HL Deb 10 December 1991 vol 533 cc667-728

House again in Committee on Clause 5.

[Amendment No. 84 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendments Nos. 85 and 86 not moved.]

Baroness Davidhad given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 87:

Page 4, line 24, leave out ("or").

The noble Baroness said: We move on to adult education now, having spent a considerable time on other subjects. The purpose of the amendment is to enable a council to fund agencies providing impartial guidance about further education and training opportunities. The need for educational guidance services for adults has been increasingly recognised by the profession and by the Government in, for example, the provision of education support grants. Many adults, especially working class adults, are unfamiliar with education systems and structures and the routes that can be followed, from the initial toe-in-the-water educational experience to their own educational goals.

Educational guidance services take a wide variety of forms. The amendment would allow the FEFCs to fund independent agencies, where they exist, and open a possible source of funding for any new services established. This is an important amendment. I do not mind whether the guidance is given by the careers service or by other methods, but guidance should be available because people are vague about what is available to them and their abilities. They need help. Would the Minister like me to stop?

Lord Belstead

Perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to which amendment she is speaking.

Baroness David

I told the Minister that I was not moving Amendment No. 85 which was linked with Amendment No. 90. When the Lord Chairman called Amendment No. 88, I spoke to it.

Noble Lords


Baroness David

I am sorry that should be Amendment No. 87. Amendment No. 87 leaves out "or". It is not a major amendment, and that is why I did not mention it. It is the necessary prelude to Amendment No. 88 which is the amendment to which I am speaking. I am sorry about the confusion. Perhaps the Committee would like me to start again.

I will repeat the purpose of the amendment. It is to enable the council to fund agencies providing impartial guidance about further education and training opportunities, and careers guidance of one kind or another. It is an important amendment. I hope that it will now have the proper consideration of Members opposite. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I apologise, and I do not believe that it makes any difference to the debate, but Amendment No. 87 was taken with Amendment No. 69. Amendment No. 88 was the amendment selected. It does not just leave out "or", it includes the provision that the noble Baroness wishes to insert.

Baroness David

I am grateful to the noble Lord. That is why I had the amendment crossed out in my notes, and why I said that I was speaking to Amendment No. 88.

Lord Belstead

The Lord Chairman has called Amendment No. 87.

Baroness David

I shall not move Amendment No. 87.

[Amendment No. 87 not moved.]

Baroness Davidmoved Amendment No. 88:

Page 4, line 24, leave out ("or") and insert: ("(b) the provision of educational guidance to individuals and/or groups, or").

The noble Baroness said: I have spoken to the amendment, and so I now beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I apologise for the fact that we interrupted the noble Baroness. This is an amendment which would enable the funding councils to provide financial support to bodies or persons, including LEAs, for the provision of educational guidance, the subject upon which the noble Baroness spoke. The underlying intention is that the funding councils would subsidise existing LEA guidance services.

Although the guidance services are valuable, it is not a function that the Government believe the councils should have. I shall not go into the details about guidance, because the noble Baroness did so.

The Government fully recognise the contribution of the free-standing services provided by LEAs. But the suggestion of the amendment is that the funding councils should have a role in providing top-up funds in support of existing LEA services. I do not believe that would be desirable. It is for the LEAs to consider the funding of their own guidance services.

I should point out also that the training and enterprise councils play an increasingly significant role in the field of guidance. My right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State for Employment has asked the training and employment councils to ensure that individuals have access to comprehensive information, advice and guidance services. In carrying out that role, TECs may reinforce and co-ordinate provision made by existing services, and many are already doing so. TECs are also being encouraged to develop partnership arrangements with LEAs in relation to the careers service. In many cases the careers service covers educational guidance for adults.

I hope that I may have said enough to show that there is nothing between the Government and Members opposite about the importance of the educational guidance service and it having a good future. I do not believe that it would be an appropriate function for the funding councils to subsidise provision of educational guidance outside further education institutions, because I believe that that is for the LEAs.

Baroness David

There is one point that I do not understand. Further education colleges will not be under the LEAs, as the Bill stands. So who within the further education colleges will give advice about careers guidance, what courses should be followed and so on? The Minister keeps referring to the training and employment councils. Does he mean the training and enterprise councils?

Lord Belstead


Baroness David

I am mystified at the constant reference to LEAs funding careers guidance, because, as I say, further education colleges will be separate. Who will give the guidance within the further education colleges?

Lord Belstead

I am sorry. I may have been a little slipshod Guidance is currently provided in further education institutions of all kinds. It is an important support for students already within institutions who need help in deciding on the next stage of their studies as they work towards a career. Educational guidance can also be offered by institutions to people who are not yet students but want to enrol. Guidance is also provided by local education authorities through the careers service and through freestanding guidance services for adults.

