Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I stuck to the grouping.

The Earl of Lindsay: I am happy for other noble Lords to comment on the second group of amendments but I was responding to my noble friend Lady Carnegy who had spoken to those amendments when moving Amendment No. 3.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: I understood that we were discussing the group made up of Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 16 and that we would come in time to Amendments Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8.

The Earl of Lindsay: I think I have covered the points raised on Amendments Nos. 3, 4 and 16 and therefore hope that my noble friend will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, and my noble friend the Minister for their comments on these amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Ewing, emphasised the importance of the accreditation committee. I could not agree with him more. I am not sure that I would go along with the conclusions he was drawing from that, but it is indeed a very important committee.

My noble friend the Minister has clarified considerably what his honourable friend the Minister for Education said to the Select Committee. It is slightly complicated to understand the various references to the qualifications in the different parts of the Bill. I shall read with interest what he said and so I am sure will my noble friend, the City and Guilds people and probably members of other bodies who have an interest in this matter. I thank him very much for that and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

23 Apr 1996 : Column CWH11

Baroness Carnegy of Lour moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 3, line 4, leave out ("a") and insert ("an independent").

The noble Baroness said: On behalf of my noble friend Lord Stockton, I beg to move Amendment No. 5 and I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 also in his name. I shall not speak to Amendment No. 8 until I hear what the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, has to say. I might wish to comment after he has spoken.

Amendment No. 5 suggests that the committee carrying out the accreditation function on behalf of the SQA should be defined on the face of the Bill as an independent committee. That underlines the feelings of the City and Guilds about what the role of the committee should be.

Amendment No. 6 suggests that the committee should be appointed not by the SQA but by the Secretary of State. I believe that the wording of Amendment No. 6 is slightly contradictory to that of Amendment No. 5, but the Committee will understand the spirit of what is intended in my noble friend's amendments.

Amendment No. 7 suggests that members of the accreditation committee should be neither employees nor members of the Scottish qualifications authority: the members of that authority should not be involved in the accreditation committee at all. The amendments are all aimed at securing the total independence of the accreditation committee from the SQA.

Amendment No. 8 suggests something rather different and we await to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, has to say about that. I beg to move.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: Perhaps I may apologise for misleading the Committee when I said in my earlier intervention that members of the accreditation committee need not necessarily be employees of the Scottish qualifications authority. In fact, Amendment No. 8 seeks to ensure that they need not be employees of the Scottish qualifications authority.

Before I say a few more words about the amendment perhaps I may say that as one who listens and learns all the time, I have learnt today that if one tables amendments to a Bill but cannot be present, one should get the most loyal government supporter to move those amendments in one's absence. While I have a high regard and great liking for the noble Baroness, perhaps I may say, in great kindness, that every time she rises to speak she reminds me of those wonderful Gilbertian words from Gilbert and Sullivan's "Iolanthe", "I've always voted at my party's call and never thought of thinking for myself at all!". The Government are fortunate indeed to have such a loyal supporter as the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy.

Amendment No. 8 seeks to insert in the Bill a provision that the members of the accreditation committee will be drawn from,

    "the interests of, training providers, industry and commerce",

in order that their interests are represented, and it takes on board in legislative form many of the points that the noble Baroness is making on behalf of the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. If this were inserted in the Bill there would be no grounds for doubt in future about the

23 Apr 1996 : Column CWH12

interests--not the individuals as my noble friend Lord Sewel said earlier on, we are not talking about the individuals who should be appointed--required to be represented for the accreditation committee to operate properly. Amendment No. 8 seeks to ensure that these interest groups are included in the accreditation committee itself and that they need not be employees or members of the Scottish qualifications authority.

4.15 p.m.

