|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The noble Lord's questions can be answered in the following way. The clause gives the LSE wide powers to manage its funds. We shall look at Hansard tomorrow and at the questions raised in order to see whether we can give a more satisfactory answer, possibly in the form of a letter.
There is nothing unusual in Clause 18. Much of the provision is to be found in the 1992 Act in relation to the FEFC, although, as I have said, this Bill strengthens the powers of the new LSC compared to the previous organisation. We shall take away the questions and comments of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness and see what we can do to help answer them.
Baroness Blatch: I am grateful if the noble Lord is going away to think about what has been said in the course of discussion on this clause. It raises questions about the parameters in which the provision will operate; risk and risk management; accountability; and the definition of lending. I had ruled out almost everything except putting money into a building society; but, technically, that would be lending. Therefore, some clarification would be helpful.
I entirely take the point about TUPE. That is the only subject that I raised which will be specifically dealt with later in the Bill. I shall not insist that the clause is taken out of the Bill at this stage. However, I should welcome a fulsome, comprehensive letter answering all the points raised.
The noble Lord referred to previous arrangements when the FEFC was set up. There is something rather different happening here. There is a national council, 47 local councils, the wind-up of 72 training and enterprise councils, and there will be a massive movement of liabilities, assets, land and property. Some understanding of how all that will be managed would be helpful. I shall not press my opposition to the clause.
The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 114 and 133 standing in my name and that of my noble friend. Perhaps I may comment also on Amendment No. 110 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey.
At the start of our debates in Committee, I proposed that there should simply be one learning and skills council for each of the nine English regions. It follows that I should prefer to see one learning and skills council for the Greater London region. However, if we are to have five local learning and skills councils in Greater London, as is proposed, it is essential that there is also a strong--I stress the word "strong"--co-ordinating committee. That is not just my view, or the view from these Benches. It is widely shared across London. So far I have heard no dissent. I hope also to be able to say that by the end of our debates. The board of the London Development Partnership put forward those recommendations to the Secretary of State; namely that there should be five learning and skills councils within London, with a strong co-ordinating body, to ensure that London-wide challenges were tackled. I understood that the Secretary of State had accepted that. I hope to hear from the Minister that that is the case.
The proposal is particularly important, with the coming of the Greater London authority, the elected mayor, and the transformation of the London Development Partnership into the fully-fledged London development agency, with all the work that that has done. It is important that a co-ordinated view comes from the learning and skills councils so that they are able to make strong representations to the various bodies in London and represent their views. I hope we shall hear from the Minister that the Government accept the need for a co-ordinating committee. I hope also for some indication of what the Government see as the necessary co-ordinating arrangements in Greater London between the five learning and skills councils that they are determined to establish.
I now turn to Amendment No. 110 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. The amendment helpfully goes into more detail about both the suggested membership and the suggested functions of a co-ordinating committee. That is extremely helpful. My amendment was a simple proposal merely
The other comment relates to subsection (5), which suggests that the chief executive of the co-ordinating committee should be a member. We have discussed the point previously in relation to the national council and I suspect that it will arise in relation to local councils in the future. It is our view that the chief executive should not be a member of the committee, although I accept that, if that is to be the case everywhere else in England, it will have to be the case in London. I should not wish that point to pass without comment in case it comes back to haunt me at a later stage in the Bill. I beg to move.
Lord Dormand of Easington: Can the noble Lord, Lord Tope, tell the Committee what the co-ordinating committee is to co-ordinate? If there are five committees it is inevitable that from time to time there will be disagreement in the sense that they will regard themselves as their own masters and able to do as they wish. That question must be answered. The other side of the coin--perhaps I am wrong--is that the co-ordinating committee will be given supreme power. If I correctly understand the noble Lord, he believes that there should be one committee instead of five but that that has not come about. Therefore, he believes that the amendment will do what he thinks should be done. The noble Lord shakes his head. However, if there are five committees it is extremely unlikely that that will happen. I believe that the Committee is entitled to more information.
