Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 320-322)

MR GEOFF HALL AND MR MICHAEL STARK

WEDNESDAY 6 FEBRUARY 2002

  320. You had no contact with the Treasury.
  (Mr Hall) No, quangos tend not to have direct contact with the Treasury. The Treasury are sometimes at the meetings, and that is as close as we get to them.
  (Mr Stark) As far as the Learning and Skills Council was concerned, the scheme was implemented nationally in September 2000. The LSC was not created at that point. From the moment that the scheme was running and we were up and running, we were also monitoring evidence of at least inconsistent behaviour. I personally collected some leaflets from a booth in Victoria Street that I thought was offering very strange provision, and I took it round to colleagues . . .

  321. We are getting into murky territory again.

Mr Shaw

  322. We did talk about widening the scope earlier! Mr Hall, when you advised officials from the Department for Education and Skills about your concerns from the lessons that you had learned about abuse made in previous schemes, were you talking about poor quality, i.e., the scams that you referred to, or were you talking about fraud, or both?
  (Mr Hall) Our main concern at that time—and our experience with ILAs has confirmed the worry and the need to take some decisive action—is that there seemed to be a group of people having a profound understanding of funding, whether it be the ESF first of all, or then franchising, then ILAs—and I fear that next it will be e-learning, where people will spot the opportunity very quickly for very quick and substantial earnings. I think we have got to take that very seriously. Perhaps it is more in the domain of the PAC, but my recommendation to the Department is that we need a kind of Interpol crossing funding frontiers. I think each new body that takes responsibility for one of these areas of activity is surprised by the rapidity of it. We have got to bring together the best people from the different regulatory agencies, including the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and drive this out. Too many excellent providers, as you have heard this morning, whether private providers or colleges or others who are trying to do their best, are besmirched by what has happened first to the FE sector, and even before that—some of the ESF schemes caused great problems for a college in Wales, which you are aware of, and one of our colleges in Hampshire; and now ILAs. I think we have to create a greater capacity for driving that out.


 
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