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Lord Ewing of Kirkford: Before agreeing to withdraw the amendment, I wish to make two points. First of all, so far as the Minister has gone, to a small degree there are encouraging signs in the sense that we have been given a guarantee of consultation. Consultation is one thing but it is a completely different thing altogether to accept the outcome of that consultation when making the appointments. Perhaps before these amendments are withdrawn I may ask the Minister where the Knox Committee fits into all of this. While consultations with CoSLA will go ahead, is it the case that any nominations that come from the education authorities or from CoSLA itself must first go for vetting to the Knox Committee? If that is the case I would have thought that the consultation itself is fairly meaningless. I hope that once the Minister has taken advice, he will be able to clarify the point that I am making. This is such an important issue that I do not want to withdraw the amendment now because I want to hear the Minister's response to the two questions that I have asked. However, I can give an assurance that we shall want to return to the matter at the Report stage.

The Earl of Lindsay: I can certainly answer one of the noble Lord's questions. The Knox Committee will be a significant feature of the consultations that take place as regards the Secretary of State making appointments to the SQA. I should be grateful if the noble Lord would remind me of the second question.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: I was paying such close attention to the advice that he was receiving that I cannot remember it myself. I said that the first question about consultation was one thing and asked whether the Secretary of State would accept the advice that flowed from that consultation and appoint the people.

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For example, in the consultation with CoSLA is the Secretary of State reserving the right to refuse to accept the advice that flows from that consultation?

The Earl of Lindsay: It would be very fair to say that the consultation, which currently takes place before the appointment of the members of a number of bodies in the public sector, is not merely a cosmetic exercise after which the Secretary of State ignores all the advice that he has been given. So the consultation that would take place prior to appointments to the SQA would, I would suggest, be significant in the final composition of the SQA. I cannot think of any appointments made following consultation where the consultation has not played a formative part in the final composition of whatever body it is.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: I am grateful to the Minister for responding to these questions and I reserve the right to return to this matter on Report. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Accreditation function]:

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 3:


Page 2, line 37, after ("qualifications") insert (", including Scottish Vocational Qualifications,").

The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Stockton, I beg to move Amendment No. 3 and with the Committee's agreement to speak to Amendments Nos. 4 and 16. My noble friend apologises as he is unavoidably prevented from being in the Committee today. He put down these later amendments after discussion with City and Guilds. I, too, had earlier discussions with them but I have not been able to get in touch with them for further briefing today. I only knew last night that my noble friend would not be able to move the amendments. My noble friend suggests that I move them briefly. If he feels it is necessary, in view of the Minister's reply today, he will press the matter further at Report stage.

The grouping is somewhat strange. I was not able to have it rearranged this morning because there was a great deal of grouping going on in relation to the other Bill which is being dealt with in the House.

My understanding is that City and Guilds' main anxiety continues to be their fear that the new Scottish qualifications authority, and notably its accreditation committee, will not give them fair treatment when application is made for City and Guilds qualifications to be accredited for use in Scotland. They also continue to query whether the Bill is worded so as to disfavour or even exclude them. Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 16 seek to improve the wording in that respect.

When the Select Committee took evidence, City and Guilds chose not to submit written or oral evidence, but they wrote to the Minister beforehand. I took the

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opportunity, nevertheless, to put their anxiety to the Minister for Education in Scotland, Mr Raymond Robertson, when he came before the Select Committee. The Committee will see the record of the exchanges at paragraphs 8 to 11 of the report. My honourable friend the Minister gave a number of assurances. He told the Select Committee that he would be having a meeting with City and Guilds. I do not know whether that has happened yet. He told them that the new authority would operate in the same way as SCOTVEC, that the accreditation committee would act independently of the rest of the functions of the SQA, that no staff of the new authority would sit on the accreditation committee, and that, should the Secretary of State perceive what he described as "nobbling" of the committee by the authority, the authority would tell it to back off.

The Minister also pointed out that 108 other accrediting bodies were dealing with SCOTVEC at the moment. They were happy with the arrangements and, he presumed, would be happy with the new arrangements which were the same. Those were good assurances, but I do not know whether City and Guilds have completely accepted them.

