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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for pointing out where I have drawn the line; namely, at "members" rather than "Secretary of State". I have been drafting the amendments personally and do not happen to have the skills of an expert counsel. I also have a difficulty. I have tabled amendments under which other bodies would nominate people. I accept that they will be formally appointed by the Secretary of State; however, I shall want to argue strongly that some of the appointments should come through other bodies.

Secondly, I am very disturbed at what the Minister has just said; namely, that the Secretary of State will be minded to appoint, and that there will be an advertisement for, "a businessman". The Government, and the noble Baroness in particular and her colleagues in another place, in my presence and, I believe, on the record, have said endlessly that 40 per cent of the council will be represented by business. Why, therefore, will one business appointment be advertised--quite distinct from the 40 per cent business representation on the committee?

Lord Bach: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. I obviously did not make myself clear. In regard to the position of chair or chairman, the Secretary of State will be looking for a business person who commands national respect and who is able to make the substantial time commitment to the council. That does not take away at all from the figure of 40 per cent given in relation to the new council.

Baroness Blatch: Then I am even more critical of the wording of subsection (2). It states that,


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rather than stating, as the noble Lord has just said, that there will be a distinct advertisement for the kind of person whom the Secretary of State would wish to be chairman. In other words, there will be a body of 12 to 16 people, and the Secretary of State will, distinctly, advertise for someone to be the chairman who will have business experience and who will be a member of the board. That is a rather different interpretation from the wording that one sees on the page. There is a difficulty here. The business sector, which takes a close interest in the debate, will be grateful for some clarification of the distinction between the chairman, who is to be a businessman or woman (as the case may be), and the composition of the whole council.

Our confidence has been slightly shaken by the recent appointment of the person in charge of the Dome. As far as one is aware, Nolan procedures were not followed and there was no advertisement of the position. The same Government ask us to trust them that all of these procedures will be put in place. Therefore, it is of assistance to have on record that in this instance the procedures will be followed. I am not happy with the response of the noble Lord. Perhaps I should be flattered that the noble Lord says that because the Tories did it in the past there is no reason why the present Government should not do it now. But this council, which is of a different kind, will be very influential in the policies that cascade down to local councils and local authorities. It is important that each of the 12 to 16 members of the council has confidence in the chairman. I should like the members to have the ability to make appointments. However, I rest my case until the next stage of the Bill in the hope that later this afternoon there is some clarification of the business representation. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Wade of Chorlton moved Amendment No. 6:


    Page 1, line 12, after ("them") insert ("who has experience of commercial business").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I draw to the Committee's attention that the wording I propose is a little different from what appears in the Marshalled List. The Marshalled List states that there be inserted after "them" the words


    "who has experience of commercial business",

whereas I intend that it should read,


    "as chairman who has experience of commercial business".

I am prompted to table this amendment because I am very much aware that the training and enterprise councils, many of which have been enormously successful in serving a good number of the purposes previously debated, have been driven by the business community. We are grateful for the amount of work that many businessmen have done in leading training and enterprise councils and the time that they have given in that regard. I welcome the Minister's recognition, when responding to the previous amendment, of the importance of business leadership. To ensure that we continue to have the support of the business community in the setting up of these new

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bodies, it must be clear to that sector that they are being led by people who are recognised in the industry as having sound commercial and business experience and who can bring to the councils expertise in achieving efficiency and making things happen.

I have tabled this amendment in order to understand the Government's intentions. The Government have made some very encouraging noises, which we all appreciate, but it would be of enormous help if their exact intentions in this regard were made clear in the Bill. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: I hesitate because I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, wants to speak to her amendment in this group. If so, I am content to sit down and let the noble Baroness speak.

Baroness Blatch: I had not realised that my amendment was grouped with Amendment No. 6. I support the sentiments behind the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Wade. The Government have made it clear over many weeks--it also appears in some of the documents which accompany the Bill--that at least 40 per cent of the membership of the councils will come from the business and commercial sector. Unless that is on the face of the Bill there will be no guarantee at all. There is absolutely no definition of "commercial and business sector". Members of the Committee will note that my amendment states that,


    "Not less than 40 per cent of the members shall be persons who have current or recent non-public sector business or commercial experience";

in other words, they will be truly people from the business or commercial sector.

