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Baroness Blackstone: I hope that I have already made it clear that we see a very major role for local government in the new arrangements. Local government will be a central partner, not just in providing and securing learning opportunities through schools and in adult and community education but also as organisations which can provide both vision and leadership for local communities.

Indeed, under the arrangements, local government will have a far more important role to play in post-16 education than was allocated under the previous government. So as I said on Second Reading and earlier this week in Committee, I am rather surprised by the Conservative Opposition's new-found commitment to local government's involvement here.

But the new arrangements will offer local authorities greater influence over the whole range of post-16 provision since local LSCs will be required to consult on their plans and set out in them the LEA contribution. I am happy to confirm also to the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that we expect the local LSCs to have someone with current local authority experience. I do not believe that those are quite the words which the noble Lord used.

But it would be wrong to go further and build in 25 per cent of places for local authority representatives. We want members who are appointed on merit because of what they can offer rather than to be delegates of other organisations.

I turn now to Amendment No. 106. It is vital that all members of local councils have experience which is relevant to councils' functions. They will not be much good on those councils if they do not have such experience. We shall publish a specification of the

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knowledge, understanding and skills for which we are looking among LSC members when we advertise those posts.

We have already set out in the prospectus that we expect local LSC members to understand the needs of employers; employees, through trade union representation; local communities, through local authority experience; people who are disadvantaged or excluded, through voluntary sector experience; young people and adult learners; people with special learning needs, learning difficulties or disabilities; and people who face discrimination. That is quite a long list already.

We have also said that the views of learning providers should be represented on local LSCs, but that the vast majority of those serving on councils should speak for the views of the consumers of the learning system--individuals who may benefit from what the system offers, and employers who will benefit from the greater skills that people have obtained from the system.

That is a vital point. We want a system that is driven by the needs of individuals and communities and of employers and the economy. It would be wrong, given that, to have a majority of places for providers, as this amendment proposes. I must therefore ask the noble Lord and the noble Baroness to withdraw the amendment.

I was a little surprised to see Amendments Nos. 108 and 109 as I can see no reason why a member of a local council should not also serve on the national council if so appointed. Indeed, there may be benefits from some cross-fertilisation of local and national experiences for both councils. At the same time I entirely accept what lies behind the amendment of the noble Baroness, that that will not be a frequent occurrence. Few people could find the time to do both.

Any potential conflicts of interest for a national council member who is also a member of a local council are adequately and comprehensively dealt with in that part of Schedule 1 that is dedicated to "Members interests".

On Amendment No. 111, the power of the national council to remove a local council member from office is a necessary one. The council must be able to remove members, for example, if they have failed to attend local council meetings for a substantial period, or if they have otherwise become unable or unfit to carry out their responsibilities. They may, for example, become mentally ill. But in order that local council members feel secure, for example, to speak out against what they may see as incorrect or unfair policies by the LSC, it is important that that power to remove local council members is balanced by the need to demonstrate to the Secretary of State that such a measure is justified. It is a matter of checks and balances. I believe that this is correct.

In the light of what I have said, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will withdraw this amendment.

Lord Tope: Before the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, decides what she will do, perhaps I can tease out a little

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more from the Minister as to exactly what she means. My memory of what she has just said is a little better than my memory of what she said at Second Reading. I believe I heard her say that each local council will have someone with current local government experience. Does that mean one person out of the 12 to 16 members? Does it mean at least one, or does the Minister envisage that there will be more than one? Does "current local government experience" mean that that person will be an elected member, or a council officer, or someone who experiences a local government service? What exactly does the phrase mean?

Baroness Blatch: Perhaps I can add to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Tope. Having just listened to the Minister I do not believe that she said "each local council" or "each council both local and national". The matter would be made clearer if the Minister were able to use the words that she used for the business representation.

Baroness Blackstone: I do not believe that we want to be as precise as the noble Lord, Lord Tope, expects us to be. We are looking for the best people. We want to appoint people on merit, people who have something to add to the work of the councils. Some elected members have such qualities and some appointed officials and officers of local authorities may have such qualities. It may be right in some cases that a chief executive or a chief education officer may be appointed to one of the councils. Similarly, in some cases it may be appropriate that an experienced elected member, who has the kind of wisdom and expertise that will be needed, can bring that experience to bear in the context of the work of the council.

