Clause 33 - Duration of plans

Higher Education Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 9 March 2004.

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

Photo of Mr Tim Collins Mr Tim Collins Conservative, Westmorland and Lonsdale

I seek a clarification from the Minister on a point that has been the subject of correspondence to all members of the Committee from Universities UK. It is happy with the clause, on the basis that the maximum duration of plans will be five years. That is not specified in the Bill. It would be helpful if he could confirm that that is also his interpretation. Could he also confirm that he would not expect the general power that is granted under subsection (2) to the Secretary of State or the Assembly in Wales to issue general regulations would be used to extend the maximum duration of plans beyond five years? That seems to be what Universities UK is expecting.

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

The clause specifies that a plan must prescribe the period during which it is to be enforced. Paragraph 8 of the draft regulations states:

''The maximum period of time during which a plan may be in force is five years.''

We have made it absolutely clear that that is our intention. That does not prevent the approval of a new plan when the previous plan expires. In other words, plans may be renewed subject to the approval process. Neither does it prevent the director of fair access and an institution from agreeing to vary the plan at any intervening point. The maximum period is five years. We do not expect to change that, although if in the light of experience six years or four years seemed much better, and there was consensus about that, we would seek to change the regulation. That is the reason for putting this in regulations, rather than in primary legislation. We think that five years is just about right, and so does the sector.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 33 ordered to stand part of the Bill.