Clause 4

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Shadow Secretary of State for Education 11:30 am, 12th June 2007

Thank you for that clarification. In principle, we are very supportive of the clause. First, it establishes the skills and employment board for London, which brings democratic accountability to the organisation of training in London, and most critically, it allows it to be integrated with other economic planning and provision of services such as transport. That is particularly essential for a place such as London. As a London MP, I was quite excited by that idea, and felt that it offered a real opportunity to ensure that we take account of London’s uniqueness. London generates a large proportion of the country’s wealth, and draws in many of the tourists who come to this country, but we also have significant levels of unemployment and lower rates of employment than the rest of the nation.

London is by its nature a more transient place. There are waves of immigration and pockets of poverty and wealth are found side by side. Many other cities across the UK have those factors, but none in the same concentration as London. London has unique training needs because of that, which are heightened by the Olympics and the considerable building programme that goes with that. We support that aspect of the clause.

The second important thing that the clause does is to allow flexibility for sub-regional structures to be set up, and we support that idea in principle. We have already had a discussion about sub-regional structures and the need sometimes to take account of a city organisation and the way in which employment is drawn into a city hub. Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 are probing amendments designed to probe the relationship between any new bodies that will be set up, given the structures outlined in the clause, and local authorities. More specifically, they are designed to probe local area agreements.

I know that the Minister referred to some of those aspects in the discussion on clause 2, but I would like to push him a little further on this point. When local authorities set up local area agreements, they are designed to set targets for improvement between local authorities and their partners, and Government as a whole. My concern about the wording of the clause is that it appears to over-rule that, or appears to allow the Secretary of State to over-rule that. I would be grateful if the Minister could be clear about the relationship between existing partnership arrangements and any new bodies that might be set up. Obviously, it is essential that any new bodies take account of existing plans and  partnerships, and I would like to ensure that there is consistency between the Bill and the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Bill, which defines that relationship with local area agreements.

Local area agreements bring together a whole range of services, and economic development targets as well as skills and further education plans and partnerships that are outlined in local area agreements. It is essential that any new body works closely in collaboration with those existing plans. They are probing amendments that are designed to get on the record from the Minister exactly how that relationship will work and to ensure that it is consistent with the other Bill that is proceeding through Parliament at the moment.