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The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My Lords, I find it very difficult to fulfil this role. I think it is the turn of the Liberal Democrat Front Bench to ask the next supplementary question.

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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, the Minister said that the processing sector is a crucial part of the industry. Does she accept that if farmers received more help from the Government they would be able to turn milk into other finished products and we would then see a greater variety of yoghurt, cream and cheese on supermarket shelves? Can she assure the House that farmers will receive the training and help that they have been denied in the past?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the training element in the rural development regulation will help. Equally, there have been four specific initiatives funded under the £1 million aid for marketing innovative dairy projects which it is to be hoped will help dairy farmers and farmers generally to add value to their produce.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, will the noble Baroness attempt to drum in to her not always sensitive department the fact that the present plight of the dairy industry is likely to leave havoc in its train in the countryside? Is she aware that a typical, efficient dairy farmer with a modest-sized herd in Somerset today receives a milk cheque for the same number of cows as he received six years ago--which represents half the amount of income? That means a cut in living standards and makes it impossible for him to remain in operation. After several generations he is being forced to sell out.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord says. I appreciate the effects on individuals and families. It is no comfort to the noble Lord, I know, for me to say that dairy farming is not the only sector that is affected in this way. We know from the data on farm incomes that although incomes doubled between 1990 and 1995, they have been reduced by about 60 per cent since then. That is why the Government have taken a range of measures to help the various sectors in agriculture.

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Magistrates' Appointments: Duchy of Lancaster

3 p.m.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What stage they have reached in the consultation procedure regarding the proposal for centralising the appointments of magistrates and the administration of justice for Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, my right honourable friend in another place, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, wrote recently to a range of relevant people in the Duchy, including the noble Lord, to invite their views on the proposed transfer of responsibility for

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magisterial appointments in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Lord Chancellor. My right honourable friend in another place is also seeking views from a number of national organisations, or their local representatives, and has arranged a press release to newspapers in the Duchy area, inviting local people to express their views.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that Answer. Is he aware that the Duchy of Lancaster has been responsible for the appointment of magistrates for over 600 years and has carried out that task very well indeed? How does my noble and learned friend equate this proposal with policies on devolution and the move from centralisation to regionalisation and government for the regions? Surely the three areas of Lancashire have all the attributes required in the manifesto for regional authority. Thirdly, is my noble and learned friend aware that the Duchy of Lancaster provides a considerable amount of money to the Exchequer for the appointment of magistrates?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. As I indicated in my earlier Answer, a consultation process is under way. I shall certainly ensure that my right honourable friend in another place is aware of his views.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, are there any figures to show that a change in the present arrangements would lead to greater efficiency or would be cheaper? Is there any evidence to indicate that appointments made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster are in any way inferior to those made by the Lord Chancellor? Is the Minister aware that magistrates in our part of the country are proud to be appointed by the Queen in her capacity as Duke of Lancaster, and resent this pointless piece of tinkering and this attempt to tear up 600 years of history?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful for those views. So far as concerns expense and quality, those aspects will no doubt be examined during the course of the consultation process. Again, as with the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, I will ensure that the views expressed are passed on to my right honourable friend.

Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, while I welcome what the Minister has just said, does he accept that, although the consultation process has been a courteous exercise, the letter from the Cabinet Office did not include any detail of the opposition that has now emerged from the Lord Lieutenancies in Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside? As other speakers have said, there is now increasing resistance to the proposals in the north-west of England. Will the Government please attach due weight to the views of the Lord Lieutenants in those areas? Will they recognise that, wherever possible, subsidiarity is the principle that should count?

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the consultation document set out the basic proposal in a neutral way and sought views. Further consultation will now take place. I have no doubt that, in considering what to do, the Government will take into account all the views expressed in the course of consultation.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, will my noble friend take into account that the views being expressed are not those of all the people in Lancashire, or indeed all the magistrates there, and that a wider consultation is certainly needed in relation to this matter?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, as I hope indicated in my original Answer, my right honourable friend in another place is further seeking views and is also arranging for a press release to newspapers in the Duchy area inviting local people to express their views. Anyone who has not yet expressed a view still has an opportunity to do so.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords--

Lord McNally: My Lords, has the Minister--

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, not the coalition partners again!

Lord McNally: My Lords, the noble Lord must control himself. I did not know that the Duchy of Lancaster extended to Chingford! Will the Minister explain the origins of this--

Noble Lords: Order!

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I do not think that during the course of this Question, the Liberal Democrats have asked a question. Perhaps it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord McNally.

