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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 9:45 pm on 25th January 2017.

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Photo of Lord Watson of Invergowrie Lord Watson of Invergowrie Shadow Spokesperson (Education) 9:45 pm, 25th January 2017

My Lords, Amendment 471 in this group is in my name. It seeks to remove part of new Section 123B on supplementary powers of a higher education corporation in England:

“A … corporation in England has power to do anything which appears to the corporation to be necessary or expedient for the purpose of, or in connection with, the exercise of any of their principal powers”.

We want to withdraw this is because we do not see why it should be necessary. It seems almost nonsensical. It is completely open ended. It would be interesting for the Minister to tell us to what he thinks it refers or might refer. I feel like coming out with a list of ridiculous examples of things that a corporation might chose to do that may be within the law and indeed within the exercise of its principal powers. I am not going to do that but just in the last few minutes we have had a couple of examples. What if a corporation decided to turn a blind eye to the sort of activities that the noble Lord, Lord Storey, outlined in terms of plagiarism and so on? What if a corporation thought, “Well, that helps our pass rates”? It is not illegal as yet—I hope it will be. In the amendment the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, just spoke to about free speech, the corporation could take action or not which may be seen to be offensive by students, staff or the public where the university or college was situated. I say to the Minister: what is this about? Why is it necessary and really should it not be deleted?