HL Deb 09 December 1991 vol 533 cc462-525

3.5 p.m.

The Paymaster-General (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee. —(Lord Belstead.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [The Further Education Funding Councils]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)

If Amendment No. 1 is agreed to I cannot call Amendment No. 2.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 1, line 11, leave out from beginning to ("for") in line 12 and insert: ("(a) an advisory body to be known as the Further Education Advisory Council").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 1 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 4, 16, 19, 21, 27, 33, 34, 37, 42, 49, 50, 56, 60, 76, 78. 102, 106, 109, 114, 121, 131, 167, 225 and 223.

Amendment No. 1 seeks to make the funding councils into advisory councils with responsibility for providing advice on further education but leaving the responsibility for running further education with local education authorities. The advisory councils would also be concerned with the provision of corporate status to further education institutions. That will provide the FE colleges with greater freedom while maintaining their links with local education authorities, which is so important.

There have been considerable changes in education for 16 to 19 year-olds in recent years. Most obviously, the Education Reform Act introduced requirements for the governance of colleges and the delegation of the management of further education colleges and schools. That affected the education of the whole of the post-16 sector, whether they were in schools, sixth form colleges, tertiary colleges or FE colleges.

In a relatively recent report produced by Her Majesty's Inspectorate on the impact of the Education Reform Act on further education, published in May 1990, the first of the conclusions reached was: LEAs have responded well to the requirements of the Education Reform Act to implement new arrangements for college governance and FE planning and delegation. In the main, colleges have good working relationships with their LEA". In other words, good progress is being made in achieving local financial management.

The Education Reform Act became law in 1988 and the requirement to delegate budgets to schools and further education colleges was only gradually introduced after that time. It is therefore unwise to make substantial changes in the funding and organisation of further education, especially before it has been given adequate time fully to introduce the proposals for local financial management. I have no doubt that with a little more time those changes will be completed and will be perceived as being a considerable success.

In the Second Reading debate I commented on the hostility and even anger and despair with which the proposals for funding councils to replace the role of local education authorities in the provision of further education were greeted by Conservative local authorities. Since then a survey of the responses to the White Paper Education and Training for the 21st Century was carried out among AMA member authorities and colleges. Almost 90 per cent. of the authorities and 50 per cent. of the colleges that responded felt that the White Paper which preceded the Bill underestimated the role that LEAs play in further education.

Perhaps I may give just two examples of the type of comment the authorities made. The London Borough of Barnet, a Conservative LEA, stated in its response: It is to be greatly regretted that a quite false impression is given in the White Paper of the contribution of LEAs in building up and supporting the further education system since 1944, often despite an apparent lack of interest from central government of all persuasions". The false impression given in the White Paper is now reflected in this Bill.

Perhaps I may give a second illustration of the comments made in replying to the survey. In its response, Southwark College, London, said: If the new institutions are to continue to be effective purveyors of the service to local people, they will need to recognise the role which the local authorities have in also serving local people and will need to work closely with the local authorities even after incorporation". Giving FE colleges corporate status, but with the LEAs continuing to have the duty to ensure the adequate provision of further education, advised nationally by an advisory council, would be a far better solution than setting up a new funding council. While the new Bill gives overall responsibility for ensuring the provision of education for the 16 to 19 year-olds to the funding councils, LEAs will still provide education for 16 to 19 year-olds in the sixth forms of schools. As many speakers pointed out at Second Reading, there is a danger that this split in provision will mean that education for 16 to 19 year-olds is not effectively provided, especially in the early life of the funding councils, when there is a serious danger that the provision for that age group will be disjointed and therefore inadequate.

As presently drafted, the Bill puts at risk the future of sixth form colleges, which will have difficulty in competing with FE colleges in the new funding sector. They are currently treated as schools and both their ethos and the kind of courses they provide make them much more like schools than FE colleges. Their unit costs are considerably higher than those of the colleges, which of course must put them at risk once they are in the new funding sector. Currently, LEAs can ensure that sixth form colleges are available to parents who want their children to benefit from the rather special environment that they offer. This amendment would help to secure their future, since LEAs would continue to be responsible for the whole of the provision for the 16 to 19 year-olds.

Education for adults is also at risk if the Bill is implemented in its present form. Under the Bill the funding council will take over responsibility for most of adult education, but LEAs will be left responsible for what are termed leisure courses. On a number of occasions we have said that that is an absurd split. It is likely to have a seriously damaging effect on adult education and especially on the so-called leisure courses, which often provide the elderly and women in particular with opportunities to participate in education that they would not otherwise have. As regards women, that would give them the confidence to move on to further and perhaps higher education.

The likelihood is that the choice in relation to these courses will be reduced and the cost to the student will be raised. This amendment would ensure that adult education remained the responsibility of local authorities with the new council simply providing advice at national level. It would not produce the situation which is created by the Bill whereby adult education institutes consisting mainly of part-time students will need to apply to a college with corporate status in order to receive funds from the funding councils for vocational and other courses which are listed in Schedule 2 to the Bill as the responsibility of the funding council.

Another important area that is at risk as a result of the proposals in the Bill is the youth service, the statutory basis of which would be considerably weakened by those proposals. Her Majesty's Inspectorate estimates that at any one time over 5 million young people are involved in youth service activities. Clearly that is a very important service, especially in our inner cities, and needs to be safeguarded by leaving that responsibility with the local authorities.

The future of the country's economy depends on the effective provision of education and training beyond the age of 16. As we have said on many occasions on this side of the Chamber, in comparison with other advanced developed countries, the UK has a low staying-on rate beyond the age of 16. While the UK has only just over 50 per cent. of 16 and 17 year-olds in full-time education, the USA, Japan and some European countries have over 80 per cent. of their 16 and 17 year-olds still participating.

Building on the current system of further education provision, in which the local authorities—which are democratically accountable bodies—take overall responsibility for further education, would seem to us to be far more sensible than setting up a new and totally untried system. Setting up a national advisory body would allow the opportunity to consider further education at a national level while leaving the actual provision of the service to locally elected and democratically accountable local authorities who know what is happening on the ground.

This amendment, together with the other consequential changes to the Bill that it implies, is aimed to allow the plan to give corporate status to major FE institutions to go forward and also at the same time to establish national councils as advisory bodies for the sector, but not to create a direct funding relationship between the national council and the new bodies corporate.

There would be a number of advantages in making a change of this nature. Allowing FE institutions to gain corporate status would give them the "freedom" that Ministers have promised and that the further education principals and governing bodies are reported to be keen to achieve. By leaving institutions funded according to existing formulae the necessary changes to corporate status—taking over premises, responsibility for the payment of staff and so on — could be carried out within a sensible and stable financial framework that is reasonably well understood by both colleges and the maintaining authority. New national advisory councils could provide valuable assistance in that process but they need not be precluded from beginning to develop national guidelines on appropriate funding levels much as the national advisory body for public sector higher education did in the 1980s.

The new national advisory bodies could also make a strong, positive contribution to raising the status and the quality of further education (both need this very badly) on a national basis while leaving the LEAs, in consultation with the TECs, to secure the detailed needs of their own localities in the light of their own detailed knowledge of local circumstances. The risks of lost provision and institutional failure threatened by the massive lurch in policy over a short period of time which the Bill, as drafted, implies would by this weans be avoided. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Baroness Seear

I very strongly support the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone. I shall not repeat many of the arguments which she has so ably put forward. In particular I wish to stress the great importance of keeping local authorities with a real control over what goes on in the local education authorities. We on these Benches very strongly supported the freedom of the polytechnics from the local education authorities. However, that is a different matter altogether. The polytechnics have a national coverage; they obtain their students from all over the country and also from other countries. The local further education colleges are altogether different. Some of the colleges do a very good job with overseas students, but by and large they deal with the local catchment area.

There are two points that need to be made very strongly. The local authorities have a much closer awareness of the needs of a particular area. Those needs vary very considerably. If one is concerned with education in an inner London borough, obviously the needs would be quite different from those of a rural area. It is only a local authority with that kind of knowledge which can tailor-make the courses and the provision and therefore get the best value for money—since that is the favourite phrase—and also give the best service to the community that it represents.

The other side of that is that the local authority is subject to continuous pressure from various groups expressing their needs in a particular area. It is only an authority with a relatively small catchment area such as a local authority that can be open to democratic pressures in this way. That is highly desirable when dealing with the provision of education forces.

I very strongly follow what the noble Baroness said in connection with the provision for adult education. We have talked about that before in this Chamber and no doubt we shall do so again. But, as your Lordships will be aware, there was great anxiety when it was suggested that leisure activities should be exclusively financed by fee paying and that such activities could not be funded by local authorities. The Government have now said—and it is welcome—that local authorities may make provision for what are called leisure activities. We dispute the distinction that is made here, but that is another argument. However, there is no requirement that they should and I repeat that those so-called leisure activities are very often the point from which people who have had no experience of further education take off. Having started with what looks to many people like an irrelevant subject they then discover what they can learn, what they are capable of learning, and then go on to study many other subjects. But it had never occurred to them before they took further education courses that they were capable of doing so, or indeed would wish to study. In many cases they never even knew that such courses existed.

Finally, I should like to mention the youth service. In these days when we are so profoundly anxious about the rate of offences committed by young people, when criminal statistics among young persons are rising all the time and when far too many young people are finding their way into the courts and prisons, organised youth service can make all the difference—even if it only has the effect of giving young people something to do. It may open new avenues of interest for some youngsters who might otherwise get into serious trouble simply by having nothing to do. A great deal of trouble arises because too many youngsters who are unemployed and who have inadequate education do not have anywhere to go after leaving school. They have not developed any interests so they take to the kind of life that leads to the difficulties of which we are all so aware. An organised, well-supported youth service can make a tremendous difference in individual lives and also in cutting down the rate of offences from which we are at present all suffering. I very much hope that the Government will accept these amendments.

Baroness Young

I hope very much that the Committee will not accept these amendments. I have listened very carefully to what the two noble Baronesses have said. However, it seems to me that this first amendment, and the consequential amendments which follow upon it, cut right at the heart of the Bill.

The proposal, as I understand it, is that in place of a funding council a further education advisory council would be established. The further education colleges and sixth form colleges would therefore remain within the control of local education authorities. The whole purpose of Part I of the Bill is that the further education and sixth form colleges should come out of local authority control and should be established and financed by a funding council. Therefore, to take that away is a wrecking amendment to this part of the Bill. The Committee should recognise that.

I shall now comment on one or two other points that were made. I was interested to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, repeat—and I entirely agree with her—that the track record in education is probably weakest for those aged 16 to 19. We should have done a lot better. I do not think that anybody can be at all satisfied with the number of 17 year-olds who leave school and have very little in the way of further education or training. That has been very largely the responsibility of local education authorities. We have to face the fact that the Government are quite properly trying to meet what is a recognised weakness of the system. There is no doubt whatever that having come out of local authority control the polytechnics have been strengthened and have attracted more pupils. My noble friend Lady Perry made that point very clearly in her speech at Second Reading. They are expanding and will make an enormous contribution in higher education. There is no reason whatever to suppose that the further education colleges, once they too have the freedom which they will have under the funding councils, will not do the same. That also applies to the sixth form colleges which are included in this legislation.

I hope very much that the Committee will reject the amendment. The most serious criticism—and I believe that it would be wrong for the Committee to agree to the amendment—is that the amendment would wreck Part I of the Bill. There are other arguments, but that is the most serious.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I, too, hope very much that the Committee will reject this amendment and the consequential amendments. Indeed, I find the suggestion of an advisory body at national level for further education—which is so much a local service —a strange and rather puzzling suggestion. The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, referred to the national body for local authority higher education which was set up in the early 1980s. That was an experiment which failed abysmally for very good reason; that is, that the advice that was given at national level by a small representative body of the local authorities could not possibly control the behaviour of around 100 local authorities and several individual institutions.

I believe very strongly in the power of local colleges to respond to local needs. I believe the right kinds of decisions about meeting the needs of a local area are best made by the college or institution which is at that local level. That college or institution is there when the students come pouring in during registration week asking for particular kinds of courses. It is there talking to local businesses and local industry about training needs and is able to devise courses which respond directly to them. Therefore, I hope very much that the Committee will accept the Bill as drafted, which gives the right of decision-making very properly to the local institutions themselves which relate directly to their own local communities. I find the proposal for a national advisory body rather bizarre.

In case anyone is left in any doubt, may I remind the Committee that at the time when the national advisory body for local authority higher education was dissolved it was funding many thousands of places which simply did not exist. It had continued to churn out its advice, followed by huge sums of public money for training which was impossible to provide because at the local level there was no demand. I am sure that no one would wish for a repeat of that story, magnified many times over by the many hundreds of further education colleges.

I also hope that the Committee will reject this amendment because of the tremendously warm welcome given to the legislation by the colleges themselves. My institution works with over 20 local further education colleges which provide access courses and foundation courses for our own degrees. I can tell the Committee that without exception all of them are looking forward with great anticipation to the day when they will be in control of their own affairs and will be able to respond quickly and easily to the demands which are made upon them without any central and external planning at local authority level. They are hoping very much that the Bill will go through and that they will be able to proceed from the planning which they have in place into the implementation stage.

Sadly, I find it rather depressing that we have amendments which suggest that the only way in which good relationships between a college and a local authority can be maintained is by giving the local authority some kind of funding control. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, actually used the word "control". Why do we have this urge to control the dynamic organisation which is a further education college responding dynamically to its own relationships? I believe that the relationship between a local authority and its college is important. It is one which any local college will wish to maintain and build upon. It is not dependent on a local education authority continuing to have funding control over the college.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I was tempted not to intervene in the debate because my noble friends Lady Young and Lady Perry have said most of what I wanted to say. However, I wish to bring one point to the Committee's attention. The noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Seear, said that they strongly supported the removal of the polytechnics from local authority control. Indeed, I read the maiden speech of my noble friend Lady Perry with much admiration. No one speaks on this subject with better authority than she.

My mind always goes back to the day I spent at the North East London Polytechnic, which was attended by many of my constituents when I represented Wanstead and Woodford. The principal, Gerry Fowler, used to be a colleague in another place. He was on the Labour side of the House. He was passionately looking forward to the change that would take his college out of the control of the local authority. He was in no doubt that this would set free all kinds of dynamic forces and would enable the college to respond so much better to the needs of the community in east and north-east London. I was able to say that the change was coming. Only a few weeks later I was a guest of the principal of Waltham Forest College, one of the colleges covered by Part I of the Bill. I was astonished by the principal's sense of dismay that the same was not happening to his college. He asked the question: "If it is right for polytechnics, why is ii not equally right for us?"

There is a division between the two sides of the Committee. As my noble friend Lady Perry said, Members of the Committee opposite see it in terms of control. They say that the Bill will shift control from local authorities to the Government. On this side of the Committee we see it essentially as the devolution of autonomy to powerful institutions which, well managed, well led and well motivated, are perfectly capable of running themselves. Of course further education is free at the point of use to the vast majority of its users, and of course it is paid for out of taxation. Around £2 billion a year is spent on further education. Therefore, the money has to come from the centre and it is perfectly reasonable that the further education funding councils should be appointed by the centre. What is really important, however, is that the governing bodies, whether incorporated or established by the other route, should be essentially autonomous. That is what the Bill is about. We are interested in the devolution of power. The unanimity of view that I recognised between the principal of the polytechnic and the principal of Waltham Forest College made an enormous impression upon me. They both wanted the same powers.

I was delighted when the Government decided to take this further step, as foreshadowed in the White Paper, and transfer the funding to a new body and give the colleges the autonomy which so many of them seek. I was struck by the difference in the figures quoted by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, between the number of local authorities which are apparently against Part I and the much lower number of colleges that she was able to quote as having misgivings. My information is that a large number of colleges warmly welcome this part of the Bill and look forward to the freedom, the autonomy and the opportunities that Part I will provide. I sincerely hope that the Committee will feel it right not to accept the amendment.

Lord McCarthy

I support the amendment largely because gives the Minister an opportunity to explain why the Government want the Bill. I heard the Minister at Second Reading and I have read the Government's White Papers but the explanation is coming from the Back Benches. This is the first explanation we have had of why the Government want this part of the Bill, which deals with further education colleges. The justification and the answers we have had so far are not convincing.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, there is no straight comparison with 500 or so further education institutions and a very small group of polytechnics. The polytechnics are reasonably arguing for university status and are reasonably arguing that they wish to dissolve the binary line. No one is suggesting that colleges of further education will become universities. They are special organisations. They are diverse organisations. It may well be that many of the larger organisations—not the majority as was suggested by the noble Baroness—would like to be on their own. Of course they would like to be on their own. We would all like to be on our own. Most of them think that when they are on their own they will receive a good deal more money. Most of them have found that over the past 10 years they have had far less money than they thought they were entitled to. They naturally believe that if they were on their own and had access to an independent autonomous quango they would get more money and more freedom to do the things that they think they should do. But that is not necessarily what is required in all circumstances for the advancement of further education.

