Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill – in the House of Lords at 4:23 pm on 2nd November 2009.

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Votes in this debate

Clause 22 : Duty to prepare and submit draft specification of apprenticeship standards: England

Amendment 15

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

15: Clause 22, page 10, line 31, leave out "such" and insert "—

(a) each person designated under section 12,

(b) persons who appear to the Chief Executive to represent—

(i) employers,

(ii) institutions within the further education sector, and

(iii) any other providers of training,

(c) any other persons or descriptions of persons specified in regulations, and

(d) such other"

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting) 4:43 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I agree absolutely with the sentiments expressed in Committee and reflected in the amendments in this group tabled by the noble Baronesses, Lady Sharp and Lady Garden, to whom we are indebted. Employers must be consulted at all levels. I will take the opportunity, in moving the amendment and speaking to the others in the group, to set out precisely how that will happen. The most obvious place in which it is essential to engage employers is in the area of apprenticeships. In view of the overwhelming importance of the issue, noble Lords expressed a particular concern in Committee that employers and sector skills councils should be consulted on the specification of apprenticeship standards for England. Amendments 15 and 16 make it explicit that representatives of employers, further education colleges and other training providers must be consulted. While it has not been possible to refer directly to sector skills councils, I hope the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will accept that the formulation used encompasses sector skills councils and those sector bodies which issue frameworks.

On Amendments 90 and 91, we will expect the National Apprenticeship Service and the Skills Funding Agency, of which it forms part, to work closely with sector skills councils and other sector bodies to encourage participation in apprenticeships so that young people can have the widest range of apprenticeship opportunities possible. It will also be essential to consult employers across a far wider range of issues than apprenticeships. Amendment 91 would require sector skills councils to consult themselves, which I am sure was not the intention of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. Clause 117 requires the chief executive of skills funding, in performing the functions of the office, to have regard to any guidance given by the Secretary of State. Subsection (2) makes it clear that this may include guidance about consultation, and there is a specific peg in subsection (3)(b) to include guidance with employers.

I would like to place on the record a clear commitment that we will use that guidance-making power to require consultation by the Skills Funding Agency and, by extension, the National Apprenticeship Service with employers, their representatives and the sector skills councils. Noble Lords will be interested to know that draft guidance is currently being prepared for consultation. This gives an indicative list of the organisations which includes these bodies. We are also committed to using the Secretary of State's mirror guidance-making power in Clause 76 to require the Young People's Learning Agency to consult employers, their representative organisations, sector skills councils and other partners.

Finally, we have reflected further on the strength of feeling with the House that in delivering their new responsibilities for 16 to 19 education and training, local authorities should engage closely with employers. We agree, and we accept that there was a gap in the Bill, which Amendment 81 seeks to address by extending the remit of the YPLA's statutory guidance to include, most importantly, the local authority's duty in Clause 42 to encourage employers to participate in education and training. This will mean that the YPLA can make it clear in its statutory guidance, to which local authorities must have regard, that they should consult local employers and their representative, where appropriate, in the exercise of their new duties.

I hope that, taken together, these amendments and commitments will mean that there is proper engagement with employers at every level right across the activities of the Skills Funding Agency, the National Apprenticeship Service, the YPLA, and local authorities. I hope, therefore, that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, will feel able to withdraw her amendments, which by and large deal with consultation in narrower areas of work. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the Minister for this very positive reaction to the amendments that we tabled in Committee and for the clarification that he has given on the functions of the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency and of the YPLA in relation to the role of local authorities. We tabled Amendments 32, 37, 38, 90, 91 and 94 because we did not find the response we had in Committee to be adequate. We felt that it was not clear that, as well as local education authorities under the YPLA being required to develop local skills strategies, it is clearly also vital that local employers are involved in their discussions. In order to identify where the skills gaps are, local education authorities need to talk to local employers. Our Amendments 37 and 38 seek to encourage participation by local employers. It is all very well encouraging employers to participate in providing education and training but it is also important that the local authorities talk to them and consult them. Although we knew that best practice existed, we felt that it was not always carried forward.

Similarly, on Amendments 90 and 91, the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency was asked, in conjunction with the sector skills councils, to encourage employers and their representatives and, in Amendment 94, to take account of the views of employers. That was very reasonable but in Committee those points had not been answered by the Minister. We are very pleased with Amendments 15 and 16. I do not mind the fact that to avoid hybridity you have to go in a roundabout way to describe sector skills councils. I am pleased that there is a reference to the Sharp definition of sector skills councils and am touched that that should be regarded as the Sharp roundabout way of doing it.

On the other issues, I am delighted to get on the record the clarification of the full role for consultation for the sector skills councils, for employers and for such organisations as chambers of commerce which, on occasion, are the appropriate representatives of employers. I am pleased about that and I very much hope that those organisations will note that the fact that they will be consulted is now on the record. I slightly regret that it is not written into the Bill but I think we have the next best thing: an explicit recognition on the part of the Government that they should be consulted and that that will be fully covered in regulations. I am extremely grateful to the Minister for those concessions.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, in Committee, we discussed the role of sector skills councils in some depth. We on these Benches believed, and still believe, that there was a place for the sector skills councils in the Bill. We agreed with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on this matter. We believe it is crucial that sector skills councils are involved in the drafting and issuing of the specification of apprenticeship standards because they are an important intermediary which will represent the needs of industry. Their involvement would, therefore, help to ensure that apprenticeships are kept to the highest standard and are relevant to employers' needs. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, we think that the Minister may have a point when he suggests that to refer to them specifically in the Bill would render it hybrid. As he said in Committee, that,

"would require more complex and time-consuming parliamentary procedure".

We are delighted, therefore, that the Government have taken this opportunity to consider their stance and we welcome government Amendment 15 which would mean that the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency has to consult, among others, with each of the people under Section 12 to issue apprenticeship frameworks, whom we have been assured will include the sector skills councils. We welcome this amendment which encapsulates the desire of our Amendment 38A which was discussed in Committee. We welcome the Government's intentions here and we are most grateful for all the hard work which went into finding a way to incorporate the sector skills councils and to tie them, if not as far as we would have hoped, at least more clearly into the Bill. As the Minister said in Committee:

"We cannot establish apprenticeship frameworks without sector skills councils".—[Hansard, 24/6/09; col. 1584.]

I am a little curious that the Government have chosen to expand the role of employers and their representatives specifically only in terms of the draft specification of apprenticeship standards. Perhaps, in due course, he could explain why he feels their role should be limited in that way.

We are also grateful that the drafting of the Government's amendments means that they include a wider framework. We think it is important, for example, that pan-sector skill organisations such as those to do with business or administration are not left out of the consultation and that their involvement is very important. Perhaps there are other ways of including them, even with a further defined role for the sector skills councils in the Bill. That deserves some thought.

The amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, would attempt to push that further. These amendments use the same formula to bring the sector skills councils, employers and their representatives into other areas of the Bill. We are in favour of a demand-led and employer-led approach to education, training and skills. To achieve that in the most appropriate and sensible fashion, employers must be involved in the process. I look forward to the Minister's response with interest.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

My Lords, I must admit that I am finding it difficult to cope with this cornucopia of welcome and delight. I only hope that it will continue throughout Report. The amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, was a sharp amendment and the Sharp amendment. The noble Baroness takes my point. It is not only in the specification of standards in England that we see employer consultation as relevant. We have referred specifically to a consultation with the sectors skills councils and others on the specification of apprenticeship standards in England because of its overwhelming importance. They will be consulted, as I said, on all other aspects of the Skills Funding Agency, and on National Apprenticeship Service activities. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, about the importance of demand-led apprenticeships. We are trying to convince employers about the vital importance of apprenticeships. I believe that I have answered all the questions raised by noble Lords.

Amendment 15 agreed.

Amendment 16 agreed.

Clause 26: Contents of specification of apprenticeship standards for England

Amendment 17 not moved.

Amendments 18 to 21

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

18: Clause 26, page 12, line 7, after "them," insert—

"(aa) requirements for a recognised English framework to include, as an English certificate requirement, the requirement that an apprenticeship certificate relating to the framework may be issued to a person only if the person has received both on-the-job training and off-the-job training,"

19: Clause 26, page 12, line 10, after "held," insert—

"(ia) include, as an English certificate requirement, the requirement that the qualification, or the qualifications taken together, demonstrate the relevant occupational competencies and the relevant technical knowledge,"

20: Clause 26, page 12, line 11, leave out "that qualification, or one of those qualifications," and insert "the qualification that demonstrates the relevant occupational competencies"

21: Clause 26, page 12, line 18, at end insert—

""off-the-job training" in relation to a recognised English framework, is training which—

(a) is received for the purposes of the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates, and

(b) is not on-the-job training;

"on-the-job training" in relation to a recognised English framework, is training received in the course of carrying on the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates;

"the relevant occupational competencies", in relation to a recognised English framework, means the competencies required to perform the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates at the level required in the framework;

"the relevant technical knowledge", in relation to a recognised English framework, means the technical knowledge required to perform the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates at the level required in the framework."

Amendments 18 to 21 agreed.

Clause 30: Contents of specification of apprenticeship standards for Wales

Amendments 22 to 25

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

22: Clause 30, page 13, line 25, after "them," insert—

"(aa) requirements for a recognised Welsh framework to include, as a Welsh certificate requirement, the requirement that an apprenticeship certificate relating to the framework may be issued to a person only if the person has received both on-the-job training and off-the-job training,"

23: Clause 30, page 13, line 28, after "held," insert—

"(ia) include, as a Welsh certificate requirement, the requirement that the qualification, or the qualifications taken together, demonstrate the relevant occupational competencies and the relevant technical knowledge,"

24: Clause 30, page 13, line 29, leave out "that qualification, or one of those qualifications," and insert "the qualification that demonstrates the relevant occupational competencies"

25: Clause 30, page 13, line 33, after "section" insert—

""off-the-job training" in relation to a recognised Welsh framework, is training which—

(a) is received for the purposes of the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates, and

(b) is not on-the-job training;

"on-the-job training" in relation to a recognised Welsh framework, is training received in the course of carrying on the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates;

"the relevant occupational competencies", in relation to a recognised Welsh framework, means the competencies required to perform the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates at the level required in the framework;

"the relevant technical knowledge", in relation to a recognised Welsh framework, means the technical knowledge required to perform the skill, trade or occupation to which the framework relates at the level required in the framework."

Amendments 22 to 25 agreed.

Clause 36: Careers education

Amendment 26

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

26: Clause 36, leave out Clause 36

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, I will speak also to Amendment 222. The aim here is to ensure that schools provide information about apprenticeships to all pupils, alongside other education and training options for 16 to 18 year-olds. I am grateful to noble Lords for an extremely productive and thought-provoking debate on careers education in Committee, and particularly to my noble friends who were in their place earlier on. This signalled what I identified as a determination, which we all share, to ensure that every pupil has access to a wide range of information about all the options available to them at the age of 16, to allow them to make informed choices about their future.

However, noble Lords expressed doubts about the extent to which this requirement was made explicit to schools by the careers education clause in this Bill. We have listened very carefully to those concerns. This was always a question of drafting rather than intention. I hope noble Lords will agree that the new clause contained in Amendment 22 will address those concerns and make it absolutely clear to schools that they have a legal duty to ensure that every child receives information about apprenticeships. The new clause, which would replace Clause 36, introduces a requirement on schools, when providing a programme of careers education, to ensure that the programme includes information on options available in respect of education or training for 16 to 18 year-olds, and specifically information on apprenticeships, which was the issue that noble Lords were concerned about.

The new clause will amend Section 43 of the Education Act 1997. That section was previously amended by the Education and Skills Act 2008 to require schools to provide careers information in an impartial manner and give advice that promotes the best interests of pupils. Nothing that we are doing through the new clause will alter or undermine that legislative position.

We also took powers in the Education and Skills Act 2008 to issue statutory guidance on careers education, which was published on 26 October. That sets out the core information which all young people should receive on post-16 learning options. That includes extensive information on apprenticeships, including the benefits of taking an apprenticeship, wage returns and apprenticeship sector progression to higher education—a very important issue raised in Committee—as well as information about employment opportunities available locally.

On that basis, I hope that noble Lords will agree that their concerns have been addressed and that the new clause sends a clear message to schools that an apprenticeship is a good route for many and cannot be discounted when schools are considering which route might be best for their pupils. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister 5:00 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, we welcome the Government's amendments. On our second day in Committee, my noble friend Lady Perry commented that,

"11 noble Lords have put their names to amendments that in one way or another ask that Clause 35 repeat the requirement that information about apprenticeships should be given to all young people, not only those for whom it is in their best interests".—[Hansard, 24/6/09; col. 1634.]

We are pleased that the Government have taken those objections on board and have returned with a clause that meets those concerns.

We have cited these statistics before, but it is worth calling on them again. The 2008 YouGov poll on this issue showed that only 24 per cent of teachers felt that apprenticeships were a good alternative to A-levels. In contrast, 55 per cent of employers and 52 per cent of young people felt that they were just as good an option. It is important that pupils do not miss out on advice regarding both vocational and academic options. We are delighted that the Government have accepted the argument here and tabled amendments conceding that point—accepting that our approach, and that of so many around the House, is more appropriate.

However, we on these Benches feel that the clause still represents a missed opportunity. It is no secret that we feel that about many parts of the Bill. Nevertheless, in this context, I shall concentrate on the careers service. The Government propose amendments to the Education Act that would ensure that the provision of a programme of careers education includes information on education, training and apprenticeships. They have not, however, taken the opportunity to make statutory and effective changes to the careers education system.

As things stand, in about two-thirds of schools in England, careers advice is given by teachers with no professional qualification in the field. Further advice may come from the Connexions service, which replaced the careers service in 2001. Although Connexions can provide useful services and advice, a recent study by the Skills Commission has shown that,

"there has been a decline in the quality of careers advice since Connexions replaced the Careers Service".

Moreover, the Government's own new guidance paper, Quality, Choice and Aspiration—A Strategy for Young People's Information, Advice and Guidance, states that,

"there is evidence to suggest that the quality of IAG"— information, advice and guidance—"varies quite considerably". Again, the Government's guidance cites a recent online study by the British Youth Council, the National Children's Bureau, and Young NCB, which found that only just under 20 per cent of respondents rated the formal career advice they received as "very helpful". Although the Connexions service has achieved many good things, it clearly needs improving radically. Some of the difficulty may be that Connexions is expected to provide such a wide range of advice over such a wide remit, from health to relationship advice, to money and housing. Connexions has the capacity to give very good careers advice, but one wonders if it is spread too thin.

In response to these difficulties the Government's new guidance paper suggests reviews, consultations and task forces. We therefore feel that this Bill, and indeed this guidance, has missed an opportunity to reinvent careers advice. These amendments go some way to reassuring noble Lords that the advice given will be impartial between academic and vocational careers paths. Nevertheless, they do not get to the heart of the matter, which would be to improve careers advice specifically. In contrast to these reviews and task forces and promises to look at the problems which mean that under 20 per cent of the survey respondents feel that the advice they received was "very helpful", we on these Benches have said clearly that we would change the system. There is a call for a professional, impartial careers adviser in every secondary school and college. Teachers should not be saddled with the extra burden of having to provide advice on careers. A fully trained and qualified professional body should offer young people all the help they need. Indeed, we would also institute a new and professional all-age careers advice service that would provide community-based sources of advice and guidance for people of all ages. In this way there would be a revolution in the way that people give and receive advice on the options available to them.

We are delighted to accept the Government's concessions, but we feel that while these amendments help to prevent further dangers to careers advice which the ambiguous old Clause 36 could have brought in, they do not go nearly far enough.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families

My Lords, I, too, thank the Ministers and the Bill team for all the discussions that we have had on these various clauses. Although the Bill does not address careers education in great detail, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has set out, we welcome the fact that Amendment 222 is considerably clearer than the old Clause 36 and that it puts apprenticeships as an option worthy of equal consideration.

In considering these amendments we are mindful of the strategy document Quality, Choice and Aspiration, which the Minister mentioned, because a key to many people's engagement in school is that at an early stage they can see relevance in learning and can gain confidence in their proficiency and raise their aspirations. I note from the impact assessment document that,

"it is about much more than this. It is about exciting young people about their future lives and it is about raising their aspirations about what they can achieve".

Those who fail to make that connection very often become bored and frustrated, and that leads to difficulties later in life. We welcome the strategy proposals of personal tutors and taster sessions of HE and the workplace, and that by September 2010 there will be

"in every institution a member of the leadership team appointed with responsibility for IAG".

That document expresses the importance of careers education in a way that is lacking in this Bill. We felt an opportunity had been lost in the Bill to support the careers service more effectively, but we very much support the clear intentions in these Government amendments as a step in the right direction and we thank the Minister for bringing them forward.

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, I will very briefly respond to the noble Lords opposite. We are aiming to meet the concerns raised in Committee about the need to put apprenticeships on an equal footing with other post-16 choices. I appreciate that noble Lords have a great deal of interest in careers education and I know that there is a debate about how we should take careers education forward. I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, welcomes our strategy, but I would say to the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, that the strategy is quite a bit more than task forces and reviews. We are putting significant investment into it. I have sheaves of notes advising me about the £10 million IAG support fund which will take the form of grants to support innovative projects that respond to the needs of young people and parents for impartial advice; and that the money will be made available through youth sector development funds. It is a hugely important debate.

I thank noble Lords for recognising that we have listened to them on the amendments. We are 100 per cent committed to ensuring that children and young people get really strong careers advice. It is important that teachers, lead teachers and governors, indeed the whole schools sector, are fully involved in that, and that the Connexions service is properly connected. There are variations in the quality of service, as the strategy recognises, although we differ with the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, on the question of having one service for all ages. I appreciate the support that noble Lords have given to these amendments.

Amendment 26 agreed.

Clause 40 : Employer support for employee study and training

Amendment 27

Moved by Baroness Garden of Frognal

27: Clause 40, page 20, line 37, at end insert—

"( ) a documented discussion of training needs resulting in a decision on whether to extend such provision to the applicant took place within the previous 12 months"

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families

My Lords, Amendment 27, in my name and that of my noble friend Baroness Sharp, and proposed by the Institute of Directors, has been previously debated, but we feel that it is worth bringing it up again.

In addition to the listed permissible grounds to refuse study or training, the Institute of Directors proposes that a valid refusal could be that there had been a documented discussion of training needs, resulting in a decision whether to extend such provision to the applicant, in the previous 12 months. This is based on evidence from its members, the majority of whom already use regular performance reviews or appraisals to manage performance and training requirements. In businesses where this is in place, the IoD argues that these discussions should be the preferred time when employees make their requests, thereby enabling businesses to manage the process of training allocation fairly. This would benefit employers and employees by reinforcing good practice and encouraging employers to discuss and to document training needs at least annually.

Many businesses, as we know, have a limited amount of time off for training that they can offer staff. Being able to consider all staff training requests together would help organisational needs, and the administration would be less onerous. Employees would also see it as a fairer system.

