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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 5:00 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, this has been a livelier group of amendments than had been anticipated. Gratitude is due to the noble Baroness, Lady Wolf, for exciting some controversy. It is a surprise that the shortest amendment to the entire Bill—it is just two letters—led to so much impassioned debate.

The Minister is treading on rather boggy ground if he feels that his legal people will be able to counter the argument of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, about the precedent for statutory bodies. The Minister has developed the practice of writing letters to us in Committee. I suggest to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, that he might write to the Minister on this particular point and perhaps assist in clarifying the position and getting the Minister to think again.

I liked the noble and learned Lord’s point about spotting a reference to an employee in the Bill. He was, of course, referring to a part that we will consider on Monday, but that it took his legal eagle eye to detect it underlines my point about staff being notable by their absence from the Bill, and hence, I would suggest, being undervalued. I take on board what the Minister said about it being expected that the OfS will consult staff. Experience tells us that expecting organisations or employers to do something on behalf of their staff often leads to disappointment, and that is why I believe it should have been a bit more explicit in the Bill. I suspect, however, that his comments today may well be quoted by a number of staff and their representative organisations in future. There is another question, which perhaps he could answer in one of his famous letters, which is: what recourse would be open to staff if it was shown that the OfS was not considering their views, as I suggested in my amendment?

Other noble Lords spoke about financial issues, which I think remain as they were prior to the debate, but it has been both enjoyable and interesting. On that basis, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 366 withdrawn.