The Earl of Lindsay: I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, that when I was contacted yesterday by my noble friend Lord Stockton, who had a very unforeseen difficulty that prevented him from coming here, I suggested that, rather than leave these important issues unaired at Committee stage to be aired for the first time at Report stage, perhaps my noble friend, Lady Carnegy, given her experience and background in education, would be able to do a very competent job of moving them and raising the issues. I believe my noble friend Lady Carnegy has done a very competent job.

The description or the Gilbertian terminology of being a loyal supporter would bring joy to the Chief Whip of my party because my noble friend is certainly not an uncritical supporter. She does not agree with everything and makes her views very well known to us with determination in such instances. I pay credit to my noble friend Lady Carnegy for the extent to which she has been able to articulate these issues.

I would like to make it clear that there is no intention to change the existing arrangements whereby awarding bodies in addition to SCOTVEC and SEB offer qualifications in Scotland. On establishment of SQA these arrangements, which apply to a wide range of qualifications, will continue to operate as at present. I am conscious that there are particular concerns about the position of SVQs. SVQs form part of a national framework of vocational qualifications. SCOTVEC acts as the accreditation body for SVQs on behalf of the Government to ensure that they are based on national occupational standards and other quality assurance criteria and that they have mutual recognition with the NVQs which are available south of the border. Other awarding bodies have agreements with SCOTVEC to award SVQs. These agreements will transfer automatically to SQA on passage of the Bill. Consequently, these awarding bodies will continue to be able to be involved in the SVQ market as they are at present. It will also be open for other awarding bodies to offer SVQs provided that the accreditation criteria are met.

Clause 3 puts on to a statutory basis a structure which is presently in operation in SCOTVEC for the accreditation of vocational qualifications put forward by awarding bodies. It is designed to create a clear separation between the accrediting and awarding sides of the body. It has worked well in practice and over 100 bodies have had their qualifications accredited by SCOTVEC. I recognise that there has been some concern that the Bill does not contain provisions to define the procedures for the appointment of members of the accreditation committee. However, the clause makes strict provision about the composition of the

23 Apr 1996 : Column CWH13

membership of the accreditation committee to give it a full measure of independence from the ordinary decision-making structure of the body. It provides that the majority of members of the accreditation committee must not be members or employees of SQA. It also provides that a quorum at a meeting of the accreditation committee can be established only where the majority of members present are neither members nor employees of SQA. It is also intended that this separation should be carried through to the administrative support provided to the committee. For this, and all functions of SQA, there are strict rules about conflict of interest.

Turning to Amendment No. 7, the Secretary of State does not intend that officers of SQA should be members of the committee. However, it is likely that some board members, particularly those with a background in industry and other relevant areas, will have the right sort of experience and knowledge to make a substantial contribution to the accreditation committee.

I would anticipate that many members of the committee would be drawn from the groups mentioned in Amendment No. 8 which was spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Ewing. However, restricting membership of the committee to only those groups would limit the possible candidates for membership and would exclude other important interests such as education.

With regard to Amendment No. 6, the Secretary of State has an interest in how SQA selects nominees for appointment to the accreditation committee. SQA will have guidance on this from the Secretary of State and he may, if he chooses, make a statutory direction either generally or specifically on SQA's discharge of this function. I do not feel therefore that it will be necessary for the Secretary of State to appoint the members of the accreditation committee or for specific provision to be made on the face of the Bill as to the categories that members should be appointed from.

Turning to Amendment No. 5, the internal structure of SQA will ensure that the accrediting and awarding functions are clearly separated. Most importantly, the modus operandi of the committee must be acceptable to the Secretary of State. The procedure of the accreditation committee and SQA's relationship with it will be subject to administrative guidance and to the Secretary of State's direction-making power.

To put this beyond doubt, the Government intend to seek provision for the Bill to state that the Secretary of State's direction-making powers extend to the activities of the accreditation committee. I understand the fears that have been voiced about this part of the Bill, but we are completely confident that we can give the necessary assurances to render those fears groundless. On that basis, I very much hope that my noble friend will be able to withdraw her Amendment No. 5.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page