The Secretary of State, the noble Baroness and her honourable friend in another place have said that they want business to be in the lead and that business people understand the need for the education and training of their workforce. Today, almost everybody goes into work and therefore they must be educated and trained for work. If the Government mean what they say the business sector is fully behind the amendment. All of the responses to consultation in relation to this particular matter have stated the desire to see something firm on the face of the Bill, and I believe that there is a strong case for it. I do not see an argument against it. The Government have made it clear that they expect the figure to be 40 per cent. My amendment proposes that it should be at least 40 per cent so that it does not go below that figure, but it does not necessarily mean that it should go above it. I support the amendment moved by my noble friend, and I shall press my amendment when it comes to be considered.

Lord Tope: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wade of Chorlton, for tabling this amendment. We all understand the intention behind the amendment rather than what is expressed in the Marshalled List. The noble Lord raises an important point which will enable the Minister to make clear the Government's intention. I believe that their intention is, and should

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be, that normally the chairman of the council is someone with experience of commercial business. I part company with the noble Lord slightly if he suggests that this should be made clear on the face of the Bill. In response to this amendment, and the amendment to be moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch--I shall say it again later--I have some hesitation about being so prescriptive on the face of the Bill. I entirely support the intention behind the amendment. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, stated, the Government have said many times--in a minute, they may repeat it--that this is their intention. I believe that to have that on record in Hansard is enough, and I do not want to see it encapsulated in the Bill for all time until there is another Act of Parliament to change it. I am wholly sympathetic to the intentions behind both amendments, provided that in due course they are withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone: I do not believe that there is much between us in this area. The Government's intentions are absolutely clear. As the noble Baroness and her noble friend have said, we have made the position clear on a number of occasions. The only difference between us--here I entirely accept the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Tope--is whether this matter should be spelt out on the face of the Bill. I fully support the wish of the Committee that the business sector should play a major role in the LSC's strategic decision-making and planning. For that reason, I sought to reassure noble Lords during Second Reading that,


    "Forty per cent of LSC board members at both the national and local levels, together with the national chair and most local chairs, will have significant business or commercial experience".--[Official Report, 17/1/00; col. 878.]

The reasons for these commitments are three-fold. First, we want to build on the success of TECs in developing links between the world of learning and work. The noble Lord, Lord Wade of Chorlton, referred to the TECs in this context. Secondly, we want to ensure that the LSC's £6 billion annual budget produces the skills that our economy needs. Thirdly, we want the business perspective to help create a customer-driven system. All of these are vital points and our commitments in this respect have won the support of employers and their representatives, including the CBI. But it does not follow that we should incorporate these clear commitments on the face of the Bill.

Quite aside from the other obvious problems of definition--and here I want to turn the noble Baroness's arguments on their heads--"business", "commercial", "public sector" or "non-public sector" are not terribly easy to define in terms of legislation. We most certainly do not want to find ourselves on the slippery slope, as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, was implying, to a system of filling quotas of places. That would take us a very long way from our firm intention of appointing as members people who will serve the interests of the council as a whole. That is why we set out in the prospectus clear guidelines and criteria for filling all positions on the councils. I think that should be a significant reassurance. We want to encourage

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many people to apply and we want to appoint the best candidates. It will be important to set out in the job specification accompanying the advertising for the post of national chair the qualities that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, wishes to see. We will consult the CBI in drawing up that specification. Again, I hope that what I have said provides some reassurance to the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and to the noble Baroness about our intentions.

Most of all, I simply do not believe that it is appropriate to set out in legislation the ratio of the membership of a public body. Appointments then become a matter of legal and arithmetical nicety, rather than of having the more obvious priority of finding the best people for the job in the categories set out. I hope therefore that both the noble Lord and the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw their amendments.


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