Clause 117

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:30 pm on 28th February 2008.

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Providers of independent education or training for 16 to 18 year olds

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

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

I felt it was important to say a word about this clause on the grounds that we have not said anything on clause stand part for a long time. We do not want it to be thought that the Committee is not scrutinising the Bill with appropriate diligence.

According to the explanatory notes, clause 117

“enables regulations to be made allowing for any part of this Chapter to apply to this particular group of learning providers”— the learning providers in question being independent providers of education or training for 16 to 18-year-olds. Clauses 117 and 118 deal only with those organisations. However, the explanatory notes go on to explain that this group of providers

“do not receive any state funding from the LSC.”

Is it really necessary to regulate the sector further? Is there any evidence that those providers are failing to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of young people? If not, and the current regulatory regime works for them, why do we need to change it? We should never legislate unless there is a proven need to do so. I look to the Minister to establish that proven need in the mind of the Committee.

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)

Those who have been listening and who might have wondered why we did not talk about previous clauses may be reassured to know that in large part they repeat what was in previous legislation, but in respect of the transfer of functions.

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point about why we should worry about standards or requirements beyond ordinary health and safety law for those providers of education for 16 to 18-year-olds. There are important minimum regulatory standards that we should put in place beyond health and safety, particularly in respect of child welfare and child protection. This is a good opportunity to do so.

In placing a new duty on all young people to continue to participate in education or training until they are 18, it is right that we take the power to set standards to ensure that they are healthy, safe and supported wherever they choose to fulfil the duty that we discussed at such length under part 1. In many ways the provision is not a response to any specific evidence that there is a failure on the part of those providers. It is much more a consequence of raising the participation age through part 1. I hope, on that basis, that the Committee will support the clause.

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

I simply say to the Minister that it would perhaps be useful if he could give us some idea of the history in this area—not now because I would not expect him to have this sort of information at his fingertips. If no concerns have been expressed about the way the system operates now and if there is no record of problems relating to child protection, health and safety and welfare, the only grounds I can see for introducing the clause is to establish consistency. That may be sufficient of itself, but it is important to know whether that is the only basis on which the proposal is being made.

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)

It is about slightly more than consistency. As we have discussed, new forms of provision will be developed by various organisations from the third sector and elsewhere to engage people who are particularly difficult to engage. There will be an expansion of provision in an area where there are no statutory duties in respect of safety and well-being. Consequential to raising the participation age and to all the extra provision, it is also important—beyond the need for consistency—to lay down statutory duties to  safeguard the well-being of the especially vulnerable people we want to engage. Any regulations laid, however, will be dealt with through the affirmative procedure, after consultation, as set out in clause 118(2). We might go on to discuss that if anyone is minded to do so. I hope that that gives the hon. Gentleman—and the rest of the Committee—reassurance.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 117 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses 118 to 124 ordered to stand part of the Bill.