Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
160. Surely the lesson from that is that there
should be greater government consultation with your bodies to
ensure that the Mark II, when it does finally appear, is better
shaped for the future? Would that not be an obvious lesson?
(Mr Clough) I have every confidence that the Government
is going to consult on this. There is a wealth of information
on the pilots in the past and the Government should actually be
able to identify good practice from the past, not reinvent the
wheel and basically develop a new Mark II around good practice.
161. Are you not worried about the time that
this is taking? We have a critical stake here with a number of
very good quality ILA providers probably going out of business,
certainly a number who have not been paid and the Government seems
to be dragging its feet on this.
(Mr Clough) Well, Mr Baron, I totally agree that there
is urgency. At the same time as people have indicated in their
evidence to you that the new system must be a robust system and
basically a Mark II must have these safeguards and any announcement
by the Minister at Easter or even before would have to have a
scheme based on that, but, as I say, I think the Government does
have to act to quickly in identifying good practice and in identifying
Ms Munn: I just love it when a Conservative
Member of Parliament discovers the value of the trade unions.
It has made my morning!
Mr Baron: Don't worry, we recognise it sometimes,
but it is not universal!
162. The area that I wanted to explore is about
the future and I think you have already identified a number of
the key elements, so I do not want to take up the time going back
over that. Given that we are looking at moving to hopefully a
second ILA Mark II scheme, if I can say this just to the TUC to
make it short, what would be the three key elements that you would
want to see in a Mark II scheme, given that not necessarily everybody
who is coming forward for an ILA would be in a position either
because they are non-unionised workplaces or they are not even
in work to benefit from the kind of help that you have been able
to put in place for people who are represented by a trade union?
(Mr Clough) As I said earlier, niche marketing of
those target groups, those that have not got any qualifications
up to Level 2, those that might have those qualifications, but
are vulnerable to unemployment, those employees who might be freelance
workers, et cetera, who find it very difficult to access training
because basically they are self-employed, niche marketing of those
groups is essential. Related to that is very good advice and guidance
so that they have the information about which providers to go
to, et cetera, and, most importantly, they choose the right courses
because people might open ILAs, but the big issue is whether they
continue in those courses because we want value for money. Thirdly,
obviously, there should be some sort of robust system whereby
when you actually go to a provider, you know that there are certain
guarantees that that person will give you impartial, independent
advice and provide courses which meet your needs at a certain
value. All sorts of ways of doing that have been put to the Committee
and we would not necessarily wish to choose which one, but, nevertheless,
that is essential.
163. Your members have embraced the ILAs and
that is something that your members are familiar with. Do you
think the brand image is still there? When you go to your meeting
in February, will you be discussing a new name, "The new
improved ILA", or "ILAwe're back"? Do you
think the brand image of the name will retain confidence?
(Ms Smith) I think actually within unions, there is
a sort of positive view of the brand of ILA in that it helped
us. Whether that necessarily means that the brand "ILA"
is right for the new scheme I think is a different matter because
obviously there have been an awful lot of very serious problems,
so I think it would be difficult to comment beyond TUC experience.
164. We have to finish now, but I have to press
you in a sense. Here we have three of the most experienced people
in the field. You have enormous knowledge and experience, but
you have obviously also got a great deal of political nous. I
know that because I know the three of you. I know, Liz, you got
the OBE for your services to continuing education in 1999. You
have a great deal of political nous as well as educational nous.
Come on, tell us what you believe. Did this ILA scheme get closed
down because it was too popular, it was running too fast and costing
the Government too much and is this just a scapegoat, that the
few frauds which have actually been pursued are just a fig-leaf
of the Government closing down something which was getting out
of hand in terms of expenditure? What is your gut feeling?
(Mr Clough) It is difficult to second-guess what the
Government's actual reasons for closing the scheme down were.
165. But you would agree that there have been
very few prosecutions for fraud and they are becoming less by
(Mr Clough) That is certainly true, Chairman. Reading
the evidence of the witnesses last week, it seemed to indicate
that the situation, however, was getting worse very quickly and
I think that the Minister, therefore, felt the need to act in
an effective way and if he had not, then maybe you might have
asked the Minister different questions than you asked him.
166. Can I press you on the fact that what was
becoming apparent was that the number of people taking up ILAs
was growing apace and whether there is real evidence of fraud
growing apace is not yet proven. Is that not true?
(Mr Clough) All that I can do is obviously to read
what was said by Ministers and civil servants, et cetera, and
certainly if you are talking about actual cases as opposed to
concerns over various learning providers, there is a difference,
but certainly it is absolutely true to say that there was a huge
increase in the numbers of people taking up ILAs. This might look
good, but the important thing is the extent of this deadweight
which is certainly a considerable problem, so there is this problem
of so many ILAs being taken up and in the increase in deadweight
and obviously the impact that might have on public expenditure,
but I could not basically weigh up which of the two issues in
the end made that decision happen by the Government.
167. But you would be very cross as the trade
union movement if you found out that there had been an excuse
made to close down a very successful scheme which was benefiting
(Mr Clough) Well, Chairman, we have every confidence
that whatever happened in the past, the new system will actually
have safeguards in it and that the trade union movement will be
able to ensure that their members have greater access to ILAs.
If that was not the case, we would not be very happy.
Chairman: Bert Clough, I remember your diplomatic
skills and I thank you for them. Thank you very much for your