In Committee, my noble friend Lady Sharp expressed the concern that the training needs of younger people, the 16 to 18 year-olds, might change more rapidly and that a review might be required within 12 months. That group should, in any event, be involved in a structured training programme. This amendment would not prevent training needs being reviewed more frequently but would increase the incentive for both sides to make a longer-term assessment of what will benefit the individual and the organisation. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, we welcome the amendment tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, which would mean that an employer who already has documented annual appraisals that include the discussion of training needs will fulfil their obligations under the clauses on the right to request time to train. We tabled similar amendments in Committee, to which the Minister responded:

"Time to train goes with the grain of what the best employers are already doing".—[Hansard, 29/6/09; col. 53.]

In the light of this, perhaps he will have some sympathy for this amendment, which would complement the time-to-train provisions while ensuring that employers are protected.

This amendment comes from the Institute of Directors, of which I disclose that I am a member, and is designed to reflect the fact that many employers already have regular and successful employment appraisals in which training needs can be discussed. Figures from the IoD show that 88 per cent of its members already use,

"regular performance reviews or appraisals to review and manage employees' performance".

Does the Minister agree that if an employer has these sessions in place, this would be the appropriate time to raise any requests for training?

While we agree with the principle that employees should have the right to request time to train, we do not want this to become an onerous burden on employers. It seems particularly inappropriate that the burden should fall on employers who have already put effort into organising regular training discussions with their employees. Moreover, as we have already heard, such organised training discussions have the added bonus of ensuring that employers can ensure the fairness of the allocation of granted requests for time off to train.

We ought to encourage employers who have shown the initiative to extend these provisions to their employees on a voluntary basis, on the grounds that the more they help to improve the skills of their staff the more successful their business can become. We should not instead tie them to statutory provisions that are imposed from without and that might hinder the efficient operation of business and training rather than help it. I look forward to the Minister's response.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting) 5:15 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, Amendment 27 raises an issue with which we are familiar, which has been considered in Committee in this House and in another place. It proposes providing employers with an additional reason to refuse a request made under new Section 63D of the Employment Rights Act 1996 where they have discussed and reached a decision on an employee's training needs in the previous 12 months. While I recognise the intention to minimise the burden on the best employers who already have processes in place to discuss their employees' training needs, I do not believe that the amendment proposed would serve that intention. It could allow some employers who do not take their training responsibilities seriously to hide behind inadequate training policies and processes, and reject legitimate requests out of hand.

Our clear intention in establishing the new right is to reflect what the best employers are doing. I fully expect employers who are already engaging in a regular, systematic and meaningful dialogue with their employees about their skills needs to receive far fewer requests under these provisions than those employers who are not yet taking skills and training seriously. Furthermore, the legislation as we have proposed it—without this amendment—gives the best employers ample reasons to turn down requests that they receive where they consider they must do so for sound business reasons.

I said in Committee that after the new provisions have been in force for a year, we will carry out a review, with stakeholders, to examine whether we need to augment the list of reasons for employers to refuse a request. So, we have recognised the need for a review process. Since Committee stage we have announced that we plan to phase the introduction of these provisions to give businesses with fewer than 250 employees an extra year to prepare for their introduction. I am happy to commit today that we will complete that review and consider its conclusions before extending the new right to all qualifying employees in 2011.

On that basis, I would be grateful if the noble Baroness would withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his response, which I am afraid was as disappointing as I thought it might be after the previous discussions. We do not accept that employers would hide behind this as an excuse for not acknowledging training needs. I hear what he says, but, in spite of his reassurances, I do not find his answer satisfactory. Therefore, I wish to test the opinion of the House.

Division on Amendment 27

Contents 65; Not-Contents 131.

Amendment 27 disagreed.

Division number 1 Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill — Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Aye: 63 Members of the House of Lords

No: 129 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Clause 41 : Education and training for persons over compulsory school age: general duty

Amendment 28

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

28: Clause 41, page 23, line 27, leave out "persons in their area"

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting) 5:28 pm, 2nd November 2009

Amendments 28 to 31, 35, 92, 93, 97, 98, 135 and 136 make minor changes to resolve an ambiguity in the drafting of Clause 86 that was identified thanks to the diligence of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. We are making analogous changes to Clause 41. Amendments 40 and 68 make minor and technical changes to the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister and his team for clarifying the ambiguities present in Clause 86. The many technical and drafting amendments being made at this late stage pay tribute to the dedication of the teams that have redrafted them, and also to the thorough and effective scrutiny that this House has brought to bear on the legislation.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, it is always a pleasure to be listened to.

Photo of Lord Rix Lord Rix Crossbench

My Lords, in speaking to Amendments 33, 73, 95, 96, 102 and 128, which are in this group, I take the opportunity to thank the Government for their decision to remove references to "disproportionate expenditure" and the unintended consequences that this may have had for learners with a learning disability. Many local authorities may have been tempted to use disproportionate expenditure as a get-out clause to avoid provision for such learners.

Noble Lords will be aware that in Committee an amendment was tabled in my name raising my concerns about this issue and I welcome most warmly the Government's response and amendments. I also welcome any further reassurances that the Minister may be able to give to ensure that appropriate levels of expenditure are both permissible and proportionate when local authorities are funding apprenticeships for people with a learning disability.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills

My Lords, we, too, are pleased with these technical amendments which iron out one or two discrepancies in the Bill, and we are particularly pleased that they have removed the subsections relating to disproportionate expenditure. We shared all the feelings expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Rix. The wording was misleading and could lead some local authorities not to spend what they ought to be spending on those with special educational needs. We are delighted to see the eradication of that wording from all parts of the Bill, and we are grateful to Ministers for ensuring that that will happen.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, I echo what everyone has said. This is clearly a very acceptable amendment, which was before us previously and which has been redrafted. I stress that the amount of money that may need to be spent on those with special educational needs can be well and truly justified when we look at some of the ways that young people with these sorts of needs can turn out, costing the state a great deal more. If one were doing it purely on the basis of the bottom line, it is money very well spent.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson for Defence, Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport , Deputy Chief Whip

My Lords, I thank Ministers for all the work that they have done in changing the Bill. Will they please go back to their various departments and ensure that the wording that stirs up this sort of hornets' nest unnecessarily never appears again? As those of us who have been involved in these processes over many years know, that is not the intention of many Governments in their legislation on education. They should take the civil servants responsible into a cold room and water-board or whatever, to ensure that it never happens again.

We should not have had to go over this again, ensuring that such wording is removed. I hope that everyone will pay attention to this type of get-out clause, which has been used in the past and will be used again. People will try to duck their duty if something does not fit into their spending plans, is unexpected and is not accounted for, or is not understood. That has happened in the past and will happen again. We must make sure that there is less wriggle-room for people to try to get out of a duty that has been accepted by Parliament and everyone involved. If we draft this provision again and it is debated on a day when we are not quick enough to spot it, it will lead to no end of trouble and ultimately a great deal of litigation.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

My Lords, I apologise for creating confusion at the start of this debate. Amendments 33, 73, 95, 96, 102 and 128 address concerns raised in Committee about references to "disproportionate expenditure" in Clauses 41, 61, 86, 87 and 91, and the possible unintended consequences for learners with disabilities. I emphasise that these amendments do not mean that we are in any way relaxing our drive to ensure that the bodies concerned deliver value for money. That will be achieved through other means.

The noble Lord, Lord Rix, asked for assurances on adequate funding for apprentices with disabilities. I can reassure him that the chief executive of skills funding will have a duty to have regard to the need for apprentices with disabilities under Clause 114. As for the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I do not know whether it is disproportionate or not, but I can guarantee that it will never happen. Let us hope that we have learnt something from this experience.

Amendment 28 agreed.

Amendments 29 to 31

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

29: Clause 41, page 23, line 28, at beginning insert "persons in their area"

30: Clause 41, page 23, line 28, leave out "or" and insert "and"

31: Clause 41, page 23, line 29, at beginning insert "persons in their area"

Amendments 29 to 31 agreed.

Amendment 32 not moved.

Amendments 33 to 35

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

33: Clause 41, page 24, line 12, leave out from beginning to end of line 17

34: Clause 41, page 24, line 44, leave out from "section" to end of line 45 and insert "(Meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship" )(5) of that Act (meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship");"

35: Clause 41, page 25, line 2, leave out from "The" to "not" in line 6 and insert "references in subsection (1) to—

(a) persons in a local authority's area who are over compulsory school age but under 19, and

(b) persons in a local authority's area who are aged 19 or over but under 25 and are subject to learning difficulty assessment, do"

Amendments 33 to 35 agreed.

Amendment 36

Moved by Baroness Verma

36: Clause 41, page 25, line 6, at end insert—

"( ) In performing the duty imposed by section (4)(a), a local authority is required to fund sixth form provision of—

(a) an existing academy without a sixth form which intends to establish a sixth form; or

(b) a new academy with a sixth form."

Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, I put forward the case once again that academies should not be placed under the aegis of the YPLA, which is a body entirely unsuited to housing them. We have been through these points before so I shall not dwell on them unnecessarily. We feel, however, that it is most important that the Government take these points on board and, we hope, find sympathy with our view. I should state now that the amendments tabled by the Government do not meet our concerns.

Clause 77 allows the Secretary of State to require the YPLA to enter into arrangements with the Secretary of State. These arrangements may require the YPLA to carry out specified functions of the Secretary of State in relation to academies, city technology colleges and city colleges for the technology of arts. In previous debates we have spoken about how inappropriate it is for the YPLA to take responsibility for these arrangements. The YPLA is a body set up to support and enable local authorities to carry out their new responsibilities. It is not set up to play any part in the role of academies.

We accept that perhaps it is time to give some thought to the future of the academy movement. The success of these schools means that it has become rather cumbersome to keep them housed in the Department for Children, Schools and Families. Nevertheless we feel that due thought and care should be taken on where to move them. We should not just give into a knee-jerk impulse which may not be the most appropriate solution. Instead, much care and consideration must be given to the most appropriate solution and I do not believe that that has been found yet. A body that ties academies into local authorities and which deals specifically with education for people between 16 and 19 is not appropriate. First, academies thrive on their independence and freedom from local authorities. Secondly, the age range of academies is most commonly 11 to 18, and some even have primary schools attached.

We contend that there has been a lack of thought. That is underlined when one considers that there was no discussion with academy sponsors when the Government's White Paper was published last year. Now I am informed by academy groups that they are being called in and asked for their views. That is to be applauded but it is rather too little too late. We are told that discussions are based around decisions that have already been taken and that only the details are up for consideration. The Minister has expressed concern that the DCSF is no longer the right place for academies. If the main worry is really about the best positioning for an academy, from its perspective, then one must ask why these groups were not consulted earlier. From these discussions, we have also been informed that the Government have found groups of academies that actively favour the proposals. I wonder whether the Minister could cite those bodies, as we have heard nothing of that kind and I would be interested to hear details of those discussions.

The Minister has attempted to reassure us here with government amendments, and I do not expect that she tabled those with much hope of our agreement. I am afraid that I will not disappoint her in that respect. Government Amendment 70 has been tabled to ensure that the Secretary of State, when appointing members to the board of the YPLA, must have regard to the fact that they should have,

"experience relevant to ... the full range of ... YPLA ... functions, and ... any functions that may be conferred or imposed on the YPLA under Academy arrangements".

I wonder whether the Minister thought that was an appropriate restriction to place on the Secretary of State when considering candidates for the membership of the YPLA. Surely, it is of the utmost importance that, when appointing members of the YPLA, the Secretary of State should have regard to the people who would be best or most appropriate for the job. After all, a person may have had experience but not be the best candidate for the position. Perhaps this deserves some more thought.

The second government amendment here would restrict the functions that the YPLA can exercise with regard to academies. The amendment would ensure that, in the Bill, the "academy functions" that can be delegated to the YPLA do not include being able to sign funding arrangements or being able to create or confirm subordinate legislation. It also puts in place a procedure by which academies can complain to the Secretary of State. We appreciate the effort that the Government have put into their attempts to reassure us. Nevertheless, I feel that we remain unsatisfied. The government amendment introduces a channel of complaint to the Secretary of State. Academy groups are, however, afraid that this will not bring much comfort. If a group of local authorities wishes to determine the post-16 provision available, what effect will a plea from one academy have when it is weighed up against the might of an entire local authority?

Secondly, the Government are offering to place in the Bill a commitment that the process regarding funding commitments will not be changed, but that is not what the academy movement is worried about. Academies that are placed, even in some respect, under the YPLA will be tied to the new 14 to 19 partnerships, which are being awarded the power of commissioning to determine what places are offered and by how many places academies can expand. We are told that this changes nothing, but it does change something. Academies that have been open since September are, it is true, already tied into those partnerships, but at the moment they are few.

As we move forward, and more and more are brought into this discussion group, it is true that the 14 to 19 partnerships will become important. However, when this Bill becomes an Act the partnerships will have increasing power and influence over commissioning and provision. We are—are we not?—informed that the YPLA has the responsibility for supporting local authorities which plan, commission and fund provision for young people in this area. We will therefore expect there to be further issues when that legislation is passed and the plans become solidified. The fear, however, has developed partly as a response to issues that have already occurred and problems that have already been seen.

That is why we have chosen to table Amendment 36, which is specific to sixth-form provision. It serves, however, to demonstrate some of the difficulties that may face independent academies in the face of local authority decisions. There are records of academy groups applying to turn high schools into academies, but permission being refused on the grounds that they did not fit with the local commissioning plan for the area. Some time later, however, and the expansion from an 11 to 16 school to an 11 to 18 academy has been very successful and has produced a thriving school, with a much greater post-16 retention rate. The fear is that the YPLA will have undue influence over academies, and so tie them into local authorities and local politics. They will then be able to excuse this control as operating within their commissioning plan and as the most rational solution.

The fact is that academies are brought into areas that local authorities may already have been failing, and so may not know what is best. Furthermore, the fact that academies are brought into struggling areas means that the expansion or development may, in fact, seem irrational. The example cited above shows that decisions can seem to be against the grain of what will work, but may then provide effective improvement to an area which, without the independent insight of an academy, might have been left struggling.

In conclusion, I shall cite Mike Butler of the Independent Academies Association. He has stated that one reason for the success of academies is because they,

"turn around endemic educational underperformance in the most challenging of contexts in respect of socio-economic deprivation. To do so, it was recognised that new organisations had to be established that would be freed from the constraints of local authority control, from the old governance arrangements and from the vagaries of local bureaucracy".

I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Walmsley Baroness Walmsley Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families 5:45 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, we on these Benches welcome Amendment 70. We think it a very good thing that the YPLA board will be able to call upon the right spread of expertise, covering all of the areas that the YPLA will have to deal with including, of course, academies. We also thank the Government for Amendment 83, which I believe came as a result of our probing amendment in Committee. It is now quite clear that the YPLA will not be able to enter into funding agreements, or to propose or confirm subordinate legislation. We also welcome the complaints procedure for academies against possible mismanagement by the YPLA.

On academies, I am afraid that we have a diametrically opposed opinion to that of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. We have a completely different vision of academies. The noble Baroness seems to believe that their success—which has in many cases been very considerable when dealing with children from the greatest deprivation—comes solely from the fact that they are free from local authorities. However, I believe that it might just have something to do with their ability to attract the best leaders and teachers, having shiny new schools with extremely good facilities, having freedom to innovate and, of course, having parents who take a great interest in the children's education because they have chosen to send them there.

Our view of academies is quite different; in the Liberal Democrat world, we would even call them something different. We would call them sponsor-managed schools, and we would have local authorities having strategic oversight over them. They would be able to commission appropriate sponsors with the right expertise to set up and manage academies, but they would be able to ditch them after 10 years—or whatever time limit we would put on them—if they were not delivering the goods. We would make sure that there was no unfair selection, that all schools had the freedom to innovate and that they would be funded fairly and consistently. We would also insist on community use of the facilities, although I am not suggesting that academies do not make their facilities available to the local community, when they often do.

Unfortunately, we have had the situation where, up until now, the DCSF has become the largest local authority in the country, because it has been dealing with so many schools managed directly from the centre. There is, of course, a danger that the YPLA will now become the largest education authority in the country. However, we have had some useful discussions with Ministers and with the future head of the YPLA about how the YPLA will address its task. We are convinced that although what the Government propose is not, by any stretch of the imagination, our ideal it is somewhat nearer to our ideal of how the community and the local authority should interact with academies. I am therefore afraid that we are not in a position to support the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. As I say, when academies join the YPLA, we shall watch very carefully to see how well that works. We hope that local authorities will be consulted about the operation of academies at every point where legislation allows that to happen. We would like to see academies more engaged with the local family of schools than is the case at present.

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, I thank the noble Baronesses, Lady Verma and Lady Walmsley, for their remarks. This is a very important debate about the future approach to the academy programme. I was pleased that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, accepted that this was at least the right time to consider the future of the programme, and that it has been very successful. I am disappointed that the government amendments do not garner her support but we have had a great deal of feedback from academies. I shall not trade names as I do not want to miss anyone out, but we have closely consulted the academy movement. When one thinks of the original sponsors and principals, one appreciates that the academy movement is now very diverse, with academies in many stages of development. The noble Baroness may have been disappointed with the consultation in the early days but I reassure her that we are now working very closely with academies. We have an academy working group and a close dialogue is maintained.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, for her support for government Amendments 70 and 83. I am pleased that she considers we are moving in the right direction. I agree with her that all noble Lords will watch very carefully how the YPLA goes forward. We will be interested to see how the YPLA manages its relationships with academies as they will be doing a very important job on behalf of the Secretary of State. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that every child in this country has the opportunity to succeed. We want every child to enjoy their childhood, achieve their full potential and to turn 18 with the knowledge, skills and qualifications which give them the best chance of success in adult life. To achieve this we know that every school must be a good school, and academies must be in that number. As the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, said, academies are a success. The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, said that some of them are a great success. I am delighted that there is such positive support in the House for the work that academies do. They are playing a pivotal role in delivering this vision for our children. The Government remain absolutely committed to academies.

We have a hugely ambitious target of 400 academies and we need to make sure that we plan for that. As numbers grow we have to ensure that each and every academy will continue to get the support, and sometimes the challenge, that they need to deliver the best possible education for their pupils. There is consensus from all sides of the House that the status quo—that is, the department continuing to deliver academy functions—is not the right way to proceed now. That is why we are planning now to make sure that academies can continue to flourish in the future. We may not have talked about the regional structure of the YPLA as much as we should but it will allow quicker, more focused support based on better knowledge of local communities in which academies are working. If we adopt the YPLA approach, the challenge and support of academies will be more personalised and determined in accordance with, and proportionate to, the needs of individual academies.