So once again there is nothing between the noble Baroness and myself that guidance is provided in a variety of ways. At the same time, it is implicit in the amendment that a subsidy would be paid from the funding councils to the local education authorities as concerns their guidance service. That is what makes the amendment unacceptable.

Baroness David

I understand the point that the Minister makes, that he thinks that the funding councils should not subsidise the careers service. But will the further education colleges themselves support a careers service? They are supported by the funding councils. Will a careers service be funded by the further education colleges so that we know that it will still exist?

Lord Belstead

I outlined briefly the way in which the careers service works at present. We do not see that as changing. At the risk of being tedious I repeat that we do not like the idea of subsidies.

Baroness David

In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 89, 90 and 91 not moved.]

Lord Addingtonmoved Amendment No. 92:

Page 4, line 28, leave out ("loans").

The noble Lord said: I beg to move this amendment standing in the name of my noble friend Lord Russell. Its primary function is as a probing amendment. We are trying to discover what is meant by "loans", on page 4, line 28 of the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

We simply think that under Clause 5 the funding councils need to be free to determine the most appropriate form of financial support to provide to institutions or persons. There may be cases where a council takes the view that a loan would be the most appropriate form of support. Under the Bill councils would have the maximum flexibility to be able to carry out their duties and to provide that support. The amendment would work in the opposite direction and therefore I do not believe that it would be desirable.

Lord Addington

As I said, this is a probing amendment and we are delighted to receive the information. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Desaimoved Amendment No. 93:

Page 4, line 28, after ("payments") insert: ("(ab) shall be allocated according to a funding formula.").

The noble Lord said: I am moving this amendment on behalf of my noble friend Lord Peston, and in doing so I shall also speak to Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 which relate to the same subject. The purpose of the amendment is to insert the requirement that a funding formula be established for the distribution of funds by funding councils.

As Members of the Committee are aware, the Education Reform Act 1988 devoted approximately five pages to stipulating in law how a formula should be derived and applied under which local colleges should draft their budgets. The amount of the budget they received was according to that formula. The Bill seems to have no safeguard that the funding councils or regional councils must have a formula according to which they fund activities. Therefore colleges are no doubt anxious to know what moneys they are about to receive.

The purpose of this set of amendments is to require the funding councils to have a publicly declared funding formula which is not only public but is open to scrutiny by colleges. It would ensure that colleges could plan ahead because they would know what to expect according to the formula. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps I may add a few words to what my noble friend said. In the debate we had yesterday a great deal was made on the Government Benches of the fact that one of the consequences of removing further education colleges from local authority control was that their governing bodies were to be given a great deal of additional freedom to run their courses and manage their budgets as they thought fit, proper and appropriate for the needs of their students.

The amendment seeks to ensure that the councils will not simply impose conditions which involve stipulating all kinds of constraints and deciding what individual courses ought to be provided. That would take away from governing bodies the right to manage their budgets in a way which is best for the institution. In the light of what was said yesterday I very much hope that the Government are able to respond positively to the amendment.

Lord Belstead

Clause 5 defines the extent of the further education funding councils' funding powers and sets out the institutions and persons to whom each funding council may give financial support and the purposes for which support may be given. However, for very good reasons, it does not specify the basis on which that support should be allocated.

We fully recognise that in practice it is likely that the councils will follow the approach adopted by the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council and will decide to adopt a funding formula for distributing at any rate part of the grant made available to them. However, it would not be right to impose on them a straitjacket that would entail the requirement that all forms of financial support should be allocated on the basis of a formula.

In the first place, the Government have made it clear that they expect the funding made available to colleges by the councils to include an element related to the student enrolment. The purpose of that is to provide colleges with a powerful incentive to recruit additional students. We ought not to lose sight of the essential goal of these reforms: namely, to expand participation in further education.

Secondly, the councils' funding powers we envisage will cover not just payments to colleges but also payments to organisations and persons. They will need flexibility to make payments against a range of criteria and for a range of purposes.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, asked me before dinner about training. I believe that that is probably quite a good example for staff training colleges and possibly for local education authority training. For example, in addition to what I have just said, they would be able to buy places in independent colleges for students with special needs. They would be able to support organisations such as the further education unit and the further education staff college. They would be able to purchase training support or research from wherever they judge most appropriate, including commercial organisations and local education authorities.

I believe that the councils must be free to determine the basis of the allocation of financial support in the light of any general guidance from the relevant Secretary of State. But to require that all financial support had to be allocated in accordance with a formula would impose on the councils a substantial and unjustified constriction.

