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Lord Bach: My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, spoke to a similar amendment during Committee and indicated that she intended to return to the issue of careers education for young people. The proposal here is that the Secretary of State should be required to make careers education compulsory for specified groups of young people in schools and FE colleges up to their 20th birthday.

As was made clear during the debate in Committee, there is no question that careers education is important for young people, whether or not they are still in compulsory education. However, there is at present no mandatory subject for over 16s, other than, of course, religious education in school sixth forms, and we believe that it would be quite wrong to make formal careers education a requirement in this way.

Furthermore, in relation to the further education sector, we do not control the subjects offered by FE institutions and nor would we want to. Further education institutions should have as much autonomy in this and other respects as possible. The amendment would undermine that independence.

The provisions of the Employment and Training Act 1973, as amended, which gives the Secretary of State duties and powers in relation to careers services

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will, as I have already made clear, remain entirely intact. These provisions require careers services to be made available to, among others, precisely the groups with which this amendment is concerned: school pupils and FE students under the age of 20. Delivery of this provision will, as I have already made clear, be strengthened by the establishment of the Connexions service.

The amendment would also give the Secretary of State a specific power to secure careers education for primary school children. We believe that to be unnecessary because the existing Section 46 of the Education Act 1997 is already broad enough to allow this. The noble Baroness suggested that we have not learnt a lot of lessons from the previous administration. On the contrary, we have learnt a lot of lessons from the previous administration. It is a shame that they have not learnt some too.

We appreciate the concern which gives rise to this amendment but believe that efforts should be focused instead on ensuring that schools and colleges continue to develop their careers education programmes with the additional support of the new Connexions service. I am sorry that I cannot oblige the noble Baroness by agreeing to her amendment. Indeed, having heard my explanation, I would ask her to withdraw it.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his explanation. I am somewhat reassured by what he said. It is unfortunate that we cannot have a mandatory duty on the further education sector to provide careers education, but I understand the points that he has made. We may wish to return to this matter at Third Reading. For the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 147:


    After Clause 112, insert the following new clause--

GOVERNORS' LIABILITY

(" . The governors of an institution incorporated under section 15 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 or under section 112 of this Act shall not incur any personal liability in respect of anything done reasonably and in good faith in the exercise or purported exercise of their powers under section 18 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 as amended by this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I moved an identical amendment at Committee stage and I have nothing to add at this stage. However, I put down the amendment in the hope and expectation that the Minister will have something to add. I pointed out at Committee stage that there is widespread concern among college governors that they do not have the same protection from personal liability as do others; for instance, school governors. I pointed out that this concern was shared by the Neill committee, which had recommended to the Government as long ago as summer 1998 the need for legislation--"a pressing need for legislation" were the committee's words--to clarify the position.

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In his very positive response the Minister expressed much sympathy with the amendment, though he suggested that it was a little flawed. He was aware of the issue of liability and was aware that it was of concern to many governors in the FE sector. He said:


    "We are certainly prepared to reconsider this issue, how best we can give some reassurance to FE governors, and to come forward with our own proposals at a later stage".--[Official Report, 17/2/2000; col. 1413.]

We are nearly four weeks later; it is a later stage; I have put down the amendment simply to inquire from the Minister the product of his thought over the past three or four weeks and what the Government intend to do about this and when. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I rise simply to support absolutely everything that the noble Lord has said. This is a pressing issue. We are now so close to Third Reading that it would be helpful to have some information about progress on this point.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am astonished, quite astonished, that this amendment has been added to the Report stage. The noble Lord quoted exactly what I said--that we would come forward with our own proposals at a later stage. That is exactly what we will do. I did not say, "at a later stage in this House"; I said, "at a later stage". I am afraid that he will just have to be a little more patient.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, that is a fairly discourteous reply. It is a relatively simple issue. It is an issue that could be dealt with in this place. The noble Lord could have given exactly the same answer but in a more courteous tone. That was a very unfortunate tone of reply.

Lord Bach: My Lords, it was not meant in any way to be an unpleasant reply. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Tope, would not take it as that. He would know that by raising the amendment again he would get the short, quick and, I hope, fair response that he was given. On this issue he will almost certainly get what he wants. I just ask him to be a little more patient. I am just surprised that the amendment appeared on the Marshalled List at all.

Lord Tope: My Lords, perhaps it is my turn to say that I, too, am astonished. I moved the amendment in, I hope, a conciliatory spirit. I paid tribute to the Minister's recognition of the issue and intention to do something about it. I made clear that it was a probing amendment, to find out what progress the Government have made in their thinking over the past three or four weeks. I have clearly struck a raw note with the Minister. I am led to the conclusion that the Government have not thought about it at all over the past three or four weeks, that the noble Lord's briefing says nothing about it and that he has nothing to say about it.

I thought that it was an extremely unpleasant reply. I am not too worried about that. I have had far more unpleasant things than that said to me. That does not

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bother me in the least. But I am disappointed that after three or four weeks and at a later stage--I accept that the Minister was not specific about which later stage, but this is a later stage--the Minister has absolutely nothing to say and indeed gives me a reply which is far less sympathetic and understanding than the one he gave a month ago. I am inclined to press the amendment but I shall not do so. Is the Minister inviting me to press the amendment? I shall not do so, but I am surprised that the Minister feels quite as aggressive about this. I am very surprised and very disappointed. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment, but we may well continue to press him, given how vulnerable he clearly feels on the issue.

Lord Bach: At a later stage?

Lord Tope: At a later stage.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 113 [Assessments relating to learning difficulties]:

Baroness Darcy de Knayth moved Amendment No. 148:


    Page 51, line 11, after ("1996,") insert--


("( ) a person is identified by the school as someone who will qualify as a student with a learning difficulty or disability (or both) within the meaning of section 13(2), (3) and (4),").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment would ensure that all students with learning difficulties, and not only those with statements, are assessed in their last year at school. I shall be brief because it is the same amendment as the one I moved in Committee on 17th February. However, I shall bat on intrepidly. I said then that it was a probing amendment so I shall not rehearse the reasons why it is very important for some--I agree it will not be all--students without statements to be assessed if they are to flourish and not flounder when they move on to college or training.

In Committee, the Minister gave a useful explanation of how the existing Clause 113 will ensure that any education and training needs of statemented school-leavers are properly set out in all cases, but I did not feel that she had fully answered the point about non-statemented pupils. We agreed to pursue the matter later since it was 7.30, there were several more amendments to go and the sword of Damocles suspended over the Committee's head by the Chief Whip was timed to drop at 8 p.m. For all I know, it may be exactly the same situation again, but no one has told me.

The Minister wrote me a reassuring letter on 28th February so I have put down the amendment again in the hope that the Minister can give me that welcome reassurance on the record. I beg to move.


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