 5:15 pm, 17th February 2000

moved Amendment No. 216:

Page 43, line 40, at end insert ("appropriate to their needs").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It is important to note that the Bill does not contain much specific reference to Connexions or to the arrangements that will impact greatly on the younger age group. That is unfortunate because it leaves an informal debate to be had outside. All the groups to whom I have spoken in preparing for the Bill are desperately anxious to know how it will work in practice.

There is a huge welcome for the aspirations and ambitions of the Government and the care which they have shown in making more coherent and effective provision for this age group. However, many questions are left begging about how it will work on the ground. Having read through the document, I still find it difficult to understand how all the networks will operate. How will the service be delivered? What will be the responsibilities for the various bodies at community level? How will the Connexions partnerships and the local management committees work in practice? How will the link with the Benefits Agency work?

A personal adviser is to be appointed to each young person irrespective of their needs. As we understand it, that will apply to all young people in the age group. What will be the specific remit of 20,000 new mentors? What will be their areas of operation? It is important to have definition if we are to avoid confusion.

I refer to the transfer of data on young people. The Data Protection Act applies in this area. Therefore, if the Benefits Agency and the other agencies are working together, information about individuals will pass from one to the other. It would be helpful to know how that will work and what legal protection there will be, both for the individual and for the people providing the information.

There is also anxiety on the part of the voluntary sector. The careers management group recognises the importance of the voluntary sector, as, indeed, we all do. However, it is concerned about quality control and how that will be achieved, especially as regards recruitment and training. There is also the question of the protection and safety of both volunteers and the young people concerned. Is it likely that the careers management group will be represented on the working group which we understand will be charged with developing the detailed specification of the new service? Again, a particular difficulty is that of not knowing the details of the new service at the stage when the legislation is being passed.

As always, resources continue to be an issue. It would be helpful to know what cash is available for the new arrangement. We understand that about £450 million is in the system at present. We also understand that an extra £750 million will be needed to make sense of and give proper force to the arrangements. There will, therefore, be a shortfall of around £300 million. If the Government disagree with that estimate, it would be helpful to know their own estimate of the cost of the provisions when up and running, as well as the set-up costs. Perhaps they could give some indication of the source of the new money which will be needed.

Another concern is that some existing careers companies will survive under the new arrangements, despite having already received a letter from the DfEE saying that they must prepare to wind up or close down. How will their existing areas, which are dotted all over the country, fit in with the new support service areas?

I have mentioned the mentors. How on earth, from a standing start, will 20,000 mentors be recruited, accommodated, serviced, trained and made operational in just three years? Who are these people? What is their source? What kind of people are likely to be recruited? Will they be additional to careers advisers or is the intention to transform careers advisers into mentors? If that is the case, what part of their service will be sacrificed as a result? Who, for example, will be the employer, and to whom will they be accountable? Where will they be accommodated? What will be their modus operandi?

Will all local services for youth be able to draw down cheques on the youth service bank account? I include the hard-pressed social services, who will already be subject to a raft of changes as a result of the shocking report on child abuse in Wales.

I return to the voluntary youth service, whose record of meeting the diverse needs of young people is considerable. The service is flexible. It targets and focuses its work on young people. It works particularly effectively with young people at risk, vulnerable or excluded for one reason or another. I believe that in many instances the voluntary sector works more effectively than official provision. That is not a criticism of official provision. Very often, young people in these categories have an aversion to officialdom. The voluntary sector effectively bridges that gap.

In addition, the voluntary sector provides a rich tapestry of provision through many organisations. I refer, for example, to the army, navy and air cadets; church youth organisations; brownies; guides; and music, theatre and sports groups. One could list an enormous number of organisations who make a considerable contribution to the country as a whole.

The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services is particularly anxious to know how the practical arrangements will work and what the funding streams will be. Can an assurance be given that the present level of voluntary services to young people will not only be sustained, but that scope for increased capacity will be allowed for, both in terms of funding and as an integral part of the new arrangements? It is still not clear who will be making the decisions given that there is central control housed in the DfEE. It would be helpful to have some light thrown on this detail which is very important as we discuss this part of the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Northbourne Lord Northbourne Crossbench

In the context of what the noble Baroness has just said about the need to recruit 20,000 mentors, it may be helpful for the Committee to know that the national total of full-time local authority staff engaged in direct work with young people today is 3,190. Some are involved in administration and there are also a number of part-time workers. For the full-time equivalent within the local authority sector only, there are just under 8,000 staff today and we are looking for 20,000.

In the context of my Amendment No. 216A, the Government have repeatedly referred to the importance of this Bill extending and enhancing the Government's policies for reducing social exclusion, or to put it positively, for promoting social inclusion. It is in the context of Clause 99 that the services will be provided. If that is part of the intention of that clause, the Bill should say so; but if it is not, I should be most grateful if the noble Baroness can explain why.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

My name is attached to this amendment. I come back to what it actually says; namely, adding the words "appropriate to their needs". I do not believe that that was mentioned very much by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, who gave more or less a clause stand part speech as regards Clause 99.

It is important that young people have advice and guidance appropriate to their needs. How is that to be gained? I come back to the Careers Service. The Secretary of State still has a duty to have such a service. It is wondering what its position is to be in the new regime. How will the duty of the Secretary of State to retain a careers service be carried out under these new arrangements? I have read Connexions, too. I agree that it leaves a great many questions still to be answered. I also understand when the Minister says that it is going to be an evolutionary process. A little more information would set a great many minds at rest, which I hope she can give us when she replies to this amendment.

Connexions indicates that the new service group is to be focused around personal advisers for people at school. They will often be the learning mentors. They will be appointed and managed by the headteachers, but they will operate as part of the Connexions service. Does that mean that there will no longer be access for all young people to a careers adviser who is based outside the school, and who is in contact with the labour market and able to give impartial advice? The learning mentors inside the school, or the personal advisers, are not likely to be in touch with the labour market which is very important when giving advice to young people. How can we ensure that there is impartial advice appropriate to the needs of young people? That is extremely important. We must try to ensure that that will be so.

The Education Act 1997 ensured that schools would be given access to the Careers Service and therefore to the impartial advice that I have mentioned. Can the Minister tells us whether the Careers Service will be going to the schools as much as it has done before? The heads are very anxious about this. I was telephoned by John Dunton, the General Secretary of the Secondary Heads Association. He said that they are extremely anxious to know exactly who is going to provide the sort of impartial advice that they are now getting, and which I have mentioned.

I have sent a copy of a letter to the Minister from the head of Skipton Girls' High School. She emphasises this anxiety. I shall quote a little from it. She says:

"Neither I nor my colleagues have any difficulty with the philosophy of inclusion for that sector of young people, but we feel that the new agenda needs extra resource, rather than switching the use of the present resource from main-stream education. The latter policy means that the careers advice and help available for main-stream pupils in main-stream schools will be decimated and, in my own institution, where almost all students go into the Sixth Form, and indeed on to Further or Higher education, it will be practically non-existent. We place an extremely high value on the professional and impartial advice given to our students by the Careers Service".

She goes on to say:

"If the whole onus for careers advice and support is in future to fall on to the schools, we lack both the professional expertise and the resource to keep our students fully informed and fully prepared at all stages in their school careers".

Therefore, I hope that the Minister can enlighten us a little about all of this.

What will happen to the other services that the Careers Service has provided in the past; for instance, careers library support and careers education to help the careers teachers in the schools? The Careers Service also helps with in-service training. It also manages work experience programmes and placement services. Will these services be sustained under the new arrangements and, if so, how?

Resources are extremely important. Will adequate resources be available to sustain all these services in the light of the considerable resources that will be required by the new Connexions service? It is an extremely important issue.

As regards planning guidance for learning mentors--the personal mentors--the department says,

"Effective links to the Careers Service are also needed to ensure young people receive sound advice and guidance on post-school options. The learning mentor role should be recognised in partnership agreements between schools and the Careers Service".

When replying, I hope that the Minister can tell us a little more about it. I am anxious that these young people should have advice on their future training and education appropriate to their own abilities.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

I speak to Amendment No. 216A. When young people, whom one might describe as "socially excluded", take part for the first time in some exciting and stimulating activity such as dry skiing, sailing or rowing, they feel elated and excited to be doing something they would never have imagined themselves doing. It is something which a privileged person might do and they might not think of being able to do it themselves. I hope that those kinds of activity are exactly what the Government have in mind as the purpose of the Connexions scheme. If that is so, and that kind of inclusion is the aim, why not put it on the face of the Bill?

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

I speak to Amendment No. 216 and reinforce the arguments that have already been made. The central issue is resources. We all endorse the Connexions document and the social inclusion agenda set out in Connexions. We recognise the importance of this issue and of getting 160,000 young people who are currently out of education or any form of employment or training, into some form of training leading to employment. We thoroughly endorse that as part of the Government's agenda.

However, a figure of £500 million has been put on that agenda. We assume that each mentor will cost something like £25,000 a year. If there are 20,000 mentors, that will cost £500 million. Where is that money coming from? Does it mean that it is coming from the budgets of the existing youth services, paltry though they are in many cases, and the existing Careers Service? That is what worries us and why we want to have written on the face of the Bill the words "appropriate to their needs" because there are also the needs of other young people other than the socially excluded, who are currently in schools and being serviced by the Careers Service.

Roughly £250 million a year goes to the Careers Service. Is it envisaged that the £500 million, which will be required for the Connexions service, should take all this £250 million from the Careers Service? If so, what about the needs of those who are currently in school or out of school who are being advised by the service? The service is extremely important. What is more, as I understand it, there is a duty on the Secretary of State under the terms of the 1973 Act to provide advice and guidance to help such young people decide on their futures. We need to be quite clear that Clause 99 is about additional powers and that it will not destroy duties that are already there and incumbent on the Secretary of State.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench 5:30 pm, 17th February 2000

I should like to support both Amendment No. 216 and Amendment No. 216A. It has been known for a long time that there is such a thing as a hierarchy of human needs; for example, it is probably rather useless to provide careers advice if the real problem is something like destitution, homelessness or drugs. All those factors have a bearing on social exclusion and inclusion. That is why I should like to see both the needs relating to social exclusion, as well as its promotion, written into the legislation.

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

My noble friend Lady David suggested that we have had a clause stand part debate; indeed, we certainly have. A huge number of different questions and issues have been raised, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with the amendments that have been tabled. However, I shall do my best and try to answer the questions that have been posed.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I take great exception to what the Minister has just said. The way in which the service will be delivered locally depends very much on the questions that we have asked; for example, the networking, the funding, who will be responsible and how people will be recruited. We can secure the appropriate provision only if we understand the mechanisms involved. We know that the Connexions document underpins information that is needed to understand this Bill. I make no apologies for raising these matters; nor, I hope, will other Members of the Committee. It is not a Second Reading debate. We are now talking about the detail of such issues.

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

I am sorry that the noble Baroness did not wait and allow me to finish what I was about to say. Indeed, that is not helpful. We should be having a reasonable discussion. I was not saying that this was a Second Reading debate; I said that a huge number of questions had been raised which would have been appropriate to a clause stand part debate, in which case I would have been perfectly happy to accept them.

As I said before, if we are going to get through this Committee stage, we must try to avoid getting into details that relate to later amendments. Perhaps I may outline some of them. I see that the noble Baroness is shaking her head, but, quite honestly, she and a number of other speakers in this debate have raised issues that relate to later amendments. I shall not answer them when dealing with this amendment. However, I shall do my best to respond to as many of these questions as possible. I shall then deal with the amendments on the Marshalled List.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, raised the question of whether we are talking about additional powers, which would not destroy existing duties. That is indeed what we are talking about; that is exactly what I tried to say when we discussed the matter in relation to the previous grouping. Again, as I said previously, this legislation does not attempt--nor should it--to prescribe in detail how the service will operate. I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that we do want it to be developed "bottom-up" at local level. These clauses are deliberately quite open-ended so as to give scope for flexibility, thereby enabling the new service to accommodate local needs and circumstances to meet the changing needs of young people, as well as evolving over time. I hope that Members of the Committee who contributed to the debate on these amendments will accept that explanation.

Many of the questions that have been raised are currently the object of discussion with all the partners, the statutory bodies and a whole range of organisations. We shall return to them in the prospectus that will be published late in the spring, as I said when discussing the previous grouping of amendments.

Perhaps I may return to the issue of cost. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, who raised this question at the end of his contribution when moving an earlier amendment. We are committed to resourcing the Connexions service properly so that every 13 to 19 year-old, whatever his or her circumstances, has access to the help needed. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, also raised this issue. Perhaps I may tell her that resources for the service will come from the pooling of existing central government resources and from those that are already devoted by local partners to youth support and guidance. Of the resources that we expect existing agencies to contribute, about half will come from the existing Careers Service budget because that service will be absorbed into the new service.

As I said earlier, we have to ensure that the Connexions service is properly funded; otherwise it will not be able to undertake the important tasks that we propose. However, we are currently considering what additional funding will be required as part of the Government's Year 2000 Spending Review. Members of the Committee will understand that I cannot in any way predict what the outcome of the review will be.

