|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Monkswell: I thank the noble Earl for giving way. Can he explain to the Committee the connection between what he is saying and the amendment on the Marshalled List which we are debating at the moment?
Earl Russell: I am explaining the point made by my noble friend. There is room for a division of opinion as to whether the discussion should have been on the Motion to go into Committee or now. It is not for me to resolve that but I hoped that it might be for the convenience of the Committee to take it now. If the Committee feels otherwise, I shall desist.
Baroness Blackstone: It would be helpful if we kept to the order in which amendments are put down and grouped. I would be happy to speak to Amendment No. 139 when we reach it. We are on a quite different amendment now. I should be grateful if the Committee would accept that it makes more sense to stick to the groupings in the agreed order than to take amendments out of order.
Baroness Blatch: I do not think it matters which order the amendments are taken in. The serious point being made is that we expended our opportunity during the Committee stage of the Bill to discuss Part II when we all had a full understanding of how the law worked. But we are all taking independent legal advice and
Baroness Blackstone: I should be happy to respond to the questions that have been raised by the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Lord, Lord Tope. However, it would be right for us first to deal with the time-off provisions. That is what we are meant to be discussing today. We should do that first and then come to the issue relating to Thursday's business when we have dealt with the issues involving time off, on which a number of amendments have been put down, including the amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord Tope, has just spoken.
Lord Monkswell: Before the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, responds to the amendment which we are debating, perhaps I may say a few words. I asked my son a question the other day at which he was flabbergasted. It was a question which I could have posed to workers outside digging up the road, the army of cleaners who come in after we have all gone home, workers in a whole range of industries with production lines and workers in the field. I should explain to the Committee that my son is currently working as a bricklayer's labourer. The question I asked him was: did he need to read and write to do that job? He said: "Of course not".
I am concerned about what might be described as the Weatherill factor in the clause. I should explain that the Weatherill factor is that declared by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill: the law of unintended consequences. The unintended consequences that I fear as a result of this clause and the way it is written concern, on the one hand, the young people whom the Government rightly seek to assist by ensuring that they get a basic education beyond school-leaving age. I fear that they will not be employed because there will be a penalty on employers if those young people are so employed. Therefore, they will not have the ability to engage in essential, useful and productive work that is an enormous part of the requirements of a decent society.
The other unintended consequence is that those young people who have the requisite educational qualifications may be employed but may not be allowed time off work by their employer for further studies or training. That group may have been dissatisfied with school and education. They may see no benefit from it and feel they do not need further education and training. They will therefore be dissuaded from using the provision.
I hope that the Government will take seriously the concerns that I have expressed, echoing those of the noble Lord, Lord Tope, and reflect on what may be the totally unwitting and unintended consequences of the clause through the way in which it is drafted.
Baroness Blatch: It is a rare occasion when I rise with sympathy for what the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, says. However, I do so because there are unintended consequences in the proposals in the clauses. One is, sadly, that it will not be helpful to the very people whom the proposals purport to help.
I have some questions. I apologise profusely for not giving warning of those questions earlier but I realised only this morning that there are two papers referred to. I have seen neither. One is entitled Qualifying for Success; it deals with England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The other is Targets for our Future which deals with England and Northern Ireland. They are both background papers which would be relevant to our discussions on the Bill.
My two questions are for information which will help us understand the proposals. The first is fairly straightforward: where an employer is challenged by a young person, taken to a tribunal and loses, Clause 24, new Section 63C(4) gives the penalty for the employer. It is:
My understanding is that the young person employed is paid by his employer for five days a week anyway, whether or not they go on training, whether or not they are given time off for training. Are we to understand from that penalty that the employer will not only pay for each of the five days worked by the young person but, as a punishment, will also have to pay a sixth day's pay to the young person if the employer loses at the tribunal?
