Clause 14

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

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Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships) 12:30 pm, 12th June 2007

We are making progress and storming through our consideration of the Bill with the alacrity that one would expect.

Clause 14 concerns the power to incorporate further education colleges. In Wales, the power is being transferred to Welsh Ministers, yet in England, the powers are being transferred from the Secretary of State to the Learning and Skills Council. Why should the powers be held by accountable Ministers in Wales, but by the somewhat less accountable—I choose my words carefully—Learning and Skills Council in England?

These are probing amendments to discover from Ministers why the Learning and Skills Council is being given this role. I said earlier that the problem is not what the Bill contains, but what it does not contain, but at this juncture I want to point out an exception to that general rule. In some ways the Bill reinforces, or embeds, the Learning and Skills Council in a process of managing and funding skills that is not entirely consistent with where the Leitch review and its likely repercussions will take us. I suspect that in the coming months and years we might seek to remove powers from the LSC, rather than adding to its already extensive competence.

This small aspect of the Bill is an example of where it seems to me that we are embedding the authority of the LSC. When we come to consider the LSC’s relationship with further education colleges in respect of college principals, governors and managers, we will see another example. I thus qualify my earlier remark just to say, in that respect, that what the Bill does might not be helpful or in tune with current thinking. This probing amendment is designed to establish exactly what Ministers feel about that issue. I look forward to hearing the Under-Secretary’s response before deciding whether to test the mood of the Committee on this small but important matter.