I was most surprised to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Young, talking about the disadvantages of local authorities running further education institutions. I thought that she would agree with me. In her period of office on Oxford council, local authority involvement in the college of further education was path-making. I thought she would have considered that to be a model of what a further education authority should do and what a college should be. Therefore, there is no automatic and simple analogy between this and the rest of the polytechnics.

Secondly, there is no argument from the Government—at least the argument has not come today; and if it comes I hope it will come from the Minister—as there was when the Government introduced their legislation on primary schools and secondary schools that Left-wing progressivism has ruined education in the CFEs. One could not find an area of local government in which there is less ideological division than the running of colleges of further education. Conservative and Labour councillors sit side by side on governing bodies and committees. There is virtually no ideological division. No one has said that they have failed in their job. If the Minister says it today, it will be the first time he has done so. We have not had a catalogue of scandals about lowering standards. We have had nothing but this strange unsubstantiated analogy with polytechnics. Will the Minister address his mind to the following point? The real effect of what the Government are going to do to CFEs will be further to erode the representative base of British institutions. No one can say that anything like the same number of people who have an interest in further education will be involved in the planning and delivery of further education under the proposed system. It may be said that they will all be businessmen; but I do not believe that there will be even more businessmen. We shall have a tiny quango. All the members of that quango, most of whom will be businessmen, will be appointed by the Minister. Underneath that, we shall have consultative bodies and, so far as we can see from the schedule, all of them (the majority of whom will probably he businessmen) will be appointed by the Minister. But underneath that we shall have nothing, except many councils and governing bodies of institutions most of which in effect will either be self-perpetuating or will he appointed by the Minister. If he does not like them, he will sack them.

That is not a representative system. It is one more part of the British social fabric where democracy and representation are being destroyed. That is the case that the Government have to answer. Why do we have to destroy what remains of a representative system in this area as we have done in so many others?

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I should like to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, on two points. First, he seems to believe that there will be an erosion of the representative base. On any objective appreciation, surely that is nonsense. Under the proposed schemes, the further education colleges will play a central part in providing better and higher quality services and opportunities for young people. Indeed, the Government intend to ensure that colleges are free to respond to the demand by releasing them from local authority control.

The latter brings me to the second point made by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. He seemed to be criticising the Government's concept which removes that extent of local authority control. But the attitude of the Government could not have been more clearly supported by an article which appeared in the Independent on 5th November—not a newspaper which is ordinarily supportive of any particular party. I believe that it fairly answers the second point made by the noble Lord which is related to the first point. It reads: There is a tendency for local education authorities to reduce funds to the further education sector and put them into schools. But the provision of funds directly to a further education funding council will mean funds being ring-fenced". That appears to be supportive of the principle to which the noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Seear, seem to be opposed.

I have listened to the debate. Education is not my long and strong suit. Indeed, it is over 50 years since I went down from Cambridge. My main interest in the Bill is with extending the provision for children with special educational needs. However, I came to listen to the debate. I found the speech of my noble friend Lady Perry to be totally convincing on the issue. It appears that the Government are trying to meet a weakness in the system. In those circumstances, it does not seem to me to be at all appropriate to produce a series of amendments which cut at the heart of the Bill. I hope therefore the Committee will reject these amendments.

3.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

There are just a few technical points that I believe I should raise. I am rather appalled by one or two of the interventions from the other side of the Committee, especially that of the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is news to me that the whole purpose of the Bill, to use the words of the noble Baroness, is to set up the funding council. I ask the Minister to confirm whether that is right. I thought that the purpose of this part of the Bill was to improve education for 16 to 19 year-olds. In that case, it is a question of means; in other words, whether setting up the funding council is the best way to achieve that aim. In my judgment, that cannot possibly be the whole purpose of the Bill. Therefore, if our amendment were to be carried, I cannot see how it could possibly be regarded as a wrecking amendment. I should like the Minister at least to give us his judgment as to what this Bill is about. There is a genuine difference of view as to how education for 16 to 19 year-olds can be improved.

Further, perhaps I may point out as a matter of fact to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, that it is not the case that all the FE colleges support the Bill; at the very best half of them do and half of them do not. Even though it is possible that the principals of these colleges expect a change of government, I cannot believe that all the letters I received expressing the fact that they were not happy with the Bill were sent in an underhand fashion. I agree that there are some college principals who are in favour of the Bill. However, a considerable number of them are not. Again, there is a genuine difference of view. Members of the Committee should recognise that fact.

As regards the analogy with the polytechnics, that is preposterous on two grounds. The first, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, pointed out, is that the polytechnics are and were national institutions. I was a governor of the polytechnic to which the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, referred. The idea of that polytechnic as a local institution is, again, rather far fetched. It does not cater for local needs; indeed, its strength is its enormous international student body and it caters to national if not international needs. That is quite different from an FE college. That fact should also be recognised.

Lord Renton

Surely polytechnics vary a great deal. I agree that the ambit of those in London and in other large cities exceeds their immediate surroundings. But there are other places—for example smaller towns in this country—with their own polytechnics which are essentially localised.

Lord Peston

I beg to differ with the noble Lord, Lord Renton. There has been a great deal of research on the subject. It has been shown in respect of every polytechnic that its student body is not local but that it is in fact national. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that this is not a subject that one needs to discuss ad hoc; it is a subject that has been looked into, and the answer is known. Indeed, the Minister can obtain briefing on that aspect from his officials if he wishes to deal with it.

However, what concerns me is something which lies at the heart of the Bill. It was raised by my noble friend. I refer to the Government's attitude to local authorities. I return to the subject of polytechnics. It is all very well to say that we favoured them leaving the local authorities. I certainly did. I was a strong campaigner for that change. But, if I ask who got the polytechnics going and who was part of the polytechnics and provided the funding, the answer is not the CNAA or people like me who sat on the committees, much as we tried to reinforce it; it was the local authorities. Setting up the polytechnics was one of their greatest achievements.

Is it the Government's view that in some sense the local authorities have failed the further education colleges? That is a different matter from management with which we shall deal in due course in relation to other amendments. However, there is a notion being put forward that somehow the process has gone wrong because of local authorities. Again, I do not think that that argument stands up to the facts. As I said, I am rather surprised at some of the speeches which have been made by noble Lords on the other side of the Committee. Indeed, I was especially surprised by one matter which concerns this quango. I thought that the Government had been saying for 10 years that they did not like quangos, that it was the one thing to which they were totally opposed and that they proposed to get rid of them. However, it turns out that the only quangos they do not like are those set up by other people. Whatever the case against them, it would apply to this quango as much as to any other. I should like to see a certain amount of consistency occasionally from noble Lords on the opposite side of the Committee in their attitude to such matters.

Lord Beloff

I should not like it to be thought that when my noble friend Lord Jenkin said that there is a difference between the two sides of the Committee that this applies to all his Conservative colleagues, either on this side of the Chamber or in the country at large. There are many Conservatives, many of them in our impeccably Conservative East Sussex, who regard the transfer of the responsibility for further education as at best a case unproven. I am afraid that, for once, I must agree with my former colleague the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I have read the literature, I have heard the briefings but I have yet to find the arguments. Of course there may be arguments, and indeed powerful arguments; but they are certainly unknown to the members of my own county council. They are unknown to me and they appear to be rather generally unknown.

I did not put my name to the amendment because of a possible constitutional impropriety, but Ministers should seriously consider why, among their supporters in the country, especially their supporters in local government, there is scepticism about creating a new set of quangos to replace local authorities. I found the speech of my noble friend Lady Perry incomprehensible. It seemed to me that she was dealing with a Bill that was not before us.

The Bill does not give local colleges free rein to do their best for the communities in which they exist; it gives powers to central funding bodies, removed from them, ignorant of their needs, and remote geographically and as regards personnel. The parallel with polytechnics, as other Members of the Committee have pointed out, does not exist. One has to recognise two different branches of education. Higher education is one thing; further education and school education another.

In education debates Ministers frequently confuse further and higher education. But those of us who have the good fortune or, nowadays, the misfortune to be engaged in the educational process, know that they are two different things and should be looked at from a different point of view. I shall not urge the Committee to support the amendment, but I hope that Ministers will take on board the fact that they do not have the unanimous support of Conservatives in the country. Far from it!

Lord Desai

I support the amendment. I agree with my noble friend Lord Peston and the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. We are talking about the best means of encouraging 16 to 19 year-olds to stay on in education. Sixteen to 19 year-old education is the black hole of British education. If we get it wrong, we will further put back the progress made in the past four or five years by local authorities who have responded to needs.

About 15 years ago my local borough of Islington saw that there was a problem caused by declining rolls in secondary schools. The local community responded through various channels and put together a sixth form centre which was designed to increase the staying-on rates of 16 to 19 year-olds. Money was found from local resources, and that sixth form centre has been a great success.

Other Members of the Committee who have direct experience of further education can no doubt repeat that example. To say that local authorities cannot or do not respond to local needs is nonsense. If the Government do not like local authorities and are prejudiced against local democracy, they should say so. If we want local authorities to have more money, they should be given more money, but we should not pretend that introducing remote central control, run by a quango, will give local authorities more freedom or more money. I find those propositions astounding. My experience is that given the resources, local authorities can and do respond to local needs. If they are not allowed to do so, we may put further back the progress in 16 to 19 year-old education.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I intervene briefly to oppose the amendments as strongly as I can. I remind the Committee of what happened in 1982 when it was first suggested that the polytechnics should be taken out of local authority control. We were told—I am afraid that the Government were convinced—that that would be disastrous; that the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education would go on indefinite strike; and that the streets would be running with blood, and so on. In fact it has been an enormous success. Many polytechnic directors who admit to association with the Labour Party now agree that it was a good thing for the system and are extremely happy with it.

That leaves the amendment's proposers with a difficulty. One of the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, seems to be that further education and sixth form colleges should not be removed from local authority control because the service they provide is local, whereas polytechnic provision tends to be spread more nationally. Therefore, so the argument appears to run, it is not the same thing at all.

The amendment's supporters seem to have forgotten an important analogy, which is of the new opted-out schools and schools under the local management of schools. They give more local provision, even to further education sixth form colleges. All the evidence shows that those schools are happy with their new status. There would be many more of them if there were not the open threat from the Labour Party to remove their status were—I believe this to be extremely unlikely—the Labour Party to win the next election. All the evidence shows that the more schools and colleges that we can remove from local authority control, the better. I oppose the amendment.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

Perhaps I may make a correction. I may have misled the Committee. The quotation I gave from the Independent I find is not a free-standing quote. It is a quote from the Minister. I gave the Committee the wrong impression, and I apologise.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I had not expected to take part in this discussion. I do not feel that I can support the amendment, but I am provoked to intervene, largely by the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, when he portrayed the difference between the two sides of the Chamber as between those who were talking in terms of control and those who were talking in terms of devolution. Although as a bishop I sit on the Government side of the Chamber, I sometimes wish that these Benches were a little angled. I wish to comment, as it were, a little to one side of the debate, because the real issue does not seem to me to be control, on the one hand, or devolution, on the other.

If it were devolution, I should like to hear why so much power is being put into the hands of the Secretary of State. The issue surely is who has responsibility for seeing that there is an overall pattern and system of education which ensures adequate availability of provision for all. Where does that responsibility lie? Until we recognise and face that issue, we may be misled.

The second point I want to make is in support of the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I come from that part of the South East where the local authorities are unmistakably Conservative. I have no responsibility or mandate to speak for them, but I am in touch with them. I have to say that they are fully responsible and accept admirably the responsibility for institutions in their areas. It cannot be claimed that this issue is a party political issue simpliciter.

Lord Belstead

As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, Amendment No. 1 has many other amendments attached to it. I am grateful to her for agreeing to take this large group of amendments to start with. All the amendments with Amendment No. 1 have the same basic intention—to transform the further education funding councils for England and Wales, which the Government propose in Clause 1, into advisory bodies, leaving them with an exclusively advisory role.

If I may say so—the noble Lord, Lord Peston, will expect me to—I stand by my noble friend Lady Young in feeling that the amendment strikes at the heart of the Bill. I shall take the opportunity to remind the Committee of the purpose of the reforms embodied in the Bill. The Government announced in the White Paper Education and Training for the 21st Century that they intended to seek the approval of Parliament for the establishment of funding councils with responsibility for funding colleges. Our intention is to give colleges as much managerial freedom as possible and, through the new funding regime, to give the colleges a powerful financial incentive to expand participation. So, with respect to the noble Lord, apart from the fact that I do not think that it would be possible to proceed with the first dozen clauses of the Bill because they are all to do with the functions of the funding councils in Clause 1 if this amendment were to be accepted, on more general grounds there was a great deal in what my noble friend said.

It was interesting, however, that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, made the fair and good point that he had never heard anyone say—and if I said it I would be the first and I shall not do so—that the colleges had in some way let young people down and had not been doing a good job. I shall certainly not say that. However, I will aver that on this side of the House we know a little about trying to encourage the colleges always to continue to set their sights higher.

On Second Reading I quoted the statistics—which are quite telling—that for 1979 the participation rate of the relevant age group was 41 per cent. Today the participation rate is 60 per cent. of young people in full-time education in the colleges. I speak from memory but I believe that is right.

Perhaps I may say to the right reverend Prelate that the policy aim of this legislation, of which I shall try not to lose sight, is more and better quality further education for young people aged 16 to 18 and adults. In simple terms, I believe that means perceiving what students and their employers seek in further education colleges and then making absolutely certain that the right courses are provided.

The freedom to be responsible for tackling that challenge, which is enormously important for the future of our country, has been widely welcomed. We may disagree about the exact percentages, but my noble friend Lady Perry was absolutely right to say—and I stick by this affirmation—that there has been a wide welcome from principals of colleges, including sixth form colleges, for the fundamental aim and objective of the Bill.

4 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

I thank the noble Lord for saying that the colleges have not let young people down. The point I was making was slightly wider. The Government have never said that the local education authorities let young people down or that they mishandled and misgoverned the colleges of further education. Is he saying that now?

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to the noble Lord. He has put precisely the point to which I am coming. It has been suggested in the House that, despite the Government's affirmations and beliefs and the splendid Bill before us, we have been short on arguments in favour of the Bill—not the arguments put by my noble friends today, which have been excellent or those from the other side. But in general terms the arguments for the Bill have not been put forward.

I believe that on Second Reading the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said that the Opposition would support the incorporation of colleges. The difficulty is that incorporation of colleges would not bring about substantial change so long as the colleges have to look to local education authorities for their funding.

I assure the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, that I say this about local authorities with no ill will. The opposite is the case. So long as authorities retain control of colleges' funding, there will be at least 105 different funding methodologies around the country. In practice there will be many more, since some authorities have different funding methodologies. The opportunity to establish a common funding regime, with incentives to colleges to recruit extra students on a common basis, will be lost if we are not able to go forward with that aim and objective in the Bill.

Lord McCarthy

I wish to get it right. The single, sole, narrow argument of the Government is that they do not believe in a plurality of methodology and want a single methodology. That is the whole case.

Lord Belstead

The noble Lord does me less than justice. In the time available to me, I simply say that one limb of my argument is the funding methodology. I shall not run over that ground again. The other is a point that I mentioned a moment ago. Looking at other examples, I know that the noble Lord, Lord Peston, said cogently that we should not make a direct read across to the polytechnics. Nonetheless, I cannot forget the illustration given by my noble friend Lord Jenkin of Roding that there is a deep desire among the colleges to be able to show that, without having to refer back to another body, they can face the challenges which their colleges undoubtedly will face in the future.

Perhaps I may deal with one final point. As is normal when we take the first amendment of the Committees stage of a Bill, it is fair game for Members of the Fro at Benches on the other side of the House to seek to cast doubt upon the bona fides of the Bill. References were made to youth service and, from the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, to the representational nature of the Bill. Also, I attach considerable importance to the attack which the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, levelled at us on adult education. As she saw it, she felt the Bill would fall short on adult education.

It is true and can be shown to be true that the Bill should improve opportunities in further education, including those for adults. First, the funding council is given a statutory duty to secure adequate provision for a range of courses with basic skills right from entry to higher education. This will ensure that adults everywhere have opportunities for access to the courses they need to improve their skills and qualifications.

Secondly, local education authorities have a statutory duty in the Bill to secure adequate provision of all other kinds of further education. That includes courses to meet adult leisure interests and also courses that will stimulate their appetite for learning and encourage people to take up formal opportunities provided through the councils. That point was precisely made by the noble Baroness. I repeat that there is a duty on the local education authorities to provide leisure courses. They will continue to provide these: they have that duty under Clause 11(1) of the Bill.

