Clause 16

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Skills), Department for Education and Skills 4:00 pm, 12th June 2007

It would need to demonstrate—I suppose that this might be the process—that the LSC had acted unreasonably. It would have to demonstrate that the   proposals are unreasonable, that the LSC published and took them forward in an unreasonable way, or that it used its powers under the Bill in a way that was ultra vires. That is the mechanism that the local authority would have to use in order to ask the Secretary of State to intervene. However, I am certain that those circumstances will not arise due to the nature of the Bill, which requires the LSC to publish and consult on all proposals and to take account of all representations. That means that the hypothetical situation described by the hon. Lady will not arise.

We believe that the appropriate vehicle for the procedures that I have described are the regulations, which set out the details of the process for establishing, dissolving and merging further education corporations. We do not think, therefore, that it is appropriate to write into primary legislation a requirement to inform local authorities of the reasons for establishing or dissolving an FE corporation. That would lead to unnecessary bureaucracy, because the rationale behind the reasons for opening or closing an FE corporation will have been set out in the original proposal, which would have been sent to the local authority and consulted on. When the LSC has made a decision, it will write to the FE corporation or new institution. That letter is then copied to key partners, including the local authority. The current arrangements, which we are not changing, are working very well and already provide for the requirements proposed.

Amendment No. 36 would impose a requirementon the LSC to publish a detailed policy statement following the statutory consultation period, which is undertaken for every proposal. It largely duplicates information included in the already published proposal and would lead to an unnecessary and burdensome increase in bureaucracy. The LSC will already have considered current provision in the local area, the need to ensure choice across the area and the impact of a new or alternative provider on existing provision.

In England, further education corporations work with the LSC to ensure that the right structures are in place locally, which might include a number of options for the future, merger being the most common reason for dissolving a further education college. Any merger option that emerges will have been discussed, developed and planned over a long period, all of which will ensure that more effective arrangements are in place locally. I emphasise that the local authority will play a key role, especially in relation to its duties in respect of 14-to-19 provision.

I hope that with those assurances, and those that I gave earlier on the guidance and regulations, thehon. Gentleman will accept that the amendment is unnecessary and ask leave to withdraw it.