Select Committee on Education and Employment First Special Report


ANNEX

THE WORK OF THE EDUCATION AND EMPLOYMENT COMMITTEE

Memorandum to the Liaison Committee from the Chairmen of the Employment Sub-committee and of the Education Sub-committee

Introduction

1. In its Report "Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive" the Liaison Committee asked each departmental select committee to provide an annual report, providing information on progress on past recommendations, difficulties encountered in the course of the Committee's work and examples of good practice.[2] This memorandum is our response to that request. Unlike some other departmental select committees, we have not previously produced an annual report in any form. This memorandum therefore addresses the activities of the Education and Employment Committee from the beginning of the current Parliament.

2. The Education and Employment Committee is appointed under Standing Order No. 152 to examine the expenditure, administration and policy of the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) and its associated public bodies. We have the power to appoint two Sub-committees. In practice the Education Sub-committee and the Employment Sub-committee have operated independently, with separate Chairmen and little overlap of membership. Inquiries have also been conducted by the full Education and Employment Committee where the matters under consideration have been relevant to the interests of both Sub-committees. This structure has allowed us to address issues across the broad spectrum of policy areas which lie within the remit of the DfEE.

3. In the current Parliament we have, so far, agreed twenty-eight Reports and twenty-four Special Reports. We draw together here some general conclusions from our inquiries and other work.

Chairmanship

4. The Committee has operated throughout the Parliament under a dyarchy, with the chairmen of either Sub-committee being called to chair meetings of the full Committee roughly alternately, according to the substance of the business before the Committee at a particular meeting. Both Sub-committee chairmen have been members of the Liaison Committee. In two successive July reshuffles, Chairmen of the Education Sub-committee became Ministers in the DfEE (Ms Margaret Hodge in 1998 and Mr Malcolm Wicks in 1999). The chairmanship of the Employment Sub-committee has not changed since it was first appointed in 1997.

Membership, Attendance and Turnover

5. Under the provisions of Standing Order No. 152, the Education and Employment Committee has a membership of 17 and a quorum of five. No stipulation is made in the Standing Order regarding the size of membership of its Sub-committees although they both have a quorum of three. In practice the Education Sub-committee has operated with between ten and thirteen members and the Employment Sub-committee with a membership of eight, nine or ten. As a result the quorum of three is a higher hurdle for both our Sub-committees than it is for those select committees which have eleven members The difficulties that this can cause have been exacerbated by long delays in making the required change in membership when a Member decides to leave the Committee. The Employment Sub-committee was without an active Liberal Democrat member from October 1999 (following a reshuffle in spokesmen) until November 2000 and is still waiting for a Conservative member to replace another who ceased to be active on the Committee following appointment as a party spokesman in September 2000. It waited until May 2000 for a replacement for a member who had become an Opposition Whip in February 1998.[3]

6. The full Committee and both the Sub-committees have experienced unusually high levels of turnover in membership throughout the Parliament and during the last Session in particular. This not only impairs continuity, which is an important consideration in effective operation, but also makes the effects of long delays in replacing Members who leave the Committee more acutely felt.

TURNOVER IN MEMBERSHIP
  
Full Committee
Education Sub-committee
Employment Sub-committee
Session 1997-98
18%
30%
20%
Session 1998-99
25%
25%
11%
Session 1999-2000
47%
46%
44%

Resources

7. We have previously argued that an increase in the resources available to the Committee is required if we are to undertake all the work that we believe we should be doing.[4] In particular, we recognise the additional burden that Chairmen have to shoulder as a direct result of their Chairmanship. The Senior Salaries Review Body itself proposed as a 'development recommendation' in July 1996 that payment of select committee chairmen should be looked at,[5] but the Government concluded in 1997 that "constraints relating to pay made it appropriate to postpone [its] consideration".[6] We note the Royal Commission on the Reform of the Lords has recommended that chairmen of some Committees in the second chamber should receive a salary in recognition of their additional duties.[7] We welcome the Liaison Committee's invitation to the Senior Salaries Review Body that it should consider this matter again.[8]

Pre-Legislative Scrutiny

8. The Committee has not had the opportunity to hold a pre-legislative inquiry on a draft Bill, although its work has been relevant to the development of the Government's legislative agenda.[9] The Government announced in the 1999 Queen's Speech that a Bill would be introduced on special educational needs. On 21 June 2000 the Secretary of State for Education and Employment announced that, because of a lack of Parliamentary time, the Bill would not be introduced in the 1999-2000 Session, but that a draft Bill would be published. In the event, the Government announced on 6 November 2000 that it had proved impossible to publish a Bill in draft. The Special Educational Needs and Disability Bill [Lords] was introduced in the Lords on 7 December 2000.

