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Clause 1

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 31st January 2008.

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Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 2:30 pm, 31st January 2008

This is a probing amendment, and we do not intend to press it to a Division. However, it raises some important issues, to which we will inevitably return when we consider later clauses of the Bill. Although I do not want to tread too much on the toes of those later clauses, it is quite a good time to raise some issues in the context of clause 1 and the sphere of its influence.

We have already discussed some of the philosophical objections to the Government’s approach to compulsion, which were an important part of the comments that I made on amendment No. 1. It might be possible to consider amendment No. 70 to clause 1 and amendment No. 77 to clause 10 as part of that attack on compulsion. Amendment No. 70 would give local authorities the power to allow young people a waiver so that they would not be affected by the proposals on compulsion. The amendment might essentially complement the amendment of the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton that would allow young people themselves to opt out of clause 1.

Having dealt with the philosophy of compulsion earlier, I do not want to discuss those issues again. In tabling the two amendments, our concerns are more about the practicalities of the Bill, which the hon. Members for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton and for South Holland and The Deepings mentioned. The amendments raise two particular issues in relation to the practicalities of compulsion. The first is one that we took evidence on at the beginning of the week and concerns reasonable excuse and the extent to which a local authority should essentially allow people an exit route from compulsion. I want to talk about some of the groups that will be particularly affected by compulsion and some of their concerns. The second issue is whether there are more suitable options available for that group of quite vulnerable young people aged 16 and 17 and whether those options ought to be provided through the local authority route and the other agencies that may be able to intervene. I want to explore the extent to which those other options will be permitted.

As we proceed, I encourage the Minister to feel free to intervene if I get anything wrong, because that may help to clarify his intentions. We know from him and from the evidence session that he has undertaken to publish the guidance that will be provided to local authorities on reasonable excuse before the end of the Committee’s proceedings.