Clause 6

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Bill Rammell Bill Rammell Minister of State (Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education), Department for Education and Skills 12:15 pm, 12th June 2007

The hon. Gentleman is eliding the issue of expenditure on administration, which was his original point, with expenditure on the provision of the service to the young person or adult. In terms of a variety of providers being able to meet that demand, we stand by the Government’s track record of investing in the further education and training sector in a way that has not happened in the past.

In certain circumstances, there will be a need to open up the market to new entrants, which is only one of a range of options that can be used to tackle poor quality. The right intervention will depend on the circumstances, but under the right circumstances contestability in competition can act as a powerful lever to raise quality by increasing the rewards to good providers and the penalties for poor providers. However, as we said in the White Paper, it is important that there is not competition for its own sake. The LSC will review provision every five years in each area to establish whether competition is needed to improve quality, promote innovation or expand provision, and new and existing providers throughout the country will be able to bid.

To respond to the point made by the hon. Member for Brent, East, all providers will have to meet rigorous quality criteria, which will include the ability and commitment to collaborate with other providers when appropriate and to deliver curriculum choice in 14-to-19 learning.

I want to make it clear that further education colleges have nothing to fear from that competition and the expansion of the demand-led approach. Before we launched the train-to-gain initiative, further  education colleges were nervous about how successful they would be under it. In fact, they have been very successful in gaining the business, which demonstrates their quality and their success. I urge the Committee to agree that the clause stand part.