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Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 2:



("( ) The Council is to make coherent provision for individual learning and workforce development which is responsive to persons receiving or intending to receive post-16 education and training and has regard to the needs of the local areas of England and Wales.").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 103. Perhaps I may first declare an interest in that I am patron of the Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce for training and enterprise. With the benefit of its advice and that of the national council, I have tabled certain amendments. Amendment No. 2 is designed to clarify two matters: first, that the Bill is all about the education and training of the post-16s; and, secondly--although this is perhaps less clear in the Bill, it should be clear from previous debates and discussions--that the council is and will be responsive to local needs.

The Long Title to the Bill gives no guidance on these points. That is why I felt it right for us to have the primary objectives of the legislation on the face of the Bill: training and education for the post-16s, as well as giving far greater scope for the learning and teaching to be able to meet the needs of the local community. For that reason, I hope that this provision will be accepted so that the objectives are clear on the face of the Bill. As has been said in previous debates, there is an awful feeling of a top-down approach right through the Bill. It is most important that a commitment to respond to local needs be declared on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: In the absence of any other Members of the Committee speaking to this amendment, I rise to express my support for my noble friend. I suspect that this will be a theme of today's debates because we are constantly dogged by the framework set out in the Bill. The direction comes from the top, goes on to the national council, cascades to the local skills councils and then broadens out into all kinds of other bodies, including the RDAs; in other words, local needs are determined by the top-down approach.

Having come from a central direction, it is then left to the RDAs to be key in determining the nature of local skills needs and training. The only people who can properly define that are those at the local level. That is one of the difficulties. If the Government are not prepared to put these particular words on the face of the Bill, it seems to me that we should have something at the beginning of the legislation to give some assurance to many people who are concerned about the proper reading of "local needs" in terms of

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education, skills and training. Therefore, I wholeheartedly support my noble friend's attempt to put this provision on the face of the Bill.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: In general, we on these Benches are supportive of the two amendments. Not surprisingly, given the first amendment that we proposed, we are very much in favour of the council reflecting the needs of the local community in its working. We have one slight reservation about Amendment No. 2 in the sense that it is important to recognise that education, training and skills do not necessarily start at 16. We are concerned that there should be an integration of the school curriculum into the learning and skills curriculum. However, we are broadly in favour of the spirit of the amendment.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Bach: As an East-Midlander, like the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, who moved the amendment, perhaps I may say how much he is respected on these issues in our part of the country. However, that does not mean to say that the Government will rush to accept his amendments. I do not think that the noble Lord will be entirely surprised by my response.

Amendment No. 2 would give a new duty to the LSC for individual learning and workforce development, which is responsive to the needs of learners and local areas. In fact, the noble Lord includes Wales, which is perhaps in contravention of Clause 1(5). Amendment No. 103 makes a similar point in respect of the functions of local LSCs, adding the regeneration initiatives as a further responsibility.

The LSC's main duties are already framed in terms of meeting the needs of learners. Local LSCs in England will be responsible for ensuring that provision is managed flexibly to meet the needs of their areas. They will also participate in regeneration activities. I should gently remind the noble Lord that the LSC's functions extend to England only. There will be a separate Assembly-sponsored body for Wales, so it would be inappropriate for the England council to be given responsibilities for Welsh matters.

The Government believe that much of the substance of the noble Lord's amendment--and we openly acknowledge his good faith--would be superfluous. The LSC's main duties are already framed in terms of provision, which is,


    "suitable to the requirements of individuals".

One of the key aspects of the overall framework that we are proposing is that local arms of the LSC will ensure that provision is planned, funded and delivered flexibly in order to meet the needs of each locality.

Bearing in mind the contributions of the two noble Baronesses to this debate, perhaps I may point out that at the heart of the design are the 47 local councils--each with its own boards, drawn from local communities and businesses. It will fall to the local councils, working closely with all relevant partners at the local level, to identify the current and the future

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learning and skills priorities for individual businesses and communities. It does not sound to me very much as though this is a top-heavy arrangement.

I turn now to the issues of workforce development and regeneration activities that the noble Lord has highlighted in his amendment. Clearly--and we can go this far--if we are to flourish and prosper, we must develop a system of support for workforce development that is responsive to the needs of the economy, local areas and particular industries and sectors. Stimulating and supporting workforce development will be an important part of the LSC's remit. That is partly why we have said that 40 per cent of the members of both the national and the local LSCs will have recent business or commercial experience, as will, most importantly, the national chair and most local chairs.

The LSC will support workforce development in working with employers, trade unions and many others, including Investors in People UK, the Small Business Service and the University for Industry. The council's approach must be pro-active and cross-cutting. For example, it will work closely with national training organisations in developing frameworks for sector workforce development plans. In addition, at local level LSCs will prepare local workforce development plans that reflect the national framework and build on the work of local learning partnerships, and of RDAs, in identifying regional skill needs.