I know that I have not said a great deal, but on the other hand, I hope that I have given some information as to how we believe the formula would work. In answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, the Government intend this to leave the maximum freedom and flexibility not only for the funding councils but also for the colleges.

Lord Desai

Before the Minister sits down, would he clarify a point concerning local education authorities? Will it be the case that local education authorities will be able to compete on equal terms with other persons or organisations and take on work on a contractual basis for the funding council? Will they be able to do things like that? That was the aim of Amendment No. 97. I just wish to clarify the point.

Lord Belstead

As I have said, it is possible for money to pass to local education authorities. As the noble Lord is aware, it is not possible under the Bill for money to pass to LEAs for work which is being done in their own colleges. That is, as it were, the one prohibition in the Bill.

Lord Desai

I thank the noble Lord for those comments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 94 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Blackstonemoved Amendment No. 95:

Page 4, line 41, at end insert: ("( ) A council shall be the sole agent for distributing funds to which this subsection applies, that is funds made available by the Secretary of State to support courses of a description mentioned in Schedule 2 to this Act and provided at institutions within the further education sector.").

The noble Baroness said: The funding of work-related further education was separated from the general funding of further education following the publication of the Government's White Paper entitled Training for Jobs back in 1984. The White Paper proposed that the former Manpower Services Commission should purchase 25 per cent. of work-related further education. That purchase proposal was regarded at the time as a vote of no confidence in the LEAs and their colleges. After lengthy negotiation, an agreement was reached between the local authority associations and the Manpower Services Commission, as it then was, by which in return for a formal planning process LEAs would receive funding from the Department of Employment via the MSC to provide work-related further education.

Following the disbanding of the MSC, its successor, the Training Commission and later the Training Agency—that organisation has undergone rather a lot of changes in its title—was established. The funding for work-related further education now rests with the Training and Enterprise Councils. The bulk of the funding for further education is a general subsidy to the overall work of the institutions made up of unhypothecated elements of revenue support grant from central government, the unified business rate, and poll tax revenue generated locally.

At present a local authority determines the level of the general subsidy to be levied from public funds to support the work of FE colleges via a funding formula which is approved by the Secretary of State under the 1988 Education Reform Act. That funding formula includes the various elements of general subsidy from public funds, whether locally or nationally raised, and irrespective of whether they are channelled through local authorities or central government departments.

All other funding received by colleges is specifically tied to individual students or projects whether it comes from public or private sources. Therefore the further education colleges and their governors are accountable via the local education authority for all general public subsidy, and to their various individual customers (whether students, employers or the agents of government departments) for the supply of specific services or programmes. Although these arrangements are somewhat complex, they provide for the political accountability for the expenditure of general public moneys via the maintaining authority and for a form of accountability through the market in respect of the various. different items that are specifically funded.

The Bill will transfer the funding currently available to LEAs to the new funding councils. It would seem logical therefore to transfer the funding for work-related further education to the new funding councils rather than leaving that small part of funding, representing between 5 per cent. and 10 per cent. of general subsidy, with the TECs. The only formal link between TECs and the funding councils—we heard about this yesterday—would be two representatives on each regional advisory committee. Since there will be only even to 10 regions, at least three-quarters of TECs will be unable to have a direct voice on their regional committee.

This parallel channelling of public money can serve no useful purpose, is likely to cause conflict and will certainly generate unnecessary bureaucracy. The reason for channelling public funds through an intermediary body is to allow it to have an influence on the behaviour of the institution being funded. If the influence that TECs and the funding councils wish to exert is the same, the two channels of funding represent pointless duplication; but in so far as they are different, they will generate conflict. This is because in both cases the funding is in the nature of a general subsidy which is used as a lever on overall institutional policy. It is axiomatic that an institution cannot be expected to maintain two separate overall policies in order to please two separate generic funding bodies.

This amendment therefore proposes that the total general subsidy from public funds should be channelled through the funding councils. The interests of the Training and Enterprise Councils can be expressed nationally via their representation on the regional committees and at the local level via TECs' direct representation—we all hope they will achieve this representation—on college governing bodies. The amendment is not intended to interfere with specific grants, for example, grant education support and training, or programmes such as youth training schemes or to refer to RSG. The term "the Secretary of State", undifferentiated, means any holder of such an office and is intended here specifically to mean the Secretary of State for Employment. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I strongly oppose this amendment for good reasons. At the present time, and I hope in the future, further education colleges have a multitude of different functions to fulfil. They quite properly fulfil a major function in providing opportunities for people of all ages to pursue missed opportunities to follow GCSE and A-level courses. The FE colleges also provide opportunities for people to take basic literacy courses and provide a range of courses which are not necessarily directly work related, although they enhance the employment opportunities of the people who follow them. Those responsibilities for funding are quite properly transferred to the further education funding councils.

