HC Deb 22 February 1983 vol 37 cc792-3
13. Mr. Dormand

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science if he will make a statement on the future remit for a national body for continuing education, following the termination of the present council's remit at the end of October.

The Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. William Shelton)

My right hon. Friend is reviewing the need for a Government—financed national body for adult and continuing education and hopes to make a statement in the spring.

Mr. Dormand

I welcome the proposals for the establishment of a national body for continuing education, the details of which, I understand, have been sent to the Department anyway. Does the Minister agree that the most important step that can be taken in this regard is to provide a statutory basis for adult education? When will the Government introduce legislation on that issue?

Mr. Shelton

We are considering the matter raised in the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question. It is unlikely that ACACE will continue in its present form. It has accepted that its continuation is not sensible. As to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, a statement on adult education reform will be made in due course.

Mr. Beith

Does the Minister agree that there is a self-evident need for a development, rather than a reduction, of adult and continuing education, bearing in mind changing technology? Does he agree that that requires a national body with development powers and resources of a kind that the existing structure does not have?

Mr. Shelton

I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government attach great importance to adult and continuing education. I pray in aid the PICKUP scheme, which is the subject of the next question.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend agree that adult education will never have the status and scope that it ought to have until it has a statutory basis? Will he reconsider what he said earlier?

Mr. Shelton

I have said only that no decision has yet been made. When it is made, it will be announced.

Mr. Whitehead

The Minister has said that he is reviewing the need for such a body. Has not the work of ACACE in the past five years proved the existence of that need beyond any peradventure? Does he agree that it would have been more appropriate today to have paid tribute to the work of that body in the past five years? Even the Minister's hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Greenway), now realises that we need a statutory basis for adult and continuing education. Why cannot the Government say that, in principle, they recognise that?

Mr. Shelton

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I am pleased to express the Government's thanks for the work that ACACE has done. It has worked hard and performed extraordinarily well. We are grateful to it. Nevertheless, it believes that the six years during which it has existed is probably enough to fulfil its present remit. We are considering the remit that it has recommended to US.