The way the present system operates was explained by the chief executive of SCOTVEC in evidence to the Select Committee. This is clearly an important matter to City and Guilds. My noble friend the Minister may have more to say now in response to these amendments than he had before, and I shall listen with interest to what he has to say. What I have said also applies to one or two of the following amendments. However, I have not regrouped them because I thought that to do so at the last moment would be unfair to Members of the Committee and to the Minister. It is quite difficult to divide them so I have spoken to subsequent amendments as well. I beg to move.

4 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: When the Minister replies to the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, it will be important to put on the record the purpose of the accreditation committee. The accreditation committee will be established in order to accredit the qualifications awarded by the Scottish qualifications authority. These need not be employees of the Scottish qualifications authority, but they will be appointed in order to accredit the qualifications awarded by the Scottish qualifications authority. Against that background I can certainly fully understand the concerns of the City and Guilds and of the other professional and non-professional vocational organisations which are worried that the accreditation committee may not take into account the views of those various professional and vocational bodies in accrediting the qualifications to be awarded by the authority.

As the noble Baroness said, this is a serious matter in terms of the qualifications that will be awarded. It is a new start and it is right that we do our best to try to get this in context and to get it right as the accreditation

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committee will play a very important and crucial role in the whole question of the qualifications that are to be awarded.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy for moving the amendment in the name of my noble friend Lord Stockton and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, for his remarks. I very much hope that I can give assurances on all the points raised by my noble friend. Like my noble friend Lady Carnegy, I shall deal also with the points raised in Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

Clause 3 provides for the process by which SQA will give approval to qualifications which meet certain criteria. SQA will have to publish these criteria. In the case of SVQs these will take account of a number of factors, including the national occupational standards set by industry lead bodies; standards of design, assessment and quality assurance; and current national policy.

This process will secure the delivery of a consistent national framework of high quality qualifications without the administrative constraints of individual decisions by Ministers. SQA will, however, operate with general and specific policy guidance and will be subject to a statutory power of direction by the Secretary of State. It will also have a duty to have regard to the interests of persons using its services. Within this framework, SQA will have discretion to exercise the functions conferred on it by statute.

There is, therefore, no need for the Secretary of State to approve the accreditation criteria. There is also no need for particular qualifications to be specified on the face of the Bill. This was considered during the drafting of the Bill and was rejected as being too inflexible for primary legislation since the names and details of qualifications are subject to change over time. I can, however, assure noble Lords that the SQA will accredit SVQs as SCOTVEC currently does.

The provisions in Clause 21 are important to the functioning of the Bill and it may be helpful if I spend a few moments explaining the purpose of the particular drafting adopted. At various points in the Bill reference is made to SQA qualifications. Clearly we need to understand what this means. Clause 21 defines the term as qualifications devised or awarded by SQA. This means that, for instance, SQA has the power to determine the entitlement of a candidate to an award of Higher English or to review and develop what is at present a SCOTVEC HNC. There are of course many other examples.

The only purpose of using that term is to avoid having to say, on each occasion,


    "a qualification devised or awarded by SQA".

There is also a different group of qualifications where the SQA will have a role--qualifications accredited by SQA. In some cases these will also be SQA qualifications; that is, devised or awarded by SQA. In others they will be qualifications devised and awarded by other bodies. In the latter case the SQA's role is limited to accreditation and it is not appropriate for all the other functions of the SQA to be brought to bear on these awards.

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That is the function of the current wording--clear separation between types of function. I would draw noble Lords' attention to Clause 3 dealing with accreditation. Nowhere in this clause is the term "SQA qualification" used. This is not an accident. It is carefully drafted to achieve the purpose of drawing a necessary distinction between types of function. I recognise that the full import of the definition may have been misinterpreted as being prejudicial to other bodies and my noble friend Lady Carnegy in introducing these amendments suggested that there may be some sort of prejudice. I can assure the Committee that that is not the case. The current drafting reflects the needs of other awarding bodies and in fact the amendment would give the SQA extensive powers over other awarding bodies and their qualifications. I assume that is not the intention either of my noble friend Lady Carnegy or my noble friend Lord Stockton.

Moving on to the grouped amendments, Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8, I should like to make it clear that there is no intention to change the existing order.


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