Lord McNally: My Lords, the problem that the House faces is that the Minister has not explained in any way what has caused the consultation. Is there not a good old maxim: "If it works, don't fix it"? The chancellery of the Duchy of Lancaster works very well in appointing magistrates.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the consultation will consider whether it is appropriate to transfer the responsibility for the appointment of magistrates from the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster to the Lord Chancellor. That is the purpose of the consultation.

Census (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

3.6 p.m.

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

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Learning and Skills Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department for Education and Employment (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Baroness Blackstone.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 51 [The Inspector's remit]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 107:

    Page 20, line 30, leave out ("for persons") and insert ("provided in the further education sector and special needs education sector and which is suitable to the requirements of those").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 108, 109, and 127 to 129 standing in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Tope. The purpose of the amendments is to rationalise and simplify the post-16 inspection system.

As set out in the Bill, the system is shared between two inspectorates, the adult learning inspectorate--code-named ALI--and the office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools (Ofsted). As I made clear in Committee, our objections to the system rest on three issues, the first being its complexity. As my noble friend Lord Tope said at Second Reading,

    "Why on earth do we have the anomaly of two inspection agencies falling over each other to inspect the [post-16] provision? Why do we need complex rules about 'joint inspection' and a 'common inspection framework'? The obvious and radical answer is to have a single inspection agency for all post-16 education and training which will see its work in the context of lifelong learning".--[Official Report, 17/1/00; col. 939.]

Our second objection is the degree to which the system reinforces and perpetuates the binary divide between education and training. We had a long debate about this issue both in Committee and on earlier amendments on Report which I tabled yesterday. In his replies on both occasions, the noble Lord, Lord Bach, made it clear that it is the Government's intention that the Bill should move firmly away from this divided system. Yet, when we discussed the amendments on the inspectorate in Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Dearing--who, incidentally, has sent me a letter regretting the fact that he cannot be present today as he has to be in hospital--said:

    "I have been involved in education for a number of years and throughout that period I have been concerned that we have had two cultures: the culture of what I describe as academic education and the culture of vocational--applied--training".--[Official Report, 15/2/2000; col. 1181.]

He pointed out that the structure of the proposed inspectorates, far from being one of partnership, put ALI--the vocational arm--into a totally subordinate position. He warned that that might make it difficult to recruit good people to the inspectorate and, even more damaging, that it might put at risk:

    "that distinctive contribution which is needed for a community of learners which is adult rather than young, part-time rather than full-time, and possibly needing greater encouragement to engage

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    in education and upskilling. After all, we are trying to create an adult learning society. If the Government are set on this particular approach, the result may be damaging to the Government's aspirations".--[Official Report, 15/2/2000; col. 1145.]

There is a different ethos in the further education sector from that in the schools sector. ALI, which will presumably take over from the Further Education Funding Council inspectorate and the National Training and Skills Council inspectorate, would reflect that ethos, whereas Ofsted has no experience and track record in the sector. We are not alone in believing that Ofsted methodology is appropriate. The CBI, British Chambers of Commerce and National Skills Task Force have all expressed reservations about the extent to which the two methodologies are compatible.

The colleges themselves have great reservations. In evidence to us, the FE21 group of colleges spoke of being compelled the follow the achievement-oriented ethos of the Ofsted inspection regime to the detriment of encouraging non-traditional learners into education. The burden of views submitted to the DfEE during consultation was overwhelming. Of 250 submissions, 249 advised against joint inspections. Only one--the FEFC, which is a Government-appointed body--was in favour of the proposals, yet the Government push ahead with them.

In Committee, the Minister's main objection to our proposals was that it would be a "terrible mistake" to restrict Ofsted's role in post-16 education because of the "experience and rigour" it would bring to A-level inspections. She claimed that the present system was not working because:

    "In effect, you have one group of inspectors inspecting A-level provision in schools and a totally different group of inspectors inspecting A-level provision in FE colleges. This is what the Government are addressing: we want a single group of inspectors taking the lead in inspecting 16 to 19 provision and a single group of inspectors taking the lead in inspecting the specialist aspects of work-based training and adult education".--[Official Report, 15/2/2000; col.1148.]

Surely that view of the world is just as flawed. Where 16 to 19 year-olds are in work-based training, the off-the-job element that might be described as education is just as important as the job element. If it is a question of the rigour of inspection, that can be coped with under the guidance given by the Secretary of State to ALI. As for experience, given the ways in which teams of inspectors are today put together and contracted for specific tasks, there is no problem for the ALI in hiring inspectors with experience of A-level.