As we raise the participation age, I believe that academies will have a vital role in providing opportunities in the disadvantaged communities they serve. I believe that we are all committed to that. But to do it, academies will need to work with their local 14-19 partnership—I see this as a real opportunity for academies—local authority and the YPLA. The transfer to the YPLA will help them to do that. It will ensure academies have, in the YPLA, a champion working to ensure that the academy sector succeeds in improving outcomes for young people in those communities. However, the transfer to the YPLA also guards against the fragmented system we would have if one of the key providers, academies, were not part of and working within the YPLA framework. It ensures that young people will be able to access the full range of programmes that will be offered by further education, independent training providers, apprenticeships, academies and school collaborations. We are committed to work closely with sponsors and we will continue to consult them on the proposed arrangements. We have invited all the major multi-sponsors to come to the YPLA academies working group that is now meeting regularly to develop new ways of working together.

We have also committed that we will consult each year prior to issuing a new remit letter to the YPLA to make sure we are learning the lessons and taking sponsors' views on board as we go forward. We are listening carefully and we are responding in the design of the system as well as through amendments we have tabled. First, government Amendment 83 prevents the YPLA entering into a funding agreement to create an academy and making subordinate legislation relating to academies. I believe that I flagged that in Committee. Secondly, in response to issues raised by noble Lords and ongoing consultations with academy sponsors and principals, the amendment also ensures that there is a good procedure in place for academies, or others, to make a complaint to the Secretary of State if they are affected by the conduct of the YPLA. Academies will have a route of redress if they feel that the YPLA has acted unreasonably or against the principles of the remit letter. Finally, government Amendment 70 makes it clear that the Secretary of State will have a duty to ensure—the noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, mentioned this—that the YPLA reflects the sectors and young people it serves, including academies. There is already significant academy representation on the Learning and Skills Council committee which is working to establish the YPLA and this amendment should send a clear signal of our intention to make sure that academy interests continue to be well represented.

I recognise that some sponsors are nervous about the sixth-form commissioning process, as the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, suggested. Above all else, the YPLA must ensure that the needs of learners come first. I do not think that anyone can disagree with the fact that we want the best institutions to be the ones that are commissioned. That is why we cannot accept a situation where academy sixth forms are funded automatically, as set out in Amendment 36 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Verma. However, academies often are the best providers. Those academies have nothing to fear. Local authorities cannot and will not just ignore that. If local authorities acted unreasonably in their commissioning role—refusing to fund high-quality provision may well count as unreasonable—they could face judicial review, as noble Lords are well aware. We also recognise, as the YPLA and local authorities do, that it can take time to achieve the desired quality in some academies, but this is not sufficient reason of itself for an academy sixth form not to be commissioned. Strategic commissioning means taking a longer term view of each provider, their trajectory, plans and intentions.

We hear academies' concerns. As I have said before, the Secretary of State will continue to decide about new academy sixth-form provision, while the YPLA will make the final decisions about the annual funding of sixth-form places and academies. This is something that I flagged up in Committee. The Secretary of State will retain responsibilities for all the decisions about all new academy provision.

These are real safeguards against the sort of irrational commissioning that some may be concerned about. I hope very much that noble Lords will feel able to support the Government amendments and that the noble Baroness, Lady Verma, will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative 6:00 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, she said that the YPLA would be "distanced" from the Secretary of State and the department and that this was a strong reason for giving the YPLA these supplementary functions, particularly in relation to academies. How does she square that claim with Clauses 75 and 76? Clause 75 provides for the power of the Secretary of State to give directions and Clause 76 provides for the power of the Secretary of State to give guidance. The wording of these two clauses means that the YPLA is, in essence, a creature of the Secretary of State.

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is right, as ever. The Bill aims to transfer to the YPLA the executive functions that the Secretary of State has for academies, within very particular confines. In consulting academies and others, we are looking at the kind of safeguards that will make this system work as effectively as possible. The YPLA is, as noble Lords are aware, an NDPB; it will have a remit letter that will set out very clearly what the Secretary of State expects the YPLA to deliver on his or her behalf. It is not the department but it will have the executive powers that allow it to fulfil these functions on behalf of the Secretary of State.

Photo of Baroness Verma Baroness Verma - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. While I have listened very carefully to her assurances, I urge her not to handcuff the success that academies have achieved by retaining them under the YPLA. However, I am thankful that, having taken back our concerns, the Government are consulting closely with the academy movement on how best to function. It is important that sponsors remain at the heart of future academies. The Minister and the Bill team have worked hard to satisfy our concerns and I am very grateful for that. However, it remains a concern and, sadly, I feel dissatisfied. I expect that we are not going to meet on common ground here. I will read very carefully what the Minister has said and, with a heavy heart, beg leave to withdraw our amendment.

Amendment 36 withdrawn.

Clause 42 : Encouragement of education and training for persons over compulsory school age

Amendments 37 to 38 not moved.

Clause 44 : Power to require provision of education by institution within further education sector

Amendment 39

Moved by Lord De Mauley

39: Clause 44, page 26, line 25, at end insert—

"( ) In deciding whether to require a particular institution to provide education to a particular individual under subsection (2) a local education authority in England must first consult with the governing body of the said institution."

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, our Amendment 39 seeks to address a concern raised by the Association of Colleges. It is worried about the powers contained in Clause 44, which allow local authorities the power to direct further education colleges to accept particular—that is, specified—students within a local authority's area. The Association of Colleges is worried, particularly in respect of safeguarding the other students and staff of a college, if it is felt that the specified student poses a risk in any way. Can the Minister inform the House what would happen in these circumstances?

Some reassurances by the Government have already been offered. A letter to the Association of Colleges, for example, stated that the power would only be used in,

"exceptional circumstance and would not allow local authorities to force 16-18 learning providers to take young people unsuited to their courses".

This, as far as it goes, is good news. However, can the Minister reassure colleges a little further? On what specific grounds will further education colleges be able to refuse to accept specific students? The Government have stated only that learning providers would not have to accept people unsuited to their courses. Can the Minister expand on what that means, perhaps by giving some examples?

The purpose of our amendment is to give maximum flexibility to colleges to determine who to accept. We on these Benches feel that part of the reason for the success of FE colleges is that they are independent of local authority control. They have no catchment area; they have the freedom to determine which course they offer and which they do not, and the freedom to specialise in particular areas. They should be allowed to specialise and so be able to attract students from far and wide and not just be restricted to within the domain of their local education authority. In light of this, at the very least, local authorities should have to consult a further education college if they want the college to provide education or training to specified people. Otherwise this is a threat to the college's independence with regard to its admissions policy. The letter from the Government to the Association of Colleges stated that they,

"would certainly expect any local authority considering using the powers to consult with the governing body of the college first".

If this is the case, why should it not be on the face of the Bill? I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills

My Lords, we have a great deal of sympathy with this amendment. It seems reasonable that, should a local authority wish to place a student in a college, it should at least consult the college before placing them there. It is well known that, where there are difficult pupils, there is an informal agreement among the heads of secondary schools to the effect that, "If you have one of mine; I'll have one of yours". There is a passing around of those very few pupils who are excluded from school where a fresh start is wanted.

Now that we are raising the participation age to 18, young people will be expected to be either at school, at college or at work where they are receiving education and training, possibly as an apprentice as we were discussing earlier. However, there will inevitably be some who are expected to be in education, or find themselves placed in a college, who do not attend. As we know very well, there are many 14 and 15-year-olds who have truanted from school and, as we said when we discussed the Bill that went through this House last year, if they were truanting at 14 and 15, why should they be expected not to truant when they are 16 and 17?

There will be some difficult pupils, for whom local authorities will wish find a place. It is not fair on the colleges to be regarded as the dumping ground for some of these young people. It is only reasonable that they should be consulted before having to take on pupils; there should be some burden sharing among secondary schools and colleges at this point—although, very often the college courses will be more appropriate for them. Colleges have an extremely good record helping those who need extra support through the additional learning support that they provide and often helping to motivate pupils who have been turned off by school, partly because they often provide more practical courses, which many of these pupils find more attractive than the more academic learning provided by schools.

This is a very mild amendment. It asks only that there should be consultation before the right to require a governing body of such an institution to take on individuals is exercised. It seems to me a perfectly reasonable amendment.

Photo of Baroness Perry of Southwark Baroness Perry of Southwark Conservative

My Lords, I, too, strongly support the amendment and I very much hope that the Government will feel able to support it. I have seen recently an excellent group discussion among a local authority, the principals of the colleges and the heads of secondary schools about a list of individuals who are exactly in the category of the more difficult young people, and it was a real discussion about where they would most appropriately be placed. For some young people, a college is not the right place; the atmosphere is not right and a school can cope better. It is at the level of the college and the school that the young person is known and that the offerings that can be made are best known, not at the local authority level. The local authority does not know on a day-to-day basis exactly what the needs of the young person are or about the precise nature of the different programmes that might or might not be appropriate for them.

To leave it with the local authority is to make it arbitrary. It will inevitably be so, as the local authority is not composed of day-to-day educational providers. It is a bureaucratic organisation and it will properly, I suppose, wish to get young people put somewhere so that they can be taken off the books, so to speak; whereas at the level of the institutions concerned, a meaty discussion that meets the needs of the young person can take place.

I very much hope that the Government will take this amendment away and think carefully about it. It seems like a small amendment, but it is quite a crucial issue for the institutions concerned. The Association of Colleges feels strongly about this, but so do many schools. There is a need to have some independence and some discussion at the institutional level about the best way to deal with very difficult young people.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, I support the amendment. Indeed, I can see absolutely no reason why it would not be accepted by the Government. I will be very surprised indeed if there is opposition to it. As the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, said, it is a very mild requirement and one which I would have thought is necessary in every instance where you are going to be placing children who have particular needs. I think we are agreed that this group of children would be of considerable concern to both the schools and the colleges that we are referring to. I hope that the Association of Colleges will be satisfied with what the Government are going to say.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative

My Lords, it seems to me highly unlikely that the Government will accept this, because it goes to the core of their policy. Is the Minister indicating that he is going to accept it? If so, I will press him to go a little further. The flaw in the Bill is clear. It is that in the future FE colleges are going to be brought half back under local authorities, and that is a mistake.

The Government should take great pride in the fact that since 1992 local FE colleges have been independent of local authorities, and as a result they have had a golden age. I congratulate the Conservative Government on taking it through; it was my suggestion, so I must congratulate them. I also congratulate the Labour Government on spending so lavishly on FE colleges. They have built absolutely marvellous FE colleges. However, that is the past. It will not happen again. No local authority will give Birmingham City Council £100 million to build Matthew Boulton further education college. No local authority in Teesside will give Middlesbrough £120 million to build Middlesbrough college. No; when FE colleges funding goes partly back under local authorities, there will be a substantial reduction in investment in FE colleges. That is as true as anything. Local authorities will find it much more attractive to build primary schools and nursery schools than to fund further education. That is the flaw at the very centre of the Bill. I hope that any incoming Government will unravel it and fundamentally change it.

We must trust the FE colleges, which have done a remarkable job of improving training and skills training across the country over the past 25 years. But this Bill puts the situation back. I will give the House one example. Under the procedure before this Bill, FE colleges went to one funding agency—the Learning and Skills Council. That is in the dock now because it overspent extravagantly, and it is being abolished. In the future, local colleges will go to four funding agencies: to the Skills Funding Agency, to HEFCE, to the YPLA, which is being set up by this body, and to the apprenticeship scheme. Instead of going to one, they will go to four, at a time when expenditure in this area is bound to be restrained. Each one of those funding bodies will be told that it has less to spend in the future than it spends now. They have lots of other responsibilities too. How will further education get a good share of that cake? Not only should this amendment be accepted; there should also be much more fundamental change. That is now virtually impossible to do with this Bill. It will not function successfully.

The Ministers have been incredibly kind in explaining the Bill right at the last minute. We have all had these letters every other day explaining how the Bill is going to work. I am amazed at how the Bill got through the Commons without these explanations, and to some extent the Government have been making it up as they go along. I do not blame the Ministers. They are merely the custodians of a very ill thought-out policy, and they have done their best to explain it. The Bill is deeply flawed and it will not improve further education in this country.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 6:15 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I agree entirely with every aspect of every speech that has been made so far on the amendment, which is most unusual. This is a crucial amendment. There has to be a proper balance of powers between the local authority and the FE college. Both have pressures on them to act in a way that may not be entirely in the interests of the young people concerned. To allow those to balance out as the amendment does is absolutely crucial. I very much hope that if the Government do not provide a satisfactory response, my noble friend will press this to a Division. If he does not feel so inclined, I will be strongly tempted to call the Division myself.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

I thought the early speeches of welcome, delight and gratitude would not last forever.

Clause 44 gives local authorities powers to require an institution within the FE sector to provide education to a named individual aged 16 or over but under 19, which is currently a power held by the Learning and Skills Council. We expect that this power will be exercised extremely rarely. However, in the handful of cases where a young person has been turned away from all possible learning options, someone needs to be able to step in to secure them a place.

This is not about local authority control over providers. A local authority's primary concern will be to secure the best possible learning option for the young person—and there are a number of considerations they will need to take into account, including the individual needs of the young person in question, as well as the needs of any providers that are being considered. In order to balance those needs, the local authority would naturally need to enter into a consultative dialogue with the young person, the Connexions service and all possible providers to determine the most suitable option for the young person.

In response to the amendment tabled by noble Lords opposite, I can commit today that we will include this requirement to have a consultative dialogue in statutory guidance to local authorities. However, I sense the mood of the House, and I have listened to concerns expressed by noble Lords. We fully intend for there to be a consultative dialogue between local authorities and providers. However, I understand the arguments that have been put forward and I commit to return to the issue at Third Reading, taking those points into account. I will not reply to every question as I am trying to save some time.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Baker, with respect, that that was more of a Second Reading speech rather than a speech that kept to the amendment in question. I was quite shocked.

I hope that this genuine assurance to noble Lords will make them feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

Well, my Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Perry for her words of support and to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, for her sympathy and all noble Lords for their arguments in favour of the amendment. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, on the excellent record of colleges in helping young people to re-engage in the whole process. I should not have thought that the amendment was particularly objectionable. Noble Lords will not be surprised that we agree with my noble friends Lord Baker and Lord Lucas. In conclusion, I am grateful to the Minister for his response. We will hold him to his promise. In the mean time, for today, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 39 withdrawn.

Clause 45 : Duties in relation to the core and additional entitlements

Amendment 40

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

40: Clause 45, page 28, line 17, leave out "subject" and insert "additional entitlement area"

Amendment 40 agreed.

Clause 47 : Work experience for persons over compulsory school age

Amendments 41 and 42 not moved.

Clause 48 : Provision of education for persons subject to youth detention

Amendment 43

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

43: Clause 48, page 29, line 35, leave out "children" and insert "persons"

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, as this is a rather technical amendment, I shall not speak to it in any detail now but will come to it at the close of my remarks. I should like to talk now about literacy and numeracy assessments and to speak to the other government amendments in this group.

Government Amendments 44, 45, 47, 49 and 50 relate to Clause 49 as regards reading assessments for young offenders, a provision which was inserted in Committee. The amendments make four changes as a result. First, they extend the requirement to cover literacy and numeracy skills in the assessment beyond that originally envisaged. This is more of the "what" that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, advocated in Committee, which we need to be more clear about. Secondly, the amendments require that the assessments be used to help determine learning plans. Thirdly, they stipulate that if a recent assessment is available, a reassessment should not be necessary. This is about trying to include a level of proportionality in the Bill. Finally, the amendments do not include a requirement for a reassessment on release. However, if that continues to be a concern, in particular for the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Elton, I will be persuaded to return at Third Reading with a requirement to transfer information about progression on release, in order to aid resettlement. We are trying to get this right, and we are edging forward here.

Regarding Amendment 51, on screening for special needs, we have committed in previous debates to rolling out a screening tool that Dyslexia Action has deployed in YOIs from this month. It is preferable to deal with this through guidance as it is a complex issue covering a wide spectrum of difficulties and disabilities. We hope that noble Lords will be happy with that approach.

As regards the contents of the guidance, I appreciate that noble Lords have clearly voiced concerns that we should be specific about what we are requiring of YOIs and of education providers in the youth custody setting. I agree that courses and syllabuses are important and I can commit to include them in statutory guidance. However, the guidance-making power in new Section 18A(6) already covers all aspects of education provision and further clarification is unnecessary, although I understand the reasoning behind noble Lords' amendments.

Amendment 55 would require the governor of youth custody establishments to assist the local authorities in fulfilling their new duties. I agree that it is important that the governor should be fully committed, and I can commit to amending the secondary legislation regulating the management of youth custodial establishments to place a clear requirement on custodial operators to co-operate with local authorities and their designated providers in the fulfilment of their education duties. This will meet the concerns that noble Lords voiced about ensuring that the role of the governor is properly maximised.

With regard to concerns about the scope of new Section 562A and young people in adult custody, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, raised two important points in Committee. First, he was concerned that this new section, inserted by Clause 51, could be used to change the specific young offender provisions of the Bill. This is certainly not our intention, and Amendment 48 clarifies this. I hope that the noble Lord will find that helpful. Secondly, he raised concerns about the education of under-19s in adult custody, which we discussed in Committee. I can commit that we will set out administratively that the chief executive of skills funding should use his best endeavours to ensure that they receive a broadly analogous education to their counterparts in juvenile custody. That is a strong measure that I hope will satisfy the noble Lord, who is rightly concerned that people aged 18 or under in an adult setting should received the analogous education.

I am speaking also to Amendment 134, which will require the chief executive to have regard to any learning difficulties among this age group. That is an omission and needs to be corrected. I hope that that provides the reassurance that noble Lords are looking for on those matters.

Information transfer was a particular concern of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in his Amendments 53 and 54. Amendment 53 seeks to change to a duty the power in new Section 562E for education providers to share information. We considered whether we should place a duty on providers to share information but we concluded that that was not appropriate in the case of, for example, voluntary sector providers or even of home educators, because we would not want to create new enforcement mechanisms or penalties on such groups. That is why we did not go down that route. I hope that we can persuade the noble Lord to withdraw that amendment.

Amendment 54, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, proposes a power to allow the host local authority to transfer educational information to the home authority or to any person responsible for providing education and training for the detained person. This is already provided for in Section 562E—I apologise for all the numbers. It requires that the transfer of information must happen on request. This allows us to make this a clear duty, and therefore is stronger than the power suggested in the amendment. We are placing a duty on local authorities and have a mechanism for redress.

I understand concerns raised in Committee that we must ensure that information sharing happens. I appreciate that noble Lords sometimes tire of Ministers saying that they are producing guidance and therefore such and such will happen. We have a strong commitment to making this information sharing happen. The YJB has a remit to monitor the secure estate, and as part of the development of new information-sharing programmes such as e-Asset, it monitors the usage of the system monthly to ensure that it is being used as intended. In addition, the YJB has undertaken one-off reviews to check that it is delivering the benefits hoped for under the new e-Asset system. It plans to continue this as it develops the system further. We will be clear in the statutory guidance that information exchange must be integrated wherever possible with the YJB's recently developed information-sharing systems, including e-Asset. This will help to make timely information sharing routine practice—this is the key—as well as ensuring that a person's education plans are considered in the context of their wider sentence and resettlement plans. It is about bringing together all the important elements of resettlement and sentence planning.