We are actively examining the number of personal advisers that will be required. Our current planning assumptions are that the service may need between 15,000 and 20,000, although the number will not necessarily be as high as 20,000. Perhaps I may point out to noble Lords who raised the question that the number will be built up over a period of time. I believe that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, questioned how far it would be possible to get from a standing start to 20,000 people. We are not quite at a "standing start", in the sense that there are substantial numbers of people undertaking work that is highly relevant to Connexions, many of whom will be absorbed into the new service. That includes a large number of careers advisers. However, the rate at which the service is phased in will depend partly on the resources available to it and on the time it takes to recruit sufficient numbers of suitable and qualified staff. Again, I cannot give detailed answers at present.

Perhaps I may also point out to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, that every young person will have access to a personal adviser. That access will be available according to his or her need. Not every young person will have an individual personal adviser, but every young person who needs such support will have access to one. Acting as advocates for young people, such advisers will obviously have a very key role to play in ensuring that they get access to the help that they need across a range of areas, including benefits, housing, and so on, as well as education and training.

The noble Baroness raised questions about data protection. Perhaps I may reassure her that we shall apply all the appropriate data protection principles. The noble Baroness also asked about the voluntary sector. This is a good example of a matter that could be dealt with more appropriately under later amendments where it features more directly.

I turn now to the points raised by my noble friend Lady David. As currently constituted, the Careers Service will cease to exist. We expect that the best Careers Service companies will play a major role in the Connexions service, along with other partners. Careers advice and guidance will continue to be an important part of the new service. Therefore, it will be vital for the new partnerships to build on the skills and experience that exist within Careers Service companies. In fact, the staff who work within such companies will form the core of the Connexions service, alongside staff from the youth service and other organisations. I can reassure my noble friend that schools will continue to receive the support and impartial advice that they need on career matters through the new service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked about existing areas and how they will fit in with the new areas. This is a very substantial change and there will be a need for a restructuring. The existing areas will no longer be relevant from the point of view of the Careers Service because we will move towards a Connexions service based on the 47 local learning and skills councils' geographical areas.

Turning to Amendment No. 216A, I think that I understand its purpose. However, I have to question the use of the word "or". This seems to imply that the promotion of social inclusion may be a separate and alternative purpose of the Connexions service for encouraging, enabling and assisting effective participation in learning by young people. As noble Lords who have spoken in the debate will know, the promotion of social inclusion is a central plank of the Government's agenda. We believe--the evidence available strongly bears this out--that the most enduring way of promoting social inclusion is to equip young people with the skills that they need in order that they may engage fully in both economic and social life. Participation in effective learning is central to our social inclusion agenda.

I am sure that the noble Earl accepts that the Connexions service is about more than promoting social inclusion. It is about providing appropriate support for all young people so that they can participate in effective learning and achieve their potential. The promotion of social inclusion is implicit in Clause 99. I believe that the clause, as drafted, properly reflects our purpose for the Connexions service.

Turning to Amendment No. 216, I do not think that it adds anything to what is already implied by the existing wording of Clause 99. This makes clear that the objective of the support services to be provided will be to secure the effective participation of young people in learning. Participation in learning which is not appropriate to an individual's needs could hardly be described as effective.

If there is any doubt in the mind of my noble friend Lady David--I refer to the headteacher's letter--I can assure her that the Connexions service will be a universal service, as I indicated earlier in Committee. The Connexions service personal advisers will ensure that appropriate advice, guidance and support are available to all 13 to 19 year-olds, of all abilities, whatever their needs and circumstances and wherever in England they live. Clearly, this will involve giving particular time and attention to those young people whose needs are the greatest and most complex, and who suffer very often from multiple disadvantage, an issue raised by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel.

The service will be comprehensive. It will integrate and build on the support services for young people currently provided by a range of rather unco-ordinated and different public, private and voluntary organisations. We hope that it will simplify young people's access to support, fill gaps and eliminate duplication. It will also be proactive in assessing young people's needs and in raising their aspirations.

We intend that it will work closely with the LSC, both to improve information, advice and guidance on post-16 learning opportunities and to ensure that those opportunities match young people's aspirations.

The Committee has spent some time on these two amendments. If I have failed to answer any specific questions, I shall be very happy to write to noble Lords and to give them further information.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

I think that I heard the Minister say that the Careers Service would go. If she did say that, how will that affect its duties under the Trade Union Reform and Employment Rights Act 1993, which amends the 1973 Act? Will that Act have to be repealed?

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

I do not know the answer to that question. Again, I shall be very happy to write to my noble friend and give her that information.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The noble Baroness, Lady David, pre-empted a question that I believe was left begging at the end of the Minister's explanation. It seems that the only way that the new arrangements can be delivered along the lines explained by the noble Baroness will be by the wholesale redefinition of job descriptions. If that is the case, and all the transfer arrangements come into play, people will have to be given the opportunity as to whether or not they wish to retain their existing job description. If they do not have the option of retaining their existing job description, then the choice is a stark one: it is either not to work at all or to be absorbed in the new arrangements under a totally different job description.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment 5:45 pm, 17th February 2000

The noble Baroness is quite right, there will be new job descriptions for people working for the Connexions service. I can reassure the many hundreds of thousands of people who currently work for the Careers Service and for those parts of the youth service that will become part of the Connexions service, that those kinds of arrangements will be put in place. I expect that the vast majority of them will be able to obtain jobs. After all, we will need more--not fewer--people to operate the Connexions service once it is fully implemented than are currently employed in the various organisations which will be absorbed into it.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The noble Baroness makes my point. We are talking about needing a very large additional number of people. I was making a technical point. If job descriptions change, other pieces of legislation come into play. People cannot be made to accept a new job description. They have been employed on one job description and one set of terms and conditions; if that changes as a result of the new arrangements under the Connexions service programme, I simply pose the question--as did the noble Baroness, Lady David--which pieces of legislation will be invoked?

The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, referred to the numbers of people employed in the present system. As a result of these changes we expect to employ a great many more. It is a very big change. That makes it necessary that we should have some assurance about funding and the resources to be made available. The noble Baroness has said that half the Careers Service would change.

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

Perhaps I can help the noble Baroness. I said that something like half the funding provided for the Connexions service will come from existing expenditure on the Careers Service. I did not say that half the Careers Service would change. That is a quite different point.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Unless I missed something, the noble Baroness said that half the funding will disappear. The vast bulk of the funding is used to pay specific Careers Service personnel for doing specific work, and if the specific job descriptions change then half the Careers Service will change. If the funding is not being used to fund the Careers Service, as it is at the moment, and it is going to be changed--I am not arguing about that--then there is a technical issue to be addressed. Removing half of the funding will remove at least 50 per cent of its capacity to pay for the service it has been providing up until now. Perhaps the noble Baroness can explain.

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

We are not removing half of the funding; we are absorbing the entire Careers Service into the Connexions service. I was asked about the financial resources available to the Connexions service. In answering, I said that something like half the total amount that we will be spending on the Connexions service will come from the existing Careers Service budget. I hope that I have made myself clear. I am totally confused by what the noble Baroness said.

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

I, too, am still somewhat confused. I understand that the Minister is saying that, in effect, the Careers Service becomes the Connexions service. She has given an assurance that the existing duties under the Careers Service will remain as they were. It is quite clear that those whose needs are the greatest--as the Minister put it--come top of the social inclusion agenda.

There are a number of problems here. There is not enough slack in the current Careers Service. I know that the Government propose to take on more people in the Connexions service, but nevertheless, at present neither the Careers Service, let alone the youth service, has slack in it if one wants to continue the current provision of services to schools, which we do. The letter that the noble Baroness, Lady David, read out from the headmistress of Skipton Girls' High School indicates clearly that schools are not good at providing careers advice to pupils and that they need the help of careers advisers who are trained to help them, particularly with guidance. There are many pupils, as it were, not included in the social exclusion agenda who need guidance on their choices in relation to GCSEs, A-levels and going on to university. The Careers Service helps enormously with those choices. Schools cannot manage without those services.

So far as I understand it, the Government now propose to divert those services. Many of those people will need retraining. I agree entirely with that policy, but there is a need for new resources.

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

I rise to intervene because an unfortunate misunderstanding is developing in the Committee. I am rather surprised that the noble Baroness is raising the issue again, because I have already made it clear to my noble friend Lady David that there is no sense in which the Government intend to change the provision of important careers advice for pupils and students at school or in FE colleges. That service will continue to be provided, but, unlike in the past, it will now be under the auspices of the Connexions service.

The duty to provide careers services to all people in full or part-time vocational education includes young people and remains a statutory duty on the Secretary of State. All that Clause 99 does is to empower the Secretary of State to provide some additional services which will build on the duty to provide careers advice. That duty remains. As a result, there is in fact no repeal of any duty.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am even more confused. Perhaps we may analyse what the Minister has said. She said that approximately 50 per cent of the present funding of the Careers Service--

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

I shall try once more to explain. I said that the resources on which the new Connexions service will draw will be wide ranging. Some will be new money, which will of course have to be debated with the Treasury in the usual way in the Year 2000 spending review. I cannot anticipate the amount. Some of it will be money currently spent by existing services which are to be absorbed into the Connexions service. I hope that I have made that clear. The Careers Service will comprise a large part of what is absorbed and will therefore make up a substantial part--probably around half--of the funding for the new organisation. The services provided in the shape of guidance and advice to schools will continue.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

No further light has been thrown on the matter. The Careers Service currently in existence has extremely tight funding for its remit. Its employees have job descriptions. They know what their aims and objectives are. As we have already heard from the noble Baroness, Lady David, schools are quite certain about the service which they receive from the Careers Service. Our understanding is that under the new system it will be absorbed into the new Connexions arrangements and around 50 per cent of the funding will be pooled. If that 50 per cent--not the 100 per cent of the funding, because I understand that the entire Careers Service is to be absorbed into the new system--

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

I really am surprised by my failure to communicate. Obviously all my years of experience as a university lecturer are not standing me in good stead. I shall try to spell out yet again what I have said. One hundred per cent of the funding for the Careers Service will go into the new Connexions service, which will amount to about half the funding available to that service. I cannot go any further than that. I have tried to make myself clear. I hope that the matter is clear to other Members of the Committee, even if it is not clear to the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

If the Minister reads Hansard, the very first reference to the 50 per cent funding was a rather different explanation from the one given just now. I shall analyse what the Minister is saying now: the Careers Service will be absorbed under the new Connexions arrangements and 100 per cent of its funding will represent 50 per cent of all the funding that will be needed. That will not be enough.

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

I have already explained to the noble Baroness that that is only part of the funding that will be available. I have explained that we are seeking further funding from the Treasury in the current spending review and that a number of other services will be contributing to the Connexions service, which means that further funding will be available. The noble Baroness may not believe that that is enough, but there is never enough money for anything. There is not enough money for 1,000 different services, but in the real world there will always be a limit. At some point the noble Baroness will discover what the total available funding will be, but I cannot give her the figure today.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The Minister said that the Careers Service funding will represent 50 per cent of all the funds that will be needed and that the other 50 per cent will come from new money under the new spending review and from other pooled moneys. The Minister already referred to pooled moneys from the DfEE itself. It will be interesting to know which elements of the DfEE money will form part of the funding. However, if the Careers Service is to provide 50 per cent of all the money needed and the other 50 per cent is to come from other sources, we are in a position to make a judgment about how much 100 per cent will be. One only has to take the cost of running the Careers Service at present to work out what the cost of 100 per cent funding will be.

That equation put to one side, there is a point which the Minister has not answered. She admitted that there will be changes in job descriptions. We need to know technically how that will be managed. Will TUPE be invoked? Will transfer arrangements from other pieces of legislation be invoked? Even if people are persuaded and agree voluntarily to an altered job description, changes will nevertheless take place and TUPE will still apply, just as it will in the case of people who are to move from TECs to work with the learning and skills councils, where they will have a completely different job description. The same will apply, and it would be helpful to have some view about that.

The Minister referred to the 20,000 mentors. She did not say where they would come from, but she said that there was no promise or guarantee that the scheme would apply to all young people in the age group irrespective of need. It would be helpful to know who decides whether they need them. In many cases, young people themselves make those decisions. Will they have individual referral rights? If so, how will they go about the process and how will they know who the mentor is? In the Connexions document, the intention is that the mentor would become extremely knowledgeable about the person. He will get to know him and have an in-depth relationship with him, which will develop to the point where any advice and guidance given to the young person will be all the more effective.

It is important to get those answers, but I do not know whether we shall receive all of them. We have had a muddled discussion, but we now know that the current cost of running the Careers Service represents half of the money needed to provide the new arrangements under the Connexions programme. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments No. 216A and 217 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 218:

Page 44, line 12, after second ("to") insert ("the promotion of equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled people in education, training, and all support services covering transition and to").

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

The amendment homes in on a somewhat narrower target. It aims to ensure that the youth support services will have regard to promoting equality of opportunity for disabled and non-disabled learners. It is similar to amendments I moved and to which I spoke on the first day of Committee--at cols. 621 to 624 of Hansard--in relation to the LSC, local LSCs and the CETW, when the Minister most encouragingly agreed to come back with amendments to meet the point.

This amendment is similar but it is not quite the same, in that Clause 99 has emerged clearly in the two debates on the previous two groups of amendments as an enabling clause. There is nothing concrete or appropriate on which to hang it. If the youth support service cannot have a duty placed on it, it is important to ensure that the service can provide support for young people with learning difficulties. If they are to make the most of the equal opportunities that will be on offer to them in post-school education, they must have the support of the youth support service.

