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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Clause 93 sets out the conditions that will allow an account to qualify as an individual learning account. Broadly speaking, it is concerned with financial services-type matters. It has been a principle of the devolution settlements with both Scotland and Wales that financial services and similar matters have not been devolved. In the case of Scotland, such matters are reserved under the Scotland Act. In the case of Wales, no powers to make regulations in this field have been transferred to the Welsh Assembly. This means that the Bill should not confer these regulation-making powers directly on to the Welsh Assembly.

Of course, this in no way means that in the future and in the light of any changes to the devolution settlement an order could not be made under the

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Government of Wales Act transferring these regulation-making powers to the National Assembly. I hope therefore that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, will not press his Amendment No. 204.

I turn to Amendments Nos. 206 and 208. The noble Lord, Lord Roberts, rightly draws our attention to the importance of ensuring that where powers under any Act have been transferred to the National Assembly for Wales, the power will remain transferred if the Act is amended. As always, the Committee benefits from his expert and close reading of the Bill. I hope that he will agree that this is a complex matter to resolve, especially in the very first year after devolution took place.

I can also assure him that we will bring forward an amendment in due course which will broadly secure that where the Bill makes an amendment to any provision under the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, which confers a power on the Secretary of State, the power will continue to be exercisable by the National Assembly in respect of Wales. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not feel the need to press these amendments at this time.

I turn finally to the group of eight amendments dealing with youth provisions which the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, treats in a similar way. Once again, I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to clarify the position with respect to youth provisions in Wales. The National Assembly intends to secure services to support young people, tailored to the particular circumstances in Wales, but is still finalising its proposals. As soon as the National Assembly has completed its work, we shall be introducing amendments in due course. I am pleased to be able to assure both noble Lords that, in line with the reference made earlier by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, to local flexibility in the case of Wales and the Assembly, we are seeking to work carefully to ensure that the appropriate arrangements are made.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, asked about Clause 110(5). It applies all of Clause 110 to Wales. I do not know whether that answers his question with clarity, but I fear that I cannot go further tonight. If it has not, I shall be only too happy to write to him.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am grateful to the Minister for her reply and I am delighted to understand that an amendment will be tabled in respect of my Amendments Nos. 206 and 208. With regard to youth provision, I am bound to repeat that I believe that the National Assembly should have completed its deliberations on all aspects of the Bill before it came to Parliament. We are well aware of the fact that when we had the Second Reading the National Assembly's plenary session on the policy behind the Bill had not taken place. The Minister has been honest enough to tell us that the Assembly still has not completed its work on the youth provisions, but that when it does an amendment will be presented. Once again, I believe that the lesson is very clear. It must go out from here

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that if the National Assembly requires legislation of us in Parliament, then we must surely be able to consider its views in advance of Committee stage.

Lord Thomas of Gresford: Before the noble Lord withdraws his amendment, may I endorse everything that he said. It seems to me that we have to get the machinery right. It is extremely difficult for those of us who are seeking to deal with Welsh affairs to have to consider amendments before the National Assembly has come to any conclusion. It is very difficult indeed, when one is trying to put primary legislation into place, not to have the views of the National Assembly first. I hope that the Minister will convey to the Assembly our concern that it concludes its deliberations before the matter is brought before this House.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, for his support. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 93 agreed to.

Clause 94 [Holders of accounts: grants]:

Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 205:

    Page 42, line 4, leave out from ("by") to end of line 6 and insert ("the Council").

The noble Lord said: I have not been an active participant in this Bill, but having read it and spent several hours sitting in Committee here, I have reached the conclusion that it is the most unfortunately drafted Bill I have come across in the 20 years I have been in this House. It is full of complexities and potential bureaucracy.

I turn to my own amendment to part of Clause 94. It is an example of the bureaucracy and the confusion that arises. The clause authorises or grants the Secretary of State authority to make grants. There is a list of regulations subject to conditions which must be fulfilled. There are further regulations which may be imposed and so forth.