Ofsted, too, will play an important role in considering young people's educational progress, and information sharing is an important part of this. As I said earlier, Amendment 43 is minor and technical, as are Amendments 56 and 61. I hope that, with the commitments that I have made and the reassurances that I have given about information sharing and the statutory guidance being clear about what we expect of the system, noble Lords will feel able to support the government amendment.

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench 6:30 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that, and particularly grateful for her early mention of consideration before Third Reading. This Bill has sometimes felt like a shotgun marriage, because we have been instructed to go down this route, knowing that the Learning and Skills Council has already received its demolition order. Nevertheless, it is important that we should raise all the issues right down to the wire—particularly those that affect young people. I will speak to Amendments 46, 51 and 52, which refer to young people in detention. I will leave Amendment 55, which I support, to my noble friend Lord Elton.

Amendment 46, as the noble Baroness hinted, refers to the business of what and how that I raised earlier. We are nearly at the what, but not quite there. I am confused by new subsection (6) in Clause 48, which adds the following after Section 18 of the Education Act 1996:

"In performing the duty imposed by subsection (1), a local education authority must have regard to any guidance issued ... by the Secretary of State".

What concerns me is that it does not state which Secretary of State. There are at least two—for the Department for Children, Schools and Families and for the Ministry of Justice. When I asked the Bill Office whether it could be precise, the answer was, "No, this is the language of Bills, it is just 'the Secretary of State'".

I am very concerned. My experience of going round the estate where this happens is that there is a lack of direction. Nobody is in charge of saying what should happen. Therefore there is no consistency in what happens all around the system. Surely that is what we are after. My proposal, guided by the Bill Office, was to be more specific about what guidance the local authority should have regard to. The guidance is on what is to be done—what courses, what programmes, what education and for which people. Otherwise, there can be no provision.

As the discussion on the Bill has gone on, I have become more concerned about where we are going. There is complexity after complexity. Three words have sprung to mind—they say that soldiers can only think in threes, and this proves it. Two of them are German and come from the battlefield. The first is "Auftragstaktik", which means "mission-orientated orders"—in other words, everyone knows precisely where they are going, without any doubt at all. The second is "Fingerspitzengefühl", which means "fingertip feel"—in other words, those who are doing the job know precisely what they ought to be doing, when and where, because the instructions are abundantly clear. The third word is a government word—"simplification". I see us breaking away from clarity, clouding the issue for people on the ground and getting more complicated as more organisations and methods are added to the system. This is lunatic when we are dealing with young people, particularly young people who are in touch with the criminal justice system.

I am also concerned that while we are talking about that in the context of a Bill coming from the education ministries, two other things are happening. One is that something called the National Standards for Youth Justice Services is being produced, in which people make comments to the Ministry of Justice. They are talking about communication problems and the fact that 60 per cent of these young people have communication difficulties. They are saying that staff need training and support to manage these people, and that if you start trying to assess their processes verbally, they tend to withdraw, not co-operate and deny problems in order to finish the processes quickly and reduce the stress. It is essential that early risk-assessment processes include identification of communication difficulties so that their impact on risk assessment can be managed.

This issue links Amendment 46 to Amendments 51 and 52. The Minister has assured us that in statutory guidance there will be instructions on this. However, for 10 years I have been trying to impress on the criminal justice system that until and unless the communication difficulties of these youngsters are properly assessed, there is no entry to any literacy, numeracy or other assessment. The communication problem is the scourge of the 21st century. It has crept up on us and we must stop it. There has been a mass of assurance that this is going to happen—this regulation and that instruction—but I am cynical about this and dearly wish to see it in the Bill. People will know then what is required and can begin to cost it.

My last point is that I am very concerned that Clause 48 passes the buck of education provision for those in youth detention to LEAs. On 21 July, I handed a document called Young Offenders: A Secure Foundation to the Minister, Maria Eagle, in the Ministry of Justice. It was published by the Foyer Federation and concerns the costs of youth offender institutions. It proves that the Government are consistently understating the costs of managing young offender institutions. Instead of the quoted cost of between £48,000 and £67,000, the true cost is £100,000 a year and possibly more. Therefore, the Youth Justice Board's budget is currently £120 million less than the true cost. What worries me is that when the true cost is passed to the local education authorities, they are going to find that there is not enough provision to do all the things that have to be done. This Bill is making that situation worse because it lacks any clarity as to who is to do what, other than mentioning all these new organisations which are going to assume funding responsibilities. I know I have said this over and again—I have been banging on for 10 years now—but I hope that at last the Government will listen and put something right which could have been put right years ago.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative

My Lords, I strongly support what the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said and I think the House should listen to him. Few people have as much experience of the Prison Service as he has.

This is the only occasion on Report when we have the opportunity to debate this extraordinary proposal to transfer the education of young offenders from the Prison Service and Home Office, and now the Ministry of Justice, to local authorities. It has not been possible to know how this is going operate in practice from the actual words in the legislation, even from the Explanatory Notes. I was, therefore, grateful to the Minister for publishing last Friday LA Guidance—Learning for Young People in Youth Custody in England, which runs to 44 pages. It is extraordinary on a Bill of this importance that only at almost the last stage—Report in the House of Lords—this information has been made available. What did the Commons do when it discussed these matters, or was this part not discussed in the Commons at all because of the guillotine? This is the first time the House has any idea how this extraordinary policy is going to be implemented.

I downloaded the 44 pages on Saturday evening on my House of Lords printer. It took 20 minutes. Then I settled down to read it, denying myself the chance of watching "Strictly Come Dancing" and "The X Factor"—it was a happy release. I now understand what the Government are trying to do, but this is an incomplete document. On 12 different pages it says things such as,

"need to add further detail", or,

"add detail on requirement about literacy and numeracy assessments".

Annexe 1 takes the biscuit, stating that,

"this section will explain the roles and responsibilities to the different organisations and partners involved".

The page is a complete and utter blank. Those of you who have read The Hunting of the Snark will know that a snark's map is a perfect and absolute blank. This is a snark's map. How are we going to understand how this works? I then found an extraordinary statement on Page 3:

"add link—a drat is due to be issued for consultation in November".

A drat? I wondered what a drat was. I turned to the glossary. Did "drat" mean "a definite rational and actual training"? Was it just an expletive? It was, of course, a spelling mistake. Even on page 3 they cannot get the spelling right. None of the officials or Ministers noticed it. They published it. This is absolutely typical of how this Bill has been handled throughout its progress in this House. Hardly a week has passed without two long letters from Ministers explaining how the Bill will operate. I do not blame the Ministers. They are the poor custodians of a very poor policy, and they have been given the job of trying to explain it to everybody. But this really is not the way that legislation should be addressed.

At the heart, what is this Bill going to do? It is going to deal first with 7,000 young offenders who are admitted into custody each year. At any one time about 2,600 are actually in custody in 15 young offender institutions, four secure training centres or nine secure children's homes, and there are two more in Wales. How long do they stay there? Some only stay for a week or a few days. The average is three to four months. Some stay much longer, up to two years. So how will this Bill operate?

At the moment, these young offenders are provided with education and training by the Prison Service. This Bill gives to the local authorities where the offenders have lived, not where the institution is, a duty to promote the fulfilment of the young person's learning potential while they are in custody and on their release. How will this work? Let us suppose a young offender from Essex is sent to the young offender institution in Wigan. As one of the largest in the country, Hindley takes more than 400 young offenders. As soon as that young offender from Essex—let us call him Mr Bloggs—arrives in Hindley, it has to write to Essex and say, "Do you know about Mr Bloggs?". Essex might find that Mr Bloggs left school at the age of 11 and that it has had no track or record of him since, and the lad may not remember the name of the school that he went to. We are dealing with these sorts of people. Wigan then has to find out how intelligent Mr Bloggs is by doing a literacy and numeracy assessment within two or three days. Then it has to try and find out what he would like to study and send that information back to Essex. Essex then has to devise an individual learning programme for this person in Wigan. That is going to involve huge bureaucracy. Can an individual learning programme for a young offender be identified and written without anybody going from Essex to Wigan to talk to that young offender? Who is going to bear the cost of that? It will be the Essex local education authority. And Essex being what it is will not have just one Mr Bloggs. It will probably have 20, 30 or 40 at any one time, not only in Wigan but in several other young offender institutions. So you are throwing a huge responsibility on local education authorities.

What are the difficulties in discharging that? There might be early leavers, as I have said, who played truant and bunked off at 11, 12 or 13. These young offenders might be itinerant. It might be difficult to track down where they have been educated. They might say that they last lived in Essex but were, in fact, only in Essex for two or three months and then they went down to Devon or to Birmingham or Leeds. When you assess what that young person needs, suppose he decides in Wigan that he would like practical training in plumbing and Wigan does not do plumbing. Suppose he wants training in some other function that the young offender institution cannot provide. If Essex says, "He wants to be trained in plumbing", what are you going to do? Bring in plumbers to Wigan with all their equipment to do this? This is so utterly typically unrealistic. Suppose that young person is transferred to another young offender institution, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, knows, can be quite common. All this has to be gone through again.

You have this extraordinary dichotomy between the host local authority where the young offender institution is and the place where the offender is deemed to live. It is the host authority that has to provide the education. It has to commission the tutors or provide the teaching classes or workshops. But in order to do that, it has to speak to the Youth Justice Board, which has to approve the resources to be provided. Who will pay for those, the YJB or the host authority? Why should the host authority incur capital costs when they do not particularly want to do it? Where is the money going to come from?

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:45 pm, 2nd November 2009

I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord but I think we are now hearing another Second Reading speech. I remind him that on Report noble Lords need to address the specific amendments before the House.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative

I do not think that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton, was in the Chamber when the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, was speaking, I assure her that she mentioned local authorities and host authorities repeatedly. If she had been here, she would have heard it. She can hear it from me now.

That is the dichotomy of this arrangement. I do not think that it can work administratively. After the Youth Justice Board has worked out what it has to do with the host authority, it has to get the approval of the children's trust, the sub-regional groups and the national regional groups. That extraordinary bureaucracy has been created by this part of the Bill.

When a young offender is released, the local authority where he is supposed to have lived has to devise a training programme for him wherever he goes, even if he does not go back to Essex. Who devised that policy? I cannot believe that it came from the Ministry of Justice, the Home Office or the Prison Service. Did it come from the education department—the DCSF—or the business or skills departments? In those days, I think business and skills were under the education department. It is clear that this has not been thought through very carefully. It is an immensely bureaucratic structure. At Third Reading, it would be sensible for the House to postpone for two years the implementation of these clauses relating to the training of young offenders aged 16 to 18. The Minister shakes her head. Read these details and understand the complexity of it. Who will pay for it? There will be an annual grant to the host authority for the provision but will that be per capita or an annual grant? If it is per capita will that allow for the prison population to go up from 2,600 to 4,000? If it is an annual grant, they could not possibly meet that extra cost. That is the complexity of this aspect of the Bill. It is up to Ministers to explain it more fully, if not now, certainly at Third Reading.

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, first, I endorse everything that the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has said about those amendments in our joint names. Secondly, with due deference to the Companion,I support my noble friend Lord Baker, who expressed sentiments which I wish I could have expressed earlier. Thirdly, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for introducing clarification of what I called the Henry VIII clause. I am grateful for what she has done to ensure that this does not allow an Administration to overturn the provisions in the Bill where they affect young people in custody.

Amendment 55, in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, is designed to elicit from the Government the duty which the governor of an institution from which a young person is released is under. When a young person is incarcerated, how does the duty rest on the governor to see that the education, which the Bill provides in such a complicated and expensive way, is delivered? As my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, will know, there are often shortages of members of the Prison Officers' Association able or willing to move prisoners from one part of a prison to another. It is all very well having teachers, overhead projectors and white boards in one room in a young offender institution if all the inmates who are to benefit from it are elsewhere. Nowhere in the Bill have I seen a requirement that the governor and the host authority shall be able to discharge the functions as set out in the Bill. Nor do I see an explanation of how they shall be exempted from being in breach of the statute if they have been unable to do so because of responsibilities which lie with the Prison Service. Although the Minister may not much like the amendment, I hope she will like the opportunity to explain what will happen under those circumstances.

I reaffirm my enthusiasm for the proposals of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in Amendments 51 and 52, which I support and about which we shall have to take a view when the questions on them are put by the Lord Speaker. We cannot debate them again but my view is that it would be very good to have them in the Bill, unless the noble Baroness can produce something more effective than I expect.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, on my amendments in this group, the Minister has answered my questions before I have asked them. I am content with her answers.

I look forward to hearing what she has to say about the amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, which seem to be much more to the point and try to introduce some sense of hope and direction into this Mittsommernachtstraum of a section of the Bill. We are living, as my noble friend Lord Baker has said, in the realm of fantasy. The ability of the Government-produced information systems to handle something of this complexity is not often demonstrated—I say that kindly. The number of people through which these processes have to go, each of whom will take their own time and have their own in-tray, will leave the poor old people on the ground, who are providing education in the prisons concerned, with just making do and coping with the fact. There are some good things. There is an assessment on the way in and, with luck, we will have an assessment on the way out, and in between the prisons will make do. Nothing will come of all this moving around of information, decision-making and shifting the decisions from where they should be taken, which is next door to the person concerned in the prison.

Photo of The Earl of Listowel The Earl of Listowel Crossbench

My Lords, I offer support for my noble friend's Amendments 51 and 52. I cannot see why there should not be an assessment when a young person enters and leaves custody. The amendment speaks of six months, but I cannot see why it should not refer to three or four months. I look forward to the Minister's response. I strongly support my noble friend.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families

My Lords, we are grateful to the Minister and to the Bill team for the detailed discussion that we have had on these clauses. I take the point made by the noble Lords, Lord Ramsbotham and Lord Baker, that sometimes the length of the detail and description has been somewhat overwhelming. With the benefit of the amendments tabled, the Bill provides for improvement to procedures and systems in some cases. We welcome the Government's commitment to assessing literacy and numeracy skills when a young person begins a period in custody and we strongly support the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, in his Amendment 51, which suggests that special educational needs should be assessed at the same time and that that assessment should lead to an intensive programme of learning to ensure that young people leave custody with higher levels of skills than when they entered. If they are better equipped for life and work, surely that makes sense for them personally, and it makes social and economic sense.

We have listened to the arguments about assessment when young people leave custody. On the whole, we support the Government's view that repeated assessment might discourage them more and not be the most effective use of limited resources. In previous debates, we have discussed who will do the assessment and how it will be assessed. We have to recognise that assessment resources need to be targeted in the most effective way possible.

We support Amendment 55 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, as I indicated when I spoke to a similar Liberal Democrat amendment in Committee. The duty of liaison between host and home authorities should, most appropriately, rest with the governor and if there were a change of governor—the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, has raised that before—the responsibility could still rest with that function and the continuity of the young person's educational programme could be assured. As the Minister said, I feel that we are edging forward in some respects with this Bill and we would support some of the government amendments proposed today.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 7:00 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I support all the amendments that have been spoken to. My noble friend Lord Ramsbotham has put his finger on what he calls the "what factor". There is a tremendous difficulty in working out who is going to take responsibility when there are two Secretaries of State, plus the Ministry of Justice. Equally, the Minister has done a great job in communicating all the changes which she is trying to make to accommodate us. I also have a little sympathy with the Minister; there has been some point in trying to move the responsibility for education from the governors when, let us be honest, by no means every governor has been keen to see that the educational needs of young people in their care and custody are the first priority. Work arrangements and other priorities of governors have sometimes taken first place. I also have a sneaky feeling that, on the odd occasion, it might have been a good idea, as far as local education authorities were concerned, to see their more troublesome members paid for by another department, therefore reducing the burden of finding places and proper education for their most difficult customers.

That said, I hope that the Minister can be more specific about just how far the Government are prepared to go to meet the concerns that have been expressed in these amendments, all of which I strongly support, or that we will be testing the opinion of the House on at least some of them.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, several of the government amendments in this group are designed to respond to our amendment tabled in Committee, now Clause 49, which asked that a reading assessment be carried out on those subject to youth detention. The Minister has brought forward a new amendment to replace ours. Barring one objection, she will be pleased to hear that we are gladly able to accept those amendments. As she has described, she has expanded the assessment so that the initial assessment will be of both literacy and of numeracy. We welcome this change, and thank the Government for having seen the merit of our amendment in such a favourable light as to expand on it.

We also welcome the Government's intention to expand the requirement that the information from the assessments be used to help determine suitable educational provision. We also agree that if a recent assessment is available, then a further assessment should not be required. However, I ask the Minister to clarify two matters. First, how does new Section 562DA link to the provision which requires information to be taken into account when determining what constitutes suitable education? My reading of the Bill, and the amendments, suggests that it is only new Section 562E which is taken into account. I would be grateful if she would consider and clarify that.

Secondly, can the Minister offer us some reassurance that there will be some statutory guidance in place relating to the amount of time which would be considered appropriate for it to be concluded that a further assessment was not necessary? We agree that it is important not to overassess detained people, but it would be unfortunate if subsection (3) of the new Section 562DA were to be exploited so as to render it meaningless.

I was interested to hear the Minister respond to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, before he spoke to them. His response to that response was very compelling, and we share his concerns about the complexity of this Bill. My German is non-existent, but clarity of mission is essential, and my noble friend Lord Baker has rather colourfully, and I am afraid accurately, illustrated how unclear that mission is.

We welcome in particular Amendment 52 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham. While the government amendments are acceptable replacements for our own Clause 49, we feel that it remains important to have an assessment in place for when the person leaves youth accommodation, as well as when he enters it. We have taken on board the Government's concerns that a short sentence could mean that assessments were unnecessary, so we are supportive of the amendment, which requires the second assessment to occur only when the person has been detained for six months or longer. I very much hope that the Minister will look favourably on this amendment, as it reflects the concerns which were behind Amendment 124D when it was accepted by the Committee.

Moreover, we concur with the desire of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that the assessment should be made available to the home authority. This allows for a coherent approach to education, which should mean that progress made while in detention can be carried forward thereafter. In this light, I hope the Minister will look favourably on Amendments 53 and 54, which have been tabled by my noble friend Lord Lucas. I think she said that she did. These amendments have at their heart a desire to ensure that information is provided to those detained in youth accommodation in a coherent way. The host authority, the home authority and the providers of education should all be aware of what each other has been doing and what progress has been made. It should be a duty to ensure that such a consistent approach is taken. All the good intentions which the Government have here will be to no avail if one side is not aware of what the other is doing or has achieved.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative

My Lords, is there a definition of a home authority, as related to a young offender, which would stand up in a court of law, or is it a term of art?

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, this has been a very full and interesting debate, and I hope that I can respond to the points made by noble Lords. I made it clear in my speech that we propose to return at Third Reading with amendments that would require the transfer of information about educational progress to inform resettlement, which I think will pick up the concerns raised in Amendments 51 and 52. I want to be clear that I am very keen to continue the dialogue.