The Disability Consortium on Post-16 Education and Training--SKILL is a member and I declare that I am president of SKILL--feels that some reassurance would not only be valuable but really is necessary. I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat 6:00 pm, 17th February 2000

I should like to give my support to the amendment and to the way in which it was moved. It is difficult to find the right form of words, but the point has to be made. If the youth support service is to do its job properly, it must bring in those who have disabilities. Indeed, that should happen almost automatically in any government legislation. I hope that the noble Baroness will secure an assurance that that will happen. If she does not, I hope that the Government will tell us that they are going to do something about it.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I rise briefly to support the amendment.

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

No one would disagree with the sentiment behind the amendment, which seeks to ensure that the new Connexions service promotes equality of opportunity between disabled and non-disabled young people. That is an aim, I am sure, we all share. The promotion of equal opportunities among all groups in society is, of course, at the very heart of this Government's philosophy. That is exactly the purpose of the Connexions service, for which Clause 99 lays the foundation. The clause sets out that the aim of the service is to ensure that every young person has the support they need to engage effectively in learning and to achieve their potential, whatever their ability and circumstances, and wherever in England they live.

To achieve that aim, the Connexions service will ensure that all 13 to 19 year-olds have access to a personal adviser who will assess their needs and ensure that they have the support they need. Some young people--for example, those with multiple disadvantage, including learning difficulties--will need more help than others. The personal adviser's caseload must reflect that. In particular, and as we shall discuss later, the Connexions service will support the transition of young people with statements of special educational needs from school to other post-16 learning.

This amendment simply states what is already implicit in Clause 99. Indeed, I can assure the noble Baroness that we intend through the service to go beyond the promotion of equality and take steps to help to make equality between disabled people and non-disabled people a reality. I hope that the noble Baroness will agree that we do not need her additional element in the Bill and that, with the assurances I have given, she will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for their stalwart support, and thank the Minister very much for her reassuring reply. We all want equality for disabled learners along with able-bodied learners. The youth support service will supply that valuable first rung on the ladder to what we hope will be life long and really inclusive learning. I am grateful to the Minister for what she has said. We have it in Hansard. I imagine that a good deal of guidance will go out as well. It would be reassuring if the noble Baroness nodded or told me that it would also be in guidance. The Minister is nodding. I appreciate that very much. I have no hesitation in withdrawing the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 218A not moved.]

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 218B:

Page 44, line 17, at end insert--

("( ) In carrying out his functions under this section, the Secretary of State may--

(a) provide financial or other assistance to persons providing supported residential accommodation to young persons in education or training;

(b) provide financial or other assistance to persons providing mentoring or support and guidance to young people.").

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

Earlier in the Committee stage the Minister made it clear that supported residential accommodation and support and guidance for disadvantaged young people were intended to be among the things the Secretary of State could provide under Clause 99. But Clause 99 refers only to services. The provision of accommodation might well be challenged in the courts as not being part of the clause. The amendment of my noble friend Lord Northbourne avoids that possible risk. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

I should like to support Amendment No. 218B. It refers particularly, but perhaps not exclusively, to foyers. I raised this matter at an earlier stage of the Committee's discussions. As the Minister has had clear warning and notice of this question, it would be helpful if she could say how she sees the provision of foyers--both their capital costs and their running costs--fitting into the new scheme of things that will flow from the Bill.

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

This amendment relates to the statutory and voluntary youth services. I should like to preface my comments with a few general words which I hope will meet the wishes of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. As I said earlier in the Committee, we fully recognise the valuable contribution made by these services in providing support and informal learning experiences for young people; and, in particular, in providing a gateway for re-engaging some of the most vulnerable young people in society. We are keen that their contribution is both supported and strengthened. We therefore expect that effective local youth services will be key Connexions partners and that much of their existing provision for 13 to 19 year-olds will be integrated with the new service.

The youth service is, of course, provided by a large number of voluntary and statutory organisations and covers a wide range of activities which promote the social and personal development of young people from 11 to 25. Much of this work will continue in tandem with the Connexions service. But I would expect local authority outreach and detached youth workers focusing on the core 13 to 19 age group to become key personal advisers within local multi-agency teams as these are set up by Connexions partners. It is that kind of youth worker in particular who will be integrated fully into the Connexions service whereas much of the other work done by the youth service will work in tandem. That would apply in particular to some of the more recreational side of what the youth services currently undertake.

On Amendment No. 218B, I recall that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, proposed a similar amendment to Clause 2 of the Bill earlier in the Committee. At that time he was seeking to clarify which bodies had responsibility for funding different aspects of support for young people. I shall treat the amendment in two parts. The first part would empower the Connexions service to fund or otherwise assist supported residential accommodation for young people engaged in learning. As our Connexions policy document sets out, the function of the Connexions service will be to provide, through a network of trained personal advisers, comprehensive advice, guidance and support for young people. This will include advocacy and referral to specialist services, where necessary. Financial or other direct assistance in the provision of social housing is outside the remit of the Connexions service--that must remain part of housing services or work done by the Benefits Agency and the Department of Social Security-- but advice, guidance and advocacy in obtaining accommodation for a young person would fall within it.

The second part of the amendment is slightly perplexing. It apparently seeks to empower the Connexions service to fund or otherwise assist in establishing a network of personal advisers--which is precisely what the clause is about. The Bill already makes sufficient provision. I suspect that the noble Lord wants to explore how far the service will rely on existing services to staff the Connexions personal adviser network and how far it will fund the recruitment and training of new front-line staff.

I am aware of the concerns that the Connexions service could impact on the wider work of the voluntary sector by attracting its key front-line personnel. I should start by reminding the Committee that we fully expect voluntary and non-profit-making bodies, far from being marginalised, to be important Connexions partners in a great many localities. In terms of their wider work, which may fall outside the remit of the Connexions service, perhaps because it is aimed at different age groups, I can assure the noble Earl that we have given careful thought to how we can ensure that we recruit sufficient qualified Connexions staff without having an adverse impact on the related services that will continue to operate in tandem. That is one of the reasons why we have decided to phase in the new service over around three years. We intend to undertake an audit of all the human resource implications of the very wide range of the existing and new advice and support services that will be provided.

We believe that the first part of the amendment would create an expectation which is outside the remit of the Connexions service, and the second would add nothing as the provision is already inherent in the Bill. Therefore, I hope that the noble Earl will not press the amendment.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

I thank the Minister for her full and helpful reply. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Whether Clause 99 shall stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I do not intend to oppose the Question. However, perhaps I may press the Minister on a point that was not answered earlier.

Some of the careers companies have received letters inviting them to prepare to wind up their present services. If that happens, it will create gaps in the system. First, why have they been given such notice? Secondly, where gaps are created, how is it intended to fill them?

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

It is right to give the Careers Service longish notice of our intentions. But no careers service will be closed down before new Connexions services are in place.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

But only part of the service has been given notice to wind up.

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

That is the part that will be absorbed into the Connexions service. The Careers Service also provides adult guidance in some cases. That will continue.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I thank the Minister. I wonder whether she would let me see a copy of the letter that has gone out to those companies.

Clause 99 agreed to.

Clause 100 [Consultation and coordination]:

[Amendment No. 219 not moved.]

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

moved Amendment No. 220:

Page 44, line 22, at end insert--

("( ) a body providing services in pursuance of arrangements made or directions given under sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973,").

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

I am leading on this amendment, but it is supported by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. I am afraid that it covers part of the same ground that was trodden so thoroughly and painstakingly a few minutes ago. Nevertheless, I shall move it.

As we have said, the Secretary of State retains his duty to provide a Careers Service. Under Section 10 of the 1973 Act he is empowered to make arrangements to secure that service. Clause 100 of the Bill requires the body providing that statutory service on behalf of the Secretary of State to be consulted in planning provision, so that it is manifestly appropriate to local needs. It seems possible under the Connexions strategy that a body will provide the statutory Careers Service which is not the lead contractor for Connexions. Then, it will be essential that the Careers Service sub-contractor is consulted as of right about the provision of the services to 13 to 19 year-olds.

The unique contribution of the Careers Service is its impartiality, alongside its knowledge of the needs of young people progressing through education and training. The amendment would put on the face of the Bill the reinforcement of the role of the statutory service, which, as the Minister confirmed, the Secretary of State will retain. That provides the means to ensure that young people's needs are at the heart of the learning and skills processes and structures. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 6:15 pm, 17th February 2000

My name is attached to Amendments Nos. 221 and 224, and my noble friend Lord Wade of Chorlton has his name to Amendment No. 222 to which, with the leave of the Committee, I shall speak on his behalf.

My Amendment No. 221 covers the same ground as that of the noble Baroness, Lady David. I prefer the noble Baroness's amendment to my own, and I therefore support it. My other amendment refers to those who should be consulted. As I think the noble Baroness and the Minister will agree, local learning partnerships are important; they involve the local organisations that will be responsible for networking in the interests of the community. My noble friend Lord Wade makes the important point that employers are also a key group in the community and it seems right that they should be included in the consultation process.

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

My name is attached both to Amendment No. 220 and to Amendments Nos. 223 and 225. I rise to speak to the last two amendments, as well as to endorse the remarks of the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Blatch, about Amendment No. 220.

The points that have been made on that issue are important, in so far as those who will be providers of the Careers Service--we now understand that they will not be wholly absorbed into the new Connexions service--have already been providing services within the areas concerned. It is important that they, as well as all the other providers, are consulted when the new service is established.

Amendments Nos. 223 and 225 are concerned with the consultation process. In an earlier debate, we talked at length about the role of local learning partnerships, the way in which they have developed and how valuable they have been in those areas where they are thriving. Where they are in existence, it is important that they, too, should be consulted in the development of the new Connexions service. Similarly, Amendment No. 226 relates to our belief that other providers of education and training should be included in the consultation process.

Amendment No. 226 is linked to this series of amendments. Perhaps I may speak to it at greater length. It relates to a slightly different issue. It proposes a code of practice to be inserted after Clause 100. The reasoning behind the amendment is that, during the Committee stage in the other place of the School Standards and Framework Bill, the Government agreed that there was a need for a code of practice to underpin the relationship between local education authorities and schools, particularly in the light of the new power for local education authorities to intervene in schools to ensure standards. As a result, Section 127 on securing effective relationships between LEAs and schools was included in the School Standards and Framework Act. The proposed new clause is largely derived from Section 127.

Under the system proposed in the Bill there will be three areas which will have to interact: providers, local education authorities and the learning and skills council with its local councils. The learning and skills council and the local learning and skills councils will have strong powers over 16 to 19 provision, particularly in relation to school sixth forms, under Clause 7 of the Bill, allowing unspecified conditions to be attached to grant and, under Schedule 7, on the closure of sixth forms.

There are many questions as to how those sweeping powers will be used. For example, will the learning and skills council or the local learning and skills councils tell a school sixth form under a threat to withhold grant not to offer Spanish because it is already being offered elsewhere in the area and is considered a disproportionate expenditure or poor value for money?

At the moment, how the new bodies will interact with existing local education authority providers is somewhat uncertain. The School Standards and Framework Act introduced a code of practice for effective LEA/school relations in recognition of the powers of LEAs to intervene in schools in the drive to improve standards. The national learning and skills council and local LSCs will have the same standards agenda. Therefore, guidance by the Secretary of State by way of a code of practice as to how the individual partners involved in this relationship should behave is vital to the fostering of good and effective relationships under the proposed system.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I deal with Amendments Nos. 220 to 226. The purpose of Clause 100 is to ensure that all those involved in the provision of youth support services in a locality contribute to and collaborate in Connexions service provision. Subsection (1) specifies certain key statutory bodies responsible for providing youth support services in an area which must be consulted before making Connexions service provision in that area. Subsection (2) extends this to relevant voluntary bodies and such other "persons" as the Secretary of State thinks it appropriate to consult. We meet our old friend the Interpretation Act 1978. Members of the Committee will be aware from previous exchanges that "persons" is a legal term that includes bodies.

Subsection (4) requires all consultees listed under subsection (1)--the statutory bodies--to support and assist the Connexions service, which includes co-ordinating their functions with the service. The significance of that in relation to this group of amendments is that all of the bodies under subsection (1) are statutory bodies involved in relevant aspects of youth support service provision. The express provision on the face of the Bill is intended to put beyond doubt that they would be able to enter into a contract with, or otherwise contribute to, the Connexions service. We are also able to impose on those statutory bodies the duty to support, assist and collaborate in the provision of youth support services. That is another reason for listing them expressly.

By contrast, such statutory duty as is found in subsection (4) cannot be imposed upon private, voluntary and the many other local bodies which can and, in many cases, should contribute to the Connexions service. Moreover, we believe that to list them all for the purposes of consultation would make the legislation cumbersome and risk omission of others which in some parts of the country would certainly make a significant contribution. We believe that, as drafted, Clause 100 provides for a wide range of bodies to be involved in the new service, while maintaining simplicity and a degree of flexibility. I assure the Committee that in establishing the service the Government expect to consult those who deliver careers advice and guidance--local learning partnerships, employers, education institutions, training providers, including the people and organisations referred to in the amendments--about Connexions service provision in their areas.

