Schedule 13 - The Training and Development Agency for Schools

Education Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 22nd March 2005.

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Question proposed, That this schedule be the Thirteenth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Angela Watkinson Angela Watkinson Shadow Minister (Education)

I glanced quickly through the schedule as we discussed clause 77, and seek clarification from the Minister of the supplementary powers that the schedule confers on the agency. The agency’s powers are wide ranging. It can

“acquire and dispose of land and other property ... enter into contracts ... invest sums not immediately required for the purposes of the discharge of their functions, and ... accept gifts or money, land or other property.”

There is one caveat in paragraph 1(2):

The Agency may not borrow”.

I am interested to hear more, particularly about the acquisition and disposal of land and other property. I felt, as I glanced through that list of supplementary powers, that they were quite draconian. I wonder how the Minister envisages that they might be used.

Photo of Mr Colin Pickthall Mr Colin Pickthall PPS (Rt Hon Jack Straw, Secretary of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

It may be my misunderstanding, but paragraph 5 states that

The Agency ... must pay to their members such salaries or fees, and such travelling, subsistence and other allowances, as the Secretary of State may determine”.

I take it that “members” means board members. Am I right? Paragraph 6(2) states:

“The Agency may pay to their employees such remuneration and allowances as the Agency may determine.”

Paragraph 6(3) states:

“The employees are to be appointed on such other terms and conditions as the Agency may determine.”

Am I right in identifying what appears to be a contradiction, in that paragraph 5(1)(a) refers only to board members?

I shall make a wider point while I am on my feet. I am concerned that the schedule and the relevant clauses seem to contain an open-ended budget for the TTA. How and when is the overall budget for it determined? I hope that the agency will have to limit its expenditure, because the schedule and some previous clauses contain many sentences that suggest that it can spend whatever it likes on this and on that. What is the overall budget likely to be?

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Minister of State (Education and Skills) (School Standards)

I absolutely assure my hon. Friend that there is no suggestion of the agency having an unlimited call on public funds or on the resources of the Department. It receives a budget, as will any other agency with which the Department works. It works to a remit letter from the Secretary of State, which sets out the terms of its functions, such as the new role that has just been discussed in our debates on previous clauses.

I absolutely assure the hon. Lady that the change made by the schedule is modest. The provisions are taken largely from previous legislation such as the Education Act 1994, except in three respects. The schedule entitles a representative of the National Assembly for Wales to attend meetings and to take part in discussions for the first time. The representative may not, however, vote when members take decisions. The change simply regularises a long-standing and formal arrangement under which a National Assembly official has attended meetings. Paragraph 1(1) makes a provision similar in effect to that found in the 1994 Act, but in a different form given the breadth of the new powers conferred on the agency under clause 83. The new power includes the ability to borrow money—the hon. Lady referred to this—but only with the consent of the Secretary of State. The change is intended simply to allow the agency to make use of the Government procurement card, a service that offers greater purchasing efficiency to bodies in the public sector.

Consideration of the schedule in another place also brought to light the fact that a number of technical changes were needed to take account of developments in Government accounting practice since 1994. Those modifications have now been incorporated into the schedule. Beyond that, it simply re-legislates the provisions of the 1994 Act. I hope that the Committee will agree that they are sensible and proportionate provisions and that the schedule should be agreed to.

Photo of Mr Colin Pickthall Mr Colin Pickthall PPS (Rt Hon Jack Straw, Secretary of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office

May I ask for confirmation of whether my analysis of the meaning of the word “members” was right?

Photo of Stephen Twigg Stephen Twigg Minister of State (Education and Skills) (School Standards)

I apologise. I nodded vigorously when my hon. Friend was speaking, but that will not be shown in the record of the Committee’s proceedings. His explanation was certainly right; the first part refers to the members of the board; the others are employees of the agency.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 13 agreed to.

Clauses 78 to 98 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 14 agreed to.

Clause 99 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Schedule 15 agreed to.

Clause 100 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 64 ordered to stand part of the Bill.