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Higher Education and Research Bill - Committee (6th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 4:30 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Brown of Cambridge Baroness Brown of Cambridge Crossbench 4:30 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, this amendment stands in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Wolf. It would limit the powers of entry and search to suspected breaches of registration concerning fraud and serious financial mismanagement of public funds. The relationship between the Office for Students and registered providers is basically a civil one, and indeed in many areas a supportive one, and criminal proceedings such as search and entry should clearly be used only in cases of very serious misconduct, as specified in the amendment.

I recognise that paragraph 1(3)(b) of Schedule 5 says that,

“the suspected breach is sufficiently serious to justify entering the premises”,

and I am sure that the intent is that powers of entry would be used only in exceptional circumstances. However, this part of the Bill has been described by the sector as draconian, and the amendment, in effectively defining what constitutes “sufficiently serious” breaches, would provide considerable reassurance to the sector. I beg to move.