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Baroness Blatch: That is a wholly unsatisfactory answer. One puts schedules into a Bill to include that detail. Details about membership of the national council are in the schedule, including the number of people on the committee, how they are to be appointed, their tenure and other factors, yet for some reason that detail is missing from the two committees which are not part of the mainstream committees. This is a very serious issue to which we shall certainly return. In the meantime I shall not oppose these measures standing part of the Bill.

Clause 26 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Committees (England)]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 146:



("( ) must establish a quality recognition and improvement committee").

The noble Baroness said: The noble Baroness, Lady David, has asked me to apologise to the Committee for not being here. She had to leave to catch a train to return to Cambridge. She has asked me to stand in for her and to move these three amendments.

All three amendments relate to Schedule 3. I shall first speak to Amendment No. 147 and then I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 146 and 148 which are linked together.

Amendment No. 147 proposes that the wording of the schedule be changed slightly in terms of the functions of the committee. It seeks that the committee must investigate the provision not only of "education and training" but of,


    "appropriate education and training to meet reasonable needs".

The wording of the amendment reflects the wording in Clause 2(2) in terms of "reasonable needs". It is essential that the underpinning rationale for the LSC's work, particularly in relation to the young people's learning committee, is founded upon the knowledge of the reasonable needs of young people in localities.

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In particular, it is very important that they receive good advice and guidance. Often young people in the 16 to 19 age group have very little knowledge of what they want to do and, therefore, in some senses of what are their education and training needs. In this respect it is vital that they have access to proper guidance. This means proper careers guidance from careers advisers who are trained up to NVQ level 4 competence in such guidance.

In proposing appropriate education and training to meet reasonable needs we are saying that we need both to identify the needs and to give the appropriate education, training and guidance to meet those needs.

Turning now to Amendments Nos. 146 and 148, these amendments seek to establish--I am loath to think what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will think--yet another committee. I see that the noble Baroness has walked out in disgust. In addition to the young people's learning committee and the adult learning committee there should be a quality improvement and recognition committee.

The idea here is that there should be a statutory quality recognition and improvement committee, to be set up as a formal committee, in order to make public the local learning and skills council's quality improvement strategy. It would have three main functions: first, to co-ordinate the council's duties in response to the two inspectorates we shall be discussing on Tuesday; and, secondly, to operate a quality threshold, to include good advice and guidance, progression opportunities, a contribution to widening participation and value for money. This will prevent cherry picking by private training providers who might otherwise provide high-volume, short-term, easy-to-fill courses, leaving other providers funded at the same rate with a harder-to-fill, costlier-to-make provision aimed at securing wider participation. There has to be a legitimate concern to balance competitiveness of offer and quality.

Thirdly, we should like the committee also to secure arrangements for the funding of programmes without qualifications. We shall be looking at Clauses 85 to 89 of the Bill next week, but these clauses concern only external qualifications. The prospectus which lies behind the Bill very helpfully makes it clear that quality assurance in other provision--provision that does not necessarily lead to external qualifications--will be publicly supported by the LSC. We should like to have that incorporated in the schedule if possible. I beg to move.

Lord Lucas: My noble friend Lady Blatch has asked me to express her disagreement with these amendments--a disagreement which I share. I have just spent some time arguing for a greater flexibility for the council to be able to choose how its own committees are structured and to deal with these problems in its own way. This is an excellent example of why the Government were wrong in wording Schedule 3 as they did. They should not go further down that road. It would tie up the council in a way

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that is entirely inappropriate. I am sure that the council will take care of those matters in its own way and will be the better for it.

Lord Bach: I believe that I am grateful for the opposition to the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, but I am not absolutely sure.

I turn to the amendments in the order in which the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, spoke to them. The amendments all propose changes to the committee structure for the national learning and skills council set out in Schedule 3 to the Bill. Amendment No. 147 seeks to alter the remit of the young people's learning committee. We are not clear as to how that change would improve matters. The noble Baroness will recall that the LSC's main duties as set out in Clauses 2 and 3--it seems a long time ago since we debated those clauses--already describe the learning provision which the LSC must provide in terms of that which is "suitable to the requirements" of individuals. We therefore believe that the main thrust of the noble Baroness's amendment is already contained in the Bill.