I have tabled an amendment to subsection (5). That states,

    "Conditions as to the kinds of education or training which qualify may include provision for the kinds to be specified--

    (a) by the Secretary of State in a way he thinks fit"--

I make no complaint about that--

    "or (b) if he so decides, by a person who (at the time of the specification) is designated by the Secretary of State and who specifies in a way the Secretary of State stipulates".

Here we have further delegation of responsibility. My amendment states that it can be expressed by the Secretary of State--fair enough--or, if he so decides, by the council. The council established by Clause 1 of the Bill has responsibility for setting out the type of training required and so forth. The Secretary of State, having accepted various regulations, some of them binding and some not, and their conditions, then goes on to say that it will eventually be decided by a person designated by him.

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There is plenty of room for simplicity in the Bill, but on this matter it should be decided by the Secretary of State or, if he so decides, by the council. I beg to move.


Baroness Blatch: I rise to support my noble friend in his quest to introduce a little simplification. The Secretary of State is designated in many Bills as being primarily responsible for almost all actions. If every Secretary of State physically took on the jobs for which he was technically responsible, he simply would not be able to do the job he is properly there to do.

We all know that where the Secretary of State approves every post or plan and so forth, a row of mandarins are in place to do that job in his name. He is only technically the person to carry out the specific task, which will be done by others. First, will the Minister tell the Committee why, as in subsection (5)(a) the Secretary of State may specify "as he thinks fit" and so a great deal of latitude has been provided for, it is necessary in subsection (5)(b) to provide on the face of the Bill that,

    "if he so decides, by a person who (at the time of the specification) is designated by the Secretary of State and who specifies in a way the Secretary of State stipulates"?

Secondly, will the Minister give examples to the Committee of the kind of person and the kinds of tasks which would be so delegated?

Lord Bach: We have admired the patience of the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, this evening. He has been sitting, silent as a lamb, waiting for his amendment. It is an important amendment and if I respond to it fairly briefly, I hope that the noble Lord will not take that as a discourtesy. I cannot speak for the 20 years of experience gained by the noble Lord, but I doubt whether the Bill before us is the worst example of drafting he has ever come across. Certainly this particular clause has been deliberately worded in this way. It is not a mistake, bureaucracy gone mad, or an error of drafting. This clause is meant to be so drafted and I shall take a few minutes to explain why.

The clause gives the Secretary of State the flexibility to delegate to any person the power to decide the types of learning that will attract the benefits of learning accounts. I should like to remind the noble Lord in passing that this clause and the preceding clause concern qualifying or learning accounts.

Learning accounts will continue to be developed to fit the needs of learners and changing priorities. The provisions have deliberately been framed to give the Secretary of State and the Government appropriate flexibility. Amendment No. 205 seeks to limit that flexibility. It would allow the Secretary of State to delegate only to the LSC his power to determine which learning should be eligible.

It may well be that the Secretary of State will delegate this power to the LSC and that the National Assembly will likewise delegate to the CETW. Clauses 10 and 38 of the Bill make express provision for the councils to be able to take on this role. But

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there may well be good reason in the future, and in the light of changing circumstances, to delegate this power to other bodies.

Again, I should like to repeat what was said in an earlier debate; the word "person" used here is a legal person--an institution rather than an individual. In this instance, the LSC is the likely "person" who will make such a decision. However, this is a major Bill that is due to last for a number of years. Learning provision is developing all the time in important and exciting ways. While the LSC will have a comprehensive remit for post-16 and some other learning, we hope that, as circumstances change, other agencies may be well placed to contribute to decisions on what learning should attract the benefits of individual learning accounts.

At the moment we do not anticipate any other bodies. It is not government policy to say that there will be other bodies. However, we are discussing a Bill which is due to last for five to 10 years and which addresses important matters such as individual learning accounts. For that reason, we do not want to constrain the Secretary of State's power to delegate this function. We believe that it would be unwise to make this primary legislation unnecessarily restrictive. The reason why this provision has been put into the clause is because it is meant to be there in order that, as this field develops over the next few years, the powers are flexible enough to ensure that individual learning accounts have a future.

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