Clause 9 - Charter of council

Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:15 pm on 10 February 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Chris Grayling Chris Grayling Shadow Minister (Education)

Again, I have a quick point for the Minister to clarify. The clause deals with amending or revoking the charter of the AHRC. As the Minister made clear in the debate this morning, the measures that we are discussing do not formally enact the charter; it is a matter that goes beyond this place. I would be grateful if the Minister could explain that framework to the Committee so that we can understand the context of the clause.

The clause deals with the powers to amend or revoke the charter and the operation of any amendment made. Although the creation of the charter is a separate process from the debate on the Bill, it is, none the less, a matter of concern and interest to Parliament, when mechanisms exist to amend the charter of the AHRC, if it is not necessary to bring amendments, changes or the ultimate decision to revoke back before Parliament as part of a further piece of primary legislation.

Therefore, I should be grateful if the Minister would take a moment to explain the legal framework and the relationship between the Bill and the charter, and say how any future changes might be made at a parliamentary level as opposed to a level that goes beyond this place and is represented by the charter's royal dimension.

Photo of Alan Johnson Alan Johnson Minister of State (Education and Skills) (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education)

I shall do my best. The Privy Council agrees the charter, so the council is established by royal charter. The clause states that nothing in this part of the Bill has an effect on any power that may exist to amend or revoke the AHRC's royal charter, which hon. Members have seen in draft form, and the operation of such legislation.

The clause is a technical measure that ensures that changes can be made to the charter in future, as they can for any existing research council, to take account of changes in the way in which the council must operate. The Bill provides for the creation of a research council. The clauses are needed to establish the council on the same basis as other research councils.

As regards the constitutional issues that arise from the technicalities of changing the charter, I am advised that this is a technical process that applies in all such

Bills. I hope that that rather convoluted explanation is enough to encourage hon. Members to allow the clause to stand part of the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.