Perhaps I may say a little more about each of the bodies referred to in this series of amendments. I welcome this opportunity to expand on the position of Careers Service companies when the Connexions service is introduced. This matter was touched on by my noble friend in an earlier debate. As we have consistently made clear in Learning to Succeed, Bridging the Gap and the recently published Connexions policy document, careers information advice and guidance will be an important element of the Connexions service. We expect the best Careers Service companies, together with a range of other local partners, to play a major role in the service. The phased introduction of the Connexions service is deliberately intended to allow us to look at different approaches to the involvement of existing Careers Service companies. This will depend in part on the type and number of existing careers services in each Connexions partnership area. For example, where local careers services are constituted as partnerships between local authorities and TECs, the local authority partners which remain after the withdrawal of TECs from April 2001 will need to consider how each company should be developed to fit into the local Connexions service arrangements within their boundary or boundaries, where a Careers Service covers multiple local authority areas.

Private and not-for-profit Careers Service companies will have the opportunity to demonstrate their potential contribution to the local Connexions service either as partners in a public/private partnership or by sub-contracting to deliver particular services. We are working with the Careers Service National Association and others to consider all the implications of the change in structures for Careers Service staff and to ensure a smooth transition to the new arrangements. But we fully expect that the new Connexions partnerships and local management committees will build on the skills and experience within Careers Service companies. The Connexions service will offer challenging new posts to be filled by people with appropriate competence and skills from the Careers Service and other statutory, community and voluntary organisations.

In schools, we expect that the Connexions personal adviser will be a learning mentor based on the Excellence in Cities model. The learning mentors will be the first point of advice, including advice on learning opportunities relating to young people's career aspirations. They will be on hand to develop a long-term relationship of trust with those young people who need it and thus will supplement the advice given by careers teachers. Where appropriate, they will refer young people on to specialist careers advisers.

I turn to the amendment spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, and tabled by her noble friend Lord Wade, which is concerned with employers. I am sure that the noble Baroness agrees that employers are a large and diverse category. It would be difficult to define which employers should be consulted and which it would be perhaps inappropriate to consult. Under subsection (2) a duty is placed on the Secretary of State to consult any other person he thinks appropriate. Therefore, appropriate employers or employers' representative bodies are covered by this provision. The Government expect employers to play an important role in the Connexions service. The service will develop close links with employers, both directly and through the LSC, to ensure their involvement in planning the service, providing community mentors and appropriate work experience opportunities and contributing to labour market and skills planning information for use by personal advisers.

I turn to Amendment No. 223 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford. My responses echo the answer given by my noble friend earlier when the Committee debated the relationship between local learning partnerships and the LSC. It seems a long time ago since we did that. Local learning partnerships are non-statutory bodies which are continuing to develop. We do not believe that it is appropriate to stipulate their role. The new service will need to work closely with partnerships of local providers to develop strategies to match provision with the needs of young people and adults at local level. The detailed knowledge assembled by personal advisers of young people's experiences in learning should provide a powerful impetus to encourage improvements by education and training providers in the learning partnerships. Close links with learning partnerships will also be important to ensure coherence with the information, advice and guidance service for adults.

The Government assure the Committee that local learning partnerships will be consulted about Connextions provision; and subsection (2) allows for that. Equally, we would expect the new Connexions service locally to play a key role in local learning partnerships. It will also be open to learning partnership chairs to be members of Connexions partnerships and to be represented on Connexions local management committees, subject to local decision.

Finally, I turn to the role of learning providers, and to Amendment No. 225. We can assure noble Lords that there is no question that education and training providers would not be consulted about Connexions provision, for they are key partners in providing support. We have made it clear that Connexions provision will become an integral part of schools' frameworks for pastoral work. Much the same applies to college and training providers. We are looking at the best way to integrate the various services as we phase in, over a period of time, the introduction of the national service.

We invite noble Lords to consider withdrawing the amendment on the basis that subsection (1) deals with the statutory organisations and subsection (2) allows all the organisations referred to in the various amendments to be consulted.

I turn to Amendment No. 226 which is grouped with the amendments. On a rather separate area of concern in the Bill, Amendment No. 226 proposes that we specify on the face of the Bill that the Secretary of State shall issue the code of practice mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in order to give practical guidance to secure effective relationships between the learning and skills council, CETW, LEAs and providers of education and training.

We want to ensure that the LSC (at both national and local levels) works in a way which is properly consultative of a wide range of bodies and that it promotes sound partnerships. That goes not only for its work on adult and community learning and youth initiatives, but also on employment and work-based training too.

Our intention is that the local planning process for the LSC should be as open and inclusive as possible. The LSCs will seek to engage the wider community in their work through a variety of means, perhaps public meetings, publication of draft and final plans on the Internet, and seeking direct feedback from actual and potential learners on their needs.

We also recognise that the approaches to learning that may attract adult learners will be, as we discussed earlier in Committee, very different from those which are more appropriate to 16 to 19 year-olds. The distinctive needs of both these groups will be reflected, therefore, in the provisions referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas--he is not in his place at present--made in Schedule 3 to the Bill which we debated last Thursday for the LSC's adult and young people's learning committees. We fully expect that local LSCs will want to seek the advice of experts about their locality, and they may want to establish their own local committees.

We appreciate that codes of practice can capture complex and sensitive relationships, such as the code referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, but the arrangements outlined have already been endorsed by a wide cross-section of partners and stakeholder organisations. We made it clear in the prospectus that we wanted to see a bottom-up approach to planning and post-16 provision. To set out such arrangements in detail, we fear, could stifle the LSC and would not help enable it and its partners to meet the needs of local employers and learners. We do not believe that the amendment is necessary.

I remind Members of the Committee that in Clauses 21 and 22--we have debated them in some detail--the arrangements the council must make for consulting a range of bodies on the preparation of its guidance to each local council and on local council plans are set out in some detail.

Moreover, Clause 25 allows the Secretary of State to give directions to the council about its objectives and how it should best meet them. But--I hope that it is of some satisfaction to the noble Baroness--we shall continue to bear in mind the value of providing guidance to the LSC about how it can promote and support partnership and the roles of different partners as and when appropriate.

On the basis of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour 6:30 pm, 17th February 2000

I thank the Minister for his full reply. There has been some reassurance. However, I should like to read it with great care and consider whether the reply is adequate, as it may be. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 221 to 225 not moved.]

Clause 100 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 226 not moved.]

Clause 101 agreed to.

Clause 102 [Educational institutions: information and access]:

[Amendment No. 227 not moved.]

Clause 102 agreed to.

Clause 103 [Inspection]:

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

moved Amendment No. 228:

Page 46, leave out line 12 and insert ("the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning").

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

The amendment relates to a discussion on Tuesday on the roles of the chief inspector of adult education and of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England.

In Clause 103(2) the amendment would substitute "the Chief Inspector of Adult Learning" for "Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England". The Minister has made clear that the prime purpose of the new Connexions Service and youth support service will be to address a different group from the one addressed to date. Its agenda is closer to that of the chief inspector of adult learning than that of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools in England. The agenda is closer to the role of the further education community than to the schools community. The Minister assured us that the role of the Careers Service in schools will continue. We are pleased that that is so.

Nevertheless, given the new agenda in terms of social exclusion, the importance of links between the education providers and the Connexions service and the role of encouraging those young people to move back into education and training, in particular into vocational training, we believe that it would be more appropriate for that person to be the chief inspector of adult learning rather than Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools. I beg to move.

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

Let me start with Amendment No. 228. The advantages and disadvantages of placing responsibility for inspecting the new service with Ofsted compared with the adult learning inspectorate, have been carefully considered. The balance of advantage favours Ofsted because Ofsted's remit and expertise are more relevant to the new service than the adult learning inspectorate's. So here I disagree fundamentally with the noble Baroness. The provision inspected by the adult learning inspectorate will focus more on adult provision. The new Connexions service will be a broad provision aiming to address young people's barriers to participation and achievement in learning.

We believe that Ofsted is well positioned to carry out this inspection. It has relevant broad experience, which includes LEA-wide inspections. These are focused on educational standards and school improvement issues but cover a wide range of LEA activity, including effective partnership working and LEA support to pupils in particular categories. Ofsted's experience makes it decisively the better choice for the inspection of the Connexions service.

At this point it may be helpful to say something about how we envisage links with other inspectorates working. The multi-agency nature of the Connexions service means that Ofsted will need to work closely with other inspectorates. We believe this can work well on a non-statutory basis. Ofsted already successfully works through protocols with the Audit Commission and with a number of inspectorates, in particular the Social Service Inspectorate and the Prison Service Inspectorate.

I turn now to Amendment No. 231A. It would have no practical effect on the inspection of careers information, advice and guidance for adults but, rather bizarrely, would remove the Secretary of State's duty to arrange for inspection of careers information, advice and guidance for young people. Perhaps I should once again confirm that information, advice and guidance provision for adults will be inspected. It may be recalled that in Tuesday's debate I set out the Government's intention that careers provision for adults will be inspected by the independent Accreditation Board established by the Guidance Council.

I set out in response to earlier amendments today that careers provision for young people will be part and parcel of the Connexions service and that we expect providers of careers services for young people to be key partners in this service. I have also set out why we believe that Ofsted should have responsibility for inspecting the Connexions service. Clearly, Ofsted should also have responsibility for inspecting careers service provision for young people. This is what subsection (2) of Clause 108 will give effect to. And this is how the Secretary of State will fulfil the duty in subsection (1) in respect of 19 year-olds and under.

I very much hope that with those assurances the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

I was too slow to rise to speak to Amendment No. 230A in the name of my noble friend Lord Northbourne before the Minister rose. I hope that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if I speak to it now.

Representatives of the Youth Service have asked for clarification. Will the Ofsted inspectors have a duty, or indeed be entitled, to refer in their reports to the adequacy, in their opinion, of the funding of services? Without such a possibility, those who are asked to provide services may be in the position of being asked to make bricks without straw. If the Government want the fullest co-operation from the voluntary as well as the statutory sector, perhaps it would be wise for that assurance to be given.

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

It is always open to Ofsted to comment on the adequacy of funding for services.

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

I thank the Minister for her reply with regard to my amendment. I did not expect the noble Baroness to agree with me on the issue. We on these Benches continue to feel that it would be right for the chief inspector of adult learning to be the person to inspect the Connexions service. We shall withdraw the amendment but we may wish to return to it on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 229 to 230A not moved.]

Clause 103 agreed to.

Clause 104 agreed to.

Clause 105 [Information: supply by public bodies]:

[Amendment No. 231 not moved.]

Clause 105 agreed to.

Clause 106 [Recreation and social and physical training]:

[Amendment No. 231ZA not moved.]

Clause 106 agreed to.

Clause 107 agreed to.

Clause 108 [Careers Services]:

[Amendments Nos. 231A to 233 not moved.]

Clause 108 agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Liberal Democrat 6:45 pm, 17th February 2000

moved Amendment No. 234:

After Clause 108, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:PROVISION OF CAREERS EDUCATION IN SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES

(" .--(1) The Education Act 1997 shall be amended as follows.

(2) For section 43 substitute--

"Provision of careers education in schools and colleges.

43.--(1) All registered pupils and students at a school or college to which this section applies must be provided, during the relevant phase of their education, with a programme of careers education.

(2) This section applies to--

(a) county and voluntary schools;

(b) grant-maintained schools;

(c) maintained or grant-maintained special schools (other than those established in hospitals);

(d) city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of the arts;

(e) pupil referral units; and

(f) institutions within the further education sector.

(3) It is the duty of each of the following to secure that subsection (1) is complied with, namely--

(a) in the case of a school falling within subsection (2)(a) to (c) the governing body of the school and its head teacher;

(b) in the case of a school falling within subsection (2)(d), the proprietors of the school and its head teacher;

(c) in the case of a pupil referral unit, the local education authority maintaining the unit and the teacher in charge of it; and

(d) in the case of an institution within the further education sector, the governing body and the principal or head of the institution.

(4) Each of sections 496 and 497 of the Education Act 1996 (default powers of Secretary of State) shall, in relation to the duty imposed by subsection (3) above, have effect as if any reference to a body to which that section applies included a reference to the proprietors of a school falling within subsection (2)(d) above.

(5) For the purposes of this section the relevant phase of a pupil's or student's education is the period--

(a) beginning at the same time as the school year in which the majority of pupils in his class attain the age of 14; and

(b) ending with the expiry of the school or college year in which the majority of pupils or students in his class attain the age of 19.

(6) In this section--

"career" includes the undertaking of any training, employment or occupation or any course of education;

"careers education" means education designed to prepare persons for taking decisions about their careers and to help them implement such decisions;

"class", in relation to a particular pupil, means--

(a) the teaching group in which he is regularly taught, or

(b) if he is taught in different groups for different subjects, such one of those groups as is designated by the head teacher of the school or the principal of the college, the case of a pupil referral unit, by the teacher in charge of the unit."

(3) After section 45 insert--

"Extension or modification of provisions of sections 43 to 45.

45A.--(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations extend the scope of operation of section 43 or section 44 by substituting for the period specified in section 43(5) or section 44(10)(a)(i) such other period as is specified.

(2) The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for extending the scope of operation of section 43, 44 or 45 to primary schools or to any specified description of such schools, to secure that a programme of careers education is provided for any specified description of persons attending such institutions."").