Delegated Legislation

9. Some of the Committee's work has addressed issues relevant to delegated legislation. Our Second Report of 1998-99 on Part-Time Working, which was the result of a broad inquiry by the Employment Sub-committee into flexible working patterns, was published shortly before the EU Directive on Part-time Work was incorporated into UK law.[10] Similarly, our Report on School Meals,[11] published in December 1999 tackled the substance of the issues covered in the Education (Nutritional Standards for School Lunches) (England) Regulations 2000 (S.I., 2000, No. 1777) which were laid before Parliament on 12 July 2000.

Inquiries

10. Our inquiries have normally resulted in publication of Reports. We have, on occasion, held oral evidence sessions to discuss matters of interest with Ministers or senior officials which have not been subject to a specific Report. Neither the Committee nor its Sub-committees have held confirmation hearings although the Education Sub-committee took oral evidence from Elaine Rassaby in July 1998 following her appointment as the Office of Standards in Education's (OFSTED) Complaints Adjudicator,[12] and from Lord Puttnam of Queensgate in February 2000 following his appointment as Chairman of the General Teaching Council.[13] The Education Sub-committee has announced its intention to hold confirmation hearings when the Government makes a new appointment to the position of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.[14]

11. While most activity during the Parliament has taken place in relation to inquiries conducted by one or other of its Sub-committees, the full Committee has conducted several inquiries in its including an examination of The Dearing Report: Some Funding Issues,[15] Opportunities for Disabled People[16] and Access for All? A Survey of Post-16 Participation,[17] where the issues have bridged the boundaries between the work of the Sub-committees. It has also taken the lead in investigating issues which relate to the Department for Education and Employment as a whole. This was the case with the 1997-98 examination of DfEE expenditure and with our current scrutiny of DfEE funding.

Work of the Education Sub-committee

12. Over the course of the Parliament, the Education Sub-committee has conducted inquiries which span the entire range of education from Early Years[18] to Further and Higher Education.[19] It has examined the extent to which the particular needs of Disaffected Children[20] and Highly Able Children[21] are met and examined the particular role of some of those pivotal in the education system such as headteachers[22] and school governors.[23]

13. A particular feature of the Sub-committee's work has been its determined and persistent scrutiny of the work of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools and the non-Ministerial department which he heads, the Office of Standards in Education (OFSTED). Two one-off oral evidence sessions were held (in February 1998 and November 1999) when the Chief Inspector of Schools appeared before the Committee, in addition to the three Reports that the Sub-committee has made relating to OFSTED.[24]

14. In April 1999 the Education Sub-committee held a 'forward planning seminar' over two days at Mansfield College in Oxford. This allowed the Sub-committee to identify priorities, to develop a long-term strategy for tackling inquiries in a manner which allowed adequate time for preparatory work and to reflect upon its effectiveness away from the constant alternative pressures and demands on Members' time and attention at Westminster. Several positive changes were made to the working practices of the Sub-committee as a direct result of the seminar.

Work of the Employment Sub-committee

15. The majority of the Employment Sub-committee's efforts have centred on the Government's New Deal, the central plank of its policy for tackling unemployment, including inquiries into New Deal, Pathways into Work for Lone Parents, New Deal Pathfinders, and New Deal for Young People: Two Years On.[25] It is currently engaged in an evaluation of the New Deal. It has also examined broader aspects of the Government's employment policy. It undertook a detailed inquiry into Employability and Jobs,[26] publishing a Report which challenged current thinking in Government Departments and completed a thorough assessment of the Relationship between TECs and the proposed Regional Development Agencies. Other inquiries have addressed topics such as Work Permits for Overseas Footballers[27] and The Performance and Future of the Employment Service.[28]

16. In the 1998-99 Session the Employment Sub-committee conducted a joint inquiry with the Social Security Committee into The ONE Service Pilots; an exercise in joint scrutiny which was appropriate to the cross departmental nature of the ONE project—in September 1998 the Prime Minister had announced the Government's intention to establish a Single Work-Focused Gateway (later renamed ONE) to bring together the Employment Service, the Benefits Agency, local authorities and other welfare providers to provide a "seamless and coherent service for claimants".[29]

Visits and visitors

17. The work of both our Sub-committees has been greatly enhanced by our exposure to experience and expertise both here in the UK and overseas. In addition to gathering written evidence and holding oral evidence sessions here at Westminster, both Sub-committees have visited numerous institutions and organisations around the country and abroad. Details of these visits are set out in the relevant Sessional Returns.