The amendments would draw a clear distinction between the two sets of inspectors--putting them on a par with each other, not making ALI the junior partner. The amendments would make it clear that the remit of chief inspectors of adult education extends to school and school-based sixth forms, and that ALI would have responsibility for all post-16 education and training in the non-school-based further education sector. That clear and simple distinction has the support of the majority of the community and makes common sense. I beg to move.

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3.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I am a little disappointed that the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and her colleagues have revisited questions that they raised in Committee and are arguing for the exclusion of Ofsted from the new post-16 inspection regime. I will describe again the reasons for the Government's policy and explain why I cannot accept the arguments.

The idea that there should only be one inspectorate under the Bill does not hold water. No one is suggesting that Ofsted should not inspect school sixth forms. Although amendments were tabled in Committee--but wisely not moved-- that ALI should inspect school sixth forms, I am glad that the noble Baroness has decided that that particular policy would not make sense.

If it is agreed that Ofsted should inspect school sixth forms, why should it not inspect sixth form colleges? The profile of qualifications taken by 16 to 18 year-olds in school sixth forms is virtually identical to that taken by 16 to 18 year-olds in sixth form colleges. The profile of courses taken by full-time 16 to 18 year-olds in general FE colleges is not dissimilar, although in FE there is a slightly higher percentage of students taking vocational options than in sixth forms. It is untrue to suggest, as the noble Baroness did, that the vast majority of 16 to 19 year-olds in FE colleges or the FE sector are doing work-based learning. Nearly half of all students taking A-levels and GNVQs are in the FE sector.

Those facts illustrate the logic behind our proposals. Ofsted has the expertise and experience to take a really good look at 16 to 18 provision outside work-based learning, across colleges and sixth forms. It has particular strengths in the assessment of teacher performance and student achievements--both of which are critical to successful inspection. I am not prepared to let the new post-16 inspection regime develop without a substantial input from Ofsted.

I assure the noble Baroness that fears that colleges will be subject to a double burden of inspection are without foundation. We are legislating for a single inspection of colleges, by a team of inspectors from both inspectorates looking at the whole picture. The balance of the team will reflect the nature of the provision. In sixth form colleges, the inspectors are likely to be mostly from Ofsted. Where adult provision dominates, ALI inspectors are likely to be in the majority. There will be a single report reflecting the collective judgments of all the inspectors. Once again, I dispute the noble Baroness's comment that there are two totally different cultures and that the methodology pursued by Ofsted would be completely inappropriate. We are working towards a common framework. The inspectorates are doing that now.

The noble Baroness suggested that of all the responses to our proposals, only the FEFC was in favour of joint inspection. I received letters last year from colleges expressing fears that there would be two inspectors in every class--one from ALI and the other from Ofsted--where there were students both above and below the age of 19. My ministerial colleagues and I, and my officials, have worked hard to dispel those myths, not least by setting out our inspection proposals

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in the Learning and Skills Council prospectus that we issued before Christmas. Since then, colleges have been substantially reassured by our proposals.

I should also like to address in more detail the suggestion that the Ofsted "culture" is inappropriate for the mix of learning that takes place in colleges. As I explained in Committee, we see the new regime under the common inspection framework as building on the best elements of the current systems. There is a strong case for incorporating Ofsted's observational approach into a model which also looks at self-evaluation by the provider. We want to draw from and build on both traditions and create a system of inspection which benefits from both approaches.

We certainly need to look carefully at the precise reasons for patchy performance in some parts of the post-16 world: a range of performance across all strands of education and training is far too great. Therefore, appraisal of teaching and student achievement is very important. At the same time, I do not think that anyone doubts the importance and value of self-evaluation--I do not--as one means of promoting continuous self-improvement. It is a way of involving staff in their own self- improvement. It will be a permanent feature for all providers in the LSC world. And we will want a means by which providers can judge whether they are evaluating themselves accurately.

This is an important issue on which I hope that I have now made the Government's position clear. There is great diversity in post-16 education and it is not easy to find a simple solution to inspection. I believe, however, that our proposals will help to bring about that permanent improvement in standards that we all want to see. The value of a common framework, the close co-operation between the two individual and independent inspectorates, and the synergy produced by drawing from the strengths of different traditions will, I hope, produce a new excellent and dynamic inspection system. The noble Baroness referred to the divide between the academic and vocational. That will not be a huge chasm which young people and adult students are unable to jump; the system will be brought together so that there will be no such divide. I therefore hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

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