It is also extremely important that the further education colleges continue to do what they have done so well in the past; namely, to provide courses that are directly work related. Those courses are geared to providing better opportunities for people to take up employment in the first place, or to enhance their own performance in the work they are currently carrying out.

The TECs have provided a forum in which the demand for those courses can be properly channelled, through the representation of employers on the TECs, to provide direct funding for work-related courses. In my view it would be quite wrong to do away with the direct influence of the TECs and their direct ability to make contracts with local colleges, and fund all that provision through the further education councils. That would constitute a confusion of the different kinds of work that are being carried out. This amendment concerns a fundamental issue and it is important that it should not be accepted.

Lord Belstead

I am interested in the intervention of my noble friend Lady Perry as it is indeed our intention that the funding councils should take over responsibility for funding all Schedule 2 courses that are currently the responsibility of LEAs. Colleges also currently receive funds from government and from a variety of other sources, but it is not our intention that the funding councils should take over responsibility for that matter too. The other sources account for a relatively small proportion of colleges' overall funding.

I appreciate that, as regards the colleges, there would be some administrative advantage if their core funds were derived from a single source. However, they are used to receiving funds from a number of different sources. As far as I am aware, they have not found that procedure to be a problem. They would in any case continue to receive funds from different sources even if this amendment were to be accepted. Colleges would, for example, continue to apply for and receive funds from the European Commission. They would continue to earn income from fees and impose other charges for services they provide.

I was particularly interested in the remarks of my noble friend who referred to the importance of the colleges in providing work-related courses. As the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, mentioned, the work-related further education funds are provided by the TECs and will continue to enhance the relevance of FE provision for work. It is in recognition of the important role of work-related further education funding through the training and enterprise councils that the Secretary of State has said that there should be TEC representatives on each regional committee and one TEC representative on each college governing body.

I cannot go further this evening. I understand why the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, moved the amendment but, for reasons which have been given most ably by my noble friend Lady Perry and those I have given, I must resist the amendment.

9 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

I should not want the Committee to gain the impression that we in any way oppose work-related courses. On the contrary, we support them and regard them as extremely important. Indeed, we would hope that the funding council would provide financial support for such courses even if the TECs are to continue to provide some of the funding for them.

I am extremely glad that the Minister recognised that there are administrative advantages in having core funding from only one source. Speaking as the head of an institution, admittedly in higher education, I can assure him that it is very difficult when one is trying to obtain core funding from various different sources, particularly when different pressures are exerted on institutions by those funding sources. The noble Lord mentioned the EC. I am sure that the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, can confirm that it is impossible to obtain funds from the EC without suffering dreadful delays and sometimes incompetent bureaucracy.

The noble Lord also mentioned fees. That is a completely different source of funding and is not relevant to this argument. However, I noted what the Minister said. I shall take the matter away and consider it. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 96 and 97 not moved.]

Clause 5 agreed to.

Clause 6 [Administration of funds: supplementary]:

[Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 not moved.]

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 100:

Page 5, line 41, after ("shall") insert ("within 21 days").

The noble Baroness said: I have the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, for the amendment and I hope also for Amendment No. 101 which is grouped with it and to which I shall speak at the same time.

The amendments set up an appeals mechanism for external bids for funding council funding via a sponsoring body. Amendment No. 100 has the effect of ensuring that the sponsoring body shall not occasion unnecessary delay in processing applications for financial support from an external institution. Amendment No. 101, which seeks to insert the words: The relevant funding council shall arbitrate in instances where the adequacy of the provision for that population in that year by other institutions is disputed", has the effect of affording an appeals mechanism in respect of an application for financial support which is contested by either the sponsoring body or any other local provider.

Under the provisions of the Bill as it stands nearly all adult education colleges services institutions will need to route their applications to funding councils for Schedule 2 funding through a local further education college. They will not be eligible for incorporation or designation.

The relationships in some localities between the adult and further education services have not always been good. The Bill radically alters the distribution of influence between the two. In any event, other people's programme and funding needs are unlikely to be the colleges' top priority. The route through further education college sponsorship may apply to nearly all adult education services—or, as we propose only to the smaller. In either case it will be essential to the maintenance of proper local community based services that there is no unnecessary delay—hence our proposal for a 21 day limit—in determining the level of funds available and that there should be an appeals mechanism.

