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My Lords, in moving Amendment 420, which is in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Wolf, I will also speak to Amendments 421 and 421A in my noble friend’s absence.
These amendments bring us back to the discussion we had previously about the costs and charges of the OfS. The purpose of the amendments is to probe the issue of who will act to control the costs and charges of the regulator—the Office for Students. Higher education providers will pay these charges, and hence students, at the end of the day, will have to bear them. The OfS is referred to frequently as a regulator by Ministers and others talking about the Bill, but nowhere is it clear in the Bill whether or not the OfS will have to sign up to the Regulators’ Code, published by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in 2014. If it was clear that the OfS was covered by the code, it would provide some of the reassurance sought in a number of amendments to the Bill.
The code for example requires that regulators must consider how they can best minimise the,
“costs of compliance for those they regulate”— the issue behind some of these amendments. They also,
“should avoid imposing unnecessary regulatory burdens”,
“should carry out their activities in a way that supports those they regulate to comply and grow”.
As your Lordships can hear, the language of the Regulators’ Code is both clear and supportive. Can the Minister provide assurance that the OfS will sign up to the Regulators’ Code? It would be helpful in providing clarity and reassurance to the sector. I beg to move.