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Lord Bach: My Lords, the first part of this amendment requires the Secretary of State to maintain the quality and quantity of existing information, advice and guidance services for young people. The second part is a rather different kettle of fish. It requires the Secretary of State to fulfil his existing statutory duties with respect to careers education and careers information, advice and guidance services. So it would have no legal effect whatsoever. That is why we are somewhat surprised that it should be included in an amendment. A statutory duty is a statutory duty. We do not need repeated in legislation that the Secretary of State must fulfil his statutory duties laid out elsewhere. We are happy to reiterate reassurances in this House as many times as we are asked, but I do not believe that noble Lords would think that their time was being put to good use if we started to repeat legislation along the lines that the Secretary of State must do what he must do! However, real concerns underlie the amendment; and I address them rather than the amendment itself.
First, I am happy to repeat the assurances that we have given at each stage of this Bill: that we are committed to ensuring that there will be no reduction in the provision of information, advice and guidance services for young people in the future. Indeed, the whole rationale for introducing the Connexions Service is that it will improve delivery of such provision through a long overdue, more integrated approach to supporting young people.
The Government are aware of noble Lords' concerns that the Connexions Service should be adequately resourced for its functions. We have repeated many times that this is our absolute intention; and that one of the objectives of phasing in the service is to ensure that there is both sufficient funding and sufficient trained personnel to deliver the high quality provision that we intend as a hallmark of the Connexions Service.
Further concerns have been expressed that existing resources, in particular Careers Service and Youth Service resources, will not stretch to the enhanced provision envisaged. We agree that if the Connexions Service were no more than an umbrella beneath which these services continued to operate as before, this might well be the case. But our intention is for a radically new, integrated, modern support service for young people--a transformation of the existing unsatisfactory situation where a whole range of discrete services deal with the same young person separately.
We believe that there are also savings to be made from the elimination of expensive duplication; for example, in assessing young people's needs and maintaining records. There are also opportunities to exploit new, more effective--including cost-effective--ways of disseminating information and advice; for example, ICT options such as Connexions Direct, which we shall be piloting in the north-east of England. Facilities such as these offer the prospect of freeing up personal adviser time to focus on the more highly skilled aspects of guidance in careers and related matters. All young people need such guidance at some point in their lives and we have set out on previous occasions how every young person will have access to a personal adviser's support as and when they need it.
We do not promise that careers information, advice and guidance will continue to be delivered as now--indeed, we hope that it will not. It is vital that the delivery of all services keeps up with progress, and in particular with progress in technological innovation. Young people will cease to see it as relevant if it does not. But we do intend to improve provision using innovative delivery techniques which we believe will be attractive to young people, widen their horizons, and raise their aspirations. We believe that this will be a real possibility through the new, integrated Connexions Service.
In moving the amendment, the noble Baroness asked about the £1 billion extra money announced for education in the successful Budget introduced a couple of days ago by my right honourable friend in another place. I am delighted to say that it seems to have been received warmly not just by the governing party but by the party opposite and no doubt by the Liberal Democrats. Until the spending review is completed in the summer, we do not know what proportion will be allocated to the Connexions programme.
My noble friend Lady David asked a series of questions. I hope that she will understand that I cannot give her, for example, information on the number of advisers; but I guarantee to write to her with those numbers, and the answers to her other questions; and I shall place a copy in the Library.
On transitional costs, we recognise that there will be additional costs as careers companies and their staff prepare for the new arrangements although we seek to ensure that those are minimised. A working group has been established on transitional issues to consider the implications for the Careers Service; and we are considering the provisions needed to meet those costs in the year 2000 spending review.
I hope that I have given the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, enough reassurance for her to accept that we mean what we say in setting up the new Connexions Service. We mean it to be an exciting new project that will look after all that is best in the Careers Service now, but also improve on it. In that spirit, I hope that the noble Baroness will withdraw the amendment.
Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. However, these are the same assurances we have received previously. We do not believe that the sums add up. The Minister can give us no assurance today that any of the money mentioned on Tuesday will be devoted to this service. We shall have to wait until July to be clear about the precise amount.
In addition, there is increasing evidence that there is at present some discrimination in the Careers Service against the more able pupils in favour of the more disadvantaged. I should like, therefore, to test the opinion of the House.
Resolved in the affirmative, and amendment agreed to accordingly.