Without those provisions in the worst cases the adequacy of provision in the locality could be determined without appeal by a body which has shown no previous interest and demonstrated no expertise in the education of adults. Relationships between the FE colleges and the adult education colleges and other providers is very good in some areas while in others it is not so good. Therefore we want safeguards, which we hope to introduce in the two amendments. I beg to move.

Viscount Combermere

I support the amendment. In the absence of an ability to bid directly for funds there must be some form of appeal procedure to allow adult education centres to appeal against decisions made by the funding councils if their initial requests are turned down. That should be done within a reasonable period of time.

Ideally, however, direct bidding should be allowed for adult education centres and also for short-term adult colleges. I understand that there is a fear on the part of the Government that if that is allowed some 2,500 adult education centres might start independent bidding. In fact, if direct bidding is allowed probably fewer than 100 adult education centres would be involved. Those major centres or consortia—one per local education authority—have a large number of subsidiary centres. Richmond Adult and Community College, for example, with which I have been closely involved for a number of years as a lecturer, has 13 such subsidiary centres, and as a major consortium would collate all their needs and in turn bid directly to the FEFCs rather than having to apply to the approved FE centre. Why should one college be at the beck and call of another college, particularly as substantially more students go through adult education centres as opposed to local education authority further education colleges?

That discrimination against adult education funded centres reflects the misplaced assumption that LEAs should fund only so-called leisure classes at adult education centres. Adequate financial resources must be available both to the funding centres and to each LEA. If necessary, each adult education centre should be able to bid directly to the funding councils, particularly as, as I understand it, out of 100 LEAs, around 20 have no separate provision left to fund any kind of adult education. I fully support the amendment.

Lord Belstead

We want to see all resources available for adult education used properly, whether those relate to FE colleges or to adult education colleges and centres run by local education authorities. We therefore expect further education colleges in the new sector to support provision which falls within the funding councils' remit where that is made outside the sector in adult colleges and centres, or in schools.

Under the Bill, the governing body of an institution outside the funding council sector will be able to make to an institution within that sector a request that it should apply to the council for support on the external institution's behalf. The funding council sector institution will forward the application to the funding council if facilities for the kind of courses in question are not adequate in the locality.

I realise that the two amendments try to tighten up, as it were, on the rules to ensure that there is fair play in the matter. Perhaps I may deal with the second amendment first, Amendment No. 101. I understand that questions may arise as to whether facilities in the locality are adequate or not. Those problems must be resolved, but this amendment would introduce an unhelpful, confrontational element into the situation by speaking of arbitration and dispute. The Government would expect FE colleges to act in good faith in considering whether facilities were available in such places and at such times as to suit local people. However, if by any chance there is not fair play and a college misdirects itself, it is the funding council's duty to ensure adequate provision across the whole country. The English council will make use of its regional committees to do that.

The councils and regional committees will need a good grasp of the situation in each locality so that they can judge the bids coming forward from each college. They will therefore be able to see where provision is not adequate and will, if necessary, intervene in the case of an FE college which has wrongly failed to put forward a sound bid from an institution outside the sector. The councils will have plenty of power to influence the FE colleges which are dependent on them for funding.

There is a further safeguard—the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, said that we need safeguards—in that the Secretary of State may review decisions both of FE colleges and of the councils themselves on grounds of unreasonableness or failure to perform a duty. Those powers of the Secretary of State are to be found in the 1944 Education Act. That is an established route for complaint, and in this case it can be used by an institution outside the sector if it feels that it has been discriminated against.

Perhaps I may now return to the first amendment, Amendment No. 100. It would not be helpful for the FE colleges to have a duty to forward applications within 21 days. The noble Baroness may be rather surprised and think that I am resisting the amendment just for the sake of it, but I am not. I am advised that the further education funding councils are likely to have an annual cycle of asking for applications from colleges and determining funding. They would not wish to receive applications at different times of the year simply because the FE colleges had a duty to forward them at once. We envisage that the colleges would forward the applications at particular times. If they did not do that, the matter could be investigated by the council or, in England, the appropriate regional committee and, if necessary, by the Secretary of State.

I understand the reason behind the two amend-ments. I was not surprised to see them on the Marshalled List because I know that this is a new procedure which is dependent on goodwill. But it depends on more than that. There are safeguards and, without going over the ground again, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel that they are reasonably good.

Viscount Combermere

Before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps he will tell us whether those safeguards include representation of the adult education centres on FEFCs.

Lord Belstead

The answer to the question is, yes. It is a free country. Obviously, an adult education college which is outside the new further education funding sector and reaches in via a further education college with a bid, and thinks that things are not going right and that it is being discriminated against may make representations directly to the Secretary of State who has two separate powers to intervene under the 1944 Education Act. That must subsume the right for the institution to make further representations to the funding councils.