I believe it would be quite wrong for the Government to constrain applications to a particular category from people with local government experience. We would like to see applications for membership of the councils from a wide range of people who have--I shall use the phrase again--current local authority experience. I would expect that to be the case on all these councils. I do not believe I can go further than that. I hope that that helps the noble Lord and the noble Baroness.

Lord Tope: The Minister has made clearer what she has in mind. I now want to press her on the number or the proportion of such members. She has been specific in saying that at least 40 per cent of the members will be people with business experience. I do not ask her to give a precise figure, but can she give an indication of the number of people who will have current local government experience? Will it be just one person? This is a matter of considerable concern to people in local government who will want to know to what extent, as well as in what way, they will be represented. One person out of 16 is a fairly minimal representation and four or five out of 16 is a substantial representation. What sort of role does she have in mind for local government?

Baroness Blackstone: I thought I had made the point clear. We are looking for applications from people

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with merit in relation to the kind of criteria that we are specifying for membership of the councils. We are not specifying a particular proportion. All we have said is that at least one person should have current local government experience. In some LSCs it may be one person or in others it may be two, three or four, depending on the people who come forward.

Baroness Blatch: I understand that the Minister will not give a percentage or say how many members on each council, local and national, will have current local government experience, but is it right that there will be someone who has that experience?

Baroness Blackstone: I shall repeat what I have already said. We expect that any local LSC will have on it someone with current local authority experience. I hope that satisfies the noble Baroness.

Baroness Blatch: No, it does not. The Minister did not preface the 40 per cent business representation by saying "we expect". She was unequivocal and said that there will be 40 per cent of business people, although of course they will be subject to the Nolan procedures. There has been no definitive commitment to there being local authority representatives in the form of one or more people on each council, both local and national. We shall continue to press the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 106 not moved.]

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 107:


    Page 8, line 35, leave out subsection (3) and insert--


("( ) The council must elect one of its members as Chief Executive for a period not exceeding 5 years.").

The noble Baroness said: I know that the Clerks do not read in Hansard every word that we say, but on Monday I did ask that the word "Chairman" should be substituted for the words "Chief Executive". I gave the Committee notice that that was what I meant. I have no idea whether I am culpable or what happened between me writing this amendment and it arriving in the Public Bill Office. I accept responsibility for the fact that the amendment, as written, is wrong and that "Chief Executive" should read "Chairman". My arguments are the same as I used in an earlier debate. There is probably a marginal argument for the Secretary of State to say who shall be the chairman of the national council but at local level the council itself should be able, from within its membership, to elect a chairman.

The noble Lord, Lord Bach, said at the previous stage that the Government were minded to consider a period of office not less than three and not more than five years. That is normally put on the statute book or in regulation, and I should like the Government to consider doing that. If not, we shall certainly find a way that uses the words of the Minister; that is, that it would be for a period of three years, not exceeding five. I beg to move.

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9 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: The noble Baroness indicated in the earlier debate that there was a mistake in this amendment and that we should understand it to refer to a chairman and not a chief executive. Although it has not been altered, I am happy to take the amendment in that way.

The post of local chair is a pivotal one in the LSC. Local chairs will exercise a real influence on local council decisions, on resource allocation and priorities, and on the appointment and removal--I hope not too frequently--of key staff such as the local executive director. On average the local LSCs may have budgets in excess of £100 million. In those circumstances it is surely reasonable that the Secretary of State has the final say in appointing local chairs. We will look to appoint people who are widely respected for the contribution that they have made to various interests and who can manage and take forward local views in a positive and constructive way.

The amendment would have the effect of delaying the appointments of the first local chairs since the whole of the local councils would need to be appointed before the chairs could be identified. That would cause serious delays in establishing the local LSCs since the local chairs have a key role in appointing the directors who will set up the local arms. In the light of that, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.


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