As we set out in the prospectus, it is equally important that the LSC's activities are integrated with local economic development and regeneration. Local LSCs will achieve this by consulting about their plans with RDAs, local authorities, the Employment Service and local economic development partnerships. So far, so good. But all that is a different matter from giving either the national council or the local LSCs a legal duty for all workforce development or for regeneration initiatives. Employers have their own responsibilities for, and derive benefits from, workforce development. Indeed we estimate that they may already be investing some £15 billion a year in this area. Of course the noble Lord is not proposing that the Government should impose a levy on employers to fund the LSC for this activity; and that does not form part of our plans. We do not expect to provide public funding for existing private activity. Neither do we envisage the LSC becoming the only "show in town" for funding and supporting regeneration activity. For those reasons we invite the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment. We shall bear very much in mind the points that he has made.

Lord Boardman: I thank the noble Lord for answering a number of points which had concerned me. I shall wait to see what emerges during the Committee stage. These points will be raised from time to time. I may want to return to the issue at a later stage if I am not satisfied with what emerges. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 3:


    Page 1, line 9, at end insert--


("( ) The principal objective of the Learning and Skills Council shall be--
(a) to enhance employability and social inclusion amongst young people in the United Kingdom, and
(b) to increase the proportion of young people in the United Kingdom who have the education and training they require to develop spiritually, morally, culturally, mentally, socially and physically, and to cope with the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life.").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3 I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 61 and 62. I tabled Amendment No. 3 first and foremost because I believe that every business should from the beginning have a mission statement; namely, a statement of what it seeks to achieve. If you do not know where you are going, you are unlikely to get there. In this case the Government have an admirable objective. Why not state that on the face of the Bill? Surely that would help the LSCs to plan for the future; it would help later interpretation of the Bill; and it may even help to avoid challenges in court at some later date. I recognise, of course, that the wording of my amendment may need to be adapted and altered. However, I state the principle; namely, that in my view there ought to be a mission statement.

Amendment No. 3 also has a further function; namely, it seeks to probe what the Government plan for the LSCs. I have read the White Paper, the guidance notes, the Second Reading debate and I have received a helpful letter from the noble Baroness on the Government's vision and grand plan for 16 to 19 year-olds and for lifelong learning. It is a wonderful, bold plan which is right and good. It seeks to maximise the potential of young people in our society and to draw back into the mainstream of our society those who have become alienated and excluded.

That is an admirable vision which all of us ought to support wholeheartedly. However, I ask myself whether the structures which this Bill as drafted sets up will achieve that objective. Is the bold challenge of the Government's vision adequately reflected in the powers and objectives laid down for the LSC in this Bill? I think that it is not. The Government's vision, as I understand it, is that all young people should be sufficiently motivated, educated and trained to be able to lead full and happy lives, to contribute to the communities in which they live and to be eager for lifelong learning. That means a lot of suitably educated, motivated, trained young people.

However, what this Bill requires the LSC to deliver is a lot of education facilities. Facilities are not the same thing as educated young people. To enter education young people--particularly those young people who have withdrawn from education for a variety of reasons--need much more than good facilities. They need a whole range of other things. The Government have set out plans for a ConneXions service. They have set out fully the kind of initiatives that are needed to get young people into education; to

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sustain and to support them while they are in education; to arouse their enthusiasm for learning and to keep their noses to the grindstone, as it were.

However, I have a dreadful fear that the Government envisage two different organisations; namely, the learning and skills council to provide the facilities and someone else--under the powers granted under Clauses 99 to 108--to provide the engagement, commitment, enthusiasm, support, encouragement and all those other matters. I believe that is a recipe for disaster. It constitutes the perfect formula for "passing the buck" and for avoiding having to deliver results in terms of young people being brought in out of the cold and producing young people who are enthusiastic, properly trained and educated and raring for more. However, if one organisation is responsible for motivating those young people and another is responsible for providing services, what will happen? The organisation providing the services will complain that people are not properly motivated and the organisation providing the motivation will complain that the services are inadequate and that is why it cannot motivate people. We shall end up wasting a lot of money and not achieving the Government's chief objective.

I drafted the three amendments in this group in such a way as to empower the learning and skills council to perform the functions that the Government have set out for the ConneXions service. I suspect that the Minister will say that that is not what the Government want. However, if that is not what the Government want, the Government are probably wrong. Education in the future will concern itself less and less with facilities and with "talk and chalk". It will concern itself with motivating people to take control of their own learning and helping them to access information and skills on the Internet, in the workplace and in the street. The role of education and motivation cannot sensibly be separated into two different organisations. Why not concentrate the main thrust of the Government's vision--including their plans with regard to ConneXions--within the role of the LSC? My Amendments Nos. 3, 61 and 62 are designed to achieve that. I beg to move.


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