18. We have also been pleased to exchange views with a number of visitors who have similar interests to our own. These include:

INWARD VISITORS
Session 1997-98
February 1998Members of the Social Affairs and Health Committee, Slovak Republic
April 1998Dr Mohammed al Dhahab, Under Secretary, Ministry of Social Affairs, Labour and Vocational Training, Oman
Session 1998-99
November 1998Members of the Education Committee, The Netherlands
February 1999Mrs May-Helen Molvaer Grimstad MP, Norway
March 1999Committee on Education, Italy
June 1999His Excellency Mr Vladimir Spidla, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, Czech Republic
Session 1999-2000
June 2000Members of the Bundestag Labour and Social Affairs Committee, Germany
November 2000Members of the Education and Science Committee, Russia


Relations with Government and Government Replies

19. In general the Committee has established and maintained a healthy—but not cosy—and co-operative relationship with the DfEE. Generally we have had no problems in obtaining written information from the Department or the many Government agencies within its remit. Ministers from the DfEE have appeared before the Committee and its Sub-committees on request, although there have been occasional problems over the timing of meetings. This is perhaps inevitable given the very busy schedules of both Ministers and Members of Parliament. Nor have the Sub-committees encountered significant difficulties in securing the attendance of officials from Departments other than the DfEE when we have felt their attendance appropriate. For example, the full Committee has taken written and oral evidence from HM Treasury and the Office for National Statistics. We have had similar co-operation from witnesses more used to appearing before other Select Committees. For instance, the Employment Sub-committee held a useful and informative session with the Governor of the Bank of England and his deputy on the Employment Consequences of EMU.[30]

20. We have sought to ensure that the convention that the Government provides a substantive response to each Select Committee Report within two months is maintained. The majority of responses to our Reports have arrived with within permitted time scales or, sometimes with and sometimes without our consent, very shortly afterwards. Even allowing for a sensible relaxation of the convention in periods when the House is in recess, in a number of instances the cause of the delay has been unexplained and its length unacceptable.

TIMING OF GOVERNMENT REPLIES TO REPORTS, SESSIONS 1997-98 TO 1999-2000

Subject
Published Date
Date of receipt of response
No of Days
Session 1997-98
First Report: Teacher Recruitment: What can be done?
3.11.97
28.1.98
86
Second Report: New Deal
19.11.97
20.1.98
62
Third Report: The Dearing Report: Some Funding Issues
10.12.97
9.2.98
61
Fourth Report: The Relationship between TECs and the proposed Regional Development Agencies
3.3.98
13.5.98
71
Fifth Report: Disaffected Children
6.4.98
 23.6.98
78
Sixth Report: Further Education
4.6.98
26.11.98
175
Seventh Report: Pathways into Work for Lone Parents
28.7.98
14.10.98
78
Eighth Report: The New Deal Pathfinders
4.8.98
9.10.98
66
Ninth Report: The Role of Headteachers
3.11.98
4.1.99
62
Session 1998-99
First Report: Active Labour Market Policies and their Delivery: Lessons from Australia
26.1.99
n/a
n/a
Second Report: Part-Time Working
30.3.99
18.6.99[31]
80
Third Report: Highly Able Children
28.4.99
29.6.99
62
Fourth Report: The Work of OFSTED
14.6.99
26.7.99
42
Fifth Report: The Role of School Governors
21.7.99
25.10.99
96
Sixth Report: The ONE Service Pilots
27.7.99
4.10.99
69
Seventh Report: The Performance and Future of the Employment Service
28.7.99
7.10.99
71
Eighth Report: Access for All? A Survey of Post-16 Participation
10.11.99
21.1.00
72
Ninth Report: Opportunities for Disabled People
24.11.99
24.1.00
61
Session 1999-2000
First Report: School Meals
14.12.99
14.2.00
62
Second Report: Visit to USA: Raising Educational Standards and the Role of the Private Sector
7.3.00
n/a
n/a
Third Report: The Draft Part-time Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
22.3.00 (in typescript); 23.3.00
18.5.00
57
Fourth Report: Employability and Jobs: Is There A Jobs Gap?
19.4.00
16.6.00
58
Fifth Report: Work Permits for Overseas Footballers
18.5.00
 10.7.00
53
Sixth Report: Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-99
16.5.00
(OFSTED) 29.5.00 (DfEE) 12.7.00
OFSTED 13 DfEE 57
Seventh Report: The Role of Private Sector Organisations in Public Education
29.6.00
1.9.00
64
Eighth Report: New Deal for Young People: Two Years On
11.7.00
3.11.00
115