Thirdly, alongside these statutory duties we are putting money where our mouth is. There will be funding to match. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science has clearly and consistently stated that central government support will continue to be available for all types of further education for adults. On 24th September he made it absolutely clear that for local education authorities there will be funding in the standard spending assessments. He also made it clear that the Government have carried out a survey to establish the pattern of local education authority spending. They will discuss local authorities' future needs further with the local authority associations.

Perhaps I may finish, after which the noble Baroness can attack me. It means that there can be no question of our further education reforms causing fees to rise. Anyone who says that fees will rise as a result of the Bill has not caught up with the statements that have been made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I believe that anyone who says that adult education specifically under this Bill will receive short shrift has not yet read it.

Baroness Seear

I was very interested indeed in what the Minister said. I am fully aware that during most of the time when great anxiety throughout the country was being voiced the noble Lord was courageously occupied elsewhere. But the fact is that in the White Paper it was made quite clear that leisure activities in adult colleges were to be funded exclusively from fees. It was only because there was a nationwide campaign that the Government were persuaded to make the change they then made.

The Minister has referred to Clause 11. I must say there has never been any argument about whether money would be available for courses leading to specific qualifications. However, that is not what the whole argument has been about. It has been about the funding of courses, including the so-called leisure courses. Clause 11 states that a local authority may fund this provision. It does not say that a local authority must do so. This has always been a difficulty with adult education. There has never been a statutory basis for the funding of adult education by local authorities. It has always had to be dealt with in this way. The Bill, having moved from the position of stating that local authorities will not make this provision, now states that they may do so. The proposed new subsection (2) of Clause 11 states that a local authority may make certain provisions. The Bill does not state that a local authority must do so. There is no statutory obligation here.

Lord Belstead

I hope the noble Baroness will forgive me for saying that we must not insist upon this matter. The noble Baroness is never tedious and I acknowledge that she is discussing an important point, but if I continued for much longer I fear I would become tedious. However, I shall reply to the point made by her. The proposed new subsection (1) of Clause 11 refers to the duty of a local education authority and uses the word "shall". The proposed new subsection (2) refers to a power of a local education authority. The proposed new subsection (1) states: It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure the provision for their area of adequate facilities for further education". The proposed new subsection (3) of Clause 11 refers to further education. Paragraph (b) of that proposed new subsection states that further education means, organised leisure-time occupation provided in connection with the provision of such education". I hope the noble Baroness will agree to defer further discussion on this matter until we reach the relevant part of the Bill. I affirm that I am not misleading her.

Baroness Seear

I am quite prepared to defer discussion until we reach that part of the Bill but, if I may say so, the Minister himself brought the matter up. This point lies at the heart of the whole nationwide campaign on adult education. If the Minister is saying there is now a statutory obligation to provide adult education, including leisure activities, I feel I can almost—I stress the word "almost"—pass through the Lobby on the government side.

Lord Belstead

Before we leave this matter, I must emphasise that we are talking about adult education which does not fall within Schedule 2 of the Bill—the noble Baroness is aware of that—because that is the area that local education authorities are not responsible for. However, if we are talking about that part of adult education where a local education authority has a locus, that constitutes a duty.

I finish by returning to where I began. The effect of this amendment would be to turn the funding council that is proposed in Clause 1 of the Bill into an advisory body. My noble friend Lady Young asserted that this matter struck at the heart of the Bill. I believe that is the case. I do not believe it would be possible to deal with the other clauses in the Bill which concern functions of the funding council—certainly not with the first 10 or 11 clauses of the Bill—if this amendment were to be accepted.

However, there is a far broader reason why I oppose the amendment. We on this side of the Committee believe in having colleges which are free to meet the challenges of the future funded by their own funding council. It is that principle that this amendment would attack.

4.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I am extremely disappointed in the Minister's reply. We do not regard this as a wrecking amendment but as an amendment that seeks to adjust the role of the proposed councils and turn them into advisory councils rather than funding councils. The Minister has just made the point that it would not be possible to deal with the early clauses in the Bill if our amendment were to be accepted. I agree that that is the case.

However, I was glad that the Minister did not repeat what some of his noble friends have been claiming, which is that the analogy with the polytechnics is appropriate. That analogy is altogether spurious and it is time it is dropped.

I wish to reply to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, when he attacked something I had said. The noble Lord made another analogy with schools that had opted out. He plays right into our hands in using that analogy. It is precisely because the opportunity for schools to opt out so destroys any sensible planning of secondary education by local authorities that we are completely opposed to it. Consequently we do not like this Bill as it will make strategic planning of the education of 16 to 19 year-olds particularly difficult, split as it will be between local education authorities and the funding councils. I am not surprised that some opted out schools like that system. They have of course been bribed to opt out by the extremely generous capital provisions that have been provided by the Government for opted out schools compared with the provision available for local authority schools.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The point which the noble Baroness made forcefully on Second Reading was that it was not appropriate to make this analogy because the local quality of education offered by further education and sixth form colleges was far better than that offered by polytechnics. However, now we have local management of schools in our opted out schools. All of the opted out schools are delighted with their new system as they can offer far more local provision. I wanted to get rid of that argument against the opted out schools which has been advanced to further these amendments.

Baroness Blackstone

I believe the noble Lord has misunderstood what I am saying. Opted out schools are of course local but they are no more local than maintained schools. The point I am making is that the possibility of opting out makes it difficult for local education authorities to adopt a sensible and coherent planning system for secondary education.

Let us return to the main points of the amendments. I fear we have still not heard from the Minister the educational reasons for removing local education authorities from their longstanding role of overseeing the work of colleges. We have not been given those reasons. We have been told it is the intention of the Government to give the colleges as much managerial freedom as possible. Here I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said earlier. If the colleges, or any other body, think they will suddenly be set free and will be allowed to have complete control over how much money they spend and how they spend it under a centrally run quango, a funding council, they have another think coming to them. It will not work like that.

The Minister suggested that many colleges would like the proposed change. We on this side of the Committee have always accepted there are some colleges that want the change. Colleges are split about 50:50 on the issue. Does not the Minister agree that it is better to rely on properly conducted surveys than on hearsay when making claims of this kind?

The Minister also said that there are 105 different funding methodologies and that it is better to have a single method run by a funding council. I believe there are 116 different funding methodologies, but that is the direct result of the Government's own policy on the local management of colleges. The Government cannot have it both ways. They cannot on the one hand say they want to have greater responsiveness to local needs and to allow colleges to develop in conjunction with LEAs' funding methodologies that meet the particular requirements of a particular area and at the same time say they will take all that away and have a single funding methodology run by a funding council. Those different funding methodologies are the result of the Education Reform Act. They have all been agreed by the Department of Education and Science and the Welsh Office and they reflect local needs.

Because no coherent educational reason has been given for those disruptive and unnecessary changes to the framework within which young people aged 16 to 19, and many adults, are educated, I am afraid that I must divide the Committee.

4.20 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 89; Not-Contents, 145.

Division No. 1
Addington, L. Galpern, L.
Aylestone, L. Gladwyn, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Graham of Edmonton, L.
Birk, B. Hampton, L.
Blackstone, B. Hamwee, B.
Blease, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Hollis of Heigham, B.
Bottomley, L. Holme of Cheltenham, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Hughes, L.
Cobbold, L. Hunt, L.
David, B. Irvine of Lairg, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Jay, L.
Desai, L. [Teller.] Jeger, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Donoughue, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. John-Mackie, L.
Ennals, L. Judd, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Rennet, L.
Ezra, L. Kilbracken, L.
Falkender, B. Kirkwood, L.
Falkland, V. Leatherland, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Listowel, E.
Fitt, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Foot, L. Longford, E.
Gallacher, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
McCarthy, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L. Serota, B.
Mallalieu, B. Shepherd, L.
Masham of Ilton, B. Stallard, L.
Mason of Barnsley, L. Stedman, B.
Mayhew, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Milner of Leeds, L. Strabolgi, L.
Molloy, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L. Tordoff, L.
Morris of Kenwood, L. Turner of Camden, B.
Ogmore, L. Underhill, L.
Peston, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Pitt of Hampstead, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Prys-Davies, L. White, B.
Redesdale, L. Wigoder, L.
Richard, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Russell, E. Willis, L.
Sainsbury, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Seear, B. [Teller.] Winstanley, L.
Aldington, L. Granville, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gray of Contin, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Gridley, L.
Ampthill, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Annan, L.
Astor, V. Harmsworth, L.
Auckland, L. Henley, L.
Bauer, L. Hesketh, L. [Teller.]
Belhaven and Stenton, L. HolmPatrick L.
Belstead, L. Hood, V.
Bessborough, E. Hooper, B.
Birdwood, L. Howe, E.
Blatch, B. Hylton-Foster, B.
Blyth, L. Jeffreys, L.
Boardman, L. Jellicoe, E.
Borthwick, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Killearn, L.
Bridgeman, V. Kinloss, Ly.
Brigstocke, B. Knollys, V.
Brookeborough, V. Long, V.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Lyell, L.
Butterworth, L. McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Caithness, E. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Campbell of Croy, L. Malmesbury, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Mancroft, L.
Carnock, L. Manton, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Merrivale, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Mersey, V.
Cockfield, L. Milverton, L.
Colnbrook, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L.
Constantine of Stanmore, L. Morris, L.
Cottesloe, L. Mountevans, L.
Craigavon, V. Mountgarret, V.
Craigmyle, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Crickhowell, L. Munster, E.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Cumberlege, B. Nelson, E.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Norfolk, D.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
De Freyne, L. Orkney, E.
Denham, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Oxfuird, V.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Eden of Winton, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Elibank, L. Penrhyn, L.
Ellenborough, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Elles, B. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Platt of Writtle, B.
Erroll of Hale, L. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Ferrers, E. Pym, L.
Flather, B. Quinton, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Radnor, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Reay, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Grantchester, L. Renton, L.
Renwick, L. Teviot, L.
St. Davids, V. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Trefgarne, L.
Simon of Glaisdale, L. Trumpington, B.
Skelmersdale, L. Ullswater, V.
Slim, V. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L. Vivian, L.
Stockton, E. Waddington, L.
Strange, B. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Strathclyde, L. Westbury, L.
Strathspey, L. Wise, L.
Sudeley, L. Wolfson, L.
Swansea, L. Wyatt of Weeford, L.
Swinfen, L. Wynford, L.
Terrington, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.28 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 1, line 11, after ("corporate") insert ("with the regional structure specified in Schedule 1 below").

The noble Baroness said: In moving Amendment No. 21 shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 231,232, 234, 236, 237, 238 and 240. Amendment No. 2 aims to create a regional structure for the funding council based on groups of local education authorities. It is interesting that there is no mention of a regional structure in Clause 1. Amendments Nos. 231, 232 and 234 are intended to provide that the council rather than the Secretary of State should have the power to determine who will be members of its committees. Otherwise the council will never be properly in control of its own activities.

Amendment No. 236 ensures that the LEAs have an input to planning the further education provision for their areas and seeks to draw upon their long experience of carrying out that regional function through the regional advisory councils. As some Members of the Committee may not be familiar with the present regional advisory councils and their history, I should like to say a word about them and how easily they could be made to fit in with the new structure.

The 10 regional advisory councils for England and Wales were established by ministerial circular as long ago as 1947. The circular stated the following reasons for the establishment of RACs: It has now become an accepted principle that the organisation of further education must be on a regional basis if all the needs of industrial and commercial personnel are to be covered adequately. It is generally recognised that, on grounds of economy alone, it would be improper for each Authority to attempt to provide for all the needs of students living in their area … But economy is only one factor in regional organisation, there are many other positive functions which a regional body can usefully perform. These include such matters as the maintenance of contact with industry; the planning of new developments and expansion, as necessary, of existing facilities; the review of courses and curricula; advice on relevant financial arrangements; arranging for the most effective use of staff and other matters, all of which are essential to the full development of further education". Much of that is still relevant today. RACs can demonstrate considerable success in fulfilling their original remit, despite inevitable difficulties along the way, and in building upon that remit to provide a much wider range of services.

However, a great deal of the work of RACs is not widely known because, unlike schools and colleges, they do not provide a service directly to the public. Furthermore, because their primary remit has been with further education, those involved in other branches of the education service are not always familiar with their role. That role has diversified significantly over the years and now includes staff development for school teachers, further education college lecturers, youth workers and so on; curriculum development; vocational assessment and accreditation; information and resource banks and acting as disseminators of good practice within their regions; and liaison with central government and a wide range of other national bodies involved in or linked with the education service. The regional advisory councils are not statutory bodies and are partially funded by a subvention from their member authorities. Sources of income other than LEA subvention are examination fees and the direct, full-cost provision of staff and curriculum development services. Additional funding for specific grant projects or support services comes from a variety of agencies.

I propose this series of amendments to establish a firmer basis for regional committees of the funding councils than is achieved by the Bill. The regional committees should reflect standard regions that follow local authority boundaries, and those authorities should have representation on the committees. The committees themselves should be appointed by the councils rather than by the Secretary of State. If a national council exists, it should have real powers over its own affairs which should include being in control of its substructure.

The Bill includes a worrying extension of the Secretary of State's powers. The appointment of such a large number of individual members by a single Minister is an unwarranted extension of patronage. Local authorities should be given automatic representation on the regional committees because of their experience and expertise developed over many years in delivering the further education service in the areas to which the various regional committees will relate.

I hope that the amendment will find favour with the Committee. It does not appear to go against anything in the Bill. It merely strengthens the position of the regional committees. The example of the regional advisory councils is very helpful. It is extremely important that local expertise should not be wasted. I hope that the Minister will at least pay tribute to what the local education authorities have done. It is important that they should be represented on the regional committees. I should have thought that the proposal would have the Committee's support. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

Perhaps the noble Baroness will clarify one point. She lives in East Anglia, as I do, but her regions do not include East Anglia or an Anglian region. There is London, the South East and the East Midlands. I do not believe that there is any kind of government organisation, quasi-government organisation or local authority organisation which fails to recognise East Anglia as a region on its own.

Lord Addington

I have put my name to this series of amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Renton, may have picked up a small defect, but the main thrust of the amendments is correct. Ultimately, further education must be responsive to local needs as it is often vocational education. Thus, as the LEAs have done a good job for a long time, they should surely have an input. Furthermore, any regional body should to a large extent be independent so that it can meet those needs by acting on its own judgment. I support the series of amendments. If the Government look upon them with favour, as I hope they will, I should not object to a small drafting correction to include East Anglia, the region from which I too come.

Lord Belstead

There are two dimensions to the amendments that we are considering. The first is the removal of the provision in the Bill that the Secretary of State should determine the regions on which the regional committees of the Further Education Funding Council for England would be based. There is also the issue of the naming of seven specific regions covered in Amendment No. 237.

The amendments contain inflexibility of a kind that we are seeking to avoid. The distribution of students across England and the variety of factors that determine how regional boundaries are drawn up are bound to change as the years go by. It was interesting to hear the noble Baroness, Lady David, remind us that then; are 10 regional advisory councils: yet Amendment No. 237 proposes seven regional areas. My noble friend Lord Renton reminded the Committee that the East Anglian region—the home of the noble Baroness, my noble friend and myself—is not mentioned in the amendments. There is a problem, certainly with Amendment No. 237 which determines the regions ahead of what may happen to movements in the student population. The Government wish to leave open the option to alter the size and number of regions to suit the future needs of the sector. I realise that, in proposing the amendments, the noble Baroness is attempting to ensure that each region of the country is adequately represented, but there is a problem as regards the amendment stipulating the regions.

It would also be a mistake to set in concrete, by agreeing to the amendments, how the regional committees are composed when what is needed is a process of careful consideration, taking account of all the relevant factors and in particular the views of the funding council itself. By providing for the Secretary of State to determine the regions, we shall ensure that the council's wishes are respected and that the wider interests of the government of the day are taken into account.

There is a second dimension to the amendments; namely, the membership of the regional committees. The intention is that the committees should include members with an educational background and that there should be a strong industrial, commercial and professional involvement. The intention is also that members should be appointed in a personal capacity rather than on a representative basis.

I know that in previous years members of local authorities have worked very hard on the regional structure. However, we believe that the Secretary of State should be responsible for ensuring that the intentions to which I have referred are carried out and that he should therefore be responsible for appointments both to the council and to the regional committees. In carrying out that responsibility he will ensure that the wishes of the funding council are respected.

I admit that there is not a huge difference between the noble Baroness and the Government on this amendment. However, that difference is significant. First, the amendments pre-empt future decisions which might need to be taken with regard to movement of the student population. Secondly—a point that will be raised frequently on the Bill—on this side of the Chamber we believe that the committees about which we speak should not be appointed on a representative basis even though (as I repeat again) I recognise the good work that has been done in the past by representatives of local authorities with regard to the structure.