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

The new clause would require the insertion in the Education Act 1997 of a number of new sections requiring post-16 education and training providers to put in place continuing programmes of careers education guidance for 16 to 19 year-olds. Currently the duty relates only to 14 to 16 year-olds, under Section 43(5) of the 1997 Act. Drop-out rates, however, remain very high in the 16 to 19 year-old group and in the transition towards university. Too few students receive sufficient information, advice and guidance about work-based modern apprenticeship options and similar options post-18.

The new sections would require the Secretary of State to secure adequate resources for schools, colleges and bodies providing the Careers Service under Sections 8, 9 and 10 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 and to fulfil this additional duty. Section 46 of the 1997 Act would remain as the provision for the Secretary of State to choose to exercise this power to extend the duty with regard to primary schools and in early secondary years. But the amendment is suggested as an essential part of the joined-up thinking within the Department for Education and Employment by addressing the needs of the post-16 students with continued learning to assist them in making successful future career path decisions and transitions. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

The amendment moved so briefly and ably by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp of Guildford, together with Amendment No. 234A seeks to make changes to the provision of careers education in schools and colleges.

Amendment No. 234 would make both pupils and students undergo careers education until they were 19. It would also enable the Secretary of State to extend careers education in primary schools. There is no argument that careers education is important for young people, whether they are still in compulsory education or not. However, there is at present no mandatory subject for post-16s--other than, of course, religious education in schools sixth forms--and we believe that it would be wrong to make formal careers education a requirement for all.

The amendment would also give the Secretary of State a specific power to secure careers education for primary school children. Again we think that legislation is not necessary. Section 46(2) of the 1997 Education Act is broad enough to allow that without the amendment.

The noble Baroness's second amendment, Amendment No. 234A, seeks to make similar changes but perhaps by a less laborious route. It would provide compulsory careers education for pupils up to the age of 19 and would also put a duty on the Secretary of State to make regulations requiring further education colleges to provide careers education and guidance for their students. Again I am sorry to disappoint the noble Baroness. We do not think that compulsion is either necessary or appropriate. It is better, in our view, that schools and colleges continue to develop their careers education programmes with the support of the new Connexions service.

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

I thank the Minister for his reply, but I am somewhat disappointed with it. It seems to me that both amendments have some force. However, I will for now withdraw Amendment No. 234 and perhaps return to the matter on Report.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 243A not moved.]

Photo of The Bishop of Blackburn The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

moved Amendment No. 235:

Before Clause 109, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:SEX EDUCATION: MANNER OF PROVISION

(" .--(1) Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 (sex education: manner of provision) shall be amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (1) after "family life" insert "and having regard to the following principles--

(a) that marriage should be promoted as the fundamental building block of society and of family life and as the proper context for the nurture of children, and

(b) that pupils are entitled to develop without being subjected to--

(i) any physical or verbal abuse about sexual orientation, or

(ii) the encouragement of sexual activity."").

Photo of The Bishop of Blackburn The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

Amendment No. 235 would have the effect of introducing into the Bill a new clause concerned with educational matters. It would amend Section 403 of the Education Act 1996 on the provision of sex education in schools.

The debate in your Lordships' House last week on Section 28 of the Local Government Act and my on Amendment No. 364B (Hansard, cols. 396 to 437) was lengthy and well argued. I shall therefore try to be brief tonight.

Since that debate, I have been greatly gratified and encouraged by the support I have received for the spirit of that amendment, to which this is parallel, from all parts of this Chamber, the media and people in every part of the United Kingdom. I believe that the Government accept the force of this in the light of the misunderstanding, which continues in the country at large, on the relationship between Section 28 and schools and therefore the corresponding fear that its repeal will open the floodgates to the aggressive promotion of homosexuality on children and young people.

Sex education is now rightly a matter for the governors and head teachers of schools, with a parental right of withdrawal, but for that they need clear guidance on the framework of the principles and morality on which such teaching must be based. It is claimed that moral consensus in this area is hard to achieve in our so-called pluralist society. But I have to say that it is my firm conviction that in moving the amendment I speak with the support not only of the Church of England Board of Education, which I chair, the Catholic Education Service, with which I work closely, the other Christian Churches and all the other major faith communities in the United Kingdom, but also of a vast majority of the British people. The ideal and practice of marriage as set out in British law--namely, that between a man and a woman--is the fundamental building block for our society, for family life, and is the proper context for the nurture of children.

In addition to the remarks which I made in last week's debate about the commitment of the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority and the PSHE framework document, I am happy to be able to tell the Committee that since the debate I have been in close contact with the Secretary of State, and we hope to meet early next week to pursue this matter.

I therefore hope that in her reply the Minister will be able to give me the assurances I seek so that the fears of so many parents and others as to the basis of what is to be taught in our schools by way of sex and personal relationships education can be removed and a more positive approach adopted to this vitally important subject for the good of society now and for future generations. I beg to move.

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

Let me say straightaway that the Government accept the spirit of the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. A similar amendment was moved by him when the House debated the repeal of Section 28 of the Local Government Act a week last Monday. His intention then, as it is now, was to seek further to reinforce the moral framework for sex education and to put in place safeguards with regard to the delivery of sex and relationships education in schools, as we did in announcing the revised national curriculum. During the debate, my noble friend Lord Whitty made it clear, as I seek to do now, that the Government agree with much of the substance of what the right reverend Prelate was seeking to achieve.

Much heat has been generated already around this issue. The Government have made clear their intention to repeal Section 28 on the grounds not only that it is bad legislation, but also that it is divisive legislation. It is misunderstood, misquoted and misinterpreted. There is as much misunderstanding about its effect today as there was when it was put on the statute book 12 years ago.

Clearly, there are worries about the repeal and, despite the fact that the issue is one of local government legislation, the focus of those worries has centred around the provision of sex and relationships education in schools. We all agree that we need to have in place sensible sex and relationships education in schools. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment has made it clear that the new guidance will be set within the context of the national curriculum and the framework for personal, social and health education announced in September. This sets out that children should be taught about the importance and nature of marriage and family life in bringing up children. The guidance will ensure that pupils are taught to understand human sexuality and to respect themselves and others. This will enable them to understand difference and will help to remove prejudice.

The Secretary of State is in ongoing discussions with the right reverend Prelate, Church representatives and faith groups. These are sensitive issues which require further discussion as to the best way to ensure that guidance has greater coherence and force. I should therefore like to give the right reverend Prelate, from the Floor of the Committee, the same reassurance given to him in the earlier debate by my noble friend Lord Whitty. In response to the right reverend Prelate in agreeing to further discussions about sex and relationships education in schools, my noble friend said:

"We hope that in those discussions before the Bill completes its passage through Parliament, we shall have reached an understanding as to what is appropriate for primary legislation and what is appropriate for guidance and perhaps secondary legislation".--[Official Report, 7/2/00; col. 400.]

I repeat that reassurance and hope that rather than press the amendment today the right reverend Prelate will agree to those further discussions.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The Minister must forgive me, but I was passed a note by the Chief Whip, which I always instantly obey, and had no idea that the Minister would rise immediately after the right reverend Prelate.

First, I welcome the positive duty to "promote" marriage, as stated in the amendment. I noticed that that word was missing from the Minister's assurances. She spoke of the "importance" of marriage. I welcome a change to the 1996 Act if it is to strengthen it along the lines of promoting marriage. However, a positive duty to promote marriage in no way precludes schools from promoting homosexuality as well. There is no bar on that in this amendment; nor was there such a bar in the amendment that the right reverend Prelate proposed to the Local Government Bill. Therefore, although I support the promotion of marriage, as stated in the amendment, it is no substitute for an argument for repeal of Section 28.

The Government have made no secret of their position. They have said that irrespective of a decision in the other place, the will of Parliament or anything else, they will repeal Section 28 because they have the vote to do so. We understand that they intend to use it and that therefore the fate of Section 28 is sealed. But since that debate, I, too, have received a great deal of mail from the Church and from people around the country saying, "Continue the fight to keep Section 28 on the statute book". Indeed, I was surprised by the number of teachers who wrote in as a result of reading the debate.

I repeat that the amendment is not a substitute for Section 28. Furthermore, subsection (2)(b)(i) of the proposed new clause, which deals with bullying, confusingly cuts across the provisions of Section 61(4) of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. That section places a duty on head teachers to prevent bullying for whatever reason; whether the child is fat, thin, from an ethnic minority, is not very bright, or whatever. There is an absolute obligation on schools to produce policies for the prevention of bullying.

Throughout the debate last week, and indeed tonight's debate, one aspect has been ignored. The issue is not only about teachers in classrooms with children, but it is also about public money--that is, the money of local authorities--being spent by grant-aid on the bodies which produce materials such as those displayed in the exhibition recently held in the House of Lords. Some of those materials are horrendous and I do not know how they can be supported. But some of them are teaching aids for key stages 1 and 2 and because it comes through a circuitous route from people who are not caught by Section 28, the young people who use the services, the young people at the school gates and the young people outside the classroom are just as vulnerable. The issue is not only about children inside the classroom in the charge of teachers, but also about those outside.

Earlier in the week, we were subjected to the horrors revealed in the publication of the report into child abuse in Wales. I simply say this to noble Lords: looking at the record and reflecting on my experience in the Home Office, the majority of paedophilic behaviour is shown to be that of men preying on boys; the majority of incest cases usually involve fathers and girls. Thus, paedophilic homosexual behaviour on young boys is often recorded.

A point I raised during our brief discussion on the report when it was brought before the House was that there are still issues of concern about those who have indirect access to young people, rather than those who have direct access. The case for keeping Section 28 on the statute book remains as strong as ever. However, I wish absolutely to give my full support to moves to strengthen the 1996 Education Act along the lines of promoting marriage.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat 7:00 pm, 17th February 2000

I had hoped that we might have been able to discuss the amendment before us without degenerating--and I mean to say "degenerating"--into the kind of contribution that we have just heard. I am sorry if that comment provokes the noble Baroness, but perhaps I may say as a matter of fact that the vast majority of paedophiles are heterosexual rather than homosexual. I deeply regret the inference made by the noble Baroness. I shall give way.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I was referring to cases of paedophilic behaviour which come before the courts. Furthermore, I should like to say to the noble Lord that I did not raise Section 28 as a subject for discussion. It was referred to by the Minister in her response to this amendment. Indeed, it was also referred to in passing by the right reverend Prelate.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

I shall turn to what I want to say rather than what I have been provoked to say.

I welcome the words of the right reverend Prelate and pay tribute to the spirit in which he has moved the amendment. I welcome in particular his opening remarks when he said that, because legislation has changed since 1998, the inclusion of Section 28 in a local government Act--whatever one thinks of it; I believe that my views are clear to the Committee--is no longer relevant to this issue. The right reverend Prelate is therefore quite right to raise the matter in relation to an Education Bill and an Education Act.

As he rightly pointed out, for some time this has been a matter for school governors and headteachers. Whatever one thinks about the materials that are produced, their use in schools is a matter for headteachers and school governors. It is certainly not a matter for local authorities.

I welcome also the Government's response to the amendment. However, I have considerable doubts about whether this form of words will be appropriate in primary legislation. I shall quote the relevant section from the 1996 Act, to which this amendment seeks to add. It states:

"to have due regard to moral considerations and the value of family life".

That is perfectly adequate and the right statement to make in primary legislation. It is included in an Act of Parliament passed only a few years ago by a Conservative government of which the noble Baroness was a member.

These are difficult and sensitive matters. I accept--not least because of the continuing debate on the subject--that teachers need guidance on these issues. The Government propose to introduce such guidance and I am sure that that is the right way to approach the matter. I shall wait to see the draft guidance itself before I will be sure that they have got it right, but I do not doubt that that is what is needed here.

I hope that the right reverend Prelate will feel that he has received on the record adequate assurances from the Minister as regards his amendment. I hope also that he will take comfort from the discussions he has already had and will continue to have with the Secretary of State. In that way, I hope we shall see guidance that will be helpful to teachers and which will deal with these important and sensitive matters in a calm and considered manner, reflecting what is already in the 1996 Education Act.

Photo of The Bishop of Blackburn The Bishop of Blackburn Bishop

I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and her reassurances. I wish only to say that I believe that discussions on the implications of the repeal of Section 28 are going to continue. There is no doubt about that. It is on the parliamentary agenda and the issue will continue to be heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, indicated that there is unfinished business so far as concerns schools. I believe that there is widespread misunderstanding about the implications of Section 28, which is, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, directed towards local authorities, and the arrangements as regards schools in place under the 1996 Act. For that reason, I hope that we can build on that Act and find an appropriate framework which has, as far as possible, the consensus of the people of this country as to how sex and personal relationships education should be delivered.

Given the assurances of the noble Baroness, for the moment I am happy to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Photo of Lord Carter Lord Carter Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Lords Chief Whip (HM Household)

I should like to intervene briefly on a matter of business management. I believe that seven groups of amendments remain to be discussed on the Bill. If the Committee feels that it is able to finish those discussions by around eight o'clock, we could cancel the dinner break and move straight through the remainder of our proceedings. However, I have no wish to curtail discussions on the Bill.

Clause 109 [Induction periods for teachers]:

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

moved Amendment No. 236:

Page 49, line 37, at end insert--

("(8) Induction providers shall ensure that all new teachers and other appropriate staff members have received preparation for working with people with learning difficulties or disabilities or both.