I am very disappointed with efforts to provide the Committee, and now the House, with information. In some cases, noble Lords feel that there is not enough, and in other cases that there is too much. I appreciate that noble Lords want to see detail in the Bill. That is very difficult when we are looking at the length of guidance that the noble Lord, Lord Baker, referred to, which is very draft, as he pointed out, and when we want to be specific about the "whats" that need to be delivered. We have to have comprehensive statutory guidance, so there is a difficult balance to strike in order to get the right detail in the Bill, but the full detail in statutory guidance, so that those in the system who are responsible for delivering education to young people know, in fuller detail, exactly what is expected of them. I appreciate that this is a complicated Bill—I do not disagree at all about that—but the objective here is to ensure that young people in custody receive education which is overseen and delivered in accordance with that which they could expect if they were in the mainstream education system.

It is about making sure that we drive up standards for young people in custody and making sure that they are not left behind. The system of information exchange is key. It is about making sure that when young people enter custody, when their sentence planning is undertaken, that information about their prior special educational needs and attainment is taken into account and that, when they leave, that information is transmitted to those who have a duty—the home education authority, which is defined in statutory guidance. The noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, is right: that must stand up to scrutiny. Those education authorities have a duty to ensure that those young people are not left behind when they come out, in resettlement, but that their education is picked up and carried on. Where there are duties to ensure that, in resettlement, young people's special educational needs are met, they must be exercised.

I have a few detailed comments. Amendment 51 would require a full SEN assessment for every young person entering youth custody, including a repeat assessment if they were to be moved to a different establishment, or on their release. Considering that SEN statements can take 16 weeks for initial advice and 10 weeks for the actual assessment, we do not consider that to be a practical solution. That is why we think that we need to do further work. We think that it is more appropriate to put requirements for assessments of literacy and numeracy in the Bill, because they are more easily definable and quantifiable.

To pick up on a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, Amendment 52 stipulates that if a recent assessment is available, a reassessment should not be necessary. Our stakeholders have made it clear to us that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, said, repeated assessment can be extremely discouraging to young people in custody, as well as being an unnecessary use of resources. We are listening very carefully to the words of advice and wisdom from the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, but we must ensure that we apply resources practically and effectively. As I said, we have made commitments to consider further and to come back at Third Reading.

The Bill is about raising standards in YOIs and the secure estate for young people. As I said in Committee, the YPLA will receive funds from central government, which will be ring-fenced for the purpose. That is much more straightforward in education; the costs of the education and training provision in YOIs are already separate from the wider costs of custody, because the funding is currently being directed through the Learning and Skills Council, which holds the contracts with learning providers operating with YOIs. I offer that as reassurance to the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Ramsbotham, and others who are obviously concerned about the funding streams.

As for the question of which Secretary of State is involved, I appreciate the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, to ensure that we see progress for young people in custody, that there is proper joined-up government and that we deliver real improvements in education provision in the system, which is already showing significant improvement. The guidance will be joint guidance and will be signed by the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and the Justice Secretary; Welsh Ministers will issue guidance for Wales. There will be clear accountability from the Secretaries of State.

On the question of assessment of communication skills, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, that that is key. Assessment of communication skills and disabilities in young people when they come into custody is extremely important, and they will to a large extent be picked up by the new literacy and numeracy assessments required under government Amendment 50 and—this is the important point—by the hidden disability screening that has already been developed by the Dyslexia Action organisation, to which we have already referred. Those important developments are taking place.

To make a minor correction of something that I said in opening the discussion, I think that I said that Amendments 56 and 61 were minor and technical amendments. I should have said that Amendments 56 to 61 are minor and technical amendments. I apologise if I have caused any confusion.

On the general thrust of what I hope that this group of amendments will achieve, we are amending the reading and assessment requirement passed in Committee, so that it is now a broader requirement for literacy and numeracy assessments. I thank the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, for his welcome for that. We have removed the requirement for reassessment on release. I hope that I have explained why, although we continue to listen, we believe that it would not be an effective management tool, may not apply resources in the best possible way and could demotivate young people. We will issue statutory guidance that will cover what provisions authorities should consider when commissioning education and training. That will provide the detailed guidance about what is expected and what should be delivered.

Governors will have a vital role to play in education in custody. I have here committed to amending regulations to make that absolutely clear to governors. I entirely accept the arguments made by noble Lords about the importance of that. As I have said—and I apologise if it has been at length—the Bill already contains strong information transfer provisions. Our statutory guidance, which will be detailed—and spell checked—will set out how that should work in practice. We intend that to be linked to both current planned information transfer systems within the youth justice system—which, I can reassure noble Lords, are strong and good—with the introduction of the new e-assets system.

With those remarks, and my commitment to consider—

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills 7:15 pm, 2nd November 2009

Before the Minister sits down, I seek clarification on her response to Amendment 52. She says that she will come back at Third Reading, but that she opposes the idea of having a formal assessment when the young person leaves detention—let us say at the six-month stage. As my noble friend Lady Garden said, we share the Minister's hesitation about too much assessment. Nevertheless, during the educational process of those young people, a lot of testing—what teachers call diagnostic testing—takes place. I take it that she is suggesting that when they leave detention, a report should be issued by whoever has been providing that education, giving some assessment of what has been achieved in educational terms during the period of detention, based on the diagnostic testing that will have taken place. Am I right?

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

The noble Baroness is absolutely right, and I apologise if I have not been clear enough about that. As she says, a considerable amount of assessment goes on, which is captured through the individual learner's report. As the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said earlier, it is so important that that information transfer is properly undertaken and that the home education authority receives it on resettlement. It is that authority's duty to ensure that that young person's special educational needs and requirements are met on release.

Photo of Lord Baker of Dorking Lord Baker of Dorking Conservative

My Lords, will the Minister say who actually devised the policy of transferring from the Prison Service to two local authorities, the host authority and the home authority, responsibility for the education and training of 16 to 19 year-olds? Many of us are concerned. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, pointed out that many young offenders will slip between those two authorities. Making the system work is not just about the transfer of information, which is what these amendments are about. It is a whole Byzantine structure of administration involving not two bodies, but about a dozen bodies. Who actually thought up this scheme?

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, the noble Lord is very well aware that the Government take collective responsibility for legislation. It would be disingenuous of me to identify one particular person who may have been responsible for developing this policy. We are talking here about applying education law to young people in young offender institutions and giving them equal opportunity to have access to the same standards of education. The feedback we have had from those involved in delivering education to young people in these settings is that it is a great opportunity for them to be able to work with the education providers around them and to be part of an education community and to drive up standards for young people, which is what I think all of us hope to achieve.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative

My Lords, I would just like to make my intervention clearer because I do not think I was as clear as I should have been. What worries me—

Photo of Baroness Thornton Baroness Thornton Government Whip, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, at the Report stage the noble Viscount must ask a question.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative

My Lords, rephrasing my question: what happens if it is impossible to identify a home authority, or if no authority agrees that it is the home authority?

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

My Lords, as I understand it, the authority from which the individual enters the youth justice system will be designated as their home authority. I suppose it is possible that a number of authorities could fight over the opportunity to be the home authority for a young person, but I do not think that has necessarily been a problem. I am very happy to look at this question and to come back to the noble Viscount in writing.

Amendment 43 agreed.

Amendments 44 and 45

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

44: Clause 48, page 30, line 18, after "person" insert "("P")"

45: Clause 48, page 30, line 19, leave out from beginning to end of line 21 and insert "within subsection (5A).

(5A) The information within this subsection is—

(a) information provided under section 562E by a local education authority as to the level of P's literacy and numeracy skills;

(b) any other information provided under section 562E by P's home authority (within the meaning of Chapter 5A of Part 10) for the purpose of assisting a determination such as is mentioned in subsection (5)."

Amendments 44 and 45 agreed.

Amendment 46 not moved.

Clause 49 : Basic reading assessment for persons subject to youth detention

Amendment 47

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

47: Clause 49, leave out Clause 49

Amendment 47 agreed.

Clause 51 : Persons detained in youth accommodation: further provision

Amendments 48 and 49

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

48: Clause 51, page 31, line 33, at end insert—

"(1A) The power conferred by subsection (1) may not be exercised to modify the application of a provision of this Act if—

(a) the provision makes special provision in relation to detained persons, or a description of detained persons,

(b) the application of the provision in relation to detained persons, or a description of detained persons, is excluded by provision made by this Act, or

(c) the provision has effect in relation to detained persons, or a description of detained persons, subject to modifications made by this Act."

49: Clause 51, page 32, line 19, leave out "any" and insert "—

(a) any information provided under section 562E by a local education authority as to the level of the person's literacy and numeracy skills;

(b) any other"

Amendments 48 and 49 agreed.

Amendment 50

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

50: Clause 51, page 33, line 5, at end insert—

"562DA Literacy and numeracy assessments

(1) This section applies in relation to a detained person who is detained in particular relevant youth accommodation.

(2) The host authority must arrange for the level of the detained person's literacy and numeracy skills to be assessed as soon as reasonably practicable after the beginning of the period during which the person is detained in that accommodation.

(3) Subsection (2) does not apply if the authority are satisfied that they have evidence of the current level of the person's literacy and numeracy skills.

(4) The "current level" of a detained person's literacy and numeracy skills is the level of those skills at the beginning of the period during which the person is detained in the relevant youth accommodation in question."

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench

My Lords, as always I am enormously grateful to the Minister for the care that she has taken in answering. I am particularly grateful for the offer that she made in her opening and closing statements to return to Amendments 51 and 52 at Third Reading, suggesting that she might be able to amend them. In a way, that takes some of the wind out of the sails of these things. The fact that she is prepared to do this demonstrates her realisation that all around this House is a sincere concern that we are in danger of passing legislation that would not do as well as it ought for those covered by the Bill.

The noble Baroness mentioned that a special educational needs assessment takes 16 weeks. I accept that and I hope that during the dialogue we can discuss the proven test done by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists. This was trialled in young offender establishments for two years and, as I have said many times in the House, was reported by the University of Surrey. It has also been successfully repeated by the Probation Service in Leeds with people under intensive supervision orders. It is quick and effective and although it is not 100 per cent detailed—you will never get 100 per cent—it identifies all the problems that we are looking at under the heading of learning difficulties and learning disabilities. As far as the Auftragstaktik, I think it is essential to have in the Bill something on which the statutory guidance can be based. Let us have something simple and clear and the guidance flows from it.

Finally, I am enormously grateful that the guidance will be signed by the two Ministers because it is hugely important. We should remember that when we are talking about special educational needs and learning difficulties, a third ministry comes into it because the Department of Health is responsible for the speech and language therapists who have to carry out this assessment. It must be included because at the moment, its finance is being committed to doing a task on behalf of the other two ministries.

Amendment 51, as an amendment to Amendment 50, not moved.

Amendment 50 agreed.

Amendment 52 not moved.

Amendments 53 and 54 not moved.

Amendment 55

Moved by Lord Elton

55: Clause 51, page 35, line 33, at end insert—

"562HA Duty of governors

It shall be the duty of the governor of each relevant youth accommodation to assist the host and home authorities in fulfilling their duties under section 562B to 562H."

Photo of Lord Elton Lord Elton Conservative

My Lords, the noble Baroness said that she was firmly committed to putting in guidance a requirement on the governor to co-operate in making it possible for the local and host authorities to discharge their functions. Those presently responsible for delivering the service appear all over the Bill, and I am not satisfied that the governor, who must make it possible, is merely the subject of guidance. I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Division on Amendment 55

Contents 84; Not-Contents 102.

Amendment 55 disagreed.

Division number 2 Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill — Report (1st Day) (Continued)

Aye: 82 Members of the House of Lords

No: 100 Members of the House of Lords

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Amendments 56 to 59

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

56: Clause 51, page 35, line 41, leave out "that" and insert "such"

57: Clause 51, page 36, line 2, leave out from second "accommodation" to end of line 4

58: Clause 51, page 36, line 5, at end insert—

""detained person" has the meaning given by section 562A(2);"

59: Clause 51, page 36, line 24, at end insert—

"(1A) For the purposes of the definition of "beginning of the detention" in subsection (1), it is immaterial whether or not a period of detention is pursuant to a single order."

Amendments 56 to 59 agreed.

Clause 53 : Release from detention of child or young person with special educational needs

Amendments 60 and 61

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

60: Clause 53, page 38, line 5, leave out from "accommodation" to end of line 7

61: Clause 53, page 38, line 8, at end insert—

"(4A) For the purposes subsection (4), it is immaterial whether or not a period of detention is pursuant to a single order."

Amendments 60 and 61 agreed.

Sitting suspended.

Amendment 62

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

62: Before Clause 54, insert the following new Clause—

"Provision of transport etc for persons of sixth form age: duty to have regard to section 15ZA duty

In section 509AB(3) of the Education Act 1996 (provision of transport etc for persons of sixth form age in England: matters to which LEAs must have regard) after paragraph (b) insert—

"(ba) what they are required to do under section 15ZA(1) in relation to persons of sixth form age,"."

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families) 8:39 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, in moving government Amendment 62, I will also speak to government Amendments 63 to 66. As noble Lords will be aware, we are committed to ensuring that local post-16 transport arrangements work in the interests of young people and adult learners. I am grateful to noble Lords for their contribution to our work in this area and in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Low, who is in his place, and to colleagues at Skill for their assistance. I am pleased to say that we are bringing forward further amendments to address the issues, as we committed to do in Committee.

Government Amendment 65 will allow the Secretary of State to issue statutory guidance to cover not only the new transport policy statement for learners aged 19 to 24 with learning difficulties and disabilities introduced in proposed new Section 508G, but also the wider adult transport duty. Noble Lords will understand that we are already re-enacting the adult transport duty to bring this area of fragmented law together in one place in order to clarify for local authorities our expectations of them, which I hope is an example of the Government promoting simplicity. Statutory guidance will provide further detail to local authorities, helping them to meet their responsibilities towards adult learners as well as to those aged 19 to 24 with learning difficulties and disabilities.

At the Committee stage I also made a commitment to consider further how to make a link between the local authority commissioning duty in Clause 41 and the sixth form and adult transport duties so that local authorities do not consider their transport arrangements, particularly for those aged 19 to 24 with learning difficulties and disabilities, in isolation from their new responsibilities for commissioning education and training provision. It is about linking these provisions. We are moving government Amendments 62 and 63 to make these links. Government Amendments 64 and 66 are technical and consequential amendments. I hope that noble Lords will agree that these amendments address the concerns raised in Committee and will further improve the Bill. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, I am happy to be in a position to assure the Minister that in discussing these amendments, we have entered somewhat calmer waters because they are a cause for celebration and something on which the Government deserve to be congratulated. As the House will be aware, necessary transport to enable learners with learning difficulties and disabilities aged over 19 and under 25 to attend a course for which they already have funding has been a vexed question for some time. Skill: National Bureau for Students with Disabilities, in which I declare my interest as president, argued for a duty to be placed on local education authorities to provide transport for disabled learners aged over 19 and under 25 who are pursuing a course of education or training at an institution of further education but who, on account of their disability, cannot use public transport or access private transport to attend the course.

We had already made considerable progress in Committee. Indeed, a correspondent wrote to me after our debate to say that, "It was great to read the Hansard of Monday's debate and see how far you'd got them to move on transport". I am not sure that I would have put it like that because the Government deserve as much credit as I do for the way that they have listened to the argument. He went on to describe the progress made as a classic example of how to secure effective change within the system, and we would all probably agree with that.

The good news does not end there. In Committee, as the Minister has said, we asked for a further small change to the wording of the transport duty in Clause 57 to align it with the general duty on local authorities in Clause 41 to provide enough suitable education and training to meet the reasonable needs of persons in their area of post-school age and under 19, or aged 19 to 25 in the case of those with learning difficulties and disabilities. We also asked for the production of guidance to support the duty and give advice on how to implement it. The amendments that the Minister has introduced deliver both these things, and the Government are to be congratulated on having moved so significantly and responded so comprehensively to the case that has been made for extending local authorities' duty in respect of transport to learners with learning difficulties and disabilities aged 19 to 25.

It may be a small crumb of comfort to the Government in the face of the broadsides that other aspects of the Bill sustained before the dinner break, but, given what has been achieved with regard to transport for disabled people, I cannot do other than extend a warm welcome to the amendments.

Photo of Baroness Garden of Frognal Baroness Garden of Frognal Spokesperson for Children, Schools and Families 8:45 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, in Committee we raised a number of concerns about transport policy that had been identified by the Association of Colleges. We fully support what the noble Lord, Lord Low, has just said; we are delighted that the Government have accepted the suggested amendment to ensure that students with disability have the same right of complaint about transport issues as 16 to 18 year-olds.

Concerns were voiced that the proposals seemed to link commissioning to transport, as the Minister has indicated, with the intention that local authorities, when drawing up their transport policies, would have regard to the provision that they had already commissioned. The concern was that in reality it would happen the other way round, so that when local authorities commissioned provision they would do so on the basis of transport availability and cost, which could have the effect of limiting student choice. In the Explanatory Notes there is mention of new Clause 15ZA(1), which refers to the duty to secure education. Will the Minister confirm that the measures also include factors such as location and times of that provision, and thereby confirm that student choice will not be curtailed as a result of these amendments? I thank her, though, for the amendments that the Government have brought forward.

Photo of Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Baroness Morgan of Drefelin Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Children, Young People and Families), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Children, Young People and Families)

I am grateful for the supportive comments from the noble Lord, Lord Low, and the noble Baroness, Lady Garden. I am particularly pleased to find myself in calmer waters. I am trying to think of more amusing after-dinner nautical analogies, but I am afraid that I cannot. I will work on that while I am listening to my noble friend take the next lot of debates.

I am delighted that I have a yes for the noble Baroness, Lady Garden, on her important question about these amendments. With that, I hope that noble Lords will consider supporting these government amendments.

Amendment 62 agreed.

Clause 57 : Local education authorities in England: provision of transport etc for adult learners

Amendments 63 to 66

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

63: Clause 57, page 40, line 35, at end insert—

"(4A) In considering what arrangements it is necessary to make under subsection (1) in relation to relevant young adults, a local education authority must have regard to what they are required to do under section 15ZA(1) in relation to those persons."

64: Clause 57, page 42, leave out lines 4 to 6

65: Clause 57, page 42, line 18, at end insert—

"508GA Guidance: sections 508F and 508G

In making arrangements under section 508F(1) and preparing and publishing a statement under section 508G, a local education authority must have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State under this section."

66: Clause 57, page 43, line 5, leave out "508G(7) and (8)" and insert "508G(8) and 508GA"

Amendments 63 to 66 agreed.

Amendment 67

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

67: Before Clause 59, insert the following new Clause—

"Free college meals

(1) A local education authority may provide registered students at—

(a) a sixth form college, or

(b) a further education college who are over compulsory school age, but under 19, with free meals.

(2) Where provision is made under subsection (1) the free meals may be provided either on the college premises or at any other place where education is being provided.

(3) A local education authority shall exercise their power under subsection (1) to provide free college meals for any person if—

(a) any prescribed requirements are met,

(b) a request for the provision of free college meals has been made by, or on behalf of, that person to the authority, and

(c) either—

(i) that person is eligible for free meals (within the meaning of section 512ZB (4) of the Education Act 1996); or

(ii) in the case of a person within subsection (1)(a), it would not be unreasonable for the authority to provide the meals.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I shall speak also to Amendments 74, 75 and 80, and shall comment on government amendments that also fall within this grouping.