Baroness Blackstone

I shall not respond to everything that the Minister said. I leave that to my noble friend Lady David. However, I refer to an omission. Amendment No. 240, which stands in my name, suggests that every regional committee should prepare a scheme and submit it for the approval of the further education funding council. In other words, it seeks to put on the face of the Bill some provision about how the regional councils should work. A number of us were anxious about the vagueness of the operation of those councils.

That amendment also suggests that regional committees should set out the principles and procedures to be applied. Those regional committees should also consult the governing body of every institution in the area included in the plan and every local education authority in the region. I am sure that the Minister will have no difficulty in agreeing that we ought at least to be consulting the governing bodies of colleges about any such plan. In his response to the earlier group of amendments he made it clear that he wished to free the colleges in order to give them greater control over their operations. In those circumstances I am sure that he would wish the regional committees to consult those governing bodies. However, he said nothing about Amendment No. 240. Perhaps he will give the Committee his views on it.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

Before the noble Baroness replies, perhaps I may, out of interest, put this question. The regions to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton, referred are listed in Amendment No. 237. They consist of London, South East, South West, East Midlands, West Midlands, North West and North East. Were there ever to be a Labour Government, would those be the areas for the regional assemblies that would be set up throughout England?

4.45 p.m.

Baroness David

I thank the Minister for his response. He understands what we seek to achieve. I am still not happy about the strength of the regional committees.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, asked about East Anglia. I must admit that I am not entirely happy about the list of regions. The list containing the 10 regions that the regional advisory councils represent may be a better list. Perhaps I may respond to the noble Baroness. Those areas are nothing to do with Labour Party policy on the regions.

I shall withdraw the amendment, but I may well divide the Committee on Amendment No. 234, which states that the Secretary of State will appoint those members but, in consultation with local education authorities". It does not ask for representatives, as the Minister said. At the very least, the Secretary of State should be willing to have consultations. However, I shall consider again the series of amendments and probably return to the matter at Report stage. I reserve my right to divide the Committee on Amendment No. 234. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Lord Belstead

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment, I believe that I owe the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, a reply on Amendment No. 240. The noble Baroness will forgive me if I say that I am not desperately attracted to that amendment. It provides for a planning mechanism which takes away from the colleges the incentive to improve the quality and relevance of their services. The planning regime that the noble Baroness puts forward in the amendment would be little different from the present system in which local authorities have strategic plans which cover colleges in their area. Sometimes those strategic plans may be very good indeed. However, they have this one drawback which I have tried to bring out previously. It is less easy for the colleges to change step, if need be, in order to respond to what students and employers want. The noble Baroness asked for my view. For what it is worth, that is my view of Amendment No. 240.

Baroness Blackstone

In putting forward the amendment there is no intention to prevent a college from responding in a flexible way to changing local needs and, indeed, to changes in the population of its area, or any other such change. It will be necessary to have some sensible strategic plan if only to avoid duplication between colleges. There are many expensive resources tied up in further education colleges. It would be madness to have them duplicating each other, in particular in such areas as engineering which is a very expensive subject to teach.

The amendment seeks to ensure that we have a sensibly constructed and well-spread distribution of courses in any one region.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 12, after ("exercise") insert ("in consultation with and with advice from local education authorities").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 3, which stands in the name of my noble friend Lady Blackstone and the noble Lord, Lord Addington, I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 18, 35, 46 and 57.

In commenting on the previous amendment, the Minister stated that several points will arise continuously on every amendment that is before us. I shall try hard not to eat this meal several times during the course of the evening, but it is difficult not to reiterate some of the points in order to make sense of the amendments. I shall seek to be as brief as I can.

At Second Reading I raised a matter that puzzled me. I received no explanation then and I still seek it. The Bill accepts the need for a funding council to acquire local knowledge in one way or another. It needs to know what is going on at the local level. One of the arguments put forward on the first amendment we debated was that the Government's policy would lead to FE colleges in particular having more freedom locally.

I asked a question at Second Reading which I ask again today. The one body whose business it is to have local knowledge is the local authority. Is it not paradoxical that we should take powers away from local authorities and then insist—as we insist in the Bill—that the funding councils have to set up regional committees? The whole provision makes no sense unless it is predicated on the notion that one wishes to get rid of local authorities per se, which the Government repeatedly deny. My first query is to ask why we are moving away from local authorities in this area. Why have they been given no explicit role with respect to the regional committees? That is the problem I address.

When speaking to Amendment No. 1 I heard the Minister say that some of us were doubting the bona fides of the Government on this matter. Not for one moment do I doubt the bona fides of the Government; I believe that they would like to get it right. My point is that I believe that they have got it wrong. I am not querying their bona fides; I am saying that their methods are wrong. It had never occurred to me that the Government would suddenly decide that they did not wish to improve education for 16 to 19 year-olds. No issue of bona fides arises for me and my noble friend Lady Blackstone and I doubt that it arises for the Liberal Front Bench. We are discussing more substantive disagreements. I do not seek to denigrate the Government; I simply believe that they are wrong.

The Minister referred to the intention. I do not have to remind him of the rules because he has been a Member of this Chamber longer than I have. Until I came here I did not know that intention does not count. Nor does what is said in this Chamber. What counts is what is written on the face of a Bill. I do not deny that the present Secretary of State has some intentions. However, he cannot argue that we should not press our amendments simply because he has certain intentions. That is not a rule of the game. The rules are that if he has certain intentions he should put them on the face of the Bill and not ask us to do so. I am the first Member of the Committee to say so during our debate but I am sure that during the next four days others will make similar points about other amendments.

I am not an uncritical admirer of local authorities. The argument does not reflect a doctrinaire view that everything that local authorities do is good and that they should never be subject to criticism or change. I argue particularly in respect of this Bill that even when I am criticising local authorities I am aware that they consist of locally-elected people. Speaking in this Chamber and putting the matter at its lowest I am chary about taking powers away from elected people in order to give them to people nominated by the Secretary of State; that is to quangos. Given the proliferation of regional committees we shall have many quangos.

That is the background to this series of amendments. In my judgment the local authorities have done quite a good job. I do not say that they are perfect and that they could not have done better. They have helped to move further education forward and have tried to take account of local needs. They were given a heightened strategic role by the Education Reform Act 1988. I believe also that 25 per cent. of work-related further education is funded through the local authorities by the Department of Employment. That is net a matter that we should ignore.

I am leaving aside the question of whether people should be representatives. If there is to be any kind of local coherence, which I am convinced is important, and if there is to be a modicum or a sprinkling of democracy in the way in which the system will work from now on, the minimum requirement—I should do more—is I hat there should be written into the Bill a requirement for widespread consultation and specifically a requirement for local education authorities to be consulted.

I have been as brief as possible. Many detailed points could be made. Some have been made already and others will be made later in the debate. The main point is that we have bodies which are local by definition and which have an important role to play. It should be written on to the face of the Bill that they should be consulted. I beg to move.

Lord Addington

The Government should pay serious attention to these amendments. They ask merely that the local authority should be consulted. It is almost absurd to think that they will not be consulted. But, as the noble Lord said, the requirement should be written on to the face of the Bill. The local authorities have done a reasonably good job in most cases. They will remain responsible for certain sixth forms. There should be consultation if not direct co-operation between sixth form colleges and colleges of further and higher education offering A-levels. It is virtually impossible to see how the system can be run otherwise. There must be a spread of subjects because no institution can offer the full range. Therefore, there must be consultation. I suggest that the Government should consider the amendments long and hard. If they are not prepared to accept them I hope that they will be prepared to produce provisions covering the points that have been raised.

Lord Belstead

The scope of the amendments is wide. They would oblige the funding councils at every turn to enter into consultations with local education authorities. In drafting the Bill we did not set up a new college sector with independence from local authority control and with direct funding from the new funding councils only then to tie the hands of the funding councils by requiring them to consult local education authorities before exercising any of their functions. That is the proposal contained in the amendment. Our intention is to give the colleges managerial freedom and the funding councils as much freedom as possible within the framework of guidance which the Secretaries of State will give them.

That is not to say that local education authorities will lack any opportunity to make their views known. In practice I envisage that the regional committees will liaise closely both with local education authorities and with the training and enterprise councils about educational provision and the needs of students and employers in their regions. In terms of the number of local authorities and their multiplicity of funding methodologies, the reason why we do not favour direct consultation with the local education authorities, which would be the effect of this amendment, is self evident.

The noble Lords, Lord Peston and Lord Addington, asked why we are moving away from local authorities and not giving them a role on the face of the Bill. The short answer is that under the Bill they do not have a role for providing further education of the kind that will be funded by the new funding councils. They will continue to have an important role but not in Schedule 2 course funding. Hence they will not have a place as of right on the regional committees. There may well be individuals with a great deal of local knowledge who work in local authorities as elected members and whom the Secretary of State will wish to appoint to the regional committees in a personal capacity. However, there will also be other people with relevant experience and knowledge.

I resist the amendment because its scope is wide. I hope that I have not given the impression that there will be any lack of opportunity for sensible co-operation between local education authorities, regional committees -and the training and enterprise councils. I hope that there will be co-operation but accepting the amendment would be a quantum leap beyond that.

5 p.m.

Lord Renton

Before my noble friend sits down, I wonder whether he has noticed that there is a real difficulty with this group of amendments which he has not mentioned. Amendment No. 35 purports to amend Clause 2(3) (a). Amendment No. 35 goes far beyond consultation and advice and, indeed, it would fetter the discretion and decision-making power of the funding councils.

If amended that subsection would read: A council shall discharge that duty so as to secure that the facilities are provided at such places, are of such character and are so equipped as to be in the opinion of local education authorities sufficient to meet the reasonable needs of all persons to whom the duty extends". The funding council would not be free to exercise its judgment on this matter. It would be bound by the opinion of the local authorities. I should have thought that that is inconsistent with the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Peston. Indeed, in practice it would make it virtually impossible for the funding council to get through its work.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to my noble friend because he has put his finger on an extremely important point; namely, that the effect of the amendment would be to split the responsibility for the fundamental job of securing that the facilities for further education are provided in the way set out in the subsection. In the preparation of the Bill we have tried to ensure that where a funding council is responsible, that responsibility is not split with a local education authority. Conversely, where the local education authorities remain responsible—the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and I had an exchange in that respect, but there is that responsibility on the part of the local education authorities—the responsibility also should not be split.

Lord Peston

The Minister's reply has left me slightly mystified and perhaps I can persuade him to enlighten me further. I did not understand these amendments to be extremely wide but, rather, to be extremely narrow. They offer the minimal constraint of which I could conceive. Essentially, there is a constraint that there should be consultation with the one body which knows something about what goes on locally. That body should be allowed to offer its opinion as regards the Tightness of what is being done.

This is an extremely important matter. Does not the Minister like the amendments as tabled, or is he trying to say—and I think he is—that no amendment could be drafted to guarantee consultation which will still leave appropriate managerial responsibility where it should be? How strong is the Minister's rejection not only of this group of amendments but any class of amendments which one could imagine?

Lord Belstead

The answer to that lies in the intervention made by my noble friend Lord Renton. One runs the risk of splitting the responsibility, and that would be undesirable.

Lord Renton

In order to help the noble Lord, Lord Peston, I remind him that my noble friend Lord Belstead said that local authorities should be free to make their own submissions. Indeed, nobody could prevent them doing so.

Lord Peston

So is the noble Lord and so am I. That does not mean that anybody will take any notice of us although I am certain that the noble Lord, Lord Renton, would be taken notice of.

Lord Skelmersdale

I do not believe that the noble Lord can get away with that comment. The noble Lord and his colleagues have suggested, as regards other legislation, that even the Secretary of State, in the consultation exercise, can take no notice.

Lord Peston

Nevertheless, I believe that the Secretary of State should have an obligation at least to call in the representations. I am rather dismayed about this. It seems to me that the Government's position, as evinced by the Minister, is that we cannot and should not have an amendment to the Bill which makes consultation obligatory and, therefore, brings some democratic pressure to bear. We cannot do that and I find that difficult to believe.

I believe that this amendment is satisfactory standing on its own. I am slightly surprised by the Minister's response because I believe the amendment sends out the right signal to local authorities about the Government's view of their role. It seems to me that the Minister is trying to send out the wrong signal but that is a matter for him. Given the Minister's reply, I am obliged to test the opinion of the Committee.

5.6 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 133.

Division No. 2
Addington, L. [Teller.] Listowel, E.
Airedale, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aylestone, L. Longford, E.
Birk, B. Lovell-Davis, L.
Blackstone, B. McCarthy, L.
Blease, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Mallalieu, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Mason of Barnsley, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Milner of Leeds, L.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Molloy, L.
David, B. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Dean of Beswick, L. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Desai, L. Nathan, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Ogmore, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Peston, L.
Ennals, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Prys-Davies, L.
Falkender, B. Rea, L.
Falkland, V. Redesdale, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Richard, L.
Fitt, L. Russell, E.
Foot, L. Russell of Liverpool, L.
Gallacher, L. [Teller.] Seear, B.
Galpern, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Gladwyn, L. Serota, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Shackleton, L.
Hampton, L. Shepherd, L.
Hamwee, B. Stedman, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Strabolgi, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Thurlow, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Tordoff, L.
Hughes, L. Underhill, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Jay, L. Wedderburn of Charlton, L.
Jeger, B. White, B.
Jenkins of Hillhead, L. Wigoder, L.
Jenkins of Putney, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
John-Mackie, L. Wilson of Rievaulx, L.
Kennet, L. Winstanley, L.
Kirkwood, L.
Aldington, L. Brabazon of Tara, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Brigstocke, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Brookeborough, V.
Annan, L. Brookes, L.
Ashbourne, L. Brougham and Vaux, L.
Astor, V. Butterworth, L.
Auckland, L. Caithness, E.
Bauer, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Carnegy of Lour, B.
Belstead, L. Carnock, L.
Bessborough, E. Carr of Hadley, L.
Blatch, B. Cavendish of Furness, L.
Blyth, L. Chalfont, L.
Boardman, L. Clanwilliam, E.
Borthwick, L. Colnbrook, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Constantine of Stanmore, L.
Craigmyle, L. Morris, L.
Crickhowell, L. Mountevans, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mountgarret, V.
Cumberlege, B. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Munster, E.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Denham, L. Nelson, E.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Newall, L.
Dilhorne, V. Norfolk, D.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Oppenheim-Barnes, B.
Elles, B. Orkney, E.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Erroll of Hale, L. Oxfuird, V.
Faithfull, B. Park of Monmouth, B.
Ferrers, E. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Flather, B. Penrhyn, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Perry of Southwark, B.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Platt of Writtle, B.
Gray of Contin, L. Pym, L.
Gray, L. Quinton, L.
Gridley, L. Radnor, E.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Rankeillour, L.
Reay, L.
Harmsworth, L. Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L.
Harrowby, E. Renton, L.
Henley, L. St. Davids, V.
Hesketh, L [Teller.] Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly.
Hood, V. Shannon, E.
Hooper, B. Sharples, B.
Howe, E. Simon of Glaisdale, L.
Jeffreys, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Jenkin of Roding, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Johnston of Rockport, L. Stockton, E.
Knollys, V. Strange, B.
Lane of Horsell, L. Strathclyde, L.
Long, V. Sudeley, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Swansea, L.
Lyell, L. Swinfen, L.
McAlpine of West Green, L. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
McColl of Dulwich, L. Trefgarne, L.
McFarlane of Llandaff, B. Trumpington, B.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Ullswater, V.
Macleod of Borve, B. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Malmesbury, E. Vivian, L.
Mancroft, L. Waddington, L.
Manton, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Merrivale, L. White of of Hull, L.
Mersey, V. Wise, L.
Milverton, L. Wynford, L.
Monteagle of Brandon, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.14 p.m.

[Amendment No. 4 not moved.]

Lord Beloff moved Amendment No. 5:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert: ("to undertake the funding of further education in England and Wales as specified in this Part, and nothing in this Part shall relate to the provision of full-time education in a school which is a sixth-form college.").

The noble Lord said: I move Amendment No. 5 on behalf of myself, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford, and the noble Baronesses, Lady David and Lady Seear. In doing so I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 23, 24, 44, 47, 64, 145, 146, 149, 151, 152, 154 to 157 and 159.

