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Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 192:



("(b) a right of entry to premises used in connection with the provisions of that training and development;").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 192, I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 193. I return here to a debate we have had on a previous occasion on rights of entry to premises where there is a suspicion that resources are being abused or something else may be amiss. Those rights of entry and the definition of offences are the subject matter of Clause 54.

I am not principally concerned here about the importance of ensuring that public resources are protected and that the interests of taxpayers are paramount, but I am concerned about rights of entry to the premises of a person; namely, to a teacher's or lecturer's own home. In other words, I am concerned about the home of the teacher or lecturer who is providing that education--not the premises on which the education takes place--and about the right of entry to premises of the person who provides the education and training used in connection with that provision.

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Clause 54(2)(c) deals with a "right to inspect" and extends to taking copies of,


    "any records kept by that person, and any other documents containing information relating to the education or training, which the inspector requires for the purposes".

Subsection (3) goes on to deal with,


    "The right to inspect records conferred by subsection (2)(c)",

to which I have just referred, and


    "includes the right to have access to, and to inspect and check the operation of, any computer and any associated apparatus or material which is or has been in use in connection with the records in question".

I am trying to separate two things: first, the rightful pursuit of wrong-doing; and, secondly, the personal privacy of the individual person--the teacher and/or lecturer--who provides the education. It may be that I am missing something here, but I am reading the words on the page and I have read the Explanatory Notes. I am concerned about what appears to be a very wide power.

In addition, if someone has committed an offence and a right of entry is forced, which one has to assume might in some circumstances be so, my understanding is that that is done by police with a warrant and not by just anyone; that is, by a member of the inspectorate or someone whom the inspectorate determines should do it. Therefore, it would be most helpful to hear from the Minister exactly what is the extent of this power, what protection there is for the individual teacher and/or lecturer, and what right anyone has to hack into personal equipment which may or may not have been used for purposes relating to the education provision.

I am concerned that the only way that one can find out whether or not a piece of equipment has been used is by hacking into it, thereby discovering either that there is nothing on it or that something on it has been secreted away, indicating that the person has been up to no good. Therefore, I am concerned about including a mechanism which will deal with the protection of the individual teacher or lecturer and the circumstances under which that will take place. I beg to move.

Lord Bach: These amendments relate to access to premises and to computers. The noble Baroness argues that we are giving the adult learning inspectorate unreasonable powers. We do not believe that to be true. As she said, this is "round two" of the debate that took place last Tuesday on access to computers. She will recall that I agreed to write to her about that following the Committee stage and I shall, of course, do so.

My first point is fairly fundamental. There is good precedent for the provisions which she seeks to amend or to delete. The wording in Clause 54(2) and (3) follows very closely the provisions of Sections 2(8) and 42(a) of the School Inspections Act 1996. I am not making a cheap point and I do not believe that it answers all that the noble Baroness said by pointing out that that was, of course, a Bill passed by a government of which she was a leading member. In making that point I am trying only to say that in effect

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we are replicating here the powers which previously have been given to Ofsted in respect of schools of all types. We are not doing anything new.

There is no dispute between the noble Baroness and myself as regards the principle that all inspectors must have reasonable access to provision to carry out their duties. The issues raised by the noble Baroness relate to how the powers will be exercised. The answer is that they will be exercised reasonably by the inspectorate, as happens now. There is no question of breaking and entering into private property, which was the expression used by the noble Baroness last week. Clause 54 gives a right of access only at reasonable times and for the purpose of carrying out an inspection. So breaking in at three in the morning is not an option. Indeed, if ALI were to act unreasonably in the exercise of any of its statutory powers, it would be susceptible to review by the courts. Let there be no doubt. ALI has a right of entry at reasonable times in order to carry out its statutory functions. In doing so, it must behave reasonably.

The current TEC licence or contract requires providers to permit the Training Standards Council, as the representative of the Secretary of State, to examine documents and records; to provide oral or written explanations and all other reasonable assistance at any reasonable time. The FEFC inspection handbook similarly sets out clearly the expectation that FEFC inspectors will have access to records, marked work, registers, teaching materials and so on wherever they are held; and that there will be meetings on the premises between inspectors, managers and governors.

The point is that reasonable access is an integral part of inspection. Providers are used to it. We have no reason to doubt that ALI will use the powers in Clause 54 with circumspection and reasonably for the purposes of inspection. If there are any doubts whatever about this, I remind Members of the Committee that the Secretary of State may use his powers under Clause 51(6) to advise ALI on that point.

I turn to the details. Amendment No. 192 would not give ALI the right to enter the premises of a provider of further education which were not used directly in the provision of education. For example, the effect would be that where a college maintains its records on a site separate from but perhaps adjacent to its classrooms, ALI would not have a right of entry to that site. It could not be sure of access to those records. I do not know whether that is what the noble Baroness had in mind or intended but that would be the consequence if her amendment were passed.

The extent of the provision in Clause 54(2) is necessary because it allows ALI access to education and training provision which is sub-contracted. The premises where education and training takes place may not be owned by the provider. It is reasonable also for inspectors not only to be able to see education and training taking place, in whatever setting, but also to visit and talk to the provider at head office about that

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education and training. Clause 54(2)(b) secures that for the avoidance of all doubt. The amendment does not do that.

The person providing that education or training in Clause 54 is not the individual teacher or lecturer in a college. Otherwise, there would be dozens, even hundreds, of providers running an institution. The provider would be the college.

As regards, Amendment No. 193, it is obviously necessary and reasonable for the inspectorate to have access to records including, for example, records of student attendance. That information may be stored electronically. Because of the increasing likelihood that people will undertake distance learning, the inspectorate will need access to such relevant materials however they are stored. Of course it may be possible and easy to download the material into an accessible format; or it may not. But whichever way it is done the inspectorate really must have access.

This is not a draconian power. Obviously in most cases--the vast majority of cases--the inspectors will have easy and simple access to the material they need to see. Indeed, we are not aware of any problems or disputes in that area during inspections by the FEFC Training Standards Council, which has the same powers as are intended in the Bill. There is no hidden agenda here. We are not planning to invite the inspectorates to conduct forensic audit or detailed fraud investigations. ALI is not the KGB or even the Stasi. I am sure it will want to ensure at all times that providers do not face unnecessary burdens. I hope that having heard my comments, which are now on the record, the noble Baroness will consider some of her fears unfounded and withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch: I am left with one or two questions. First, the Minister said that ALI would have to act reasonably. The word "reasonable" refers to the times of day, not the action. Subsection (2) provides:


    "has, at all reasonable times".

The Minister rightly referred to the fact that breaking and entering would not be done in the middle of the night but at reasonable times of the day. I totally accept that. However, there is not an obligation to act reasonably or to have reasonable access. The access would not necessarily be reasonable. If ALI really wanted to get in, it would do so. It has the power here to force entry, if absolutely necessary.

Secondly, I have no argument with the Minister about the importance of the inspectorate receiving all the information and data it needs in order to carry out its job and function of being the protector of public moneys and of the people who provide those public moneys; that is, the public. The difficulty I have, which may be due to my lack of understanding, is that the right of entry is not simply, as in (a),


    "a right of entry to premises on which the education or training being inspected is provided",

but a right of entry to the premises of the person providing the education. If I am a lecturer, and I am the person providing the education, my premises are

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my home. Is the Minister stating that the premises of the person are what I think they are, or does this have some other connotation? I simply do not understand.


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