Our amendments fall into two groups. Amendments 67 and 74 both raise issues of equity. Amendment 67 asks that young people who have been receiving free school meals should get free lunches at college. We feel that it is not right that their counterparts who stay on at school and who have been receiving free school meals remain eligible, whereas those who choose to move on to college lose their entitlement. Often those who move on to college come from more disadvantaged homes and choose to leave school and go to college to pursue different careers or because they find the college atmosphere more conducive than school.

This becomes a bigger problem with the raising of the participation age because many more young people who are now leaving school and going into work will continue within an education framework and will choose to go to college. Therefore, we will probably find a considerable increase in the number of young people who, having been eligible for free school meals when they were at school, go on to college and lose that eligibility.

In responding to a similar amendment in Committee the Minister cited the fact that these young people are entitled to educational maintenance allowances and that their families also receive child benefit and child tax credits. But so do those who stay on at school, so there is nothing to offset the inequity. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, who is not in his place, asked me in Committee how much it would cost. I promised to find out, and the estimate from the AoC is that the numbers involved would be approximately 95,000 young people at a total cost of something like £33 million. It is a not insubstantial sum, but nevertheless it is only one-third of the budget that goes to the LSIS each year. In terms of priorities, this is considerable.

We recognise that in these economic times it is a considerable sum for the Exchequer to swallow. The Government also said in their response that the issue was among those being considered in the review of the financing of 16 to 19 year-olds. We ask that the Government give a firm commitment in this review that the disparity between those attending college and those staying on at school will be specifically addressed. Per student it amounts to something like £225 a year. Why should our more disadvantaged young people not receive that advantage when they could do so? This issue must be specifically addressed within that review rather than merely being one of the items on the agenda that, in the end, fails to be considered. It is unfair to the students and unfair to the colleges which currently have to use their hardship funds to help those obviously needy young people who cannot meet their needs in any other way. The first issue of inequity is that of free meals.

Amendment 74 refers to the funding gap between the amount received by colleges per student and that received per student in sixth form. In 2005 the then Secretary of State, Ruth Kelly, promised to close the gap by 2010. As the Minister pointed out when we discussed this in Committee, the Government have reduced the gap from 14 per cent to about 6 per cent. The best he could do was to promise that the gap would get no bigger. Again, we argue that this is just not good enough. The college sector takes some of the most disadvantaged young people and with the raising of the participation age it will play a crucial role in delivering that Government's skills agenda. It is totally unfair that the college sector should be expected to do this on the basis of less money per student than their counterparts—young people in sixth form in schools.

Again, we are looking for an assurance about the actual gap, as the work done for the Learning and Skills Council by KPMG, and published in March 2008, made that somewhat larger than the Minister stated. Although the gap had come down when measured in 2005 terms, it pointed out that while there was a 3 per cent difference in funding rates as such, there were additional differences relating to teacher pension grants paid to schools, equivalent to a 2.61 per cent bonus per student, and additional teacher pay grants—teachers in secondary schools are often paid more than college lecturers—worth 3.98 per cent per student. The total gap in those KPMG figures for the LSC was 9.6 per cent for the academic year 2008-09—and that conclusion did not take account of the fact that colleges have to pay VAT on standard supplies and services and, in addition, are expected to make a 40 per cent contribution to their capital costs.

All told, then, the Association of Colleges reckons that the gap is somewhat larger than the 6 per cent that the Minister spoke about. Nevertheless, since nobody really denies the existence of the gap, we are really looking for an assurance that by 2013, for example, when the raising of the participation age takes effect, the gap will have been closed. It is no good assuring us that the gap will not increase, because it is grossly unfair that it exists at all. We want a firm commitment that the gap will be abolished and that the funding per student, whether they are at a further education college or in a school sixth form, is equivalent.

Amendment 75 asks, again, that the functions of the YPLA as explained in the briefing papers that have been issued to us should be written into the Bill. This amendment differs in two respects from that discussed in Committee. First, subsection (b) of the proposed new clause refers to the development of a regional skills strategy, and for the need for the YPLA to,

"work with the relevant regional, sub-regional and local authorities", in helping to develop analyses and plans to meet local needs. That arises directly from the discussions that we have had relating to the letter from the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, at the end of July to Jim Brathwaite at SEEDA. In that letter, it became clear that it was intended that the RDA would lead the development of the regional skills strategy, which,

"would constitute an investment plan that would become funding on the Skills Funding Agency".

Any regional skills strategy has to consider 16 to 19 year-olds, not just those over 19, whether at school, in college, in apprenticeships or working and training. Will the regional skills strategy be binding on the YPLA, and what role will the YPLA play in helping to formulate that strategy? Originally, the idea was that the YPLA would be just a light-touch authority, distributing funds to local authorities and working with them and their sub-regional groupings to ensure that they had appropriate data, and so forth, on which to plan. Now, it seems that the RDA has usurped that role. Is that really so? What role are the RDAs going to play in relation to the YPLA?

The other difference in this amendment is subsection (e), its final one, which gives the Secretary of State the power to change the functions of the YPLA as he may direct. This meets the objection which I know always arises from parliamentary counsel that detailed functions written into a Bill make it impossible to change the functions of an organisation. Perhaps I might reiterate: the functions as described in this proposed new clause are taken almost word for word from the briefing papers that we have received about the YPLA. Essentially, we feel that if this is what they are going to do, it ought to be stated in the Bill.

Finally, Amendment 80 is at the request of the AoC, representing its attempt to provide for itself a means of short-cutting the bureaucracy and appealing directly to the YPLA, should the complex machinery for agreeing grants between colleges and LEAs break down. I described in Committee the seven-step process that such an agreement needs, and the fears of colleges that with agreement needed from so many intermediaries, it would be impossible to meet budget deadlines. I do not intend to repeat the saga although I think it is very impressive, but given all the complications surely it is reasonable for colleges to be able to go direct to the YPLA to seek to speed things along. I said in Committee that I thought it was a very mild amendment. I urge the Government to meet its demands.

Government Amendments 69, 70, 71 and 72 all apply to Schedule 3 and meet our request in Committee that the YPLA should have a minimum of 10, not six, members, and in particular should have members representing the full range of the YPLA responsibilities. Amendments 71 and 72 relate to the appointment of the chief executive of the YPLA. We had asked that after the first appointment, the CEO should be appointed by the board itself on conditions set by the YPLA, although those should all be subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. These amendments meet precisely these demands and we are very grateful to the Government for listening to our requests. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative 9:00 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I am not sure that I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, as regards the funding gap. That was a useful concept when the gap was much larger and it could be seen that it was so substantially unfair that that crude measure could be accepted. Now that it is much closer, we have to move to something finer. We ought to base our assessment not on fairness to colleges, or indeed anyone else, but fairness to students. We ought to assess the student experience of doing the same course in a school or in a college. There should be no reason why a student doing an A-level in a college should suffer markedly worse conditions than a student doing an A-level at school. That is a subtler measure and takes into account—as school funding does—the fact that colleges have economies of scale and the factors that the noble Baroness mentioned about their having to provide for their own capital funding. It would be a better way of approaching this than to say that the unit of funding should be equivalent everywhere. That is not true anywhere else in the education system where the funding takes account of the circumstances of the provider. That is correct elsewhere and in this case.

My amendment in this group addresses the logic of Clause 65. It seems to me that the way the subsections of that clause combine mean that a large FE college providing a substantial amount of free education to people under 18 but substantially the same education on commercial terms to people who want their workforce trained, would find, particularly given the wording of subsection (4) but also by the way all the subsections mesh together, that the YPLA was constrained to exercise its funding functions so as to secure that the work that the FE college was doing commercially had to be provided for free. I will go through the logic of that if the noble Lord wishes but I have had the opportunity to sit down with his officials and do that, and they understand what I am on about. Therefore, I am content not to spend the next five minutes trying inadequately to educate your Lordships about that.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, this group of amendments responds mainly to concerns expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in particular, and by others around the Chamber in Committee. We on these Benches object to the Young People's Learning Agency on a more fundamental level, as we have said before. We are concerned that by devolving responsibility for education of 16 to 19 year-olds to local authorities, headed by the YPLA, we are in danger of creating a confusing, bureaucratic and ultimately non-functional system of education. The lines of reporting, responsibility and funding appear to us to be tangled in such a way as to ensure that no one will be quite sure what they are or how they work. I very much fear that the nature of what my noble friend Lord Baker called a Byzantine structure will make it very difficult for the Government to put into practise the good intentions that I have no doubt they are trying to achieve. The Minister will doubtless assure us that this will not be the case. However, some concerns remain around the House.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has tabled her Amendment 75 in a quest for clarity. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a response that will satisfy her. The amendments that the Government have tabled in response to concerns expressed about the YPLA do not answer our concerns about this structure and do not provide sufficient clarity to reassure us that this will function in a way that will implement the objectives effectively.

Furthermore, the amendments do not address the concerns expressed by my noble friend Lord Eccles in Committee. How, for example, will the YPLA be expected to interact and work with the SFA, when they have such very differently constitutional bases? The SFA, as an agency, will be under the aegis of the Secretary of State. The YPLA, as an NDPB, will be supposedly independent. The Minister has not yet addressed these concerns sufficiently well and I hope that he will elaborate further. The bodies are very differently constituted, but we are constantly being told that they will find it easy to share information, to share back-office staff and functions and to provide an easy pathway for those under 19 who are involved in education to progress to adult education. I am looking to the Minister for further explanation.

Specifically, in this instance, we express our opposition to government Amendments 71 and 72. These would allow the YPLA the power to appoint its own chief executive, albeit subject to the approval of the Secretary of State. If the YPLA is to exist, it should be held to account in the same way that the SFA as an agency should be held to account. The principle of democratic accountability must hold fast here. Noble Lords will be aware that we are of the opinion that this structure, as it is, will not work.

In an ideal world, we would want to start from the very beginning to reformulate the Bill in an entirely different way. However, we recognise that we are nearing the end of its passage through your Lordships' House and, instead, the power of revision, rather than fundamental restructuring, must be the path. Indeed, the Government have already started to dismantle the Learning and Skills Council and have created their shadow YPLA and SFA structures. We must, therefore, work with what we have in the Bill, as unsatisfactory as much of it might be. For this reason it is appropriate to oppose the power of the YPLA to separate itself from the Secretary of State by appointing its own chairman, even with the Secretary of State's approval.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench

My Lords, this group encompasses a fairly wide range of amendments. I only want to discuss Amendment 67, which addresses free college meals because, certainly, what the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said about the treatment for the individual student being important and being clearly seen to be on an even keel wherever your education is taking place must be the right course to follow. I have to admit that it is not something that I had thought about before but, on free college meals, it is very pertinent that if you are to continue in education, exactly the same conditions should apply throughout the educational system. So I very much support those amendments.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

My Lords, first, I apologise for the length of my contribution, which is due, in part, to the fact that I am addressing a wide range of amendments and because there is quite a lot that I need to read in to the record to try to reassure noble Lords that we have listened, and listened carefully.

We understand the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that the supportive role that the Young People's Learning Agency will play in relation to local authorities is not sufficiently represented in the Bill. Taken together, Amendments 69, 71, 72, 77, 78, 79, 82 and 87, which I shall move, make explicit our vision for a collaborative and supportive YPLA.

These amendments fulfil commitments that we made in Committee to enhance the YPLA board and to require it, in carrying out its commissioning functions, to have regard to what local authorities are doing. Importantly, Amendment 78 requires the YPLA to secure the Secretary of State's approval before exercising its direction-making powers under Clause 67.

I hope that, given these assurances, the noble Baroness will agree that it is not necessary to specify in the Bill the operational detail set out in Amendment 75. This detail is best set out elsewhere, such as in the YPLA's remit letter. However, for the record, I am happy to confirm that the design and structure of the YPLA is geared to do what the amendment sets out: to operate the current national funding formula and to issue guidance that will be known as the national commissioning framework; to ensure that where cross-regional or national commissioning is required, it happens smoothly and in a non-bureaucratic way—this will be particularly important for specialist provision, such as that for learners with learning difficulties or land-based colleges that offer courses such as animal husbandry and agricultural studies—crucially, to ensure that local authorities and providers have access to and are using the very latest and accurate information as they develop their commissioning plans to meet the needs of young people; and to play a crucial role in convening the regional planning groups, providing data and analysis on educational and economic trends in a region or nationally.

On Amendment 80, I am happy to assure the House that we have been working closely with the Association of Colleges and other partners to address their concerns on ensuring that the process of commissioning is speedy, transparent and fair. We have also listened to their views and those of other provider representatives as to how the expertise in schools, colleges and training providers can help to advise local authorities on what already is available to meet the needs of young people. We intend to include this in our imminent consultation on the national commissioning framework, as well as to amend the draft guidance already issued to help regional planning groups in their thinking. I shall place copies of both these documents in the House Library, when they are published.

Our intention is that in the first instance any questions about local commissioning will be resolved through informal discussion between the decision-making body, usually the local authority, and the provider. If this does not resolve the issue, it will be escalated to a different level within the local authority—higher than where the original decision was taken. This escalation and decision should take place within 14 days of receipt of the complaint. We expect the YPLA to be aware of this and, in the spirit of the amendment, want the YPLA to take a proactive stance in ensuring that the commissioning process is working effectively. If a school, college or other provider has any concerns, I would be surprised if they did not communicate those to both the local authority and the YPLA. Again, we shall set this out in the national commissioning framework.

There may be a few instances when agreement is not reached by this local resolution process. In these circumstances, the complaint will be escalated, again with escalation and decision within 14 days, to a sub-committee of the regional planning group. We expect that the YPLA will convene and administer that sub-committee and, with the agreement of all parties, chair it. Where the YPLA is not chairing, we expect that the chair should be independent of the commissioning local authority—perhaps another local authority with no vested interest in the outcome. The sub-committee would then make its recommendation to the commissioning local authority. Crucially, to ensure that the process is not held up, we would expect these complaints to be heard and dealt with as quickly as possible, but certainly within 14 days of the complaint being raised.

Regarding Amendment 74, the current funding is historical, dating back to pre-incorporation days when the rates for courses and colleges were set locally. We have moved a long way from that position to having a single funding formula, a national process for commissioning and greater stability in the FE sector. We have been tackling the funding gap as fast as resources allow. Since the academic year 2004-05, we have reduced the gap by eight percentage points.

I have received some further advice. The latest available figures show that we are on target to achieve a reduction of more than 8 per cent by 2008-09. The percentage difference has been measured by KPMG for each year since 2004, and the figures show a total change of minus 8.6 per cent. Perhaps we can pursue the discrepancy outside the Chamber. I add in passing that over the past 10 years, we have increased funding for further education by around 52 per cent in real terms. That shows our commitment.

I will address the deficiency in my previous statement that understandably concerned the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We remain absolutely committed to reducing the funding gap further, with the clear caveat that this must happen as resources allow. However, we remain committed to reducing the funding gap, and not just sustaining it. We will also make two fresh commitments today. First, the YPLA will set out progress in reducing the funding gap in its annual report. Secondly, further research will be carried out and a report will be placed in the House Library once the 2011-12 year has been completed.

I turn to Amendment 67 and the issue of free college meals. The cross-government review of financial support for 16 to 18 year-olds that we announced in the New Opportunities White Paper earlier this year provides us with an opportunity to consider, in the context of raising the participation age, how we can ensure that the support provided for post-16 learners is fair, and that their learning choices are not skewed by the support that is available to them. The review, which is due to report in spring next year, will take account of findings from research that we are undertaking into the barriers that young learners face to staying on in learning. One aspect that the research is looking at is whether the cost of lunch acts as a barrier to participation. We share the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that this cost should not influence their decisions. We will shortly issue a public call for evidence to capture the views of stakeholders and young people in order to inform the review. As part of that, we will seek views on the current anomaly that exists in respect of free lunches.

A further point of concern was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, concerning the proposed role for regional development agencies in setting skills strategies. I assure her of the central role that local authorities will have in the system. It may be helpful if I set out briefly how the new system will work. Regional development agencies will develop a skills strategy as part of the single regional strategy. This will be approved by a local authority leaders' board, ensuring that local and regional skills needs are embedded in wider economic development strategies at regional level. They will also take account of the demands of local employers—that is an area that concerns the noble Baroness—of skills needs, and of the demand from young people in their area.

The new system is designed around integration and partnership. It collects the needs of the region into one place to provide a single, simple statement of need for all relevant authorities to follow. All partners in the region, including local authorities, will need to be fully involved in the process, and it is in everyone's interests that full involvement takes place.

I turn to Clause 65, which concerned the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. I congratulate him on his forensic skills. We accept that subsection (4) is not as clear as we would wish. It is intended to prohibit colleges or other providers from charging 16 to 19 year-olds for education and training funded by the YPLA, but not for education and training funded by anybody else. I am grateful to the noble Lord for raising the point, and will be happy to bring forward an amendment to clarify this at Third Reading. I hope that, on the basis of these assurances, noble Lords will withdraw their amendments. I beg to move Amendment 67 in my name.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills 9:15 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his very positive response and thank him for it. The three issues that concerned me included two issues of equity, one of which was the disparity over school meals. I am glad that he has given an assurance that, within the framework of the review that is taking place, there will be specific consideration of the meals issue. I hope the Government will go beyond wondering whether the issue is a barrier to participation in colleges. It seems to me that, in so far as they are continuing to provide free school meals for young people in schools, it is logical for that same provision to be made within the college sector. If, however, they decide that, within the general framework of support for young people, free meals are no longer provided once they are 16 and that there are other means of supporting them, then that should apply across the board. It is important that there should be equivalence of support rather than that those young people who move on to colleges should face such a barrier.

In relation to the funding gap, I have some slightly different figures provided for me by the Association of Colleges, which also came from KPMG. KPMG seems to be doing a double act between the ministry and the Association of Colleges on this one, satisfying each of their clients with different sets of figures. Again, I am glad to get on the record a clear commitment from the Government that they are trying to reduce that funding gap, as far as resources allow, that the YPLA will set out in an annual report what progress has been made, and that a report will be placed in the Library of this House and, I take it, the other place. I am well satisfied with the Government's answer on those two issues of equity.

In relation to Amendment 80 and the process of what colleges and schools do if they find the local authorities are not moving as fast as they would like them to, it still seems a rather complicated process. Nevertheless, it is one that provides for reconciliation and, as a 14-day limit has been put on the receipt of complaints, with a bit of luck, by the end of July when the colleges need to settle their budgets, some kind of agreement will have been reached. Therefore, I am happy to leave that.