The object of the amendments is to remove the sixth form colleges from Part I of the Bill and to leave them in their present status. I tabled the amendment after some consideration. In the various briefings, both written and oral, no argument was advanced for dealing with sixth form colleges. We heard some arguments—one can accept them or not—dealing with further education colleges, but not sixth form colleges. As a result of discussions, my belief, imbibed after 10 years in your Lordships' Chamber discussing education, was confirmed. It is that a confusion of terminology exists to such a degree in the minds of civil servants, Ministers and noble Lords—everyone is involved to some extent because the terminology is different—that it makes people do things which, if they understood what they were doing, they would hesitate to do.

A confusion exists between further and higher education. As already illustrated this afternoon—I do not wish to prolong the debate because we shall return to it—a confusion exists between further and adult education. There is also confusion relating to the word "college". When one thinks of a college, one thinks of young people, largely in charge of their own education, attending institutions of varying kinds but institutions which, in their conduct, programmes or ethos, are certainly not schools. Colleges are one thing; schools are another. Due to the fact that somehow or other sixth form colleges were given that curious and rather misleading title, they are lumped with other colleges.

Perhaps I can illustrate the point from the great benefaction of King Henry VI. It will be remembered that there was set up in his memory Eton College and King's College, Cambridge. When one visits Eton one does not expect to meet undergraduates; when one visits King's College, one would be surprised to find schoolboys. They are different kinds of animal.

The point about sixth form colleges is that those who attend them are school children, as we used to call them. Everybody is now called a "school student", which of course adds to the confusion. Basically, they are people who, if they lived in a different part of the same local authority area, would stay at a school with a sixth form. My bias would always be, where possible, to have sixth forms because in general they are good for secondary education. However, for a variety of reasons, it was decided that in some cases one can give sixth form pupils a wider range of subjects and more specialised teaching if, at the age of 16, they are brought from a number of local secondary schools to attend a sixth form college for two years. But they are no different from those pupils in the sixth forms. The parents may or may not be given a choice. The choice may be dictated by whether or not their area has a sixth form or whether it is the only way in which the pupils can obtain their A-levels and other qualifications which they seek.

Sixth form colleges are schools. They are run as schools. They are attended for the whole of the working day. They are quite different from colleges of further education which people attend to follow specific courses in specific disciplines, making up perhaps for something that they missed or pursuing a new interest and where, whatever their age, they are treated as adults. That has important financial implications. As anyone who has had anything to do with a school will know, sixth forms are exceptionally expensive. One needs more intensive teaching for people—boys and girls for that matter—doing A-Levels or studying for other qualifications than for those lower down the school. For that reason sixth forms are also more expensive than further education colleges, which can teach larger groups and therefore can teach more economically. Apart from the illogicality of moving sixth form colleges out of their contact with the local education authority and so with the local schools, the danger is that their finances will be squeezed down to the level appropriate for institutions of further education, and that would be a major loss.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, started us off this afternoon by stating the purpose of these reforms. The purpose must be to improve the performance of the 16 to 19 year-old age group, which is the one age group where all statistical and other observation concurs; namely, that we are exceptionally weak compared with our competitors. On the whole we have done well in terms of quality. Anyone who has had any kind of acquaintance with, for example, the education system of the United States will know that someone who has been through a sixth form in a school or a sixth form college in this country, whether independent, maintained, opted-out or whatever, is infinitely more qualified to proceed to higher education than his compeer in the United States. Estimates vary as to whether they are two years ahead or, as I sometimes think, three years ahead. But nobody doubts that sixth form education is something that we are very good at.

If we have been very good at it surely the right thing is to leave it alone. I cannot see why a Bill that deals with further education should somehow or other, through a mere peculiarity of nomenclature, intend to go into disrupting schools and disrupting the responsibility which local authorities have to see that that age group in school is provided for.

I hope that for once we shall not hear from this side of the Committee, "We on this side of the Committee", and so on. It is a perfectly sensible point, which has very wide support in all quarters, that schooling should be regarded as separate. I was surprised when I first saw this in the White Paper. I thought it had got in by mistake. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will tell me that I am right. It is like a hopeful French parent going to Paris and saying, "I have a boy who I would like educated. He will be sent to the Collège de France". I beg to move.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I support this amendment. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, for what he has said. The first point I wish to make is that I hope that this is not seen as a party political issue. I do not see it as anything of the kind. It is essentially an education issue and I hope that it will be looked at as such. Our common and agreed aim is surely to improve the provision and standard of education for 16 to 19 year-olds. That is our common ground and that is what we are working to achieve.

If we are to achieve that it is important that in the strategic planning and responsibility for that provision we have a unified authority. It should be democratically accountable and accessible. We have had some discussion already this afternoon about the FE colleges. I believe that there is a limited, if fragile, parallel between them and the polytechnics in the sense that has been argued—that is to say, that they could be pulled out of the local authority responsibility and funded separately. But I cannot see that in the case of sixth form colleges. To have two different funding arrangements and to divide those strategic planning responsibilities between two bodies when we are dealing with the same group of people, the 16 to 19 year-olds, is moving in exactly the wrong direction. We must retain unified responsibility and give it to people who are locally accountable and accessible.

If I am a parent of a 16 year-old child and I am not satisfied with the local provision because it is inadequate, too far away or whatever it may be, it is important that I should be able to go to the providers and the people responsible for supervising the system. But if the responsibility is divided between a regional committee appointed by central government on the one hand and the local authority on the other, it is not clear where I as a parent should go in order to express my anxieties.

It is important that we should give this responsibility to those who are locally and democratically accountable. I have said before that unless we have an adequate and workable local democracy we put at risk national democracy. If we remove access to authority, we engender social frustration. Surely part of what we are seeing at the moment in the arguments about the EC is at what level should what decisions be made. We can see the frustration building up when a community feels that decisions which affect it are being made too far away and too high up. There is a great deal to be said for making provision and responsibility for 16 to 19 year-olds essentially local.

I have a further anxiety. We may be dividing responsibility for sixth forms in schools from sixth forms in colleges. In doing so we may risk reintroducing the divide between academic education and vocational training. The Government quite rightly want parity of esteem and interaction between them. However, once one begins to divide responsibility for the provision one runs the risk of one authority tilting in one direction and one in another. Therefore, we are exposing ourselves to considerable risks.

I have yet a further anxiety. What is to happen in practice if there is a need for further sixth form provision? Inevitably it will be the local authority that recognises the need. It will either have to provide it itself in the sixth forms of schools or it will have to go to the FEFC and ask for provision to be made through the funding council. There is every likelihood that the funding council will favour sixth form colleges because they are its direct responsibility.

That may be right. It may be that the system should change to having sixth form colleges rather than sixth forms in schools, though I would argue against that. But what I plead is that, if we really want to introduce sixth form colleges and to reduce sixth forms in schools, that should be done as a deliberate policy of education and not inadvertently brought in through funding arrangements.

Time and again we seem to be making what ought to he educational decisions on administrative and funding grounds. That is bad educational policy. I hope therefore that this amendment will be accepted and we shall leave all of the educational provision—or nearly all of the educational provision for 16 to 19 year-olds—where it is at the moment as the major responsibility of local education authorities, which should be the providers and which are accessible and which are locally and democratically accountable.

5.30 p.m.

Baroness David

The two previous speakers have made very important points. However, I should like to add my support to this amendment. I spoke at Second Reading against what the Government are trying to do about the sixth form colleges. It is so totally illogical to have the provision for this age group divided between sixth forms in schools and sixth form colleges.

The sixth form colleges have been a tremendous success story. They are working really well. Young people are choosing to go there. I am a governor of one in Cambridge, and numbers have gone up from about 400 when it first became a sixth form college, to 850 students now. The same is true of the other sixth form college in Cambridge; the numbers have risen. Young people are really choosing.

Parents also are very pleased with this provision. The Government are making a great thing about parental choice. That choice is going to be very much less if this provision is taken away. These colleges are under school regulations and some parents and some young people prefer this greater discipline in a sixth form college to what they get in a further education regime where there is much more freedom; young people can come and go, they do not have to stay there throughout the school day. That does not suit all of them, although it suits a great many. It seems very hard to take that away.

The whole thing is totally illogical. Why are the Government doing this? I hope the Minister will have an answer. One can only think that it is saving money. We know that the sixth form college provision is more expensive than that of the further education colleges. So I hope we shall have a really good educational argument, if the Minister can find one, when he replies to this amendment.

Baroness Seear

I do not see any point in all those who put their names to the amendment repeating the same arguments. We on these Benches support this amendment very strongly. However, I should like to underline what the noble Baroness, Lady David, has just asked and not from a partisan debating point. Will the Minister tell us why the Government are doing this? There does not seem to be any sense or educational argument in it. Can we have the case spelt out to us—why sixth form colleges should be plucked out in this way in contrast to the sixth forms in the schools? Perhaps I am being stupid this afternoon, but I simply do not understand why the Government want to do it. Will you tell us?

Lord Skelmersdale

Before my noble friend replies to this debate, I should like to say that I was particularly interested in the introduction to the debate by my noble friend Lord Beloff. He referred to the confusion in the minds of some of the Members of the Committee about the levels of education. May I very respectfully suggest to him—and I do respect him enormously—that perhaps in this particular instance there is an element of confusion in his mind.

This morning I took my 17 year-old daughter to an educational establishment which the supporters of this amendment would—and indeed do—call a school, to continue her A-level course. Let me assure the Committee that neither she nor any member whether staff or pupil at the Richard Huish Sixth Form College regard it as a school.

My daughter left school for a plethora of academic and social reasons, but the most important were those of lack of discipline—and the fact that without the very reluctant reordering of the timetable by the headmistress she would have been unable to pursue the A-level subjects that she wanted to. I should say that that particular sixth form college provides a transition between compulsory schooling and higher education, as indeed I believe they all do. Whether this higher education is of a vocational or an academic nature does not particularly matter, attracting as it does a far larger number of pupils than any sixth form in a secondary school could possibly do. It is therefore the case that much more equipment, better facilities and a wider range of courses can and are provided. Following the thought behind the famous advertisement, the sixth form colleges reach the parts that sixth forms in schools cannot reach. They teach in a way much more akin to methods in higher education than in secondary schools.

The result of this is exactly what the noble Baroness, Lady David, has just explained to us, that sixth form colleges have become increasingly popular among both pupils and their parents. I would say in relation to another debate which will come up later—and indeed has already come up—that although the colleges input in terms of students is local their output most certainly is not. The pupils will go anywhere in the country and abroad to pursue their careers and the further education that is so often needed for a successful career.

I hope my noble friend Lord Belstead will not say that sixth form colleges got into this Bill by mistake and that the phrase "further education" means any education given beyond the statutory school age. I accept the points made by the right reverend Prelate. This leaves us in a bit of a dilemma, because we do have two methods, or two types of institution with different funding arrangements providing sixth form education. I hope for the reasons I have given that more and more success will be attracted to the sixth form colleges, and that for very good educational reasons sixth forms in secondary schools will fade out over the years.

Lord Kilmarnock

Most of the speeches so far in this debate have been against the proposals. Perhaps I can add a small voice in favour of them. I hate to take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, who usually speaks so extremely sensibly and convincingly on educational matters. But to some extent this bears on what the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has just been saying. In my experience, it is not the case that in sixth forms in sixth form colleges are no different from the individual sixth forms in schools.

When I was a governor of a sixth form college, one of the main aims was to break down the barrier between the schools and the FE system. The college in question managed to introduce a certain number of BTEC courses in addition to a full range of A-level courses which proved extremely attractive to the youth of that particular inner city area. Attendances at 16-plus and 17-plus rose as a result. I also fail to see that it is illogical to divide the provision for sixth formers. I would have thought that this was a situation in which more than one flower could flourish. As I pointed out in my speech at Second Reading, there are just over 100 sixth form colleges with some 75,000 students. The vast majority of sixth-formers—238,000—are still in schools, most of which are controlled by local education authorities.

Those schools can still build their ethos around successful sixth forms in a more academic mode. That is perfectly acceptable and it encourages a healthy pluralism which we should support and introduce into the system. Therefore, on this occasion I cannot go along with the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and his friends. I coincide to a considerable extent with what the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, has been saying in favour of the proposals in the Bill. I very much hope that the Government will not abandon them.

Baroness Seear

We are not opposed to sixth form colleges. Many of us think the sixth form colleges are excellent, and we have said that repeatedly. We are saying that we cannot see why they should come under the funding council and not under the local authority. Let us not get into an argument about their merits. We are convinced of them. We are also convinced of the value of tertiary colleges. Do let us keep the argument where it should be as to who should be controlling them. That is what it is about.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

I shall be brief. I hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will stick to his guns and not accept the amendment. With great respect, my noble friend Lord Beloff more muddled himself with his point about nomenclature than he added lucidity to the discussion. Quite obviously, a secondary school which can produce a sufficient population of persons of sufficient ability to take a sixth form course gains by having a sixth form. The trouble is that it has to have a sixth form of a sufficient size to be a sixth form. That is the point and it is a point of which sight has been entirely lost by the supporters of the amendment.

I totally agree with the right reverend Prelate that there is nothing here of a party political nature. He said that it is an educational point. I should have thought that it is a point about educational organisation, and organisation only. It is quite obvious, with great respect to my noble friend Lord Beloff, that when one passes one's A-levels—or what was the equivalent of A-levels in my time—the course that one embarks upon in the sixth form is of a nature totally different from that which one embarked on in the earlier years of schooling. It is a preparatory course for entry into higher education, and I hope that it will always be so regarded.

These new sixth form colleges are much bigger than the sixth forms in schools and therefore they are a different kind of animal in one sense from the sixth form in schools. That is why my noble friend is right to put them under the new further education funding council. It is not an educational point; it is a point about educational organisation. That is not at all the same thing.

That is the only contribution I have to make to this discussion as all those who have spoken hitherto have much greater qualifications than Ito speak. I shall say one more thing—I was in a sixth form much longer than most other people.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

I support what was said by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham. I accept that it is a point beyond the perimeters of politics. I have indicated that I shall oppose the Question that certain clauses shall stand part of the Bill, but I do not take a political stance. It is essentially a question of organisation and how one sees it. As two systems of funding happen to be involved in the Government's proposals, with respect to the right reverend Prelate, it is going a little far to suggest that the proposals are in any sense motivated by funding or that they should be brought into some new form of educational statute. They stand for the reasons given by my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and by my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale in his magnificent contribution.

5.45 p.m.

Lord Peston

I have only just noticed that two amendments in this grouping, Amendments Nos. 44 and 64, stand in my name. With respect to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, both amendments are about resources. Therefore this debate, like it or not, has to be about resources. I shall set out my anxiety. It seems to me that the plurality of sixth forms and sixth form colleges and further education colleges is a good state of affairs for education in this country because the needs of the age group are not uniform. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, pointed that out by example, and I could give other examples from my personal experience. Some young people—for example, one's own children—are happier in sixth forms; others need to leave school and go to an FE college. Therefore one wants to see the preservation of at least all three forms of institution.

I have tabled these amendments because I fear what will happen about costs in the future. I was one of the first to argue within the public sector that we should engage in cost benefit analysis. When I was a young man in the Treasury, a much wiser head told me, "Do not pursue that line because you believe they will compare the costs with the benefits. But, my boy, in the end they will look only at costs. They will always go for the cheapest option rather than the one which involves the best use of resources". My worry, which I think echoes what the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, and others have said, is that some parts of post-16 education are dearer than some other parts. What I was hoping to write into the Bill with Amendments Nos. 44 and 64 is that the council ought not to go for the least-cost solution but should be obliged specifically on the face of the Bill to take account of the benefits. That is why the words "having regard to the type of institution" appear in the amendment.

It is a genuine worry. Anyone who has had experience of government will know that resources will always be scarce and that someone will get up and say, "I know what you are saying. It is desirable to preserve the sixth form colleges or sixth forms, but they are dearer". That is my fear. No political point is involved. We all agree that we should like this rather pluralistic system to remain. However, I have intervened at this stage to emphasise that there is a resource side to the matter that needs to be taken seriously

Lord Addington

I am in something of an unusual position as I have attended a sixth form and a further education college within the past decade. The main difference between the two is the structure of teaching. Teaching in a sixth form college tends to be in smaller groups. Teaching in further education colleges is more lecture based and tends to be in larger groups. When it comes to being prepared for higher education—this is probably the jumping point between the two—the sixth form tutorial system is probably the slightly better one. There is a distinct difference in the way the students themselves relate to their institution. The sixth form and the sixth form colleges offer a stronger and more centralised identity. They are effectively schools for students taking A-levels. That must not be forgotten If that is remembered, the noble Lord's amendment becomes very much clearer. A college is a different animal. It should be remembered that it is merely a school for a different age group. Once that is borne in mind the logic of the noble Lord's amendment becomes crystal clear.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham hit the nail very much on the head when he said that this is a question of size. Many of the original sixth form colleges started because the individual secondary schools did not have enough pupils staying on to make a viable sixth form offering a suitable range of courses. They turned out to be extraordinary good ways of persuading young people to stay on after 16. They have attracted more people. The noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, made that point. I was at school a good deal longer ago than the noble Lord, Lord Addington. I believe that youngsters have stayed on in sixth form colleges because they feel more adult there. They have moved on to another kind of school. There is no muddle about names. We all have these labels. I do not think they confuse people—not those who follow the argument. My noble friend and those who advise him are totally aware of the position. But if young people are attracted to sixth form colleges because they feel the colleges are more like further education institutions and therefore they feel they have moved out of what they recognise as the school atmosphere, that at least provides some argument for saying, as the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, argued very cogently, that the funding should come from the same source. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will stand fast.

