Clause 15

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

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Skills), Department for Education and Skills 12:45 pm, 12th June 2007

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on coping so well with the pace of the Committee’s proceedings so far. The amendment would prevent the transfer of property rights and liabilities by the Learning and Skills Council to itself when a further education corporation is dissolved. Why do not we wish to support that amendment? Under the current arrangements, the Secretary of State may, by order, transfer to the LSC the property rights and liabilities of a dissolved further education corporation, where he deems it necessary and appropriate. In future, it is possible that the LSC might need temporarily—I emphasis that word—to transfer such rights and liabilities to itself, to achieve the best results for an area. In what circumstances might the LSC need to do that? It might happen if it were not possible to find a suitable alternative body to which to transfer the property when two colleges merge, for example.

A merger is a common reason for dissolving FE corporations—seven mergers of FE corporations will take effect during the summer, and more are under discussion. That is part of the process of developing the FE system. The mergers have been discussed and planned over time to ensure more effective local arrangements. It will be a temporary requirement in cases where we cannot find a suitable alternative body to which to transfer the property. In such cases, we will require the LSC to seek the prior agreement of the Secretary State before it transfers the assets to itself as part of the process of managing the merger. It is expected that the provision will be used rarely, if at all. However, we are trying to anticipate situations that might arise and provide contingency arrangements. I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment, given my account of the purpose of the clause and the safeguards that we are putting in place.