Clause 49

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 21st February 2008.

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Question proposed,That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (14-19 Reform and Apprenticeships)

Given the lateness of the hour, 4 o’clock having come and gone, I can almost hear you wondering, Mr. Bercow, whether there is “honey still for tea”, or whether we have missed tea altogether. Notwithstanding the time, we will not be deflected from our determination to examine the matters with proper diligence.

Clause 49 raises an important issue. The explanatory notes say:

“For the purposes of Part 1, clause 49 enables regulations to state who is to be treated as the employer in relation to ways of working prescribed under clause 5, and to modify provisions in their application to these prescribed ways of working, to reflect different circumstances. One effect of this clause is that persons who are not normally regarded as employers (for example, the person in charge of a young person’s voluntary work)” would be liable to the same treatment as a more conventional employer, even though they might not be fitted or suited to deal with matters in an equivalent way. My probing series of comments is therefore designed to establish the circumstances in which organisations might be affected in an way that would not be equitable.

Photo of Jim Knight Jim Knight Minister of State (Schools and Learners), Department for Children, Schools and Families, Minister of State (Department for Children, Schools and Families) (Schools and Learners)

When we come to apply the duties on employers in chapter 3 to ways of working where there is no contract of employment, we might need to make some modifications to suit particular circumstances, so that everyone is clear about what is expected. The clause allows us to make regulations to modify the provisions in that way, and the House will have the opportunity to scrutinise the regulations when they are subjected to the affirmative procedure, which the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings so loves.

Many young people want to start working and earning money at 16, and some of them want to do so full-time. I recognise that they can gain extremely valuable skills, knowledge and experience from the world of work, but we do not believe that it is acceptable for them to leave formal learning altogether and go into casual low-skilled work with no opportunity for learning or progression. Participating in education or training part-time while working will enable them to have their learning accredited. Their achievements will be recognised and it will be easier for them to change direction or to progress in their careers. Volunteering and self-employment are valuable experiences and should count as working for those purposes. Clause 5 enables us to make regulations to allow for that, and young people occupied in those ways for more than 20 hours a week should only be required to participate in learning part-time, in the same way as those employed under a contract of employment. The regulations under the clause would allow us to make that clear. I hope that that helps the hon. Gentleman.

Clause 49 ordered to stand part of the Bill.