(9) The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8) above, and as part of an ongoing process of staff development.").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

Before I speak to the amendment, I do not know whether the Committee has assented to the request of the Chief Whip. I do not believe that it will be possible to finish all that early because we need to address so many diverse amendments. It is difficult to say when we shall finish. I hope that the Chief Whip has not placed a constraint upon us that we must finish.

Amendment No. 236 addresses the important subject of the induction of teachers and other relevant staff members who have responsibility for working with people who have learning difficulties or disabilities. The group I have in mind are those to whom, over the years, we have come to refer as the "Warnock children"; the original Warnock report made the statement that around 20 per cent of all children require teaching provision in the classroom above the norm. That 20 per cent of children encompasses those with minor learning difficulties over and above the average of normal capabilities right through to the most severe learning difficulties.

I believe that coping with such children will inevitably be the experience of almost every teacher in the land during the course of his or her working life. For that reason, I believe that we need to see on the face of the Bill a proper obligation to ensure that relevant training is included in induction programmes. Such a provision would ensure that all teachers and support workers who come into contact with this group of young people would receive appropriate training in this area.

The proposed new subsection (9) states:

"The Learning and Skills Council and the National Council for Education and Training in Wales shall establish a programme of disability equality training for serving teachers within the further education sector who have not received such initial training as indicated in subsection (8)".

If my noble friend Lord Roberts were here today, I know he would agree with that sentiment. I should like to recommend strongly to the Committee this valuable extra provision. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I intervene briefly to say that I believe a little agreement has broken out between these Benches and the Conservative Benches. I thank noble Lords for their chuckles.

We have been seeking an amendment along these lines for some time now. Appropriately trained teachers will be able to provide properly for those with moderate difficulties in the classroom. However, as the noble Baroness has pointed out, the Government wish to see the vast majority of the population move on into further education. Such young people will need continuing proper support in those institutions.

The amendment is sensible and addresses a valuable provision. We should be encouraging further help for those already moving through the system. I do not know how the Minister intends to reply, but I am sure that teachers and support workers need the tools of appropriate training to do their jobs well.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour

My name too is down to this amendment. I believe it is an extremely important amendment and I hope the Minister will be able to look on it favourably.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

I also support this amendment. It is obvious that the quality of training of teachers will have an impact on the quality of learning and on the general development of learners. Certainly, Tomlinson bore this out. In 1996 a report produced by SKILL called Student Voices led people to believe that there was quite a long way to go to ensure that teachers in FE colleges were really good at dealing with students with disabilities.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

I start by setting out what this clause is designed to do. Last September, the Government introduced a statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers serving in maintained schools. Since that time, we have listened to the views of, in particular, sixth-form colleges and have agreed to enable certain FE sector institutions to participate in the induction programme. Those institutions will employ teachers who are qualified to teach children in maintained schools and will offer a suitable teaching environment. The regulation-making powers set out in this clause will enable us to do that.

We expect that most sixth-form colleges will take the opportunity to participate in the induction programme. Other FE sector institutions may be interested if they wish to recruit newly-qualified school teachers specifically to teach students under the age of 19 and would like to offer them an opportunity to undergo the professional induction.

Amendment No. 236 is motivated by a quite understandable concern that teachers, both in maintained schools and in further education, should have appropriate preparation for working with students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Provision already exists to meet that laudable aim in respect of school teachers, and currently we are consulting on how best to achieve the same in respect of FE teachers.

The standards for qualified teacher status require that initial teacher training trainees must be able to demonstrate the following: first, that they establish a safe environment which supports learning and in which pupils feel secure and confident; secondly, that they use teaching methods which set high expectations of all pupils and which keep them engaged through the use of approaches appropriate to the pupils being taught; and, thirdly, that they understand their professional responsibilities in relation to school policies and practices, including those concerned with pastoral and personal safety matters.

Those standards are currently being reviewed by the Teacher Training Agency. As part of that review, the Teacher Training Agency will consider whether there is a case for making explicit reference in the standards to appreciating and accommodating the needs of disabled pupils.

The induction standards for determining whether an induction period has been completed satisfactorily require newly-qualified teachers to be able to demonstrate that they plan effectively to meet the needs of pupils with special education needs and that, in collaboration with their SEN co-ordinator, they contribute to the preparation, implementation and upkeep of individual education plans.

Therefore, the principle that school teachers should be able to recognise and seek to meet all pupils' needs is fundamental to the standards for qualified teacher status and induction. Everyone who successfully completes initial teacher training and the induction programme will have been prepared to work with children who have learning difficulties and/or disabilities, and the carers of such children.

I turn to the same question in respect of FE teachers. The Department for Education and Employment recently launched a consultation paper on the introduction of compulsory teaching qualifications for FE teachers. That paper sought views on a wide range of issues, including possible requirements for FE teachers to be trained to teach people with learning difficulties or disabilities. Indeed, as the paper made clear, the Further Education National Training Organisation is,

"looking at developing standards for teaching students with learning difficulties or disabilities. Some teachers will want to specialise in this area, so there is a need for a detailed set of standards to accommodate their needs. Also, all further education teacher training courses should include the skills needed to teach such students. This indicates a need for 'core' and 'option' routes in these additional standards".

The consultation paper is being distributed widely among interested parties, including the Disability Consortium on Post-16 Education and Training, with which, of course, many noble Lords are well acquainted.

The Government support the principle that all teaching staff in schools or in the FE sector should have an appropriate awareness of issues relating to disabilities or learning difficulties. However, I hope that I shall not disappoint noble Lords when I say that the Government intend to resist this particular amendment for two reasons, sympathetic though we are to the idea behind it.

First, it would be quite wrong to pre-empt the outcome of the consultation exercise, which is already in hand, through which we shall determine how best to ensure that FE teachers have an appropriate awareness of the needs of students with disabilities or learning difficulties or both. Secondly, and perhaps not so significantly, we do not believe that this amendment is appropriate to the clause that we are debating. As I set out at the beginning of my comments, Clause 109 is in the Bill to enable us to allow FE institutions to take part in the statutory induction programme for newly-qualified school teachers--those who represent, of course, only a very small part of the FE workforce.

I hope that, during the course of what I have said, I have given some assurances that will be received sympathetically by those who are interested in the amendments. Of course, we hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment, given the assurances that have been made on behalf of the Government.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative 7:15 pm, 17th February 2000

Quite a lot of what the noble Lord has said has been reassuring, but it will be necessary for me to read in much more detail what he has said in order to understand its full import. However, I am puzzled as to why he believes that Clause 109 is not the appropriate place for the amendment. It opens with Section 19 of the Teaching and Higher Education Act. It is referred to as an induction period for teachers. If induction periods and the nature of induction are to be referred to at all, I cannot think of another clause in the Bill where that subject would fit. That is certainly not an argument to use against the amendment. If the noble Lord believes that there is a more appropriate place in the Bill, then we should like to give that some consideration. However, my understanding is that Clause 109 is about induction and makes quite specific reference to FE and HE. The noble Lord has said quite a lot on this matter. I shall read what he has said in order to reassure myself.

I want to raise one issue. I am not sure that there is a system in place which is sufficiently comprehensive to ensure that the relevant people receive induction periods during the course of their professional careers which will help them to deal more effectively with teaching young people with learning disabilities and physical disabilities. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 109 agreed to.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 236A:

After Clause 109, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:GOVERNORS' LIABILITY

(" . The governors of an institution incorporated under section 15 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 or under section 112 of this Act shall not incur any personal liability in respect of anything done reasonably and in good faith in the exercise or purported exercise of their powers under section 18 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 as amended by this Act.").

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

I rise to move Amendment No. 236A, which stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Sharp. I am pleased to see that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has also added her name. This amendment seeks to address an issue of great concern to college governors: that of their personal liability. Since colleges were incorporated in 1993, there has been great concern that in certain circumstances governors might face claims that they were personally liable for problems resulting from some action or default on the part of the governing body which led to a college entering serious contractual or other difficulties. As the law stands at present, governors of further education colleges have significantly less legal protection than school governors, company directors and charitable trustees in such situations.

This question has been raised by the representative bodies in the further education sector on a number of occasions, both under this Government and their predecessor. It has been the consistent view of the DfEE that provided individual governors act honestly and without ulterior motive, showing reasonable care and common sense within the scope of their functions and procedures, they will in practice be protected by existing law against any risk to their own assets as a result of the governing body's decision.

However, the department has acknowledged that there could be exceptional circumstances under which a question of personal liability might arise. More significantly, legal advice from outside the department casts considerable doubt on this interpretation of the law.

I move to another aspect. The Committee on Standards in Public Life was sufficiently concerned about the potential problems in this area that it drew attention to the issue in its second report and subsequently commissioned a legal study on the comparative position across a number of public bodies. That study--entitled Personal Liability in Public Service Organisations, published in summer 1998--confirmed the anomalous position in relation to college governors in particular. The conclusions to that study made clear the need for legislation to ensure equal legal protection for all appointees to responsible bodies of public service organisations in the form of a statutory discretion to grant relief equivalent to Section 61 of the Trustee Act 1925 and Section 727 of the Companies Act 1985.

In conveying the recommendations of the committee to the Prime Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Neill, made it clear that the committee regarded the need for legislation as pressing--that was in the summer of 1998--in order to ensure that all appointees had a right to seek relief from the courts if potential liability arose. To date, the Government have not seen fit to act on those recommendations. I hope that the Minister will either accept this amendment in his reply tonight--in which case I shall be very pleased, as will many college governors--or, at the very least, tell the Committee how and when the Government will act to implement those particular recommendations of the Neill committee.

It is becoming increasingly evident that the question of personal liability being raised in the courts is rather less remote than the DfEE has imagined. This is an issue of considerable importance to college governors up and down the country. Those of us who meet college governors, as many of us do, will have heard it raised by them on many occasions. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

The noble Lord, Lord Tope, has covered the ground extremely well. The normal defence in such situations has been that one was acting reasonably; the defence of reasonableness has been so long as governors, or those who sit on the boards of charities, act in good faith, but the world has changed. Personal liability, particularly in the area of governors, as has been well recorded by the noble Lord, Lord Tope, is giving cause for concern. There are very firm recommendations that legislation is needed in this area. It will not be enough for the Minister simply to say that, provided people act reasonably and in good faith, they will receive full protection. Therefore, it will be interesting to hear what the Minister has to say. In the mean time, I support this amendment.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

We have much sympathy with this amendment. We do not resist it. We ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment so that we can consider what he and the noble Baroness have said. I do not think that he can expect very much more than that.

We agree with the previous government that if individual governors act in a way that the noble Lord described, honestly and without ulterior motive, showing reasonable care and common sense within the scope of their functions and procedures, as they invariably do, they will be protected against any risks to their own assets as a result of a decision of a governing body. We do not believe that the real risk is anything more than minimal. We do not know of a case where a further education governor has been affected.

We believe that the one group of governors at slightly greater risk is that comprising those in designated institutions because they act as individuals rather than through a corporation. We are taking steps to reduce that risk in Clause 112 by allowing for the incorporation of such institutions.

I point out, in passing, that college corporations may be, and have been, incorporated under both Sections 15 and 16 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992. The powers are provided under both Sections 18 and 19 of that Act.

This amendment is so drafted--which is why we cannot accept it--as to exclude many governors from the protection it seeks to give. However, we are aware that the issue of liability is, as has been said by representatives of all parties here, of concern to many governors in the FE sector. We should not wish such a perception to affect the valuable work of the governors or to serve as a disincentive to new governors entering the sector.

We are certainly prepared to reconsider this issue, how best we can give some reassurance to FE governors, and to come forward with our own proposals at a later stage. With that assurance, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I accept the assurance that the Government acknowledge that there is just a viable concern. We all hope that if college governors act reasonably and so on, they will not suffer for it; but the strong possibility exists. They are, in law, in a different position. They do not have the protection of, for instance, school governors. There is an issue here that was addressed by the Neill committee. It is not just my opinion or that of college governors.

I am pleased to hear--perhaps a little belatedly, but better late than never--that the Government will address the issue. I hope that they will be able to return with their amendment so that we know not only that they will address it, but how they will do so. I look forward to that, as will all college governors. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 110 [Assessments relating to learning difficulties]:

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

moved Amendment No. 237:

Page 49, line 41, after ("1996,") insert--

("( ) a person is identified by the school as someone who will qualify as a student with a learning difficulty or disability (or both) within the meaning of section 13(2), (3) and (4);").

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

In moving Amendment No. 237, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 241. I say immediately that these are probing amendments. As they stand, they are alternative ways of achieving the same end. I think that one of them is defective, in any case.

Their aim is to ensure that in their last year of school, students with learning difficulties are assessed so as to identify their individual support needs and arrangements irrespective of whether those students have a statement of special educational need. The disability consortium welcomes the fact that under this Bill all young persons with statements must be assessed. It is concerned that those without statements simply may be assessed. Thorough assessment has often been identified as a major factor in the subsequent successful performance of students and trainees with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The Tomlinson report recognised that.

My noble friend Lord Rix, who apologises for his non-attendance today, spoke at Second Reading on 17th January, at cols. 921 to 922, about a London study into the transition experiences of people with severe learning difficulties, which demonstrated not only the problem young people had in obtaining a proper assessment but also the quality of those assessments when they were carried out.

A young person may well have a learning difficulty but no statement; he may be one of the 18 per cent as opposed to one of the 2 per cent mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. As the Committee knows, the number of statemented pupils varies enormously between LEAs. Many statements are resource-led but, on the other hand, an LEA may cope so well with pupils with learning difficulties that there is no need to issue a statement of special educational need.

