Clause 4

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:45 am on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 11:45 am, 12th June 2007

Thank you for your indulgence and advice, Mr. Atkinson. We need to be absolutely clear. The Leitch review is explicit in its advocacy of a demand-led system, which I think the Minister has fully acknowledged. The report is unequivocal about the changes that would be needed to achieve such a  system. The Learning and Skills Council is not mentioned in any significant way until page 73, and then in not particularly glowing terms. In describing the move from a supply-driven to a demand-driven system, Lord Leitch says:

“The LSC allocates funding on the basis of expected demand. If demand does not meet expectations, funding for subsequent years is adjusted. This can mean that colleges aim to ‘recruit’ employers and individuals into planned courses to fill places, rather than responding flexibly to demand.”

The assumption underpinning the report was that the current system does not always deliver, which is reflected in our skills performance. The Ministers on the Committee have been straightforward about that in the past. We need to improve our performance radically, particularly in intermediate and higher level skills, where we lag behind France, Germany, the USA and other competitors.

The purpose of our amendments is to enshrine in the Bill the principle of responsiveness to demand. There is no difference of principle between us in that respect, but the Minister has made the case that the amendments would entangle the Bill in a level of detail that would not be appropriate from a legislative perspective. I hear what he says, but I use this opportunity to probe and to reinforce my absolute determination to ensure that the principle behind the Leitch report, of moving from a supply-driven to a demand-driven system, should inform all that we do in the Committee, as well as future public policy. Having heard the Minister’s assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.