It would not be right to have an apparently more qualified remit for the young people's learning committee than for the adult learning committee, if that was either the intention behind or the result of the noble Baroness's amendment. It is important that the two committees--which we have discussed already at some length--have an influential role and equal status within the LSC framework. I repeat that we want to attract to both committees outstanding individuals with expert knowledge to contribute to the LSC's key strategic discussions and decision-making. We believe that the Bill will help us to attract such individuals as committee members by specifying a role which is wide-ranging and focused. Essentially, the task will be three-fold: to identify needs; to assess how well those needs are being met in terms of both quality and quantity; and to make recommendations as to how they may be better met and how the LSC's available resources may best be used. I hope that that answer gives the noble Baroness some reassurance.

I turn to the other two amendments in the group, Amendments Nos. 146 and 148, the purpose of which is to require the learning and skills council to establish a third committee--a quality recognition and improvement committee. Those amendments reflect the current statutory requirements on the Further Education Funding Council. I want to take this opportunity to say how much the Government appreciate the contribution which members of the Quality Assessment Committee have made to the work of the Further Education and Funding Council.

However--and we shall of course be debating the matter next week--our proposal is to separate the work of inspection from the funding body and to give it to OFSTED and the new Adult Learning Inspectorate. Our intention is that action on quality should be fully incorporated within the mainstream of LSC business. The specific functions listed under Amendment No. 148 will be the responsibility of the entire council, not a separate part of it. The council

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will, of course, be supported by the advice of the two committees in its work. The business of quality improvement will be an important part of that work.

In those circumstances, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw Amendment No. 146 and not to move Amendment No. 148.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I thank the Minister for his reply. It is useful that he has set out at some length his understanding of the wording in the schedule. I believe that it is appropriate not to press Amendment No. 147 in the light of what he has said. With regard to the other two amendments, it is unfortunate that the Government are dropping the Quality Assessment Committee from the Further Education Funding Council. However, I accept what the Minister said--that its remit is now going to be taken over by the inspection procedures. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 147 and 148 not moved.]

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clauses 27 to 29 agreed to.

Clause 30 [The Council]:

11 p.m.

Lord Roberts of Conwy moved Amendment No. 149:


    Page 12, line 16, leave out ("10") and insert ("12").

The noble Lord said: We now come to the Welsh part of the Bill--regrettably late in the day, but better late than never. I hope that we can do justice to this part of the Bill despite the lateness of the hour. I need hardly remind the Government after the events of the past few days in the National Assembly in Cardiff Bay that Wales still matters a great deal.

The changes proposed in Amendments Nos. 149 and 150 would bring the national council for education and training in Wales into line with the learning and skills council for England with regard to size; and there is a strong case for that.

The first point is that the main duties of both councils are much the same. As the Bill stands, the Welsh council is, if anything, more centralist in character than its English counterpart, for reasons that I shall explain. The Welsh council "may" form regional bodies on the lines of the 47 local councils proposed for England--"may" being the operative word. I hope to change that "may" into a "must". We shall return to the matter in due course. The point is that the regional committees are an option in Wales.

For the moment, I am content to point out that the English local councils, which vary considerably in terms of the size of population covered, will also, like their parent body, have between 12 and 16 members. That makes sense to me, especially when one takes into account a great diversity of bodies with a close interest in the education and training of young people post-16.

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Here, I come to my second point, which is that the Welsh council, with between 10 and 12 members, is far too small to reflect that diversity adequately, even if some members represent more than one interest.

Perhaps I may run through the most obvious interests. There are 26,000 sixth formers in Wales in 167 schools. Their head teachers will have a claim to a place on the council, along with the local education authorities. There are 171,000 students in our 23 further education colleges and five designated colleges. The claims of that sector are more complex than would first appear. Two of the designated colleges are Workers Educational Association (WEA) bodies; another two are St David's Roman Catholic College, Cardiff, and Coleg Harlech, the "college of second chance", much supported by the late Lady White. The last of the designated colleges is a Welsh WMCA establishment.

Then there are 31,000 young people in employer supported training, and of course employers are keenly interested because of their skill requirements and their past experience of the training and enterprise councils, which had a good record in Wales but which are now to disappear.