The problem is that those young people without statements are not required under the code of practice to have a transition plan so it is those young people who experience most difficulty during transition. Some may have quite significant impairments and some may have less obvious ones such as a mild learning difficulty or dyslexia which is not sufficiently severe to have triggered a statement. They will often have attended a mainstream school but when they move on to an FE college or training programme, they find that, because their needs have never been properly assessed, they cannot cope with their learning programme. They become disenchanted and may drop out.

The FEFC additional support funding mechanism has often been praised for the way it can respond flexibly across the whole spectrum of disabled learners. I am sure that we should regret it if the Bill created a divided entitlement between those who have statements and those who do not.

As I said at the beginning, these are probing amendments and I understand that it would not be practical to accept them, thereby imposing a duty to assess all school-leavers with a learning difficulty as defined in Clause 13. In fact, it would not even be necessary in some cases. But we are looking for a clear recognition that many of those school-leavers without statements but with learning difficulties will benefit hugely from proper assessment and may well go under if their needs are not assessed. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response but I hope that she will say something about guidance and that she will recognise how crucial it is for many school-leavers without statements to have an assessment before they leave. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness David Baroness David Labour 7:30 pm, 17th February 2000

I want to add my support to these amendments. I think it is a difficult stage for a lot of children--moving from one stage of education, school, to further education. An assessment may be of great help to them. They need some help at this stage if they have been missed out before and their disability has not been recognised. I hope that we can have some reassurance.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I merely want to reinforce what has been said. We are talking here about bringing more people into the structures which give them help. The statement system misses people and certain people are not designed for it. As the noble Baroness pointed out, it depends on who you are; who was doing the assessment; and which criteria were being used, which I am afraid vary locally. The current assessment system is much better than what went before it but it is not perfect. I suggest that we should be seeking something along the lines of this amendment, or at least the intention behind it.

Photo of Lord Hylton Lord Hylton Crossbench

These amendments touch on a very important matter. I say that as a parent of a son who was diagnosed with a rather particular kind of dyslexia when he had already reached the age of 17. That was some years ago. I hope that matters have improved greatly since those days. But I believe that there is need for constant vigilance.

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

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, for bringing forward her probing amendments because they give me the opportunity to say a little about the purpose of Clause 110.

Clause 110 requires the Secretary of State to arrange an assessment of the education and training needs of pupils with SEN statements who move into other forms of education and training. Under government Amendment No. 243, the assessment will also set out the nature of provision needed to meet those needs.

We set out in our Connexions document how we would expect the arrangement to operate. Those new arrangements will ensure that transition planning into post-16 provision for those with statements of special educational needs starts at 14 and involves all local partners, including the young people themselves, their parents or carers, the local LSC and potential or identified providers of suitable learning opportunities. The young people concerned will have the support of a personal adviser throughout the transition and assessment process. Further details will be the subject of continuing work with our partners, including those representing the interests of students with learning difficulties.

Clause 110 corrects an anomaly. At present, if a statemented pupil stays at school beyond the age of 16, the statement and everything which it guarantees remain in place until his 19th birthday. If that pupil moves into another form of education or training, the statement lapses. Where the transition process is handled effectively, the statement will in practice survive in another form. But, sadly, in some circumstances that has not been the case, and the noble Baroness will be aware of that. For that reason, some young people have been deterred from choosing the type of post-16 education and training which is best for them. The purpose of Clause 110 is to ensure that when a young person with a statement leaves school, his education and training needs are properly set out in all cases. It will give pupils and their parents greater comfort in opting for education or training that is in their best interests, wherever it takes place.

The discretionary power under Clause 110(3) is designed to give the Secretary of State a power to make similar kinds of assessment of the needs of young people where appropriate. That might be appropriate, for example, where a student with a statement of special educational needs remains at school after the compulsory school-leaving age but subsequently leaves to engage in other forms of post-16 learning before he reaches the age of 19. Similarly, where a student develops learning difficulties after leaving school, an assessment may help him to overcome or tackle such difficulties.

I do not believe that we should impose a duty to make an assessment of all students with learning difficulties, as the noble Baroness conceded in her opening remarks. The range of learning difficulties of young people leaving school will be very wide indeed. In some cases, they may be relatively mild. Only a small proportion of students with special educational needs go on to have a statement of those needs under the Education Act 1996. We shall of course expect the Connexions service to spend more time dealing with the young people whose needs are the most complex, whatever their background, in order to secure a truly effective transition.

I hope that that gives the noble Baroness the reassurance that the needs of pupils with learning difficulties will be fully addressed. Clause 110 is in the Bill to remove the anomaly I have described. That anomaly does not arise in the same way for pupils with special educational needs who do not have statements. In view of the reassurance that I have been able to give, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

First, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, for their extremely relevant contributions. I thank the Minister for what she said and for her full and careful reply. I am grateful for what she said about students with statements. I shall read carefully in Hansard what she said.

I am not absolutely sure that she met my point about students without statements. I am not sure that there is a sufficiently clear recognition of how badly some of the 18 per cent will need an assessment. I do not know whether she would like to make a clearer statement about that now and whether it will be possible to include in guidance how important it is for many of them to be assessed. I believe that Clause 110 uses the words "if appropriate". I shall read what she said and perhaps have further discussions with the noble Baroness and the department. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

moved Amendment No. 238:

Page 50, line 2, leave out from ("to") to end of line 4 and insert ("receive post-16 education or training (within the meaning of Part I of this Act) or higher education (within the meaning of the Education Reform Act 1988).").

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

In moving Amendment No. 238, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 239, 240, 242 and 243. These amendments clarify the arrangements for assessments to be undertaken under Clause 110. Amendment No. 238 ensures that the Bill more accurately reflects the type of provision which young people leaving school, and for whom assessments may be appropriate, might enter. The effect of Amendment No. 238 will be that young people leaving school with a statement will be entitled to an assessment whatever course of post-16 education or training or higher education they wish to undertake. For post-16 education and training, this amendment aligns the entitlement to an assessment with the principal functions of the LSC for people under the age of 19 and the range of provision which it can secure for young people.

Amendments Nos. 239, 240, 242 and 243 define more clearly the nature and purpose of an assessment. Their effect is to make clear that an assessment must result in a written report which sets out not only the education and training needs of a young person but also what kind of provision is required to meet those needs.

These are important provisions. Noble Lords will remember that Clause 13(2) places the LSC under a duty to have regard to an assessment conducted under the clause we are discussing. The combined effect of these two clauses will be to ensure that at last we can make sure that the transition from school to post-16 education outside school goes well for people with special educational needs. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

As I understand it, the amendments refer to the formal assessments that apply to somewhere between 2 per cent and 4 per cent of young people, or have done hitherto. My understanding of the previous amendments was that the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth, referred to both formal and informal assessments of all young people. Therefore, their needs would be assessed, whether or not they fall short of the formal statement requirements. I understood that there would be an assurance, which I do not think is contained in Clause 110, that appropriate provision would be provided on the back of an assessment. I understood that that would apply whether the assessment was formal, as set out in Clause 110, or whether it falls short of that for the many young people who will still need assessing for appropriate provision.

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

The amendments relate to young people leaving school with a statement. Therefore, the noble Baroness is right in pursuing her question. However, I give the same assurance to her that I gave to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth. It is our intention to ensure absolutely that all young people with learning disabilities are given the special help they need.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Liberal Democrat

I thank the Minister for the amendments which give a greater degree of coherence to the provisions for those with special needs. I thank both noble Baronesses for the debate. The more often we see repeated in Hansard that we shall do more for the future, the easier it will be when the time comes.

Photo of Baroness Darcy de Knayth Baroness Darcy de Knayth Crossbench

I echo the thanks of the noble Lord, Lord Addington. However, I shall pursue the point I raised regarding the 18 per cent of young people to whom I referred.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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

moved Amendments Nos. 239 and 240:

Page 50, line 5, after ("arrange") insert ("for").

Page 50, line 5, leave out ("person's educational and training needs") and insert ("person").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

[Amendment No. 241 not moved.]

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

moved Amendments Nos. 242 and 243:

Page 50, line 9, leave out ("of the educational and training needs").

Page 50, line 13, at end insert--

("( ) For the purposes of this section an assessment of a person is an assessment resulting in a written report of--

(a) his educational and training needs, and

(b) the provision required to meet them.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 110, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 111 agreed to.

Clause 112 [Further education sector: designated institutions.]:

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

moved Amendment No. 244:

Page 51, line 8, at beginning insert ("Subject to the preservation of the essential nature of the institutions designated therein").

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

Amendment No. 244 is a minor, probing amendment. Clause 112 relates to designated institutions in the further education sector, of which there are a number, such as the Working Men's College, of which the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, is a governor. I refer also to a number of the residential colleges, the WEA, and so forth, who are a little uncertain as to their future under the new arrangements of the learning and skills council. They seek an assurance that the essential character of the institutions will be preserved under the new arrangements. I hope that the Minister will be able to give such an assurance. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Minister of State (Education and Employment), Department for Education and Employment 7:45 pm, 17th February 2000

Section 28 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 designated, as eligible to receive support from the FEFC, voluntary aided sixth-form colleges, institutions (other than schools) assisted by the LEA, and grant aided institutions. It did not permit the incorporation of the governing bodies of these institutions. We have received representations from a number of those concerned with this special group of sixth-form colleges. In these provisions we address their main concerns and are pleased to respond to their requests.

The Secretary of State will be able to incorporate the governing bodies of existing designated sixth-form colleges or those that may be designated in the future. It will also allow the Secretary of State, when incorporating a governing body, to specify the corporation's powers and to confer exempt charitable status upon the corporation and the institution.

The Committee may be concerned that in replacing Section 30 we threatened the protection afforded to voluntary aided schools on entering the sector. That is not the case. Indeed, we have taken care to ensure that all voluntary aided schools which enter the sector through the designation route will still be covered by the requirement on the trustees of voluntary aided sixth-form colleges to appoint a majority of governors with a view to ensuring that the established character of the institution at the time of its designation is preserved and that it is conducted in line with any trust deed relating to it. We have extended the protection to apply to institutions either specified or in a class specified by the Secretary of State that in future enter the sector through the designation route. In view of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will understand that the amendment is unnecessary and will withdraw it.

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

I thank the Minister for her full reply. I believe that gives us the assurance we have been seeking. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 112 agreed to.

Clause 113 agreed to.

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

moved Amendment No. 245:

After Clause 113, insert the following new clause--

:TITLE3:TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

(".--(1) Schedule (Transitional provisions) contains transitional provisions relating to--

(a) the dissolution of the Further Education Funding Councils, and

(b) the establishment of the Learning and Skills Council for England and the National Council for Education and Training for Wales.

(2) Nothing in that Schedule prejudices the generality of section 114(4).").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Schedule 8 [Amendments]:

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

moved Amendment No. 246:

Page 78, line 8, leave out ("of providing education or").

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

The introduction of an explicit power for college corporations to form, or take part in forming, companies, is a welcome clarification of the law. However, the principal powers of a corporation are to provide further and higher education and now secondary education at key stage four.

Education in this context has always been understood to include training. The definition of "further education" in the Education Act 1996 makes that explicit. It is unclear, in the context of this section, whether education in this context should be taken to mean further education as defined in that Act or some more limited meaning.

If, as I assume, it means the former, the section would have the effect of debarring college corporations from delivering not only education but also training. I am sure that that is not what the Government intend. I look forward to clarification from the Minister. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

The provision has been made in the Bill in response to some doubts about the power of FE corporations to form companies. The provision in the Bill provides that corporations may form companies, but restricts this power to exclude explicitly the formation of such companies to provide education or to conduct an educational institution. These are clearly matters for which the corporations must take direct responsibility and be accountable for where they receive public funding.

On reflection, we accept that this provision could be interpreted as excluding the formation of companies to provide education or training which is not publicly funded. That was not our intention and we agree with the points made by the noble Lord.

However, there is a technical issue. We believe that the amendment proposed by the noble Lord might allow corporations to create self-financing companies to provide education for students registered at the institution and for whom there is already public funding.

Clearly, it would not be acceptable to allow publicly-funded education to be provided by college companies and by so doing for corporations to evade the accountability framework. Therefore, while we accept that the provision as drafted needs amendment, we do not consider that the amendment presently before the Committee is quite what is required. However, we understand the concern and I undertake to the noble Lord--this is the second time he has had such success this evening--that the Government will table an amendment in the other place to clarify the issue. Perhaps the least he can do for us is to withdraw the amendment, for the time being.

Photo of Lord Tope Lord Tope Liberal Democrat

I am very pleased to help the Minister in that way. I believe that I am on something of a roll. Perhaps we should carry on like this for the rest of the evening, but I expect that we shall not. I am grateful to the Minister for that reply and for the fact that the Government have reflected on the matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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

moved Amendment No. 247:

Page 78, leave out line 17 and insert--

("(1) Section 29 of that Act (government and conduct of designated institutions) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2) for "subsection (3)" substitute "subsections (3) and (7A)".

(3) After subsection (7) insert--

"(7A) Provision made by the instrument in relation to the appointment of members of the governing body shall take into account the members who may be appointed by--

(a) the Learning and Skills Council for England under section 11 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, or

(b) the National Council for Education and Training for Wales under section (Further education: governors) of that Act."

