Rather unexpectedly, this part of the Bill has been thrown into sharp focus. Not for the first time in this Committee, I have an admission to make. On Second Reading, I did not expect that as much emphasis would be placed on this clause in speeches from Government Back Benchers as was the case. I was slightly surprised. I would not mind betting that some on the Front Bench were slightly surprised as well about both the length and the nature of some of those speeches. However, that did, of course, alert me to certain serious matters that I must raise today in relation to the clause.
I am pleased to see that the Under-Secretary of State for Wales is here specifically in respect of clause 25. I felt a little sorry for him when we debated the earlier clauses as he sat expectantly waiting for us to hare towards clause 25, only to be treated to considerable debate on earlier clauses. However, I am pleased that he is here now, and I have no doubt that he will want to speak about this matter at some length.
For the benefit of the Committee, let me make it clear that the clause makes amendments to part 1 of schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act 2006, so as to confer enhanced legislative competence on the National Assembly for Wales. These matters include, first:
“the provision of facilities for post-16 education and training”; secondly, provision about institutions
“concerned with the provision of further education”,
including provision for the establishment and dissolution of such institutions and bodies conducting such education; thirdly, collaboration in relation to the delivery of post-14 education; fourthly, financial resources for education or training provided by further education institutions, post-16 education or training, and research related to such education and training; fifthly, inspection of
“education or training provided by institutions concerned with the provision of further education...post-16 education or training...the training of teachers....and specialist teaching assistants for schools” and other services such as career services; and sixthly,
“The provision of advice and information...and the carrying out of studies in relation to...education or training provided by institutions concerned with the provision of further education...post-16 education or training...the training of teachers....and specialist teaching assistants for schools” and other services such as career services.
Under the Government of Wales Act 2006, the National Assembly for Wales can seek to enhance its powers, given parliamentary consent, by way of a new procedure known as a legislative competence Order in Council. I do not know how much members of the Committee know about those orders. I have no doubt, Mr. Atkinson, that, given your encyclopaedic knowledge of the affairs of this House, you are familiar with them, but, to be frank, I certainly was not until I looked at clause 25. I now have a rather better knowledge of them than I would otherwise have had, and I have learned that the Government can indeed use those orders for the purpose that I have described. Indeed, that is the nature of those Orders in Council. Yet, in this instance, the Government have chosen to add schedule 5 to the Government of Wales Act 2006 by primary legislation. In other words, they have opted in this Bill to add to that competence rather than pursuing an alternative route.
Just last month, the Welsh Affairs Committee reported its concerns about the continued use of primary legislation for this purpose. To some degree, that reflects the lively speeches that we heard from Welsh Members on Second Reading who were anxious about consultation, the process and whether the Bill was the right vehicle to do what it intends to do.