Lord Tope: I hesitate to respond at this stage because I suspect that in a moment the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, will answer some of the points. I shook my head because I wondered whether I was being criticised for tabling an amendment which sought to achieve what I wanted to achieve. I am sure that that was not what the noble Lord meant but that was how I understood his comment.
I refer the noble Lord to Amendment No. 110 in the name of his noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. Subsection (4) of the new clause describes very well the functions of a co-ordinating committee. I do not argue with that. I believe it to be a necessary and important function. The fragmentation into five local councils in London weakens the input into the London Development Agency and the GLA. There is a great
Lord Harris of Haringey: Since there has been so much mention of the amendment standing in my name, perhaps it is appropriate at this stage to say a few words about it. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment accepted the recommendation of the board of the London Development Partnership that there should be five learning and skills councils within London. I am sure that I do not disclose privileged information when I say that the matter was widely debated by the board of the London Development Partnership and that the recommendation that there should be five learning and skills councils was agreed by only a very narrow margin.
A number of the partners felt strongly that, given the nature of London's labour market, which is distinct from elsewhere in the country, one learning and skills council was appropriate. But even those within the board who argued for five learning and skills councils--in the end, they formed a majority--were clear about the importance of having some kind of co-ordinating body to ensure that London-wide challenges were tackled and that there was a pan-London approach to some of the issues that might arise. Therefore, the recommendation of the London Development Partnership, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment accepted, was that there should be five learning and skills councils with a co-ordinating body for the purpose of ensuring that London-wide challenges were tackled.
Unfortunately, there is no mention of the co-ordinating body either in the Bill or in the learning and skills prospectus. I am well aware that during the Second Reading debate a number of noble Lords spoke of the need for such a London co-ordinating body. While acknowledging the recommendations of the London Development Partnership, the Minister stopped short, according to my reading, of giving a firm commitment that such a co-ordinating body for London would be established. For that reason I have put my name to the amendment which the Committee is to consider today.
My noble friend has asked what this co-ordinating body might do. I do not believe that it is the intention of anyone that that body should act as a learning and skills council for London as a whole; otherwise, the five learning and skills councils would be redundant. But it is important that the co-ordinating body ensures that across London the skills needed throughout the city are addressed. It is extremely important for the UK economy as a whole that London gets the skills agenda right. London drives one-fifth of the nation's GDP--possibly more, depending on the definitions used--and it is in no one's interest to have skills gaps because of a failure to co-ordinate the actions of five separate councils. We must ensure that we provide the skills and expertise to enable London's economy to
It is also of critical importance that an overview is taken of issues to do with social exclusion so that work on promoting skills and work in the city can be addressed across London as a whole. It is difficult to understand how the challenges can be properly addressed in isolation by five free-standing learning and skills councils if London's population is to benefit from the new arrangements proposed in the Bill. The arrangement will work only if there are strong and effective mechanisms for co-ordination to ensure that the councils, albeit using their independent expertise, are able to work together effectively.
In addition, London will be the first city with an elected mayor and assembly, and the only city region in the United Kingdom. It is of particular importance that in London the five learning and skills councils fit their strategies to those of the London Development Agency, which the Bill supports. That can be done much more conveniently if there is proper co-ordination of their work. How can five learning and skills councils work effectively with the other vital pan-London partners, such as the Single Small Business Service for London, if there is no mechanism to do it?
The pace of change in London is very rapid, and people must adapt their skills if they are to stay and progress in work. A recent survey by the London Skills Forecasting Unit showed that employers judged that almost 10 per cent of their employees did not have the skills to carry out their current job responsibilities. It is important that the five learning and skills councils work together to anticipate employers' needs based on a London-wide assessment and analysis of labour market information.
I hope that the good work of the London Skills Forecasting Unit can be made available across London to the new learning and skills council. That can be best achieved if there is a co-ordinating mechanism. Therefore, a new co-ordinating body is needed with powers to enable it to predict future skill needs, secure the continued growth and vibrancy of London's economy, promote social inclusion and address the skills and training needs associated with all of those issues. I hope very much that the Minister will recognise the need to give effect to the unanimous recommendation of the London Development Partnership by making provision for a powerful co-ordinating body for London.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page