(4) In").

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

This is a new and long group of amendments. It is also a very technical group. I would appreciate an explanation. I refer to Amendments Nos. 247 to 250.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

This and the other amendments represent the insertion of a new schedule. There has been no discussion about Schedule 8. I do not remember one. I agreed the groupings this morning. This amendment is not listed as having been already debated. It was not grouped with the Clause 11 amendments. Quite a number of explanations are required on Amendment No. 249, particularly on the insertion of the new schedule.

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

We debated these consequential amendments during the quite considerable time we spent on Clause 11 last week. That clause has been agreed by the Committee. I do not want to go into that debate again at this time. These amendments to the 1992 Act are necessary because at present it makes provision only for governing bodies themselves to appoint members. But the point is that these matters have already been debated. I apologise if that has not been indicated in the Groupings List.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

It has not been indicated. It has been indicated that these amendments are for discussion tonight. I have done my homework on them. I take leave to see what was said previously about each of the four amendments. It is not my recollection that they have been referred to. I do not remember the insertion of a new schedule.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 248:

Page 78, line 19, at end insert--

(" . In section 31 of that Act (designated institutions conducted by companies) after subsection (2) insert--

"(2A) Provision made by the articles of association of the company in relation to the appointment of members of the governing body shall take into account the members who may be appointed by--

(a) the Learning and Skills Council for England under section 11 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, or

(b) the National Council for Education and Training for Wales under section (Further education: governors) of that Act."").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

moved Amendments Nos. 249 to 249C:

Page 80, line 15, leave out from beginning to ("insert") in line 16 and insert ("Schedule 4 to that Act (instruments and articles of government for further education corporations) is amended as follows.

(2) After paragraph 1 insert--

"1A. Provision made by an instrument under this Schedule in relation to the appointment of members shall take into account the members who may be appointed by--

(a) the Learning and Skills Council for England under section 11 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000, or

(b) the National Council for Education and Training for Wales under section (Further education: governors) of that Act."

(3) In paragraph 5, at the end").

Page 81, line 34, leave out paragraph 30 and insert--

("30. In section 16 of that Act (destination of reports) after subsection (4) insert--

"(5) Subsection (6) applies to a report of an inspection of a school falling within section 11(2) if--

(a) the inspection was a section 10 inspection or was carried out by a member of the Inspectorate, and

(b) the school provides full-time education suitable to the requirements of pupils over compulsory school age.

(6) The person making the report shall send a copy (together with a copy of the summary, if there is one) to--

(a) the Learning and Skills Council for England, if the school is in England, or

(b) the National Council for Education and Training for Wales, if the school is in Wales."").

Page 82, line 9, at end insert--

(". In section 15 of the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 (intervention by LEA) after subsection (6) insert--

"(7) For the purposes of this section a report of an inspection under section 62 or 79 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000 shall be treated as a report of an inspection under Part I of the School Inspections Act 1996."").

Page 82, line 10, leave out ("the School Standards and Framework Act 1998") and insert ("that Act").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 8, as amended, agreed to.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 250:

After Schedule 8, insert the following schedule--

:TITLE3:("SCHEDULE

:TITLE3:TRANSITIONAL PROVISIONS

:TITLE3:PART I

:TITLE3:ENGLISH COUNCILS

:TITLE3:Introduction

1. For the purposes of this Part of this Schedule--

(a) the appointed day is the day appointed under section 116 for the commencement of section 83;

(b) the old Council is the Further Education Funding Council for England;

(c) the new Council is the Learning and Skills Council for England;

(d) the new Council's full functions are its functions under sections 2 to 18.

:TITLE3:Transitional provisions

2. The old Council must do its best to secure that any functions remaining to be discharged by it at any time after the commencement of this paragraph are discharged before the appointed day.

3.--(1) Anything being done by or in relation to the old Council immediately before the appointed day may be continued on or after that day by or in relation to the new Council.

(2) In particular, any legal proceedings to which the old Council is a party immediately before the appointed day may be continued on or after that day by or in relation to the new Council.

4. Every agreement (whether written or not), and every instrument or other document, which relates to any property, right or liability to which section 83(1)(b) applies shall have effect, so far as may be required for continuing its effect on or after the appointed day, as if--

(a) where the old Council is a party to it, the new Council were substituted as that party,

(b) for a reference to the old Council there were substituted a reference to the new Council,

(c) for a reference (however worded and whether express or implied) to the chairman, the chief officer or a member of the old Council there were substituted a reference to the chairman, the chief executive or a member of the new Council, and

(d) for a reference to the office or place of business of the old Council there were substituted a reference to the office or place of business of the new Council.

5.--(1) This paragraph applies if the new Council is established before it acquires its full functions.

(2) The Secretary of State may by order make provision--

(a) conferring such powers on the new Council as the Secretary of State thinks will help it to carry out its full functions when it acquires them;

(b) imposing on the old Council a duty to give such assistance to the new Council as the new Council may reasonably require to help it to carry out its full functions when it acquires them.

(3) The Secretary of State may make an order under this paragraph at any time before the day on which the new Council acquires its full functions.

6. At any time before the day on which the new Council acquires its full functions, section 1(2) has effect as if for "12" there were substituted "2".

7.--(1) The new Council must discharge a duty which satisfies the following three conditions.

(2) The first condition is that the duty arises under--

(a) section 8(6)(a) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (report on further education for disabled students), or

(b) paragraph 16 of Schedule 1 to that Act (accounts).

(3) The second condition is that the duty arises in respect of a period ending before the appointed day.

(4) The third condition is that apart from this Act the duty--

(a) would have fallen to be discharged by the old Council after the appointed day, or

(b) fell to be discharged by the old Council before the appointed day but has not been discharged.

8. If an order under section 8(4) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 confers or imposes a function on the old Council, on or after the appointed day the order is to be treated as if--

(a) it were made under section 18(4) of this Act, and

(b) it conferred or imposed the function on the new Council.

:TITLE3:PART II

:TITLE3:WELSH COUNCILS

:TITLE3:Introduction

9. For the purposes of this Part of this Schedule--

(a) the appointed day is the day appointed under section 116 for the commencement of section 84;

(b) the old Council is the Further Education Funding Council for Wales;

(c) the new Council is the National Council for Education and Training for Wales;

(d) the new Council's full functions are its functions under sections 31 to 43.

:TITLE3:Transitional provisions

10. The old Council must do its best to secure that any functions remaining to be discharged by it at any time after the commencement of this paragraph are discharged before the appointed day.

11.--(1) Anything being done by or in relation to the old Council immediately before the appointed day may be continued on or after that day by or in relation to the new Council.

(2) In particular, any legal proceedings to which the old Council is a party immediately before the appointed day may be continued on or after that day by or in relation to the new Council.

12. Every agreement (whether written or not), and every instrument or other document, which relates to any property, right or liability to which section 84(1)(b) applies shall have effect, so far as may be required for continuing its effect on or after the appointed day, as if--

(a) where the old Council is a party to it, the new Council were substituted as that party,

(b) for a reference to the old Council there were substituted a reference to the new Council,

(c) for a reference (however worded and whether express or implied) to the chairman, the chief officer or a member of the old Council there were substituted a reference to the chairman, the chief executive or a member of the new Council, and

(d) for a reference to the office or place of business of the old Council there were substituted a reference to the office or place of business of the new Council.

13.--(1) This paragraph applies if the new Council is established before it acquires its full functions.

(2) The National Assembly may by order make provision--

(a) conferring such powers on the new Council as the National Assembly thinks will help the new Council to carry out its full functions when it acquires them;

(b) imposing on the old Council a duty to give such assistance to the new Council as the new Council may reasonably require to help it to carry out its full functions when it acquires them.

(3) The National Assembly may make an order under this paragraph at any time before the day on which the new Council acquires its full functions.

14. At any time before the day on which the new Council acquires its full functions, section 30(2) has effect as if for "10" there were substituted "2".

15.--(1) The new Council must discharge a duty which satisfies the following three conditions.

(2) The first condition is that the duty arises under--

(a) section 8(6)(a) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 (report on further education for disabled students), or

(b) paragraph 16 of Schedule 1 to that Act (accounts).

(3) The second condition is that the duty arises in respect of a period ending before the appointed day.

(4) The third condition is that apart from this Act the duty--

(a) would have fallen to be discharged by the old Council after the appointed day, or

(b) fell to be discharged by the old Council before the appointed day but has not been discharged.

16. If an order under section 8(4) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 confers or imposes a function on the old Council, on or after the appointed day the order is to be treated as if--

(a) it were made under section 43(4) of this Act, and

(b) it conferred or imposed the function on the new Council.").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 114 [Orders and regulations]:

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

moved Amendment No. 251:

Page 52, line 41, leave out ("section 18(4) or 89(1)(c)") and insert ("any provision of this Act other than section 112(4) or 116(1)").

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

On behalf of my noble friend, I move this amendment and speak also to Amendments Nos. 252 to 257. I speak also to those amendments in the names of other noble Lords.

The Bill provides for delegated powers only when necessary to ensure that administrative arrangements are sufficiently flexible to respond to changing circumstances. Most of the provisions for delegated legislation follow closely the model for existing legislation. Where there are new provisions on individual learning accounts and joint inspection, we have provided illustrative regulations for the House to consider.

The department proposed Amendments Nos. 251 and 255 in its memorandum to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee in order to provide appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of delegated provisions. The committee agreed that this amendment was necessary. In its report it said that the department had demonstrated,

"sensitive appreciation and application of the criteria to govern the use of delegated legislation".

Amendment No. 252 is a consequential amendment to Amendment No. 68, which was withdrawn by the noble Baroness. I hope that she will do likewise with this amendment.

I am grateful for the close scrutiny that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has paid to all aspects of this Bill. I am pleased to confirm that the effects of the amendments in her name and that of her noble friend Lord Roberts, Amendments Nos. 253, 254 and 256, are included within the more comprehensive government amendments to Clause 114. With that assurance, I hope she will conclude that Amendments Nos. 253, 254 and 256 are unnecessary and that she will not move them.

Amendment No. 257 would make the use of delegated powers by the National Assembly for Wales subject to the annulment procedure of this Parliament. Delegated legislation relating to Wales is a matter for the National Assembly, not this House, and therefore the effect of Amendment No. 257 would run counter to the devolution policy of the Government of Wales Act. For that reason I hope that that particular amendment will not be moved. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Conservative

If this amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendments Nos. 252 to 254 because of pre-emption.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am grateful that my own amendment has been subsumed. I take it that regulations relating to joint inspections will be subject to the annulment procedure. My noble friend cannot be with us this evening. Amendments Nos. 253 and 254 are in his name. I understand from what the Minister has just said that they too are subsumed and therefore become otiose.

My noble friend has asked me to record that the noble Lord has struck a blow for Parliament with these amendments, providing that statutory instruments relating to orders and regulations made under,

"any provisions of this Act", with two understandable exemptions, are subject to annulment and that they must include the provisions relating to Wales, such as they are.

Amendments Nos. 253 and 254 in the name of my noble friend specify that an order made by the National Assembly under Section 43(4) or Section 89(2)(c) is subject to this parliamentary annulment procedure. My noble friend believes that the noble Lord had divined his purpose. My noble friend has therefore asked me not to move his amendments.

I want to make it absolutely clear that, given that this is a reserve power to the National Assembly, nevertheless we have taken upon ourselves that it will be this Parliament that not only determines primary legislation, but which will also have powers to annul the regulations. That seems to me to be at odds with what devolution to Wales really means.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

Perhaps I may make it clear. I obviously was not clear enough before. As regards Amendment No. 253 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, that is subsumed. But Amendment No. 257 would make the use of delegated powers by the National Assembly for Wales subject to the annulment procedure of this Parliament. That cannot happen under delegated legislation because that legislation relating to Wales is a matter for the National Assembly and not for this House. Therefore, if we were to accept that amendment--I am grateful that the noble Baroness is not seeking to move it--it would run counter to the Government of Wales Act. I hope that that is a sufficient answer for the noble Baroness.

Photo of Baroness Blatch Baroness Blatch Conservative

I am not sure now. I shall have to confer with my noble friend Lord Roberts of Conwy. Like me, my noble friend understood that the annulment powers were being given to this Parliament. Therefore, he thought that Amendments Nos. 253 and 254 would, in that sense, be otiose. If they are not, then my noble friend might not have wished to withdraw them. Unless the Minister can offer some further clarification, we shall have to read what he said before making a decision.

Photo of Lord Bach Lord Bach Government Whip

We look forward to returning to this point on Report if the noble Baroness and her noble friend think it worth raising again. However, perhaps we may be able to discuss the matter before then so that we do not waste the time of the House.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Photo of Baroness Cox Baroness Cox Conservative

I should point out to the Committee that, if the following amendment is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 256 because of pre-emption.

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

moved Amendment No. 255:

Page 52, line 43, leave out ("section 93 or 94") and insert ("any provision of this Act").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 257 not moved.]

Clause 114, as amended, agreed to

Clause 115 agreed to.

Schedule 9 agreed to.

Clause 116 [Commencement]:

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

moved Amendment 258:

Page 53, line 12, leave out subsections (3) to (6).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 116, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 117 and 118 agreed to.

In the Title

[Amendment No. 259 not moved.]

House resumed. Bill reported with amendments.