Clause 80

Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:00 pm on 28th February 2008.

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Unregistered independent educational institutions: offence

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

I beg to move amendment No. 153, in clause 80, page 49, line 7, leave out ‘51 weeks’ and insert ‘six months’.

A number of the provisions in part 4 repeat provisions from the Education Act 2002. Clause 80 essentially replicates section 159 of the 2002 Act but with changes to reflect the new term “educational institution”. Clause 80, however, prescribes a punishment for conducting an unregulated educational institution as up to 51 weeks in prison. The 2002 Act, even with amendments subsequent to 2002, carries a maximum sentence of six months. Will the Minister explain the reason for the change of policy? Is it to get more people into our jails, which appear to be lacking in customers, or is there a more specific reason?

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) 2:15 pm, 28th February 2008

The clause provides that anyone who runs an independent educational institution is committing an offence if he operates without registering the institution.  It carries over the existing offence from the 2002 Act, in relation to independent schools, and extends it according to this part. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman is questioning the principle of enforcement of registration; as we have just heard, he is merely questioning the reason for the change.

The clause sets out the maximum penalties that can be imposed on conviction for an offence of operating an unregistered independent educational institution. The 51 weeks maximum sentence increases the sentence of six months. That change simply reflects wider amendments to sentencing law that are set out in the Criminal Justice Act 2003, which extended the maximum sentence available to magistrates courts because short sentences have proved to be ineffective and inefficient in certain circumstances. This is not the right place to debate the sentencing requirements of the 2003 Act. On that basis, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Shadow Minister (Education) (Schools)

It is important to put that explanation on the record, as the Minister has done. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 80 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clauses81 to 84 ordered to stand part of the Bill.