In relation to my Amendment 75, I am still sad that the Government are not prepared to put the functions in the Bill. I know how reluctant parliamentary counsel is to move in this direction and the assurance that they will be writ large in the remit letter is good to have. We shall see how far this goes. Again, I am pleased to have the assurance that, within the functioning of RDAs, local authorities will play some part. My worry is that the tone of the letter that the noble Lord, Lord Mandelson, sent to Jim Braithwaite—it was inclined to say that the RDA would develop the skills strategy and it would be binding on the SFA—was a little top-down and dictatorial. It is very important that these processes are not top-down but bottom-up, particularly because, as I mentioned in Committee, some of these regions are extraordinarily large. I come from the south-east region, which is huge. What is happening in one part of it does not apply in another. I instanced the fact that what is happening in Thanet is totally different from what is happening in Guildford, the part that I live in. We really need to work sub-regionally rather than regionally. It is very important at a local level—and we talked a lot about this at an earlier point—that employers, colleges, schools, local authorities and, if necessary, the sector skills councils can play their part in helping to formulate the skills strategies.

Although I know the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, does not think much of the amendments put forward by the Government, which were largely based on amendments I put forward in Committee, I am very grateful to the Government for heeding them. They make the YPLA a slightly more independent body than it might otherwise be, which I do not think the opposition Benches are pleased about. If it is to exist, we on these Benches feel that it should have a degree of independence but that it should work in partnership with local authorities with a bottom-up rather than a top-down approach. I thank the Government for what they have given us and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 67 withdrawn.

Schedule 2 : LEA functions: minor and consequential amendments

Amendment 68

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

68: Schedule 2, page 167, line 33, leave out paragraph 6 and insert—

"6 (1) Section 312 (meaning of "special educational needs", "learning difficulty" etc) is amended as follows.

(2) In subsection (2) for the words from "subsection (3)" to "section 507B)" substitute "subsections (3) and (3A)".

(3) After subsection (3) insert—

"(3A) Subsection (2) does not apply—

(a) for the purposes of sections 15ZA, 15A, 15B, 507B and 562G, or

(b) for the purposes of section 18A (except for the purpose of determining, for the purposes of that section, whether a child has special educational needs)."

Amendment 68 agreed.

Schedule 3 : The Young People's Learning Agency for England

Amendments 69 to 72

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

69: Schedule 3, page 169, line 12, leave out "6" and insert "10"

70: Schedule 3, page 169, line 17, leave out sub-paragraph (3) and insert—

"(3) In appointing the ordinary members, the Secretary of State must have regard to the desirability of the ordinary members, taken together, having experience relevant to—

(a) the full range of the YPLA's functions, and

(b) any functions that may be conferred or imposed on the YPLA under Academy arrangements.

(4) "Academy arrangements" has the meaning given by section 77(2)."

71: Schedule 3, page 170, line 10, after "The" insert "first"

72: Schedule 3, page 170, line 11, at end insert—

"(1A) Later chief executives are to be appointed by the YPLA, on conditions of service determined by the YPLA.

(1B) The appointment and conditions of service of a later chief executive are subject to the approval of the Secretary of State."

Amendments 69 to 72 agreed.

Clause 61 : Provision of financial resources

Amendment 73

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

73: Clause 61, page 45, line 16, leave out from "resources" to end of line 19

Amendment 73 agreed.

Amendment 74 not moved.

Amendment 75 not moved.

Clause 65 : Prohibition on charging

Amendment 76 not moved.

Clause 66 : Securing provision of education and training

Amendment 77

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

77: Clause 66, page 47, line 26, at end insert—

"(4) In exercising its powers under subsection (1) in relation to persons who are within section 15ZA(1)(a) or (b) of the Education Act 1996, the YPLA must have regard to things done by local education authorities in the performance of their duties under section 15ZA(1) of that Act.

(5) In exercising its powers under this section in relation to persons subject to youth detention, the YPLA must have regard to things done by local education authorities in the performance of their duties under section 18A(1) of the Education Act 1996."

Amendment 77 agreed.

Clause 67 : Intervention for purpose of securing provision of education and training

Amendments 78 and 79

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

78: Clause 67, page 47, line 41, leave out from "YPLA" to end of line 42 and insert "may give a direction under this section only with the approval of the Secretary of State."

79: Clause 67, page 48, line 1, leave out subsection (5)

Amendments 78 and 79 agreed.

Amendment 80 not moved.

Clause 72 : Guidance by YPLA

Amendments 81 and 82

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

81: Clause 72, page 50, line 9, after "15ZA(1)" insert ", 15ZB, 15ZC(1)(b)"

82: Clause 72, page 50, line 12, at end insert—

"(2A) Before issuing guidance under subsection (1) the YPLA must consult—

(a) local education authorities in England, and

(b) such other persons as it thinks appropriate."

Amendments 81 and 82 agreed.

Clause 77 : Academy arrangements

Amendment 83

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

83: Clause 77, page 52, line 16, leave out subsections (4) and (5) and insert—

"(3A) But Academy functions do not include—

(a) the function of entering into an agreement under section 482(1) of the Education Act 1996, or

(b) functions of making, confirming or approving subordinate legislation.

(3B) Academy arrangements must include provision about the procedure for complaints to be made to the Secretary of State about what the YPLA has done, or failed to do, under the arrangements."

Amendment 83 agreed.

Amendment 84 not moved.

Clause 78 : Grants for purposes of Academy arrangements functions

Amendment 85 not moved.

Clause 79 : Academy arrangements: information sharing

Amendment 86 not moved.

Clause 80 : Interpretation of Part

Amendments 87 and 88

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

87: Clause 80, page 54, line 1, leave out "child" and insert "person"

88: Clause 80, page 54, line 15, leave out "2(5)" and insert "(Meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship" )(5)"

Amendments 87 and 88 agreed.

Clause 83 : Apprenticeship training for persons aged 16 to 18 and certain young adults

Amendment 89

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

89: Clause 83, page 56, line 33, leave out "2(5)" and insert "(Meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship" )(5)"

Amendment 89 agreed.

Clause 85 : Encouragement of training provision etc for persons within section 83

Amendments 90 and 91 not moved.

Clause 86 : Education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention

Amendments 92 and 93

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

92: Clause 86, page 57, line 19, leave out from "requirements" to end of line 22 and insert "of persons who are aged 19 or over, other than persons aged under 25 who are subject to learning difficulty assessment,

(aa) education suitable to the requirements of persons who are subject to adult detention, and"

93: Clause 86, page 57, line 23, leave out "such persons" and insert "persons within paragraphs (a) and (aa)"

Amendments 92 and 93 agreed.

Amendment 94 not moved.

Amendment 95

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

95: Clause 86, page 58, line 4, leave out from "resources" to end of line 7

Amendment 95 agreed.

Clause 87 : Learning aims for persons aged 19 or over: provision of facilities

Amendment 96

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

96: Clause 87, page 59, line 10, leave out from "resources" to end of line 13

Amendment 96 agreed.

Clause 90 : Encouragement of education and training for persons aged 19 or over and others subject to adult detention

Amendments 97 and 98

Moved by Baroness Morgan of Drefelin

97: Clause 90, page 60, line 36, after "86(1)(a)" insert "and (aa)"

98: Clause 90, page 60, line 40, leave out "86(1)(a)(i)" and insert "86(1)(a)"

Amendments 97 and 98 agreed.

Clause 91 : Duty to secure availability of apprenticeship places

Amendment 99

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

99: Clause 91, page 61, line 9, leave out "entitlement" and insert "offer"

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

My Lords, noble Lords will recall that in Committee I gave an assurance to my noble friend Lord Layard that we would seek an alternative word to "scheme" to describe the duties set out in Clause 91. We have concluded that "apprenticeship offer" is a more appropriate term which does not have the negative connotations ascribed to "scheme", referred to by my noble friend. I commend the change to the House. Government Amendment 99 would effect that change and most of the remaining amendments in the group provide for the renaming. The first amendment in the group replaces the word "entitlement", which was an amendment incorrectly accepted in Committee, for the word "offer".

On government amendments 106 and 120, your Lordships will recall that I also gave a commitment in Committee to bring forward proposals that would make the apprenticeship scheme more accessible to people with learning difficulties. We have been working with the Special Educational Consortium, SKILL, RNIB, Mencap and other key interest groups to ensure that we have proposals which address the concerns raised by them and by noble Lords across the House. On the basis of these discussions, we have decided to adopt the proposal by the noble Lord, Lord Rix, to allow people with a learning difficulty or disability to submit a portfolio of evidence which demonstrates their preparedness to undertake an apprenticeship, as an alternative to the requirements in Clause 95(1) and (2). Amendment 120 would enable us to set regulations that deliver this option to young people without in any way lowering the bar in terms of the competencies required to undertake an apprenticeship.

Government Amendment 106 also gives us the flexibility through regulations to extend the apprenticeship scheme by describing groups of persons who may elect for the scheme over the age of 19 and up to the age of 25. This is intended to allow young people with disabilities, who may take longer to reach the point at which they are ready to undertake an apprenticeship, to benefit from the scheme. We are absolutely committed to working with the Special Educational Consortium, SKILL, RNIB, Mencap and other partners, to develop sets of regulations and to ensure that we get the regulations right in terms of the criteria and accessibility.

I also reiterate my commitment to the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that we will indeed ensure that, in developing these regulations, we will act in accordance with the public sector disability equality duty under Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act, and also the Education and Skills Act 2008, which requires us to take account of the needs of those with learning difficulties and disabilities. Let me be absolutely clear about our commitment to ensuring access to apprenticeships and other training opportunities for people with learning difficulties. My honourable friend the Minister for Apprenticeships will be taking a close interest in the development of these regulations, and he will expect to have a progress report before the end of March.

I share the commitment of my noble friends Lord Layard, Lady Blackstone and Lady Morris in Amendment 110, to progression for all young people, in particular from an apprenticeship at level 2 to one at level 3. I respect and understand their perseverance, but, as I have said, it must be right for us to focus first on securing a first apprenticeship for the many young people who have not had this opportunity. I repeat the assurance that I gave the noble Lord in Committee, that we will ensure that the apprenticeship agreement has a prescribed term that requires employers to have discussions with their apprentices, and encourages progression beyond an apprenticeship at level 2. I stress the importance of encouraging employers to understand the value and the benefit they get in encouraging apprentices to go beyond level 2. Clearly, where young people make the choice to progress to an advanced apprenticeship, we will provide funding to enable them to complete it.

Amendment 129 was another issue that we considered in Committee. I understand the motive behind this amendment, which is to incentivise more employers to take on young people as apprentices, an objective which everyone in this House shares. I am happy to reassure him that there are already administrative arrangements in place to enable employers to access funding for apprenticeship training directly from the National Apprenticeships Service. I have asked the National Apprenticeships Service to ensure that it promotes this option proactively to employers, and I will take a personal, active interest in ensuring that they really will undertake a programme to promote this option, and not leave it to employers merely to request the funding. My noble friend understands the question of ensuring that if we give direct funding, we have to ensure that there is a proper process of accreditation and that the courses provided are of the appropriate standard. I hope, on the basis of these assurances, that my noble friends will feel able to withdraw their amendments.

Finally, on government Amendments 121 and 122, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, quite rightly raised a question about why it was that the levels of qualification in Clause 96 were based on the opinion of the Secretary of State, and had no input from the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator.

The clause reflects the drafting in the Education and Skills Act 2008, and was drafted prior to the drafting of the clauses that establish Ofqual. Once again, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his forensic skills in bringing that to our attention, and I trust that he, and the whole House, will agree that the amendments, which ensure that the Secretary of State must consult Ofqual, address that omission. I beg to move.

Photo of Lord Layard Lord Layard Labour

My Lords, I very much welcome the replacement of the offensive word "scheme". That is a huge improvement and makes the proposal much more satisfactory.

I am not entirely happy with what the Minister said about Amendment 110. It seems to me that this is a basic question about what we are offering our young people. If they are going down the full-time route, they are guaranteed progression; if they are going down the part-time route, they are not. It is as simple as that. If we were saying, "Can we do it?", obviously, the answer is that we could not do it tomorrow, but we are not saying that, we are saying that when the entitlement is introduced, it should include a guarantee of progression. If someone has already gone through an apprentice level 2, they will not be entitled to that option, if the amendment were passed, until 2015. We are talking about something six years hence and about building the basic skill formation system in this country for the following 20 years. It is not good enough to say that that is too difficult; we do many difficult things. On whose behalf should we do the most difficult things? On behalf of the more deprived members of the community, who are getting an extremely poor deal at the moment.

We cannot be happy about what the Minister has said, and I think that we will have to come back to it, because it involves the central content of the Bill. We have a huge apparatus to set up an apprenticeship scheme, but the scheme has a major weakness at its heart, which we will have to revisit.

I move to Amendment 129. I was very encouraged by what the Minister said, in particular about his personal commitment to ensure that the selling of apprenticeships to employers—making known the possibility for them to receive direct funding—is actively pursued. However, I think something more is needed: a set of regulations that make that route more attractive to employers. We must make apprenticeships much more attractive to employers if we are to implement the entitlements that we have been talking about. In the next six years, we must double the number of apprenticeships for young people under 19. That is a massive challenge, and it cannot be done unless we make apprenticeships more attractive to employers—especially those who do not currently take on apprentices.

It is often not realised that most large employers do not employ any apprentices. Of employers employing more than 500 people, only 25 per cent have any apprentices. There is something very wrong in the way that we are structuring the incentives for employers. We will not engage enough further employers unless we can find new ways to motivate them. It will be just more of the same, which will not get us to where we need to be. The obvious method is to make it easier for them to get direct access to apprentice funding. At the moment, it is possible in theory, but in practice it happens extremely rarely, expect in the case of big national employers. There is simple evidence that the system is not structured to attract employers to do the things they need to do if we are to get the places we want. It seems to me that the existing system is doing a good job through the training companies—there is no question of wanting to displace that role, but we have got to open up a new route. The Government really need to produce new regulations which overcome some of the barriers that employers currently experience in thinking about accessing the funding directly. There needs to be a Government commitment to producing a new set of regulations that make the direct funding route more attractive to employers. Will the Minister, given his enthusiasm for this subject, commit to actually producing a scheme of regulations rather than just a promotional effort? I do not think that anything less will do.

Photo of Baroness Sharp of Guildford Baroness Sharp of Guildford Spokesperson for Innovation, Universities and Skills

My Lords, we have a great deal of sympathy with the two amendments from the noble Lord, Lord Layard. Regarding Amendment 110, it is really illogical that the Government are not encouraging the expected progression. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, has pointed out that he does not want the provision to come into effect immediately. He proposes that by 2015, the raising of the participation age will mean that young people will have to be either in education, at college or at school, or in training or in an apprenticeship. The Government are anxious to encourage young people to progress—there is a logical progression open to young people, for example, who stay on and do their A-levels. We make it easy for them to go on to university but this is not the case in the progression from a level 2 apprenticeship to a level 3 apprenticeship. I find this quite extraordinary and we support that amendment.

Turning to Amendment 129, the Minister may know that there has been a recent CFBT publication called Lessons from history:Increasing the number of 16 and 17 year olds in education and training. This points out that a scheme of subsidies to employers to take on young apprentices during the recession of 1979 to 1983 actually helped to increase the number of 16 to 18 year-olds going into employer-based apprenticeships by 57,000. These are very substantial figures. There are lessons to be learnt from history. In Committee, the Minister talked about the "dead weight" of perhaps providing a subsidy for young people. He should bear in mind that we are talking about those under 19, not those over 19 for whom this wage subsidy should be provided. One could argue that it should be for small firms rather than large firms. The noble Lord, Lord Layard, pointed out that many large firms do not pull their weight in taking on the number of apprentices that they might. If you look at Train to Gain you can argue that the wage compensation for small firms provides some form of subsidy for those who are over 19. If you are providing a subsidy through Train to Gain for those over 19, why not provide it for those under 19 as well?

The Government say that they will increase the learning participation age to 18 by 2015. In trying to encourage more 16 to 18-year-olds to go into apprenticeships—they will have all the stocks by that stage—they are offering any young person who wishes to go into an apprenticeship the entitlement to do so; yet no apprenticeships are available at present. How will they ensure that the number of apprenticeships is available? Such a scheme would undoubtedly help to increase the number on offer. They need, in any case, to expand the 16 and 17 year-old employer-based apprenticeships by turning jobs without training into apprenticeships. It is part of their whole strategy that those who leave at 16 and go into jobs without training should become apprentices.

Finally, part of the Government's strategy is to reduce the number of those who end up not in employment, education or training—the NEET category—which currently stands at 9 per cent and is rising. However, I point out to the Minister that over the past year the number of 16 and 17 year-olds going into apprenticeships has not increased but has gone down. On Amendment 99, a very disappointing number of young people have progressed from a level 2 apprenticeship to a level 3 apprenticeship. Both the amendments have a great deal of logic to them, and we on these Benches support the noble Lord's argument.

Photo of Baroness Blackstone Baroness Blackstone Labour 9:45 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I, too, support my noble friend Lord Layard. Indeed, I put my name to these two amendments. I will not repeat everything that has already been said, although I very much agree with much of what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has just said.

On Amendment 110, the Minister said that employers would be required to discuss with young people who had completed a level 2 apprenticeship the possibility of moving on to a level 3 apprenticeship. I very much support that proposal, but I do not think that it goes far enough. As my noble friend Lord Layard said, we do not have the opportunity very often to change the law on a subject such as this. When we have such an opportunity, we should grasp it, as we would for young people who are in full-time education.

I am particularly concerned about the lack of equity between those who will go down the part-time, work-based learning route and those who will go down the full-time, GCSE to A-levels, A-levels to higher education route. It is grotesquely unfair to give that latter group of young people an entitlement but not to allow it for this group of young people, particularly as many of them will come from much less privileged backgrounds where they do not have the kind of support that the other category of young people can expect from their families and from other people in their neighbourhoods and communities. We will lose an enormously important opportunity if we do not have an entitlement in the Bill.

As my noble friend said, if we were going to implement this legislation tomorrow, or even next year or the year after, I would understand the reluctance of my colleagues in the Government to accept this amendment, but we have six years to plan for it. I believe passionately that we should accept it and in doing so make a future for many young people which they currently do not have. Our economy needs it, so it is a matter not just of social justice but of having more highly trained young people. Whatever benefits we will get from larger numbers of 16 to 19 year-olds doing a level 2 apprenticeship we will be able to multiply many times over if we assume that those who do this successfully can go on to the next stage. I am sure that no one in this House would believe that a level 2 apprenticeship will be enough to take us to the next stage of a highly trained, highly skilled workforce for the sort of economy we will see as the 21st century develops. I very much hope that the Minister will take this back and think again about it. We have an enormous budget in Train to Gain and there might be an opportunity to shift some of those resources into something for those 19 to 25 year-olds or 19 to 22 year-olds—whatever cut-off date we make—who want to take their education and training to the next stage.

Behind my commitment to Amendment 125 lies a genuine concern that we will not get enough apprenticeship places. We are starting from a very low base. There has to be a strong and powerful incentive to employers to get engaged with the provision of apprenticeships. I have talked to quite a number of employers in the public and private sectors, and they are worried about what this means for them in terms of resources. We will have to hold out a rather bigger and more obviously accessible carrot than we are at the moment.