I agree that this is not a party matter. I apologise to the right reverend Prelate and to my noble friend Lord Beloff for talking about "these Benches". Perhaps I ought to have used different nomenclature when I referred to my noble friends and myself.

However, there is one question with which I hope my noble friend the Minister can deal. I wish to know the answer to the question put to me by the London Boroughs Association. If a local authority asks whether it should expand the sixth form of a school or achieve that purpose through the expansion of what may be a neighbouring sixth form college, what will the machinery be for determining that process? It seems to me that, if there is a division, it is essential to have some way of drawing a line somewhere. I believe that the Bill draws the line in the right place. We need to have some form of mechanism for determining which path should be adopted to expand the sixth form provision in that area. If my noble friend can help me on that issue, I believe that it will help clarify the argument.

Lord Dormand of Easington

I do not believe that the amendment is really concerned with the merits of sixth forms in schools and sixth form colleges. I happen to think that both have merits. I take the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, that in a sixth form college youngsters tend to have a more adult view. I accept that. But the noble Lord will probably remember from his school days the status which sixth formers had in an all-age school. I believe that that was very important. I see that the noble Lord agrees. Certainly, that was my experience.

In this Chamber we tend to draw on our own experience. When I was an education officer about 25 years ago I had to reorganise the secondary education in my area. I chose to recommend the education believing that we had all-through schools. It was a very educationally conscious committee. It agreed without demur. I am really on my feet to ask the Minister to deal specifically with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Beloff. I do not believe that it would be possible to have a more comprehensive definition of a sixth form pupil, boy or girl, than that which he put forward. That is the point that I wish to underline.

Perhaps I may put it this way. What I have to say deals partly with the point made by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, that some sixth forms are uneconomic. That is absolutely right. It was one of the main reasons—in some cases, the only reason— why sixth form colleges were instituted. They were set up so that a small number of sixth formers from a number of schools could be put into one institution. There is nothing wrong with that; indeed, it is good economics. There happened to be specialised teaching. In some cases, better qualified and more able teachers were attracted. That is good. There is nothing wrong with that.

However, it does not alter the fact that because some of those youngsters—if I can so describe them—happened to live in one area they would either be pupils in the sixth form of a school or pupils in a sixth form college. With respect, we cannot get over that point. It certainly will have happened that, where families have moved on two or three occasions, a boy or a girl will have been in a sixth form in a school, at a later stage in a sixth form college and then, if it was the kind of family that had to move for parental jobs and so on, he or she would be moved back to the sixth form of a school. That is the way it is. Unless that point is dealt with specifically by the Minister, I fear that he will not convince many Members of the Committee tonight.

Baroness Blackstone

I had not intended to intervene but as the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, is not rising to defend himself I shall do so on his behalf. His contribution in moving the amendment was both lucid and accurate. I must say to his noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham that, while his contribution was of course as lucid as always, it was not entirely accurate and valid in terms of its description of sixth forms as against sixth form colleges. While it is absolutely true that sixth form colleges are likely to be bigger than sixth forms because they gather together the young people of a particular area at 16 from a number of schools, it is simply not true to say that all sixth forms do is prepare young people for higher education. That could not possibly be true when it is the case that nearly 40 per cent. of young people only complete one year in the sixth form and then, regrettably, leave. They are doing a whole variety of different things, including retaking GCSEs. Nor is it true that sixth form colleges are entirely different in terms of what they do because they are running a much wider range of courses. They are running a virtually identical range of courses but with larger numbers of pupils.

Our first concern with what is proposed—I must reiterate and reinforce what has been said because the contributions of some noble Lords on the other side of the Committee, including the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, indicate that they do not quite understand this—is that splitting sixth-form provision between two quite different and separate bodies, according to whether the provision is organised in schools or in colleges, does not make much sense.

Our second concern is that sixth form colleges, which all sides of the Committee agree make a splendid contribution to the education of this age group, may not survive in the new funding sector. If the Minister can say categorically that they will survive and that they will be supported even though the funding required for them is higher than for FE colleges, we may feel differently about the matter.

Lord Belstead

The amendment raises a key issue. If agreed to, it would give the further education funding councils responsibility for funding further education colleges, but not full-time education in sixth form colleges. In other words, sixth form colleges would remain the responsibility of local education authorities rather than joining the new further education sector.

Several Members of the Committee have put forward their views—in the case of the noble Lord, Lord Addington, a first hand view and of my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale, the view of a parent—of the nature of a sixth form college. My understanding is that they cater for young people of varying abilities. They are by no means necessarily selective institutions. The earlier sixth form colleges were, I remember, selective in one or two cases, but rarely so. It was practically always an all-ability intake. Their wide range of entrants—my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale gave an interesting example in this respect from his family—and the wide range of courses that they offer (not just academic but also vocational) bear, I believe, a similarity to further education colleges. That is the basic answer to the question of why we feel that the colleges belong in the FE sector. We feel that naturally they belong there. They too deserve to have more choice over how to use their resources and greater responsibility for the services that they provide.

In moving the amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Beloff, said that, nonetheless, there are important distinctions between sixth form colleges and further education colleges. But, as I have indicated, there are also important similarities. Like FE colleges, sixth form colleges are a free-standing part of the post-16 education sector. Both provide courses leading to academic qualifications. We envisage that, increasingly, both will want to provide courses leading to national vocational qualifications. Although I take the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, that time has moved on and sixth forms provide a greater mix of courses for young people, nonetheless I think that there is a distinction here between the mainly academic work done in school sixth forms and the considerable flavour of vocational work carried out in sixth form colleges.

Under the new arrangements, the colleges themselves will be free to choose the direction that they take. Sixth form colleges will be able to focus on the courses which they have traditionally provided if there is sufficient demand for them. By that I am saying that I realise that there is a very considerable academic content in what is done in sixth form colleges, not least by the young people who are working for A-levels. At the same time, sixth form colleges will be able to use the opportunity of joining the new sector to extend the range of their courses if that seems appropriate to them. Once again, we do not feel that it is right to deny them that opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Peston, made the point that it is all very well to say such things, but that money comes into it. He rightly said that there is, on more or less any assessment, greater expense involved in running a sixth form college than other provision. The Government have already said in the further education White Paper that it will be open to the funding councils to apply weightings to student numbers to take account of differential costs of classroom or workshop-based studies and of higher level studies, and additional costs arising from factors such as special educational needs. Similarly, it will be open to the funding councils to take into account special aspects of the provision offered by sixth form colleges and denominational colleges, and to consider how they should be reflected in the funding methodology.

6 p.m.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may intervene. I am aware of what the Minister said. Again, we are back to what is on the face of the Bill. My deep worry is that a number of young people are not ready to go to an FE college. I happen to believe that they are excellent, and for many young people they are the best place. My anxiety is that the funding councils can take account of that, but it is not clear to me that they are obliged to take account of the fact—this is not to do with special needs in the sense that that term is used—that there are young people who should not be changing school at 16, and that there are others who should go to a more non-school-like institution. My only point is that that could be expensive. I want on the face of the Bill an explicit requirement that the councils should look at what such people require even if it is more expensive. I am aware that they can do so, but my question is whether they will do it in times of financial stringency which I believe will always be with us.

Lord Belstead

That is a fair point. At this stage I can say only that it would be wrong further to constrain the councils in the legislation, despite the assurances that I was endeavouring to give. It will be for the further education councils to judge how to make the most effective use of their resources and how to avoid provision that might give rise to disproportionate expenditure. We should not forget that in the Bill that is tied, following the example of the 1944 Act, to meeting the reasonable needs of the young people of the age group of the area. There is no question of imposing an inflexible funding framework on the new sector. The funding reforms are intended to allow institutions to make the most of their differences and not to obliterate them. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that assurance. I know that that is the intention of someone such as myself, speaking on behalf of the Government, although it is not on the face of the Bill. Nonetheless, at this stage I do not wish to go further.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford and other Members of the Committee spoke with some feeling about the importance of sixth forms. The right reverend Prelate was asking whether the Government wished to support sixth forms in the future or whether there might be—this is my expression, but not the right reverend Prelate's—some hidden agenda. I should like to take the opportunity to assure the Committee that there is no such intention with regard to sixth forms. Indeed, in the White Paper Education and Training for the 21st Century the Government said that they were fully committed to retaining sixth forms of quality. That was the point that my noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham and my noble friend Lord Jenkin were making. When we are talking about sixth forms, we are talking about where there is a good sixth form, but in other cases it may be right from the point of view of education administration to establish sixth form colleges.

The Government believe that sixth forms in schools will continue to be an integral part of secondary school provision, funded by LEAs under the arrangements for local management. Young people will and should continue to have the choice between schools and colleges in many areas.

Perhaps I may go one step further and say to the right reverend Prelate that the further education funding councils will be under a duty, in securing provision for 16 to 18 year-olds, to have regard to such education as is provided by schools maintained by LEAs. In other words, the funding councils will jolly well have to look around the area to see what sixth forms are doing and how big they are before deciding possibly to put more money into provision in that area.

Any proposal to change the character of schools with sixth forms will continue to be subject to the normal statutory procedures. That brings me to the question asked by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. It was a simple one. He asked what will happen in the future. That is tied up with what the right reverend Prelate was asking. My noble friend asked whether we can be sure that there will not possibly be some rivalry and some attempt—my noble friend did not put it this way—by the further education funding councils to ensure that they have more students than the sixth forms in schools. The answer with regard to the Bill is simple. Where a funding council makes a proposal to establish a new further education college under the Bill it must comply, under Clause 49, with certain arrangements for publishing proposals and considering representations, including any from the LEA.

Conversely, where an LEA proposes to make any changes in its school—for instance, by expanding significantly its sixth forms—it will be required under Clause 56 to consult the further education councils. There will be careful cross-referencing if the further education funding councils want to change the size of their provision and if LEAs want to change the size of their provision in an area in relation to sixth forms.

I hope that the Committee will not feel that the Government are hidebound in this matter. Several times during the debate the question has been put as to why the Government want to move sixth form colleges into the new further education funded sector. The answer is a simple one. It is because we believe that what is done in the sixth form colleges is more like what is done in further education colleges than what is done in the schools. It will be up to the sixth form colleges to decide whether they want to go even further in that direction or to remain more traditional. In the meantime, we believe that it is right that they should move into the new sector.

Lord Beloff

We have now heard the Minister's reply and explanation of the proposal. I regret to say that neither on that, nor on the financial implications of the change, have we been reassured to the extent that I should have liked. I believe that a certain amount of additional confusion has been introduced into the consideration of this matter by some Members of the Committee, notably my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale.

I am sure that my noble friend's daughter is having a splendid time in a sixth form college and finds it a great relief after the fifth form of a girls' school—if she was at a girls' school—or any fifth form for that matter, but I do not know when, whether or if my noble friend was ever a member of a school sixth form. If it was a good school, he would have had the same kind of preparation for independent work which his daughter is receiving at her sixth form college. There is no difference. My noble and learned friend Lord Hailsham made that point clear.

The change comes after GCSE and before A-levels. At that point, whether it is a school or a sixth form college, the degree of intellectual freedom—there may or may not be more or less personal discipline—and the kind of teaching are identical. So I am unconvinced, I regret to say, by the Minister's argument that sixth form colleges are more like colleges of further education. That is not the case. They are teaching, on the whole, for A-levels or for the BTEC, or for some other preparatory certificate which will enable the young people to go on to professional training, higher education, or whatever it may be. The noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, must be very out of touch with the young if he believes that it is only people who go to sixth form colleges who then proceed to roam the world. It is equally true of people who have been in sixth forms at schools. He must live a sheltered life.

The teaching is not the same. The further education colleges are teaching a much wider range of subjects, some of them A-levels and BTECs, sometimes the same but also other subjects. Fundamentally they are doing it in a different way, as other noble Lords have explained, through larger classes. That affects the costing. They are not doing it on the basis of full-time attendance, which affects attitudes.

It is not good enough for the noble Lord to say, "The reason we are doing this is that we think that sixth form colleges —that is to say, places in full-time education for A-levels and BTECs for the 16 to 18 year-old age group—are more like further education colleges than sixth forms of schools". I am not convinced. I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Dormand of Easington, who has far more experience than I have of these matters, is convinced. I doubt whether anyone in the Committee who is acquainted with sixth form colleges, schools or further education colleges is convinced. For that reason, much though I regret it, I must ask the opinion of the Committee.

6.11 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 80; Not-Contents, 118.

Division No. 3
Addington, L. Beloff, L. [Teller.]
Airedale, L. Birk, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Blackstone, B.
Blease, L. Jenkins of Hillhead, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Bottomley, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Brentford, V. Kirkhill, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Kirkwood, L.
Carter, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Cledwyn of Penrhos, L. Lockwood, B.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. McCarthy, L.
David, B. McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Desai, L. Mackie of Benshie, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. McNair, L.
Dormand of Easington, L. Mallalieu, B.
Ennals, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Milner of Leeds, L.
Falkender, B. Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Falkland, V. Morris of Kenwood, L.
Fisher of Rednal, B. Mulley, L.
Foot, L. Ogmore, L.
Gallacher, L. Peston, L.
Galpern, L. Pitt of Hampstead, L.
Gladwyn, L. Prys-Davies, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.] Redesdale, L.
Russell, E.
Guildford, Bp. St. John of Bletso, L.
Hampton, L. Seear, B.
Hamwee, B. Sefton of Garston, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L. Serota, B.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Shepherd, L.
Henderson of Brompton, L. Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Hilton of Eggardon, B. Strabolgi, L.
Hollick, L. Tordoff, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B. White, B.
Holme of Cheltenham, L. Williams of Elvel, L.
Hughes, L. Willis, L.
Irvine of Lairg, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Jay, L. Winstanley, L.
Jeger, B.
Aldington, L. Gardner of Parkes, B.
Allenby of Megiddo, V. Glenarthur, L.
Annan, L. Gray of Contin, L.
Astor, V. Gray, L.
Auckland, L. Gridley, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.
Belstead, L.
Blatch, B. Hanson, L.
Blyth, L. Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Boardman, L. Harmsworth, L.
Borthwick, L. Harrowby, E.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Henley, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Hesketh, L.
Brigstocke, B. Holderness, L.
Brookeborough, V. Hood, V.
Brookes, L. Hooper, B.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Howe, E.
Caithness, E. Hylton-Foster, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Ingrow, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Jeffreys, L.
Carr of Hadley, L. Jenkin of Roding, L.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Cawley, L. Killearn, L.
Clanwilliam, E. Kilmarnock, L.
Colnbrook, L. Lane of Horsell, L.
Colville of Culross, V. Long, V. [Teller.]
Colwyn, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Craigavon, V. Lyell, L.
Craigmyle, L. McAlpine of West Green, L.
Cumberlege, B. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] McFarlane of Llandaff, B.
Denham, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Denton of Wakefield, B. Macleod of Borve, B.
Elles, B. Mancroft, L.
Elliott of Morpeth, L. Manton, L.
Elton, L. Merrivale, L.
Faithfull, B. Milverton, L.
Flather, B. Mountevans, L.
Fraser of Carmyllie, L. Munster, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. Nelson, E.
Norfolk, D. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Orkney, E. Stockton, E.
Park of Monmouth, B. Strange, B.
Pearson of Rannoch, L. Strathclyde, L.
Pender, L. Sudeley, L.
Penrhyn, L. Swansea, L.
Perry of Southwark, B. Swinfen, L.
Peyton of Yeovil, L. Teviot, L.
Radnor, E. Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Rankeillour, L. Trefgarne, L.
Reay, L. Trumpington, B.
Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, L. Ullswater, V.
Renton, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Renwick, L. Vivian, L.
Rippon of Hexham, L. Waddington, L.
St. Davids, V. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. White of Hull, L.
Shannon, E. Wynford, L.
Sharples, B. Young, B.
Skelmersdale, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.19 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 6:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert: ("( ) The bodies corporate established under subsection (1) above shall be established from a date to be specified by the Secretary of State, which shall be a date not before 31 March 1994").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendment No. 301. The legislation that we shall pass in the Bill will not be in place much before Easter 1992 because it has to go through another place, yet the changes that are being proposed in the Bill in relation to further education are great. They involve the development of complicated new funding mechanisms which have yet to be worked out. They involve the establishment of a large new bureaucracy which will need to be set up and working before progress can be made. They involve the appointment and setting up of the new funding councils in both England and Wales. There will be the need to recruit and appoint quite extensive regional staff to support the regional committees whose members have to be selected and appointed.