There is a lengthy list of other bodies which would regard themselves as key contributors to the council: the Welsh Development Agency; the CBI and the TUC in Wales; the Wales Tourist Board; the Welsh Language Board; the Sports Council; as well as the local education authorities, the training providers and the careers advisers, and their eight companies, to be brought together under an umbrella organisation to be known as "Careers Wales". Finally, the Higher Education Funding Council is to have a joint secretariat with the new council, as it had with the Further Education Funding Council (now to be dissolved). I can claim some paternity for the joint operation between the two councils because it fell to me to put the relevant Act into operation.

I do not believe that a council membership of 10 or 12 can possibly meet all of the requirements and high expectations envisaged in the Bill. If the four regional committees come into being, each chairman will be entitled under paragraph 2(2) of Schedule 5 to the Bill to a place on the main council. Therefore, we are talking about six to eight remaining places to cover all the diverse interests, not forgetting the Skills Wales Task Force set up by the present Government whose role is, to me, somewhat unclear.

Having read the report of the National Assembly's plenary debate on its Education and Training Action Plan for Wales, which took place on 1st February--some days after the Second Reading debate on this Bill--it does not appear to me that the Assembly and its Post-16 Education, Schools and Early Learning Committee has given much thought to the crucial issue of the size of the council. Its debate was mainly about policy, and the Bill before the Committee today was referred to only once by Jonathan Morgan, a Conservative Assembly Member, I am glad to say.

As I am on my feet, this is perhaps an appropriate moment to say that when primary legislation is in the offing the Assembly will be well advised to complete its

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deliberations before either House in the Westminster Parliament embarks on the legislative process so that we may at least take account of the views of the Assembly. If it does not complete its deliberations, as in this case, it cannot blame us if we fail to legislate to meet its needs and aspirations. The Assembly's Economic Development Committee has yet to consider such matters as the enterprise function of the TECs and where other functions are best located in future.

I turn briefly to Amendment No. 151. My noble friend Lady Blatch and others spoke with more eloquence than I can ever muster in favour of the amendment which proposes that 40 per cent of the membership of the English council should have business or commercial experience. That has been promised verbally by the Government, although it does not appear as yet anywhere on the face of the Bill. The same arguments apply to Wales, if anything with even greater force. We need the thrust and drive of business people to raise our GDP, which is now so low in the valleys and West Wales that we meet the Objective 1 criteria. We hope that in the next few years we can look forward to substantial investment of funds from the European Union with matching funds from the Treasury.

The Council for the Welsh Training and Enterprise Councils describes the situation with what I believe to be cruel clarity:


    "Wales has the lowest rates of economic activity in Great Britain. This is because Wales has the lowest rates of A-level and higher education graduates of any region of the United Kingdom. For those in work, the position is not much better: low pay, a lack of skills provision, and a culture which does not recognise the need for lifelong learning. The net effect of this is obvious; we see it everywhere. The Welsh economy is under-performing. Only a new, coherent approach to economic development will put it right. This must entail a radical approach to education and training provision, both in the immediate post-16 area, and the world of lifelong learning".

So everyone agrees with this analysis of our needs, although I have not checked these figures personally. What is not agreed is that the people whose self-interest and self-preservation will motivate them to improve the position are the business people. Of course the participants in education and training--students, teachers and providers generally--all have a powerful vested interest in success, but the hard drive comes from those who need trained, skilled people to survive themselves. Those are the business people and employers.

It is recognised that the voice of business must be strong in the training theatre, and much effort has been expended in recent years in ensuring that that voice is heard and responded to. But with the demise of the TECs in Wales there is a real fear that the voice of business will be silenced, and there is despair, I can tell the Minister, among many employers.

There are some commitments to business in this Bill, but they are general. What is required is a specific commitment, a guaranteed place among the partners, and that could be secured by my amendment to the effect that no fewer than four members of the Welsh council shall have had business or commercial

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experience. The Government would be rewarded with a return of business confidence in the scheme proposed in the Bill. I can assure them that such confidence is not present in Wales now, and it must be restored. If Members of the Committee opposite will not accept my word for it, perhaps they will accept the view expressed by Professor Kenneth Morgan in the Western Mail on 26th January. Professor Morgan, of Cardiff University, was a prominent figure in the "yes" campaign for the National Assembly. He made it absolutely clear in that article that the business community in Wales has become increasingly concerned that a body that would play a pivotal role in developing a highly skilled workforce in Wales will be dominated by public sector interests in the form of local authorities and further education colleges.

The Government would be very wise to heed my call for assured representation for business and employer interests in Wales on the new Wales council. I beg to move.


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