I accept that the details of this may need a little more work, but it seems a reasonable requirement that the head of the National Apprenticeship Service should put forward a totally comprehensible scheme which is not too bureaucratic and is easily accessible for employers who wish to engage in apprenticeships. They are a little nervous and concerned about what it will mean for their firms and organisations, in the public as well as the private sector, if they go down this route. They are concerned that there may be very little to compensate them for the extra time that it takes to look after these young employees and give them the training that they deserve.

I, too, join others in thanking the Government for changing the nomenclature. Terminology is important and the word "offer" is a much better term than scheme. I very much welcome what the Minister has said about improving access to apprenticeships for disabled young people. They have a huge amount to give and we should do everything we can to make it easier for them to get the training that they want and deserve. I give my grateful thanks to the Government for moving in that respect.

Photo of Lord Ramsbotham Lord Ramsbotham Crossbench

My Lords, I agree with a great deal that has been said about these amendments. In particular, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about the need for caution regarding whether the resources are available to provide these apprenticeships. Secondly, I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, in her use of the word honesty. It is extremely important that we are honest with our young people and that we do not offer them something that cannot be delivered. I do not know whether Members of the House are aware that Nissan, the Japanese car firm in Sunderland, is offering more apprenticeships than the whole of the public sector in the north-east. That suggests that it is hugely important to have a close dialogue with employers to ensure that the apprenticeships offered in particular parts of the country are related to the employment available so that there is a follow-on to whatever people have learnt. It suggests that dialogue in different parts of the country is different, but that it is based on resources and honesty, as mentioned by the two noble Baronesses.

Photo of Lord Addington Lord Addington Spokesperson for Defence, Spokesperson for Culture, Media and Sport , Deputy Chief Whip

My Lords, I thank the Government for bringing forward Amendment 120. Without it, the Bill would have been a hugely retrograde step. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Young, for tabling the amendment, for the meeting that he held, and for the way in which he told us about it. This may be asking for the cherry on the top of the cake as well, but I hope he can confirm, given the traditions and practices that have grown up around allowing in those with special educational needs, that the whole idea of the work-in-progress attitude will be taken forward. The noble Lord covered most of this, particularly the legal grounds which he described very well, but is it the Government's intention that the spirit which has been developed is to be carried forward? It will mean that people are not excluded simply because they find a certain qualification difficult. If he could affirm that, I would be just that little bit happier.

Again, I thank the Minister for bringing forward government Amendment 120. It removes one of my great worries about the Bill. I might have been slightly OTT in suggesting on the last occasion that we torture the person who drafted the Bill as it was, but it was worth it for the look on the face of the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, as I said it. We should make sure that we capture the spirit of previous legislation over many years. I thank the Government for the, shall we say, well-timed and gracious way that they have taken these corrective steps.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

My Lords, I, too, should like to pick up on Amendment 120. This is quite a disparate group of amendments, but I welcome in particular government Amendments 106 and 120—amendments which deal with issues which a range of organisations representing disabled people have been concerned with and in discussion with the Government about, as the noble Lord mentioned. I have a connection with a good many of those organisations, as president of Skill and now vice-president of the RNIB, so I declare those interests.

Amendment 106 provides a power to extend apprenticeship offers to prescribed groups up to the age of 25, while Amendment 120 provides a power to make regulations setting alternative qualifying criteria for young people with learning difficulties who wish to apply to do an apprenticeship. The idea is to introduce a flexible system whereby those who might not be able to fulfil the minimum requirements on account of their disability will be able to submit an alternative portfolio of evidence that they are in fact ready and able to undertake an apprenticeship. Indeed, the Alliance for Inclusive Education has asked that a similarly flexible approach should be adopted in relation to those apprenticeship schemes—I suppose that they will be called "offers" in the future—that stipulate criteria higher than the minimum. I believe that the Government should monitor such schemes or offers carefully to make sure that stricter criteria are specified only in cases where it is appropriate to do so and are not specified unless there is a clear justification for it.

These amendments are something for which organisations representing disabled people have been asking and they are very much to be welcomed. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Rix, if he had been here, would have wanted to echo what I have said in extending a warm welcome to them. Indeed, he is very sorry that he is not able to be present at this stage and has asked me to associate him with my remarks.

I want to make a few more comments with which I think he would also be glad to be associated. The reason that organisations representing disabled people welcome these amendments so warmly is that they are concerned that the extension of the apprenticeship entitlement to 25 should not be confined just to those with a learning disability assessment but should also encompass the broader group of those with any learning difficulty significantly greater than their peers' but who may not have had a learning difficulty assessment; in other words, the broader group of those with learning difficulties identified in this legislation.

The Government have made it clear that they could not commit to such an extension in terms at this stage, but these amendments create the space for future regulations and guidance to be framed using the wider definition of "learning difficulty" to which I have just referred. Ministers are taking powers to permit the use of alternative evidence of ability and to extend the entitlement to 25 for the broader category of people with a learning difficulty, but taking these powers makes a difference only to the extent that Ministers take steps to use them.

In that regard, I want to ask the Minister for certain commitments. First, we need him to commit to a specific timescale. Full implementation of the Bill has a fairly extended timescale, with statutory guidance due only in a year's time. We could easily lose momentum if we do not get moving earlier than that.

Next, I would like to hear a commitment to work with key stakeholders without delay on developing the regulations and guidance—I think we have already heard that from the Minister in introducing the amendments—and on immediate practical steps that can be taken by the National Apprenticeship Service and partners to encourage increased participation of disabled young people.

The reason that that is so important is that the latest data made available by the National Apprenticeship Service highlight the fact that the apprenticeship participation of learners with learning difficulties and learning disabilities aged 19 to 25 is currently lower than that of the cohorts both younger and older than this cohort. That should make it a matter of urgency to work on this following the Bill's enactment, as many disabled young people between the ages of 19 and 25 are ready to enter apprenticeships.

I believe that the National Apprenticeship Service would be open to this, but it will need the support of other agencies, such as the YPLA, and a clear lead from Ministers and the SFA. In turn, providers will need to have adjusted minimum levels of performance, as these can be a real disincentive to recruiting disabled apprentices at present. In other words, there needs to be a clear message from the top that recruitment of disabled apprentices should be a priority, which, I fear, we have not heard to date. As things stand, disabled young people get quite a good deal from the LSC. It would be of major reassurance to the field if the Minister made a commitment that they will receive no less priority under the new regime being enacted under this legislation.

Lastly, I ask the Minister to commit to providing a Written Ministerial Statement on progress made in three or four months' time—in other words, before we have an election.

In summary, I am asking the Minister for four commitments: a timescale for exercising the powers that are being taken under this legislation; to work with stakeholders on regulations, guidance and practical steps to encourage participation of those aged 19 to 25; a clear lead from the top that the recruitment of disabled apprentices should be a priority, with no less priority being given to disabled young people than they currently enjoy from the LSC; and a Written Ministerial Statement on progress in the next three or four months.

Photo of Baroness Howe of Idlicote Baroness Howe of Idlicote Crossbench 10:00 pm, 2nd November 2009

My Lords, I shall be brief, as time is moving on. I particularly welcome Amendment 120, to which the noble Lord, Lord Young, referred me when I was speaking on an earlier amendment; the need for those who have a learning difficulty to be treated in a way that allows time to complete their course up to the age of 25 is important.

I am very enthusiastic about the other two amendments as well. Amendment 110, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Layard, and the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, is a requirement laid down; however, it need not come into effect until the entitlement comes into effect. On the provision for funding for employers, it is clear that we need to encourage more employers to enter the scheme and not feel that they are being disadvantaged by engaging in this way. I hope very much that we will hear that all three amendments, as well as the others which I will not mention, will be fully supported.

Photo of Lord de Mauley Lord de Mauley - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Universities and Skills), Shadow Minister, - Shadow Minister (Also Shadow Minister for Children, Schools and Families), Shadow Minister

My Lords, we are glad to welcome the government amendments which demonstrate that they have taken several, indeed quite a number, of the Committee's concerns on board. We remain dissatisfied with much of the Bill, as those who have been present throughout will be aware, but we are grateful for the efforts of the Minister and his Bill team for bringing forward a great many changes in response to concerns.

I want to address the subject of extending the apprenticeship entitlement to prescribed groups where the upper age limit is 25. I understand that the Minister and his Bill team put a great deal of work into discussions with SKILL and other SEN groups so that those with learning difficulties and disabilities are not totally excluded from the apprenticeship entitlement. Amendment 106 allows the provision to be extended and Amendment 120 allows regulations to be made, which will make provision regarding circumstances where alternative criteria might be accepted in respect of specific groups who appear to the chief executive of the SFA to have a learning difficulty under the definition in the Education Act 1996.

We welcome the Government's intentions in this regard. Perhaps, however, the Minister might be able to satisfy me on the following points. First, can he inform your Lordships what extra costs he expects these provisions to entail? Extending the apprenticeship entitlement in this way must mean that calculations have been done, and estimates made of the increased cost. I would be grateful to hear from him on this count. Secondly, could he perhaps go into some detail about what he expects alternative provisions might be? Like other noble Lords, we welcome the potential expansion of criteria by regulations which would widen access to those with learning difficulties or disabilities which could mean that they could not achieve five GCSEs, including maths and English. Nevertheless, widening access should not mean lowering standards. Can he assure us that the alternative criteria will be just that—alternative, not lower?

I now turn my attention briefly to Amendment 129, tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Layard. Noble Lords will be aware that we agree with the principle of this amendment. Indeed, we moved a similar amendment in Committee in another place, which proposed that all employers who took on an apprentice within a recognised apprenticeships framework should be paid directly by the chief executive of skills funding. The reasons behind this are easy to understand. We believe that it is simpler to channel funding into a single stream which then goes directly to employers. In contrast, the Government have chosen to introduce another body—the National Apprenticeship Service—through which funding will be directed. This service may indeed have a useful role to play in securing an effective apprenticeship scheme, but throughout the Committee stage, we emphasised the importance of a direct connection between government and employers when looking at apprenticeships.

We have also constantly said that we want a reduction in the convoluted and spaghetti-like structure of the various bodies, agencies, quangos and organisations that are required to interact and somehow produce the Government's desired results. The amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Layard, has the advantage of achieving these objectives in a simple and direct fashion. I look forward to the Minister's response.

Photo of Lord Lucas Lord Lucas Conservative

My Lords, I am delighted to see a bit of flexibility creeping into this Bill. Like the noble Lord, Lord Layard, I hope that we might see more. In particular, when we get to the point when the economy is improving and the prospect of a job seems more likely to young people, we should encourage them to embark on qualifications rather later. First, that is good for them as it means that they are doing qualifications when they are ready and wanting to do them. Secondly, that improves the Government's cash flow, because our subsidy to them, rather than coming at age 17, 18 or 19, comes five or six years later. It is better for both groups if we can do that. I agree that we cannot do it now, because the young will not believe that there is a job to go to if they do not go through a qualification. As things improve, however, we can make use of flexibility to move in a direction that will be good for the Government and for young people.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

My Lords, I have quite a task in dealing with this set of amendments. I welcome the bits that have been welcomed, although even those have had a few caveats. I thought how lucky I was that the noble Lord, Lord Low, felt that we had met some of his wishes. He has only given me four tasks as a result, and I am glad that he is coming back to his place because the answer to all his questions is, in summary, yes. That is the most succinct answer; given where we are at this point, I have a funny feeling that I will not get any thanks if I detain your Lordships longer than I need to. We will obviously develop the detail.

Photo of Lord Low of Dalston Lord Low of Dalston Crossbench

I am smiling broadly.

Photo of Lord Young of Norwood Green Lord Young of Norwood Green Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, Government Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Postal Affairs and Employment Relations) (also Lord in Waiting)

It is good to see that. I also reassure the noble Lord, Lord Addington, that we will meet the spirit as well as the legal intent, so to speak. I shall now try to address the points of concern that my noble friend Lord Layard raised earlier. I want to set in context what we have done on apprenticeships. Without wearying your Lordships with a set of statistics that I have given on many occasions, we are in danger of forgetting that we have come a long way on the apprenticeship journey. From 1997, when, as I have said before, the scheme was practically dead on its feet with just over 60,000 participants, we now have over a quarter of a million, with two-thirds of them completing their apprenticeships. We should remember that context, as that is where we have come from and it has been a huge journey.

We know that we have a big task to meet the targets that we have set ourselves. How are we to meet those targets? We should not underestimate the role and importance of the National Apprenticeship Service, which is the one-stop shop that will drive the situation with employers. Attitudes are beginning to change, but we have a long way to go yet and it is not just about loading more money on to employers. We are already paying for all the training of apprentices up to 19, which is not a bad bargain.

On the idea that apprentices should somehow be seen as a burden, that is not a good way of trying to sell the apprenticeship scheme to employers. They are not a burden but a real incentive, often by creating the next layer of management and leadership and in bringing increased vitality and ideas within a company, so I want to put the role of apprenticeships in that context. We are also moving from the situation where we were apprenticeship-light in the public sector. It should be remembered that we put another £140 million into apprenticeships this year, and are trying to ensure that we create another 21,000 apprenticeship places in the public sector.

We are committed to allocating funding directly to employers where they meet the required standard. I cannot absolutely guarantee a new set of regulations but I shall certainly take away the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Layard, and discuss with the National Apprenticeship Service exactly what we are doing in these circumstances; for instance, how funding is allocated to group training associations which are used by many thousands of employers.

I do not have the precise figures with regard to levels 2 and 3, but some of the figures that I do have are interesting. For example, the proportion of all apprenticeships that are advanced has increased, as has the total number of advanced apprenticeships, and 73,000 people started an advanced apprenticeship in 2007-08, up 40 per cent on the previous year. The proportion of advanced apprenticeships has remained around 30 per cent in recent years, increasing to 32 per cent in 2007-08. Clearly, there is no room for complacency in this area—I would be the last person to suggest that—but there has been progress. There is a requirement on employers to discuss with their apprentices a request to progress from level 2 to level 3. In many industries, for example the engineering industry, there is almost a seamless progression from level 2 to level 3. We make it absolutely clear that where there is an agreement we will fund those apprenticeships.

The noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, asked me about the cost implications of extending the entitlement. The best estimate is £2.8 million in 2014, rising to £16.7 million in 2020, subject to the level of take-up. Those are the best figures I can give at the moment. The noble Lord, Lord Ramsbotham, said that we needed to be honest with young people; I absolutely agree with him. First, we have to create apprenticeships; we must not take our eye off that ball. I make no apology for repeating that every apprenticeship we create for a young person is a beacon of hope. The first thing we need to do is to get them on that first rung. Of course, we do not necessarily want them to stay there but when you talk to young people you discover that their first concern is to get an apprenticeship. We do not want to put any barriers in the way of young people progressing. That is to their advantage and that of employers. We must not underestimate the importance of changing employers' attitude so that they do not see apprenticeships as a burden. I repeat that they are not a burden; they are a real advantage to companies. However, we have a long way to go to convince them all of that.

I do not know whether I can be positive as regards what noble Lords said in relation to the six-year period. I shall reflect on the implications of that. I do not want to raise false hopes in that regard other than to say that we shall consider that timescale. I hope that I shall be forgiven if I have not covered every point in the interests of time, given the lateness of the hour. I hope that in the light of the assurances I have given the relevant amendments will be withdrawn. I thank noble Lords who participated in the debate for their informative and constructive comments.

Amendment 99 agreed.

Amendments 100 to 102

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

100: Clause 91, page 61, line 12, leave out "scheme" and insert "apprenticeship offer"

101: Clause 91, page 61, line 21, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

102: Clause 91, page 61, line 24, leave out from "resources" to end of line 28

Amendments 100 to 102 agreed.

Clause 92 : Election for apprenticeship scheme

Amendments 103 to 109

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

103: Clause 92, page 61, line 31, leave out "or (3)" and insert ", (3) or (3A)"

104: Clause 92, page 61, line 32, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

105: Clause 92, page 61, line 34, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

106: Clause 92, page 62, line 3, at end insert—

"(3A) A person within this subsection is one who—

(a) is not within subsection (2), and

(b) is of a prescribed description.

(3B) If regulations under subsection (3A)(b) describe a person by reference to an age or an age range, the age, or the upper age of the age range, must be less than 25."

107: Clause 92, page 62, line 4, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

108: Clause 92, page 62, line 6, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

109: Clause 92, page 62, line 7, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

Amendments 103 to 109 agreed.

Amendment 110 not moved.

Clause 93 : Meaning of "apprenticeship place"

Amendments 111 to 113

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

111: Clause 93, page 62, line 23, after second "the" insert "standard"

112: Clause 93, page 62, line 24, leave out from "section" to "to" and insert "(Meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship" )(3) in relation"

113: Clause 93, page 62, line 26, leave out "English"

Amendments 111 to 113 agreed.

Clause 94 : Suitability and availability of apprenticeship places: further provision

Amendments 114 to 116

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

114: Clause 94, page 63, line 1, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

115: Clause 94, page 63, line 4, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

116: Clause 94, page 63, line 6, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

Amendments 114 to 116 agreed.

Clause 95 : Apprenticeship scheme requirements

Amendments 117 to 120

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

117: Clause 95, page 63, line 32, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

118: Clause 95, page 63, line 40, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

119: Clause 95, page 64, line 2, after "any" insert "specified"

120: Clause 95, page 64, line 10, at end insert—

"(4A) Regulations may make provision as to circumstances in which a person who appears to the Chief Executive to have a learning difficulty is to be treated as meeting the requirements set out in subsection (1)(a) or (2)(a).

(4B) Subsections (7) and (8) of section 15ZA of the Education Act 1996 (meaning of learning difficulty) apply for the purposes of subsection (4A) of this section as they apply for the purposes of that section."

Amendments 117 to 120 agreed.

Clause 96 : Apprenticeship scheme requirements: interpretation

Amendments 121 and 122

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

121: Clause 96, page 64, line 33, at end insert—

"(6A) In forming an opinion for the purposes of any of subsections (3) to (6), the Secretary of State must consult the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation."

122: Clause 96, page 64, line 38, at end insert—

"(9) The Secretary of State must consult the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation before exercising the power conferred by subsection (8)."

Amendments 121 and 122 agreed.

Clause 97 : Suspension of scheme

Amendments 123 to 125

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

123: Clause 97, page 64, line 40, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

124: Clause 97, page 65, line 3, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

125: Clause 97, page 65, line 4, leave out "scheme" and insert "offer"

Amendments 123 to 125 agreed.

Clause 99 : Apprenticeship scheme: interpretation

Amendments 126 and 127

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

126: Clause 99, page 65, line 11, at end insert—

""apprenticeship agreement" has the meaning given by section 31(1);"

127: Clause 99, page 65, leave out line 15

Amendments 126 and 127 agreed.

Clause 100 : Provision of financial resources

Amendment 128

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

128: Clause 100, page 66, line 7, at end insert—

"(1A) In performing the functions under this section the Chief Executive must make the best use of the Chief Executive's resources."

Amendment 128 agreed.

Amendment 129 not moved.

Consideration on Report adjourned.