The FE colleges, too, will have to go through a number of changes. Their structure will be changed as will the way they are run. They will have to go through those changes to become corporate bodies. No one has said that the current situation in the colleges is in any way disastrous. On the contrary, many people have math positive remarks about the job that the FE colleges are carrying out. There is no immediate crisis and there is no immediate urgency to rush through the changes. I do not believe that anyone has even suggested that some or all of our local education authorities are seriously incompetent in the role they are playing in further education.

In the light of all that, surely it would be sensible to have a reasonable planning period rather than try to rush through a complex set of changes in too short a time. I must remind the Committee that there are more than 500 institutions in England and Wales that will need to be reorganised. The new funding mechanisms must be applied to those institutions. The date proposed in our amendment is March 1994. It is suggested that the bodies corporate should not be established before that date to allow the planning to be undertaken properly. I hope the Minister will agree that this is a sensible way of proceeding with these complex changes. I beg to move.

Earl Russell

At Question Time on 28th November I had the pleasure of listening to the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, replying to a Question about proposals to expedite the work of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice. The noble Earl said it was important to get that matter right. He said it was such a technical and complex matter and the implications of not getting it right were so serious that it was much more important to take the time to get it right. That was much more important than trying to hasten it forward. I entirely agreed with everything the noble Earl said and I rose to say so. I believe the noble Earl was rather surprised that I did so. The noble Earl acted correctly on that occasion. I believe the same arguments apply on this occasion.

We are discussing a highly complex piece of legislation. It has not been under consideration for long. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, will recall making an announcement on this matter last March. That is not a long time to allow people to make the necessary adjustments. When the legislation comes into force, we shall be putting together and trying to weld into a team a large number of disparate institutions. Those institutions have different funding methods, different units of resource, different purposes, different subject combinations and different age mixes. It will be quite a complex business to weld them together. That process will take place in an education world which, as the noble Earl, Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, said last year, is now suffering from innovation fatigue.

That is a rather more serious condition than some of us are perhaps aware of. It is a little like being punch drunk. One's movements are slowed down quite considerably and one's reactions are not as acute or as wide ranging as one would like. That condition makes adjustment to new situations a good deal slower. Under those circumstances, there is a case for getting the matter right rather than having some desperately urgent reason—there may be such a reason although it has not yet been made clear to us—for putting the measure on the statute book at the earliest possible moment.

While the poll tax legislation was passing through this Chamber, I recall checking my footnotes in the Library and resolving that whenever the time came to reverse that legislation it would be absolutely vital not to do so in a hurry. I had not foreseen it being reversed under this Government. There is a great deal to be said against haste. The repentance can be painful.

Lord Renton

If this amendment were accepted, the funding councils for England and Wales could not be established until, at the earliest, All Fools Day 1994. That is two and a quarter years hence. We must bear in mind that their establishment is merely the beginning of their work. Their first report could not be expected for a year and they would, presumably, have made some funding arrangements during that year. Surely this constitutes an unacceptable delay. This is manifestly a dilatory motion. On the question of whether we are giving enough time to the Department of Education—and others who are concerned with this matter—to make the necessary arrangements for the changes in this Bill to be brought about, I invite attention to Amendment No. 301. That amendment brings us to the final clause of the Bill, Clause 90. Clause 90(3) states: This Act shall come into force on such day as the Secretary of State may by order appoint and different days may be appointed for different provisions". Therefore there is flexibility. There is no question of the Government being rushed over this matter or of there being confusion through lack of preparation. However, to ask that nothing should happen for two and a quarter years is, I suggest, unreasonable and unacceptable. I hope the Committee will dismiss this dilatory motion.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I, too, urge the Committee to reject this amendment. In so asking I know I reflect the views of all the staff and speak in the interests of the students in further education colleges. There may well be some principals who wish that the Bill will not be passed. There may be many others who would rather not say at this moment in time where their sympathies lie. I am sure the latter people constitute a large number of college principals. I know that every college principal is anxious to have this period of uncertainty settled as quickly as possible.

With the best will in the world local education authorities now feel an understandable reluctance to devote large sums of money to maintenance, repairs and property matters in colleges. They feel understandably reluctant to allow large new developments to take place, in terms of courses, within colleges that may pass out of their control within the next year or two. That is an unfortunate form of planning blight that has fallen upon the colleges. I urge that the funding councils for England and Wales should be allowed to move into place as quickly as possible to begin their planning and to begin to even out the differences that exist between individual colleges. I urge that this period of uncertainty should be brought quickly to an end.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, in his, as always, agreeable speech, was good enough to remind us of an exchange which took place one Question Time about the report of the Runciman Commission. The noble Earl, Lord Russell, reminded us that my noble friend Lord Ferrers had remarked that it was better to get the matter right than to rush it through. The analogy of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, is a false analogy. When one is considering a complete review of the state of the law by a Royal Commission it is important not to rush things. However, when one is setting up a new apparatus, as we are now, my experience—for what it is worth—has invariably been that nothing at all happens so long as there is uncertainty. Therefore, one needs to get things done. Although I supported my noble friend Lord Ferrers in the earlier exchange, on this occasion I cannot extend my support to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, in relation to the amendment.

Turning to the equally agreeable speech of the mover of the Motion, I was irresistibly reminded of the prayer of St. Augustine of Hippo: "da 'mihi castitatem …, sed noli modo"— "Lord, make me chaste, but not just yet please". I do not know how long it took the Lord to achieve that object, but I think it would have been better if it had happened at once.

6.30 p.m.

Lord Belstead

I acknowledge that, as the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, said, the changes which are embodied in the Bill are substantial and that there is a great deal of work to do. The Government have set aside £28 million for England and Wales for the next financial year to enable that work to go ahead. Part of it is for the preparatory costs of the new funding councils and part of it will be made available to colleges for the costs of preparations. In addition to funds, we envisage that support for colleges can also be provided through practical guidance on the necessary steps to prepare, for example, workshops and seminars on specific issues wherever those are the most effective means of meeting common needs.

The effect of the amendment would be to sweep all of that aside and to say that the delay which is explicit in the amendment is necessary. As my noble friends have said, that delay is considerable. My noble friend Lord Renton referred to this as a dilatory amendment. I leave that to the Committee to decide, but it would certainly cause a delay of a year and a half at the very least in the setting up of the funding councils. That would mean that colleges would be deprived of the advantages of corporate status for at least another three years from now, and possibly longer. It is on that particular ground that I must resist the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

I am glad that the Minister has recognised and accepted that there is a great deal of work to be done before the Bill, when it becomes law, can he implemented. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, that the amendment is not intended to be a dilatory amendment. There is no intention to delay for the sake of delaying. That is the last thing that we on this side of the Chamber want to do. There is a perfectly genuine concern that everything should be properly in place before we make the changes and we owe it to our students to ensure that that happens.

I should like to consider what the Minister said before deciding whether to bring the amendment back at Report stage.

Lord Renton

Before the noble Baroness withdraws the amendment perhaps I may say that I gladly accept her expression of sincerity with regard to the amendment.

Baroness Blackstone

Thank you very much. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 7:

Page 1, line 16, at end insert: ("( ) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State for Education and Science to ensure that the Further Education Funding Councils established under this section shall discharge and perform the functions conferred upon them by this or any other enactment so as to provide for persons over compulsory school age appropriate and sufficient opportunity to benefit from a balanced and broadly based curriculum in furtherance of the education provided to those same persons whilst of compulsory school age under the provisions of the Education Reform Act 1988.").

The noble Baroness said: The Bill is something of a disappointment to most people with an interest in the creation and development of a more coherent curriculum for young people in the 16 to 19 age group. As we all recognise, the Bill concentrates on structure and finance. It makes no attempt to consider content, even in broad terms. There is little or no coherence between pre- and post-16 experience for many young people. Structural changes in the Bill seem to count for everything so that it is somewhat lacking in any educational rationale. That has already been demonstrated in some of our earlier debates this afternoon.

Therefore, one must have grave doubts about what the Bill will do to aid the creation of a highly qualified, flexible and creative population for the 21st century. One must also have doubts as to whether it will do what is needed to raise the participation of young people in post-school education to the participation levels of our main competitors, which speakers on many sides of the Chamber have recognised we are a long way from achieving at present.

The Bill also does nothing to break down the divided and divisive system which rigidly separates academic courses from vocational courses. I regret to say that young people will continue to study courses which are too narrow and which fail to bring together the theoretical and practical. Young people will continue to face a plethora of vocational qualifications—a jungle through which they cannot cut a route for themselves. Alternatively, they may face an over-specialised, knowledge-based set of A-level courses which test them insufficiently in many important areas of attainment. It does nothing to create a single flexible post-16 assessment scheme, for which so many groups with knowledge of the system are now calling.

Moreover, the Government's proposals for parity of esteem between A-levels and vocational courses can only give rise to a hollow laugh. The Government must know that that is an unattainable goal in a culture which attaches so much more worth to academic success.

The purpose of the amendment is to place on the statute book a general requirement on the further education funding councils to ensure that a balanced and broadly based curriculum is provided for all young people in post-school education. I hope that in his reply the Minister will not say that that is too general for legislation of this kind. Perhaps I may remind him that Section 1(2) of the Education Reform Act included a somewhat similar provision in relation to schools. It asks that they establish, a balanced and broadly based curriculum which … promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society; and … prepares such pupils for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life". I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

It is with some sadness that I rise to oppose the amendment because to vote against a broad and balanced education for any age group is rather like voting against motherhood. Nevertheless, I oppose the amendment because during many years of experience as one of Her Majesty's inspectors in further education I have sat through classes which in those days were called "liberal studies". They resulted from a requirement introduced by the Department of Education and Science during the 1950s, which survived through the 1960s and 1970s, that all vocational courses in further education should include an element of liberal study. If Members of the Committee had sat, as I did, watching classes of very bored young men who were anxious to return to the studies which motivated them—whether on motor vehicle engineering, physical sciences, or whatever it might be—while they were obliged for the good of their souls to sit through lectures on Plato, religion or sex education, they would share some of my cynicism about the virtues of a broad and balanced curriculum.

The motivation of young people at the ages of 16, 17 and 18 is unique and special to them. There are some who wish to study very narrow academic subjects; some are motivated entirely by vocational study. I do not believe that it is in their interests to impose upon them from outside a curriculum which is defined as broad by those of us who are adult. They will find breadth within their own studies if they are are well taught.

Lord Belstead

The Government's aim is to try to make the new further education sector as responsive as possible to the needs of students and employers and to the local area. We want to maximise choice from a range of courses leading to high-quality qualifications. Put broadly, that aim is not the same as the aim of the amendment. The balance of duties and powers proposed in the Bill has been designed to try to give the institutions within the further education sector the necessary discretion to respond to the needs of individual students. The powers and duties of the funding councils in particular are designed with that aim in mind.

The new duty that the noble Baroness proposes in her amendment would be a recipe for confusion as regards the further education sector. Perhaps I may go a step further. The noble Baroness was critical of, as she saw it, the lack of planning in further education leading to—I believe that I quote her words—the divided and divisive system which rigidly separates academic and vocational courses. I wonder whether that is fair. After all, the proposals in the Bill were set out in a White Paper proposing a large number of important reforms in post-16 education and training, but many of those reforms which directly address issues relating to qualifications and levels of attainment do not require legislation and are being carried out. It is desirable to seek to promote certain kinds of breadth and balance in certain circumstances. A number of policies set out in the White Paper to which I referred are intended to achieve just that, notably the proposals for general national vocational qualifications and for over-arching diplomas that will seek to recognise achievement in academic and vocational qualifications. However, that is quite a long way from the kind of planning that the noble Baroness sets forth in her amendment.

The situation with regard to the period of compulsory schooling is different. There the system provides for all children, to ensure that all have a basic grounding across the range of desirable subjects. That was exactly the objective that we set ourselves in the Education Reform Act of three years ago. However, from the age of 16 the further education system provides for volunteers—people who choose to continue their education. They have a great variety of previous experience and educational achievements and they cover a great variety of ages, ranging sometimes from age 16 to people who are pensioners. Defining breadth and balance in a way that is suited to all would be quite impossible. That is why I ventured to say a little earlier that this amendment might to some extent be a recipe for confusion.

Like my noble friend Lady Perry, I am not happy to oppose this amendment because I know that the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, means it quite seriously and believes in it. However, it would not be in tune with the objectives that we set ourselves in this piece of legislation, and the closer one looks at the wording of the amendment, the more difficult will become the objectives that are set out in it.

Baroness Blackstone

I thank the Minister for his reply. Perhaps I may state quite categorically that I in no way claim that the amendment is perfect. I am sure that it could be improved upon. It is rather difficult to draft an amendment of this kind that will satisfy everyone, particularly with regard to a Bill that so lacks any commitment to try to do something about the curriculum and assessment for young people.

I also accept that not every reform regarding the curriculum requires legislation. However, I felt that it was necessary to put down a marker about the importance that we on this side of the Committee attach to improving the content of what is provided for young people in that age group, as well as the structure, framework and funding of further education for 16 to 19 year-olds. I listened with interest to what the noble Lord said about the establishment of an over-arching diploma. Our fear on this side of the Committee is that it does not go far enough in providing the coherence that is needed. However, I should like to take the amendment away and think further about it. I therefore beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Lockwood moved Amendment No. 8:

Page 1, line 19, after ("State") insert ("in consultation with local education authorities").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I should like to speak also to Amendment No. 9. Other noble Lords whose amendments are grouped with mine will no doubt wish to pick up some of the points that I make.

The purpose of the first two amendments reflects the reality of the situation; namely, that local education authorities are currently the main source of knowledge and expertise in the provision of further education. The first amendment therefore seeks to ensure that local education authorities are consulted by the Secretary of State about the membership of the funding council. As we all well know, local education authorities have a long history in the provision of further education. The considerable development over the past two decades particularly in the areas of vocational education—first with the Manpower Services Commission and latterly with the TECs—means that local education authorities have both the experience and the relevant expertise. It would be foolish not to tap into that and take full advantage of it when we are looking at the membership of the funding councils which will need to know both about further education and the needs of industry and commerce—an area in which the local education authorities have also developed a considerable amount of experience and expertise.

Equally, as my second amendment makes clear, there should be places as of right for local education authorities on the funding council so that their expertise may be continually available to the council. The amendment therefore suggests that there should be two representatives from local education authorities on the council.

We must bear in mind that local education authorities will continue to have considerable responsibilities for further education outside the areas mentioned in the Bill where particular qualifications will be required. I do not want to go into the merits of that at the moment, but we must bear in mind that local authorities will continue to have that responsibility. It is therefore essential that there should be the closest liaison between local education authorities and the funding council. Having two representatives on that body will help to ensure that.

The Minister will no doubt argue that members of local education authorities are not excluded from membership by the terms of the Bill. They may be appointed on merit, but that begs the point. Local education authorities have that experience and expertise that the funding councils themselves will have to begin to build up. It would therefore be nonsense not to ensure that we have representatives of LEAs on the councils. That close liaison is also important in the interests of continuity. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a favourable response to my amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Peston

I speak to Amendment No. 10 which stands in my name. Amendments Nos. 227 and 228 stand in my name and that of the noble Earl, Lord Russell. However, I shall not speak to them. I shall leave that to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, unless he gets the argument wrong in which case I shall feel compelled to speak. However I think that most unlikely.

When TECs were first announced, I was extremely doubtful about them. I was rather suspicious of them, and, not least, of their composition. However, they are extremely important in regard to what they have been set up to do. I do not believe that I exaggerate when I say that the future of the country depends on exactly such activity. We have TECs; in my view they must succeed, whatever my original suspicions were.

There is clearly a connection between the role of the TECs and events in post-16 and further education. If the Government were to make explicit the connection between TECs and the provisions in the Bill by including such an amendment, it would give TECs a tremendous boost. It would indicate how important the Government consider them.

I am anxious on two matters. First, the Government have been consistently against representation for the LEAs. We have argued on that and I have had my say. It would be unfortunate were the Government to say, simply on the grounds of consistency, "We should like to have the TECs represented, but having ruled out the LEAs we must rule out everyone else". That would be a rather absurd position to take. The matter should be judged on merit.