Baroness David

First, I should like to thank the noble Viscount for his helpful support. It is splendid to hear someone who is involved in the whole business of teaching in these areas and who knows what is going on in a practical way. I also thank the Minister for his very full reply. I am sure he realises that in that sector there are very real anxieties and worries.

I should like to study carefully what the Minister said and take advice from those who are worried and have suggested these amendments. I may well need to come back to this matter because it is a very important area and for the sake of further and adult education in the country we want to get the matter right. As I said, I am not totally convinced by the reply. I shall study it carefully and take advice. For tonight, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Clause 6 agreed to.

9.15 p.m.

Clause 7 [Grants to councils]:

[Amendment No. 102 not moved.]

Earl Russell had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 103:

Page 6, line 12, at end insert ("; but if it shall appear to either of the funding Councils that such terms and conditions conflict with their duties under section 2, they shall report to Parliament accordingly.").

The noble Earl said: This amendment is grouped with Amendment No. 104. I do not intend to move Amendment No. 103 but I shall move Amendment No. 104.

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 104:

Page 6, line 12, at end insert: ("subject to the requirement that in any case where the relevant funding council or the Quality Assessment Committee considers that any such term or condition will tend to operate to diminish the quality of education it shall notify the Secretary of State and inform Parliament. (1A) Where the Secretary of State receives any notification in accordance with subsection (1) above, he shall determine the term and condition concerned in an order, and no such order shall be made unless a draft of it has been laid before and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.").

The noble Earl said: Amendment No. 104 seeks to give the quality assessment committee the power to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State and Parliament the fact that the funds provided are not sufficient to maintain quality. This is an amendment of considerable weight.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, may remember making the Statement in which this Bill was first foreshadowed. Although I do not have his words to hand, I believe I quote him accurately when he said that the funding council was intended to promote what the Government meant by efficiency; in other words, it was intended to reduce unit costs. That is a policy which is at least capable of having the effect of reducing quality rather severely.

Recently there have been newspaper reports of a number of cases of concern and indeed protests about such ordinary, run-of-the-mill mundane matters as schools not having enough books in the library. This is not something which concerns high issues of theory. Such matters represent a simple desire to be able to do an ordinary job of work. Obviously, there is a considerable risk that extending the pursuit of efficiency into the further education sector may lead to some of the same difficulties, which are capable of becoming rather acute.

That brings me back to the point we were discussing—without making very great progress—in Amendment No. 26; namely, the question of who will tell the Secretary of State that the funds he provides are not sufficient to do the job for which he provides them. I know that it is perfectly possible for individuals to say that. It is equally possible for individuals to be ignored. There is a point beyond which there has to be somebody in authority who is capable of saying, "Stop!" Ideally that somebody should be someone in whom the Secretary of State has already expressed confidence.

The quality assessment committee has such power and quality. If the Secretary of State is told by the quality assessment committee that the funds are not sufficient for the purpose, he cannot say that they are people who speak either out of a selfish professional concern for their own welfare or for party political advantage. These are people whom he is presumed to have put in that position because he believes that he ought to listen to them. We will get nowhere at all in this discussion unless it is understood that throughout the education sector it is very widely perceived that the single gravest threat to quality is the Secretary of State himself. I beg to move.

Lord Renton

This is a very unusual provision. It is quite usual for various statutory bodies to have to report annually to Parliament. Perhaps other noble Lords have found that there is an obligation in the Bill but I must say that I have not come across it yet. For such a body to have to inform Parliament on a matter of relative detail is, so far as I know, without precedent. I do not believe that it should be encouraged.

Bearing in mind that the Secretary of State will have to be notified, and that in any event the Secretary of State is responsible to Parliament for bodies appointed by him, I believe that it is unnecessary to legislate along the lines suggested in the first part of the amendment. I shall be interested to hear what my noble friend has to say about the second part. I certainly believe that it would be unwise to create the precedent contained in the first part.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

When an amendment covers similar ground to one moved previously—and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, referred to his efforts to try to secure a provision of this kind yesterday—the temptation is to make the same speech in reply. I shall resist the temptation. I hope that I am not being unkind to the noble Earl but I have the impression that he lives in a strange world. Those of us who have been involved in Government have felt that we were working in a goldfish bowl, such are the resources of publicity, the media, Parliamentary Questions, parliamentary correspondence and all the pressures that can be brought to bear to expose what some people are seeking to argue is an improper or inadequate use of power, or to suggest that things are going badly.

