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Lord Lucas: I have a pair of additional questions for the Minister. First, what is the status of the minutes of these committees and the papers submitted to them, as far as publication and availability to the public is concerned? Are these papers which the Government would intend, under the forthcoming freedom of information Act, should be available to the public? Will they be published regularly? Are they papers that the Government will seek to conceal from the public?
Secondly, it appears to me from the description that has been given of what these committees will do that they have such a limited remit and such subsidiary powers that they are unlikely to attract the kind of people one would want to be involved in these decisions. If one wants good people they should be on the main committee, surely, and not tucked away in sub-committees under special appointments by the Secretary of State. If there is not sufficient status and breadth to an appointment, one will only ever have second-class appointees. I urge the Government to think again and, if they really want good people to take part in these decisions, to find a way of ensuring that the key people with the kind of expertise for which they are looking sit on the main committee and are not tucked away on a sub-committee.
Lord Bach: The noble Baroness worries too much about Schedule 3. The council must establish two committees--a young person's learning committee and an adult learning committee. The council may establish such other committees as it thinks fit. I do not believe that it is the intention that these two sub-committees should be setting up other committees as well.
A fundamental role is to be played in the work of the LSC by the young person's learning committee and the adult learning committee which are set out in Schedule 3. The young person's learning committee, first, will be responsible for advising the national council on the best means of achieving the national learning targets for young people, including strategies for increasing participation and attainment so that as many young people as possible continue learning until the age of 19. Specifically, it will advise the council on the funding and delivery of education and work-based training provision targeted at pre-19 year olds, including modern apprenticeships and national traineeships. It will also advise on the promotion and support of work related learning, including work experience and how best to promote a successful transition for young people from school into the next stage of education, training or work.
We want to ensure that its membership includes people who have special knowledge of the area. I hope that its membership includes people with direct experience of schools with sixth forms and sixth form colleges. The committee will also want to ensure--and here the noble Baroness may be with us--that it has direct access to the professional advice of Ofsted.
I believe that reply goes some way to answering the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, when he suggests that the people who might want to serve on such a committee would not be in the first rank. I do not think that is the case.
I turn to the adult committee, which is no less important. It will have direct responsibility for advising the LSC on achieving the national learning targets for adults and for organisations--specifically the targets for Investors in People. It will concern itself with the funding and delivery of adult education and training in FE colleges, adult learning in the community, workforce development issues, including
On Tuesday concern was expressed as to whether post-19 education would be the poor relation of the Bill. The Government believe that the setting up of the important adult committee shows our good intentions with regard to post-19 education.
The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked where the committees' minutes would be displayed. The noble Lord was, of course, a member of the previous government and I am therefore greatly impressed by his conversion to open government. I noted that when we served on the Select Committee a few months ago. The answer to his question is that that will be a matter for the council. However, he will be glad to hear that the principles of open government will apply. I submit that Clause 26 and Schedule 3 should be accepted.
Baroness Blatch: Have we any idea of what the financial impact of this measure will be? There is the cost of the national council, the 47 local councils, these two standing committees and the cost of any other committees that the council sees fit to establish. It appears to have a pretty open-ended remit to form any number of standing committees if it wishes to do so. As regards the question that my noble friend asked, I am not sure that it is sufficient merely to say that open government procedures will apply. These will be national committees, not local committees, unless the noble Lord disturbs us even more by saying that the local councils will also have the power to establish adult learning committees and young people's learning committees. If that is the case, that is even more worrying than the provisions in the Bill.
If we are talking about national committees, does that mean that meetings will be open and that the public will be able to attend? Does that mean that minutes will be made public? Does it mean that the minutes will be published and placed in every library in the country, as they will impact on every person in the country? If the open government rules apply, these questions need to be asked. How big will the relevant committee be? Is there any limit on the number of people on it? Could it comprise 30, 40 or 50 people, or will it comprise 12 to 16 like the main council?
The point of dual membership has already been addressed in that members of the council can also be members of the local councils and members of the adult learning committee and of the young people's learning committee. These are important questions as these bodies not only add to bureaucracy and to the network of committees--which are being spawned all
Lord Lucas: Perhaps I may add to that. I am grateful to the noble Lord for congratulating me on my conversion. As I was the agriculture spokesman during the BSE crisis, I would need to have a very thick head not to have been converted to the cause of freedom of information.
As regards the duality of committees, one can look at aspects of adult education which are purely adult and aspects of pre-19 education which are purely juvenile. But there is a very great overlap already. Surely, there is going to be a much greater one in future as we try to tackle social deprivation. A great deal of that will involve bringing young people to what we would now call adult education at a much earlier stage. Tackling social deprivation among those who are already past education will involve bringing them much more back into what we would now call pre-19 education.
If one separates the experts in those two areas into separate committees so they cannot spark off each other, we shall lose a great deal. They will always feel subsidiary to some greater committee which is trying to combine their expertise without the benefit of their presence. That is not the best way to create a coherent, unified, well-functioning post-16 provision.
Lord Bach: I am sorry to have to disagree with the noble Lord. There was concern that the over-19s would lose out as a consequence of some of the provisions of the Bill. Therefore, on that ground alone it seems to the Government sensible to have an adult committee. Equally, a young persons' committee is obviously important with a Bill stealing so much from 16 to 19 year-olds.
Baroness Blatch: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. The noble Lord will remember that there was genuine concern, as he has just said, about the emphasis and focus given to post-19s. Equally, there were some fairly prolonged debates on the first day of Committee about flexibility to straddle both pre-19s and post-19s. That flexibility is not present in those committees.
Lord Bach: The noble Baroness took the words almost out of my mouth. I was going on to say that the noble Lord is right that there will be straddling between the age of 16 right up to lifelong learning. In some cases 19 years of age may be a time when one period of learning ends and another begins, but in
As regards committee members, I understand they are to be unpaid. The expectation is that their meetings will not be in public, but they will be filled with people from outside the council. They are not likely to be secret committees. If the public ask for information provided by the committees, the presumption is that it will be provided to them under the open government principles. That is what I meant by those principles.
There are matters of detail which have to be sorted out. Not every matter of detail is written into a schedule of the Bill. The noble Baroness is right to that extent. No doubt in due course the details of the make-up of the committees will become known.
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