Secondly, I refer to the way in which the Bill is drafted. Clause 1(4) (a) and (b) makes provision that the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of including certain persons. I have asked myself several times why the Government have put those subsections in the Bill. Why do they not accept their own argument that there is never any need to have such a provision: that we can rely on the Secretary of State to have regard to everything that matters in respect of anything that comes up? Why did the Government put those categories in the Bill? I then considered who is ruled out by those categories. If there are categories, they must rule people in and rule them out I have been unable to solve the problem. The Bill appears to make provision for the Secretary of State to appoint anyone whom he thinks he can appoint.

I do not make those points in jest or to make a debating point against the Government before supper. I wish to state that the Minister will not convince me by saying; that Clause 1(4) (b) includes everybody with, industrial, commercial or financial matters or the practice of any profession", and that those are the persons who are on the TECs; therefore the TECs are implicitly covered. My point is that everyone is implicitly covered in some sense. The Government can do themselves some good and the TECs some good—I consider that important—by referring to them on the face of the Bill. That is the reason why I put forward the amendment. I cannot be accused of being in the pay or under the thrall of TECs, because I was extremely critical of them in the beginning. However, once we have TECs, the Bill presents an excellent possibility to give them support.

The Earl of Stockton

As chairman of CENTEC—the Training and Enterprise Council for central London—and the representative of the nine London TECs on G10, the consultative body to my right honourable friend in another place, the Secretary of State for Employment, I am aware of the considerable role that is being played and the greater role that can be played by the Training Enterprise Councils on the interface between further education and training.

All TECs have on their boards representation from local education authorities. All TECs are deeply involved with such initiatives as the Education Business Partnerships, TVEI, local employer networks, teacher placements, work experience and, increasingly, in the provision of business governors to the governing bodies in schools, sixth form colleges, FE colleges and even polytechnics. It seems illogical therefore not to include TECs in the funding councils. I am sure that the Minister will say that TEC representation can be included. However, I feel strongly that the admirable TEC initiative is the best and possibly the last chance we have to create a genuine working network between education and business on a nationwide and coherent basis. Therefore to fail to insist that this successful bridge between where young people are educated and where they work is inconsistent.

Has my noble friend Lord Belstead consulted with his colleagues in the Department of Employment? I am sure that it is its objective to have an integrated seamless post-16 academic and vocational education training system. TECs are in the business of broking. They are the clearing house through which local education and training can be rationalised and co-ordinated.

I trust that my noble friend will not exclude their vital input into the funding councils especially as the only access that the Government have to training provision in the private business sector is through the TECs. Without TEC input, the councils will have an incomplete picture of both need and the method of meeting that need.

I am happy therefore to support the noble Lord, Lord Peston, in his Amendment No. 10.

Earl Russell

In speaking to Amendments Nos. 8 and 9, I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 227 and 228 which stand in my name.

Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are modest little amendments. I know perfectly well that some of the Government's best friends are local authorities. The amendment merely suggests that they might be recognised on occasions. The Government have done little in that field. A gesture might be appreciated in particular in a post where experience of the previous situation may be vital. Bad mistakes can be made simply by ignorance of what one is dealing with.

Amendments Nos. 227 and 228 cover appointments to both the further and the higher education funding council. They ask that those appointments should last for six years. That is one year longer than a parliament. Perhaps I may say in passing that in five years' time the Government may be glad of those amendments.

However, there is a wider implication. The desire is that such appointments should not only be depoliticised—I am sure that they are at present—but that they should manifestly be seen to be depoliticised. Without touching on anything in this century, there is a longstanding tendency for political situations to throw up academics and other educationists who agree with the Government of the day no matter who they may be, do a great deal of work for them, and possibly find their own reputation diminishing in the process. One of the classic cases is the famous Dr. Fell. There is one thing that we know full well about him.

That is the situation that we do not wish to occur. We have had exchanges in the past about possible politicisation of such appointments. I recall many exchanges about school governors. I recall an exchange during the Education Reform Act on appointments to new education authorities to replace the ILEA. That is not what we want. We want a degree of continuity. In education as well as in industry, a lack of continuity between different governments has been one of the handicaps to steady development. There is a great deal to be said for the amendments. I hope that the Government will consider them.

7 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

I shall not follow the noble Earl because I wish to deal with the arguments advanced in relation to Amendment No. 10. In terms of changing the Government's policies we have made no progress today. However, we have gained something from the debate because we are now hearing the reasons for the Bill. We have been told that it is to avoid pluralistic methodology; that it is to safeguard the sovereignty of the principals of the colleges; and that the natural resting place of sixth form colleges is alongside the CFEs. We now know the Government's reasons for Clause 1 and we shall pass to Clause 2. If the Government do not support the amendments perhaps the Minister will give a justification, a rationale, for the appointments.

Earlier, my noble friend said that he thought a possible argument in favour of this part of the Bill was that it was as broad and as wide as a barn door and therefore anyone could be included. Is that the Government's intention? There could be somebody from the TECs because, after all, anyone could be included. An Admiral of the Fleet might have some experience in education if not in financial matters.

It is possible to look at the issue more narrowly. Clause 1 provides that those with experience of providing education —not of training—or who have a responsibility for providing education may be members of the funding councils. That does not mean anyone who has just received education or training. There are no students; no one from local authorities; nor, dare I say, from trade unions. In other words, the members will be people who are creatures of the Minister. Is that the justification, the rationale, because no one is a member in a representative capacity? One cannot say that the two broad categories are in any sense representative. I suggest that they exist because they give the Minister room to appoint his creatures. If that is wrong I hope that the Minister will say so. I hope that the Minister will also explain why we do not have wider representation and choice and why there are no representatives from the TECs.

An argument has already been made for representatives from the TECs. However, I can think of some other reasons. First, the TECs are the day-to-day spenders and contractors of a great deal of government money. Much of the work for the TECs is done in the CFEs. Secondly, if one decides to take away local education authorities, a TEC becomes the only body in the area which is preparing a strategy plan for the training needs of that area. I have personal experience of the TEC in my area. It will be the only body because the local authority is being taken out. The TECs are trying to plan long-term training requirements and needs in close consultation with businessmen and employers in their areas. Surely the TECs are the best kind of bodies to be involved in the process.

Thirdly, the Government have stated that the TECs are doing a good job. They are a little doubtful about their view of local education authorities, although the Minister has not told us today that they have let the CFEs down. The Government are endlessly stating what a wonderful job the TECs are doing, yet the TECs have never had a statutory basis. The amendment provides the Government with a chance to give them a small statutory basis. The fourth reason is that the Government more or less stated in their White Paper that they would do so but now they have omitted that provision.

Lord Belstead

Perhaps I may change the batting order and speak before my noble friend Lady Carnegy in order to indicate the Government's view. My noble friend has considerable experience of training matters. There is no desire on the part of the Government to try to say that what is being suggested is self-evidently wrong. On behalf of the Government I say that there is a real difficulty in putting direct representatives on funding councils of this kind. The reason, first, is numbers. The noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has put forward an argument for two representatives of local authorities. The noble Baroness, Lady David, has tabled an amendment relating specifically to further education representatives. She has also tabled an amendment providing for two representatives of Schedule 2-type education. There are eight different types of Schedule 2-type education. Later we shall debate an amendment for the representation of those who are interested and expert in the education of people with learning difficulties. There has been an impassioned plea for the TECs to be represented. There will be nothing to stop members of local education authorities being appointed to the funding councils on a personal basis.

My noble friend Lord Stockton and the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, emphasised the importance of TECs. The Government are well aware of the important role that the councils perform in their local communities. We have taken steps to ensure that they will have close links with the new college sector. The White Paper announced that the Secretary of State would invite two representatives of local TEC interests to serve on each regional committee of the further education funding council for England. Schedule 4 to the Bill provides for the Secretary of State to nominate a body which will be able to nominate a person for membership of college governing bodies. The Government intend to nominate the training and enterprise councils to such a body. In addition it is expected that the TECs will establish their own less formal links to the English council and the colleges.

I am sure that in making appointments to the councils the Secretary of State will wish to maintain a sensible balance in the experience, skills and expertise that members can bring to bear. After all, the funding councils will be responsible for a broad swathe of educational provision. I am certain that the experience brought by members of the funding councils for England will reflect that breadth. That is the reason for the drafting of this part of the Bill. There is no desire to have it as wide as a barn door. We wish to give sensible guidance about what the Secretary of State will be looking for so that the experience of members will be reflected in the breadth. I must make a point that I have not yet made; that the personal qualities of those who are appointed will be the highest.

With great respect to the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, I do not believe that consultation with local authorities is particularly appropriate in this case. I do not wish to be confrontational but we are talking about colleges which are to go into an independent sector and not into a sector which is funded or controlled by the local education authorities.

The noble Earl, Lord Russell, spoke about two amendments which would set a minimum appointment period of six years. That would reduce the field of available candidates which could in turn have implications for the calibre of people who are able to be appointed. For instance, it is unlikely that leading businessmen will accept a six-year commitment: it is more probable that they can accommodate a shorter term of office. Unless the noble Earl feels most strongly about the matter I am not in favour of the provision.

I looked at the Marshalled List with apprehension in order to see how many amendments had been tabled on the subject of representation. I know that as soon as a body of this kind is set up there is a natural desire for representation. However, I beg Members of the Committee to note that already on the Marshalled List there are sufficient requests to provide for more than a dozen funding council representatives before anyone begins to think about members whose personal qualities require that they should serve. As regards representation, one immediately runs into the problem of a large and unwieldy council. Because of that, I resist the amendments.

Baroness Seear

The noble Lord says that the problem is one of numbers. The Bill states: persons who appear to him to have experience of, and to have shown capacity in, industrial, commercial", and so on. Would it not be possible to add, "one of whom" or "two of whom should represent TECs"? That would not increase the numbers. It would mean that one or two of the members would be TEC representatives. That would not create a problem as regards numbers.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour

What my noble friend Lord Stockton said about the importance of the training and enterprise councils is crucial, as is the input that will come from local authorities. However, both are extremely important and one should not believe that their interests can be channelled through two representatives of the council. Those bodies will not be like that. We used to think along those lines and it did not work very well. It is a limited idea to believe that one can only ensure communication for TECs through membership of the council. The councils will be in constant communication with TECs and local authorities. This is not the right way to go about this matter. We always have these debates each time a body is set up and we follow the same line of argument. However, in this case I believe passionately that a polarised discussion between representatives on this kind of body is old fashioned and would be extremely damaging to the TECs. I hope my noble friend will accept that. Of course TECs are keen to have maximum input, and they will have that. That is how the colleges will work, as they do at present.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Carnegy for that. I am particularly grateful because I endeavoured to make the point that I believe it has been said—I know it is not on the face of the Bill—by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State that it is intended for the TECs to have representation on the regional advisory committees. That is a structured way in which they can have an important input into the funding councils. In addition, as my noble friend said, we should not run away with the idea that there will not be informal input by the TECs into the funding councils. There will be, and that will probably take place on a day-to-day basis.

Lord McCarthy

Does the noble Lord not agree that if one is on a council one receives all the papers and has knowledge of all the business? That is totally different from being consulted. If one is consulted, that consultation is carried out on the terms of the person on the other side. If one is on a committee, one has rights. I am glad that TECs are to be represented on the regional committees. TECs are very well organised. They have a chairman who goes to see the Secretary of State for Employment once a week. It would be easy for someone representing the TECs to sit on the national council and put their point of view.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

I have great sympathy both for the amendment and for what the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said. The Minister argued principally as regards the size if each one of those bodies is to be represented on the council.

I was rather struck by the word used by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy—"creature". He said that if the amendments are not accepted, all those who were members of the council would be creatures of the Government. If the word "representative" is used, as it is in some of the amendments, that will introduce creatures of the TECs or local authorities. On those grounds, I object to the use of the word "representative". Perhaps the movers of the amendments will consider coming back on Report with amendments which leave out the word "representative". Quite apart from anything else, it would conform with the drafting, which is more general. That says that: The Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of including persons who appear to him to have experience of', or knowledge of and so on.

My name is attached to Amendment No. 15 which uses that form of words. We do not include the word "representative". I should prefer that the amendments be recast in a different form at a later stage.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

It looks as though the Minister is getting the best of both worlds. One was impressed by the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Peston. Of course TECs should be taken into account because of their vast experience. However, as I read this clause, it states that in addition to organisations that are entitled to have an input, people with individual qualities who are not necessarily part of an organisation should also be considered. That is good. There is the benefit of TECs at various stages. They are also given the freedom to use an individual who may be available. If a body is named—as Amendment No. 10 names the TECs—that would weaken the freedom to take into account individual rather than organisational qualifications.

7.15 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 standing in my name have been forgotten in this debate. Those amendments do not refer to representation. They simply suggest that members of the funding councils should have expertise in further education.

The numbers argument would be extremely unconvincing if applied to those two amendments because on those councils we must have some people whose personal qualities and expertise are related to a background and knowledge of further education. Nor do I accept that it would be sufficient to put such people on the regional committees. They need to be on the main funding councils.

Further education is a specialised sector of education. It will probably be agreed there is rather less general knowledge about it than there is about schools and higher education. I have been delighted to see how many Members of the Committee are taking part in the first day's discussions on this Bill. I am pleasantly surprised; I did not expect it.

The majority of people who have achieved eminence in the sphere of education and who may be regarded as the pool from which appointments of this kind can be made do not usually have direct experience of further education colleges either as clients or providers. There are not many Members of this Committee who can claim to be either of those.

Further education is a complex sector embracing a tremendous range of different kinds of courses, different modes of attendance—part time, full time or day release—many different accrediting bodies and a large number of different administrative, legal and financial issues which can seem rather confusing to the uninitiated.

I take up the point made by my noble friend Lord McCarthy. For example, there should not be room on the funding councils for an admiral of the fleet. There are two main reasons for suggesting that the funding councils should include people with knowledge of further education rather than education in general. Unless the councils contain that expertise, there will be an inevitable shift in the balance of power away from the members of the councils towards their officials.

It is also the case that the councils will be more effective if they have credibility in the eyes of the colleges which make up the new sector. For that some evident knowledge of further education is essential. Unless the councils possess the expertise which gives them that credibility, strong voices within the new sector will make their representations direct to the Government. The result will be undesirable in that it will increase the level of involvement of the Secretary of State and make it greater than anticipated.

For those reasons it will be helpful for there to appear on the face of the Bill a provision indicating that at least some members of the council will possess expertise in education including specific knowledge of further education.

Baroness Lockwood

Perhaps I can first make clear that I was not in any way suggesting—and I am sure that my noble friend Lord Peston was not suggesting either—that in including representatives from local education authorities and TECs we would simply be putting people on the conveyor belt at the whim of those local education authorities or TECs. As the Minister made clear in his response, the personal qualities of the person involved would be appropriate and that would apply whether they were representatives from LEAs or from TECs. Therefore, there is no question of people being mandated on that body.

I was somewhat disappointed with the Minister's response. I acknowledge that a problem could arise if we were dealing with several groups of organisations. However, local education authorities and TECs are two distinct and separate organisations, both with responsibilities that will continue once the funding councils are set up. As I said when moving the amendment, local education authorities will still hold some responsibility in the whole area of further education. Perhaps the Government will consider the matter. Should they see fit to take up the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, when we reach a further stage these specific provisions could perhaps be rephrased.

I shall not press the amendment. I am sure that my noble friends and colleagues will consider carefully what was said by the Minister.

Lord Belstead

If the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, intends to withdraw the amendment, it may be useful for me to deal with the point raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, regarding the two amendments which would write further education into this part of the Bill. It would be unreasonable for me not to say on behalf of the Government that it is inconceivable that further education experience should not be included on the funding council. The difficulty arises that when one includes that on the face of the Bill, one may limit the selection of people with other educational experience and knowledge who also have a contribution to make.

If my noble friend Lord Renton were present I would turn to him for help. I believe there is a legislative principle that what is put in can exclude what is left out. One needs to be extremely careful in including further education on the face of the Bill; it may appear that no one representing primary or secondary education should be included on the funding council.

The noble Baroness may wish to read my comments. It is not entirely off-the-cuff. It is the result of receiving a note of advice. I thought it wise for me to say that it would be inconceivable for further education not to be represented on the funding councils.

Baroness Lockwood

Before asking leave to withdraw my amendment I intended to make the point in regard to the amendments of my noble friend that even if we included in paragraph (a) that, persons who appear to him to have experience of … the provision of further education", it would not exclude people with experience in education generally. That would come in under paragraph (b), which states, persons who appear to him to have experience of … industrial, commercial or financial matters or the practice of any profession". That covers the education profession and is wide enough.

I hope that the Minister will think again about that specific amendment. I hope also that he will give further thought to the spirit behind the other amendments that were spoken to. That said, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 8.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

I beg to move that the House do now resume. In moving this Motion I suggest that the Committee stage on the Bill be resumed not before 8.25 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.