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Lord Baker of Dorking: My Lords, before the Minister leaves the question of fees, will he just answer one question? He said several times this evening in reply to other questions that he is giving guarantees that the money raised from fees generally will be fed back to the system of higher education. Does that mean specifically that if, say, Hull University raised £100,000 in tuition fees, that Hull University will receive £100,000 back?
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, on a point of order, the duty Whip of the day, the noble Baroness, Lady Farrington, is certainly within her rights to appeal to us to finish early or to curtail the points we have to make. But I want to say that this day has been put aside for a very, very important Bill. There are no rules on Second Reading. As long as we have queries on Second Reading, we can come back with questions to the Minister. It is not a convention of the House that points of clarification are refused.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, clearly, if it is in order for noble Lords to raise questions, or to attempt to raise questions, it is also in order and in the tradition of the House for me not to give way. I have given way on a large number of questions so far. I do not intend to give way further on any points or questions.
The noble Earl, Lord Limerick, was suspicious that universities would not get back the fees which they receive from local authorities. The Government will take account of this, along with the needs of the higher
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, raised the question of part-time students. I regret that we are in the situation where the Dearing Committee concluded that extending loans to part-time students should not be a priority, particularly as a high proportion of part-time students are in employment and therefore able to support themselves.
On further education, I welcome the recent appointment of the noble Lord, Lord Davies, as chairman of the FEFC. The Government have also welcomed the publication earlier this year of the Kennedy Report, Learning Works, from my noble friend Lady Kennedy. Further education makes a vital contribution to the education and training of people of all ages and to the Government's objective of life-long learning. We are committed to supporting and strengthening the work of the FE sector.
Having dealt with top-up fees, I can now go on to the general teaching council. Questions were asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, and others. It was welcomed, I note, by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, although in slightly less ringing tones by the noble Lords, Lord Baker and Lord Pilkington. I believe there is a general consensus in the House that the general teaching council should go ahead. It will bring together and reflect the interests of all of those who have a stake in ensuring the highest possible standard of teaching. It will include parents and employers. The teacher voice will be central but it will not in any sense be a super union or simply a talking shop or a body to defend the way things are. We are pleased that the teaching unions have generally welcomed our proposal to establish a GTC and we will want to work with all those who are interested in higher standards in education.
Questions were asked about the initial functions and the fact that there is no detail in some of the areas of the GTC. It is a deliberate part of our policy that we should establish the GTC first, with powers and duties which it can immediately undertake. The provisions we have put forward are therefore the initial core functions. When it is established--probably in the year 2000--we intend that the Teacher Training Agency, which will clearly have to have a relationship with the GTC, will retain its existing statutory functions and continue to pursue the major new remit we have recently set for it. We expect the TTA and the council to develop a strong partnership. Clause 5 allows the addition of further functions to the GTC related to those on the face of the Bill.
In response to various questions about this, further extension of the GTC's powers would require further primary legislation. We would not rule that out for the future, should it be justified. It could further reinforce
As regards the composition of the council, we intend to consult widely with all elements of education. It is vital that we get it right so that the GTC does indeed command respect within the profession and beyond. It is too important an issue to be rushed. There will of course be detailed proposals on the composition put before this House. It is likely to be a combination of direct elections, nomination by major representative bodies and appointments made direct by the Secretary of State.
I was asked about the register. The GTC should be for all teachers who are employed in the maintained sector. That is how other professional associations operate. Teachers who have qualified status will be able to register with the GTC as long as they have not been barred from the profession and they have paid their registration fee.
I was asked about the powers of the GTC in barring teachers. The Bill provides that it should advise on barring teachers it considers are not up to standard, but Ministers will retain the final decision. It is important to retain the best features of a system which currently works well. It is true that other professional bodies have such powers, but they have generally been introduced as regards the regulation of a profession where none has existed before. The GTC faces a different task and we need to consider whether it would improve on the existing system. It may be possible to review this area once the GTC has established itself.
I was asked about the separate provisions relating to Wales. Because there is no effective operation of a GTC in Wales and the need to provide for the role of the Welsh assembly, which will be free to set regulations, the situation in Wales will be somewhat different and therefore the powers of the GTC provided for in this Bill are different for Wales from those for England. I was asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, when the regulations will be available. We intend to consult widely on them and only then will we see them.
I need also to respond to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Butterfield, about a college of teachers. I believe that the noble Lord will be aware that my honourable friend Stephen Byers met with the noble Viscount, Lord Caldecote. He indicated the Government's general view on the subject. The Government would not stand in the way of teachers establishing such a voluntary membership body, which will be funded primarily by subscriptions. We want to support any initiative which advances the professionalism of teachers.
For now it is important to focus on the setting up of a general teaching council and define what its role and responsibilities would be. So we can offer only a qualified endorsement of the proposal to establish a college of teachers and we must be careful not to create confusion.
There are questions of release, of paying for it, and the effect on the recruitment of head teachers which we shall have to take very carefully into account. As regards inductions, the introduction of an effective period was generally welcomed in this House. It will need to be operated somewhat differently and have a greater support system than the old probationary period to which the noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, referred.
Some anxieties have been expressed about Clauses 14 and 15 on the right of inspection of teacher training facilities, but there was general understanding of the reasons we need that. The previous government had already provided inspection by statutory means by Ofsted and teacher training provisions. However, there have been a number of problems and we are seeking to guarantee through primary legislation the necessary access at reasonable times for inspectors to do their job. We recognise that there are sensitivities and anxieties, as the noble Earl, Lord Russell, pointed out. There is already a complaints procedure, but we shall study those concerns carefully to see whether we can do anything else to reassure the institutions affected.
I turn finally to the time off for study provisions. It has to be right to invest in all our young people and, in general, in principle, that has received positive endorsement from the Chamber. Interpretation of the new entitlement will be both sensible and flexible. In particular, we have made it clear that the phrase "time off which is required to enable young people to access the new right" does not necessarily mean time away from the workplace. The Bill does not afford greater status to any particular route. We can reassure the CBI and others on that point.
Turning to the concerns of my noble friend Lord Ponsonby, the right to study is for a relevant qualification. That means that the quality of study at the workplace will be ensured by the new employment right. We shall continue to consult with the CBI and others to build on what is already happening and to ensure that the right is turned into a reality. This is an important and impressive part of the Bill. Far too many of our young people leave school at 16 and 17. It is bad for them, for the economy and for society. If the Bill did nothing else, that alone would be a major legislative achievement of which we could be proud.
I regret that due both to my own fault and to the many interventions this reply has been slightly disjointed. However, I hope that I have managed to cover most of the points raised. I apologise if I have not fully covered some points. I shall read noble Lords' contributions in
In conclusion, the Bill aims to enhance the standing of the teaching profession; to secure fair funding in higher education; to provide new hope for unqualified young workers and to reform student support. It delivers key pledges made by the Government in opposition and in power. I commend the Bill to your Lordships for a Second Reading.