Following up on Recommendations

21. In many instances, it has been possible for us to monitor developments relevant to our recommendations as we conduct subsequent inquiries on related topics. So, for example, the Employment Sub-committee examined the development of Government thinking and practice surrounding the recommendations we made in our Second Report of 1997-98 on New Deal during its inquiry into New Deal for Young Persons: Two Years On earlier this year. We have, in response to a specific request from the Liaison Committee, asked the DfEE to provide an update to their responses to those of our recommendations made over the course of the Parliament which are still relevant.

Rt Hon. Derek Foster MP
Mr Barry Sheerman MP

19 December 2000




2  
First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, HC 300, paras 51-55. Back

3   See the Second Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Independence or Control?, HC 748, Annex, for further examples. Back

4  For example, Second Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, OFSTED Corporate Plan 2000, para 45. Back

5  Senior Salaries Review Body Report No. 38, Cm 3330, July 1996, para 41. Back

6  Senior Salaries Review Body Report No. 40, Cm 3837, January 1998, para 116. Back

7  Royal Commission on the Reform of the Lords, Cm 4534, January 2000, Recommendation 123. Back

8  First Report from the Liaison Committee, Session 1999-2000, Shifting the Balance: Select Committees and the Executive, HC 300, para 34. Back

9  For instance our Eighth Report of Session 1998-99, Access for All? A Survey of Post-16 Participation, was "tagged" on the Order Paper as relevant to the Second Reading of the Learning and Skills Bill [Lords] on 30 March 2000. Back

10  Second Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, Part-time Working, HC 346. Back

11  First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, School Meals, HC 96. Back

12  Minutes of Evidence 11 July 1998, New Appointment Hearing: the OFSTED Complaints Adjudicator, HC 981-i. Back

13  Minutes of Evidence 22 February 2000, General Teaching Council, HC 239-i. Back

14  Second Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, HC 34, para 46. Back

15  Third Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, HC 241. Back

16  Eighth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, HC 57. Back

17  Ninth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, HC 111. Back

18  First Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, Early Years, HC 34. Back

19  Third Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, The Dearing Report: some funding issues, HC 241; Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, Further Education, HC 264. Back

20  Fifth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, Disaffected Children, HC 498. Back

21  Third Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, Highly Able Children, HC 22. Back

22  Ninth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, The Role of Headteachers, HC 725. Back

23  Fifth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Role of School Governors, HC 509. Back

24  Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Work of OFSTED, HC 62; Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Standards and Quality in Education: the Annual Report of the Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools 1998-99, HC 345; Second Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 2000-01, OFSTED Corporate Plan 2000, HC 34. Back

25  Second Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, New Deal, HC 263; Seventh Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, Pathways into Work for Lone Parents, HC 646; Eighth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1997-98, The New Deal Pathfinders, HC 1059; Eighth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, New Deal for Young People: Two Years On, HC 510. Back

26  Fourth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Employability and Jobs: Is there a Jobs Gap?, HC 60. Back

27  Fifth Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1999-2000, Work Permits for Overseas Footballers, HC 218. Back

28  Seventh Report from the Education and Employment Committee, Session 1998-99, The Performance and Future Role of the Employment Service, HC 197. Back

29  Sixth Report from the Education and Employment Committee and Seventh Report from the Social Security, Session 1998-99, on The ONE Service Pilots, HC 412. Back

30  Minutes of Evidence, 27 May 1999, Employment Consequences of EMU, HC 547-i. Back

31  Response from the Department of Trade and Industry. Back


 
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