My second question is this. Where an employer gives training on the job within the company which is effective for the purposes of working within that company and which also meets all the requirements of the job and the young person, and where such training conforms to the health and safety requirements but not to a qualification which is awarded externally or which meets the requirements of Clause 23(2)(c), will that company--medium-sized or small--be obliged either to alter the training programme or send 16 to 17 year-olds off site for study or training at the company's expense, even though the training within the company satisfies the company's needs? The employer may have to employ a substitute employee while that young person is off site.
The reason I ask that question is that a great deal of disquiet is building up on the part of industry in negotiating with the Government over the welfare-to-work programmes. We discover that the Government subjectively say: "We don't like your in-house training programmes" when it involves some of the medium-sized and bigger companies who provide effective, on-the-job training for their own employees. The Government are beginning to say that it does not conform. Therefore the employers are faced either with
Baroness Maddock: I wish to add to the words of my noble friend Lord Tope. As has been said this afternoon, the purpose of the amendment is to ensure that we have a provision that is inclusive. The way the Government worded the clause, the provision was exclusive. The noble Lord who spoke after my noble friend made that clear.
I wish to press the Government on this clause. It may be that this is just a beginning for them. We have heard throughout the proceedings on the Bill that it is intended to be evolutionary and that some of the proposals we have made in other parts of the Bill may be taken up by the Government later on. We on the Liberal Democrat Benches believe that all young people under the age of 19 who are not in higher education should have the opportunity while they are at work to get training at work, or to go away to an institution, or to use many of the modern techniques of gaining training and education.
We would be interested to hear whether the Minister sees it as just the beginning and whether the point we are making with the amendment is something the Government hope to see later on. We should very much like to see a timescale put on that if this is the case.
Lord Monkswell: I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, for agreeing with the argument I put forward. Unfortunately, I do not agree with the remarks she later tacked on. I hope that my noble friend will not give in to that kind of argument.
In my experience, even very small employers--good, responsible employers--will be glad to see that any training they give on the job, as she described it, will be externally assessed and accredited and will be part of transferable skills. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, may have had responses from a small number of employers with a particular viewpoint. I am sure that good, responsible employers would not push the line that she pushed.
Lord Walton of Detchant: The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has raised a number of issues of significance in relation to this clause and I can understand and appreciate her concerns. However, one of the most welcome developments we have seen in the field of education and training over the past seven or eight years has been the increasing development of vocational qualifications under the NVQ system, and more recently the GNVQ system, in order to develop that kind of high skill economy on which this country's future economic viability and competitiveness must depend.
For far too long in the United Kingdom we have had a low-skill economy, and far too many young people capable of benefiting from further education and training have failed to take advantage of such training, often for financial reasons, after leaving school at the age of 16. When the National Commission on Education
It may be that there are deficiencies in Clause 23 but I wholly believe that the objective underlying the clause is a worthy one. It is true, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said, that some of the major employers in this country--I think in particular of the motor industry but there are many others--have in-service training of a very high quality for their employees; and that is not just relating to the development of skills that they need in that industry but often education and training covering a much wider field. However, a large number of employers, particularly small and medium sized enterprises, do not make available such opportunities to their employees in order to capitalise on their skills and the opportunities they would otherwise receive if enabled to undertake such training. Hence, I greatly welcome the clause.
It may be that it needs considerable fine-tuning before it eventually becomes law. But the principle of requiring employers, where necessary, to give time off work, perhaps on the basis of one day per week, to individuals to undertake further education and training in order to work towards other qualifications is very much in line with the proposals of the Dearing Report--not the recent Dearing Report on higher education but the earlier Dearing Report on qualifications for 16 to 18 year-olds. It is crucial that we should develop a system to enhance the quality of the so-called vocational qualifications alongside those such as A-levels, which are regarded generally as academic qualifications. Indeed, many would say that the GNVQ is the vocational A-level. I believe it is right, in order to develop the high skill economy that this country needs for the future, that a clause such as this should become part of the Bill.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page