The problem that Ministers face often when things are going well is the extent to which everybody is looking for bad news. People pick it up, wave it about and say, "Look, isn't everything absolutely awful?". The idea that we must build in special procedures and clauses in order to give someone who wishes to make such a complaint a special procedure for doing so is bizarre. I cannot believe that it is beyond the ingenuity of those who wish to make a complaint—for instance, that the money is not sufficient and they are unable to conduct their affairs with due attention to quality, or that there are not enough books in the Library and so forth—to bring it to the attention of the public and Parliament so that the matter becomes one of controversy. If they do not wish to do anything else they can persuade a television company to make a programme about the problem. That gains far more publicity than writing to Parliament to draw the matter to its attention.

I wonder whether the noble Earl recognises that that is what goes on up and down the country, day in and day out, month in and month out. It is very healihy; I do not complain about it because we are an open society. It is probable that we have more avenues for complaining about Government and the exercise of powers by Ministers than any other country. Therefore, I see no need for building in new procedures as the noble Earl has proposed. I believe that they are quite unnecessary.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I wish to speak forcefully against the amendment. I have experience as a member of the Council for National Academic Awards which is appointed by the Secretary of State. I have often been the only non-academic member sitting on the council. During the course of several years I have heard the council reach the conclusion that the unit of resource in the polytechnic sector was far toe low as compared with the university unit of resource.

As I understand it, the quality assessment commiltees will be composed largely of people with experience in further and higher education. I should have thought that they were the last people to judge whether or not there was enough money for the purposes of assuring quality.

I back that up by saying that since the polytechnics have been removed from local authority control, even on the extremely meagre unit of resource which they judge they are awarded compared to that which is given to the universities, quite a number of them are stashing away quite a lot of money.

I should have thought that if that judgment of quality and the money which is there to support it is to be made, it certainly should not be made by people who are largely academics, self-interested in a larger unit of resource.

Lord Belsread

The noble Earl prefaced his remarks—and I understand why —by saying that there is a feeling in his mind that the search for increased efficiency could endanger quality as regards academic institutions. As I say, I understand that and in my darker moments I sometimes feel the same.

However, that led me to reflect that if that really is the view of a highly practised and distinguished academic, which the noble Earl is, then one of the best things which the present Government have done under those circumstances is to introduce the local management of schools and colleges and to say to people on the governing bodies of the institutions concerned, whether in the school or colleges sector, "Here is your budget; in addition to that, you have the freedom to decide how to spend it". That brings home to them beneficially and sensibly—and not in any way vindictively —that one must think about the best possible way in which the money should be spent.

The noble Earl will forgive me for delivering those few words. He concluded that the greatest enemy of academic excellence could be the Secretary of State and I felt I must reply to that.

The other points are already made and I need not make them again. My noble friend Lord Jenkin can forget more about how to organise the raising and spending of money as regards Parliament than I shall ever learn. My noble friend Lord Renton intervened extremely effectively to say that he does not believe that this amendment is framed in the right way. However, let us not forget that the quality assessment committees have the power to inform the funding councils if they are concerned about the quality of provision and in turn the funding councils can inform the Secretary of State.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to Members of the Committee who have taken an interest in this amendment. I have listened to them with a great deal of interest. As regards the Minister's final point, I accept that the quality assessment councils can inform the funding councils which can in turn inform the Secretary of State. The purpose of my provision is to go above the Secretary of State. The only place where that can be done is Parliament.

Lord Belstead

I did not say this because it is self-evident, but the Secretary of State is answerable to Parliament.

Earl Russell

Obviously; that is why I tabled the amendment—in the hope of more efficiently holding him answerable.

I listened to the noble Lord, Lord Renton, with great interest, as I always do. He is quite right that this is an unusual provision. It is designed to deal with a very unusual situation which has gone on for a considerable length of time. All the ordinary techniques have been used; they have not been heard. They must be heard.

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, said that I live in a strange world. To judge from general reaction, it is obviously a question which divides the two sides of the Committee: that is, which of us lives in a strange world? He said that he lived in a goldfish bowl. I quite agree. It is impermeable. All the techniques described by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, have been used. They have been used many times over. I have used them myself. The perception of the other side is that none of it is going through. In fact the picture that people in this Chamber have of the state of universities, of higher education and education in general is one I simply do not recognise. When I go back to my college and speak to colleagues about it, and perhaps occasionally show them the Official Report, they do not recognise the world being discussed here either.

