Clause 4

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

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Minister of State (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), Department for Education and Skills 11:45 am, 12th June 2007

It is some time since I have contributed to a wide-ranging debate on clause 4, but I am happy to be able to do so. For the record, may I correct something that the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings said when he summed up on the previous group of amendments? He asserted that it is Sandy Leitch’s view that the LSC will, over time, wither on the vine. That is not what Sandy Leitch has said. He has explicitly said that he is not in favour of ripping up structures for the sake of it and starting again, but that he is of the view, as am I, that the LSC’s role and function, and the way in which it operates, should continue to evolve.

Amendments Nos. 17, 18, 23 and 24 relate toclause 4 and the strategies for the functions of the LSC. Amendments Nos. 17 and 18 apply to directions and guidance about the consultation, and matters to which a body specified to formulate a strategy for an area of England outside Greater London is to have regard when formulating or reviewing its strategy. Similar amendments were tabled at Committee stage in another place. We considered the points that were raised, and have made a number of changes to the draft directions and guidance in relation to the formulation and review of the skills strategy for London by the London skills and employment board. Similar directions and guidance will apply to other bodies outside London. I am, therefore, pleased to be able to restate the reassurances given by my noble Friend Lord Adonis.

I agree that provision should be made in directions and guidance, but I do not believe that specific reference to these matters should appear in the Bill. While I agree that a range of bodies should be consulted, I cannot see a case for favouring particular categories of consultee by naming them in the Bill. If we were to go down that path, we would burden the Bill with unnecessary detail, and to name only some would be misleading and unhelpful. Those drawing up and reviewing strategies will want to have regard to existing local area agreements and local improvement  strategies, as the hon. Member for Brent, East has asserted, and also to other relevant matters such as sector skills agreements. Again, I believe that the place for such matters is in directions and guidance, not in specific mention of them in the Bill.

Taking London as the first example, a list of bodies to be consulted and matters to which the board is to have regard is provided in the draft published directions and guidance. Those draft directions say, as the result of a debate on amendments tabled in another place, that the board must consult responsible local authorities where the authority falls partly or wholly in Greater London, and partner authorities where the board considers it appropriate. Directions also require the London skills and employment board to have regard to local area agreements and local improvement targets specified within them, which have been prepared by any responsible local authority where the area of the authority falls partly or wholly in Greater London.

I refer the hon. Lady to the documents about the Bill that we circulated to the Committee, particularly item (c), draft regulations on the strategy-making body for London, made under clause 4. Section 7 explicitly mentions the board’s having to consult particular bodies, including responsible local authorities, as defined in section 78 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007, where the area of the authority falls partly or wholly within Greater London, and each of their partner authorities within the meaning of section 79 of the Local Government and Public Involvement in Health Act 2007 where the board considers it desirable to do so. I hope that that provides the reassurance that the hon. Lady seeks and that she and the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West will feel able to withdraw their amendment.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 would provide that, where directions and guidance about consultation are given by the Secretary of State, the particular need to consult to determine demand for specific skills in the economy should be considered. I agree that the level of demand for skills in the economy is an exceedingly important issue as we formulate or review our strategy, but I do not see a reason to refer to it specifically, when we do not refer to other matters of equal importance, such as improving employment and tackling worklessness.

The demand for specific skills, along with many other relevant matters, will be taken into account in our strategy. It would not be appropriate to refer to just one matter in the Bill, and to include all relevant matters would over-burden the Bill with too much unnecessary detail. For those reasons, I ask the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings not to press his amendment.