I can recall raising the issue of funding in my maiden speech and being congratulated by a colleague on importing a welcome note of reality into the proceedings. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, will, I hope, concede that to an extent the perception of reality depends on the point from which you perceive it. I do not believe that the point of perception at one end of the spectrum has any less claim to a hearing than another.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, said that academics were the last people to judge. There is an obvious point here; who else does the noble Lord think should be judging? Is it or is it not sufficient to keep in the Library one copy of Dr. Lake's book on Moderate Puritans in the Elizabethan Church? I doubt whether the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, can answer that question on the spur of the moment. The only person who can answer it on the spur of the moment is the person who actually knows how often he will set it to people doing essays. A necessary point of knowledge is involved.

We are reaching the point where, if the provision is not accepted, we simply cannot go on. I do not want to see the further education sector, in the pursuit of efficiency, exposed to all the same things as I have seen over the past few years.

I was about to sit down but I shall give way to the noble Lord.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

I only want to point out to the noble Earl that for eight years I have heard academics saying that they have reached the point where they simply cannot go on. After that long period of time they have in fact gone on and, having been set free and allowed to do their accounts independently, they have managed to salt away quite a lot of spare capital, reserve and cash. So the truth of the matter is that they always did have enough money and still do. Therefore from my experience I mistrust those who say that they cannot do it anymore. I do not believe that they are the right people to judge.

If the quality assessment unit were to be made up of a broader spectrum of people with perhaps more commercial knowledge regarding how money may be raised and spent, then I should have more faith in it. But from my own experience I treat with great misgivings any suggestion that we have reached the end of the road and simply cannot go on.

Earl Russell

The noble Lord reminds me of a family doctor who used to say that it was his practice to discount half the patient's symptoms. We have an argument here in which both parties may be construed as arguing ex parte.

I take the point that we have gone so far; I am beginning to wonder whether that was a mistake. Sooner or later we must come to one of two points. Either the noble Lord and his noble friends will not be satisfied until the whole operation grinds, shuddering, to a halt, or else there must be some impartial judge betwixt thee and me.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

The noble Earl says impartial. But it is proposed that these be people within the system who are entirely partial.

Earl Russell

An impartial judge must be capable of understanding the evidence put before him. If the Secretary of State thinks that these people will be biased against his point of view, then I do not know why he is appointing them. If there is no further comment I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 105 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

[Amendment No. 106 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 107:

Page 6, line 24, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Earl said: This amendment relates to terms and conditions which, enable the Secretary of State to require the payment, in whole or in part, of sums paid by him if any of the terms and conditions subject to which the sums were paid is not complied with". I would like to know a little more about at what precisely the paragraph is aiming. Without knowing what the terms and conditions are that the Secretary of State is likely to be imposing, it is difficult to know how to judge a provision of that kind. I should be very grateful if we could be told a little more, first, about how the provision is to be operated and, secondly, if this power is to be exercised, how it is envisaged that the institution will recover. It is rather like the problem that we had over the judgment against British Rail concerning Clapham. The only way in which British Rail could finance the damages which it quite rightly had to pay was by raising fares. There comes a point beyond which, if one carries on in that direction, one is envisaging closure of the institution. I would like to know what is going to be done with these powers. I should be very grateful if the Minister could give me some enlightenment about that. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

Amendments Nos. 106 and 107 relate to Clause 7 subsections (2) and (3). The noble Earl is moving the second of the amendments. Perhaps I may go a little wider in my brief reply. The reasons for those subsections are that they clearly provide for my right honourable friend to attach conditions to grant which, while precluding him from requiring a council to favour an individual institution, are such that some institutions might be treated differently from others in the allocation of grant.

I have certainly heard it said that special provision for colleges such as sixth form colleges might need to be made. That has not been said in the Chamber this evening, but I have certainly heard it said outside. Subsections (2) and (3) taken together would enable the Secretary of State to attach conditions to grant relating to a particular class of institution such as sixth form colleges. The amendment would deprive the Secretary of State of a power that could be used for purposes which I believe, looking at this sector of education, any objective observer would favour. It is on those grounds that I would not favour the amendment which the noble Earl is putting forward.

Earl Russell

I do not need to pursue this matter further at present. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Kilmarnock moved Amendment No. 108:

Page 6, line 30, at end insert: ("(4) Requirements under subsection (2) (a) above shall be imposed by statutory instrument, which shall be subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.").

The noble Lord said: I share in some of the criticisms which were levelled at Amendment No. 104 moved by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. In that amendment, instead of Parliament triggering a resolution by statute, a complicated mechanism was set up whereby the councils or the quality assessment committee should nudge the Secretary of State who would be obliged to nudge Parliament into a resolution. That is an unacceptable and unrealistic procedure, but that does not mean that I think this clause should remain unamended.

I see that the noble Earl, Lord Russell, has given notice that he intends to oppose the Question that this clause stand part of the Bill. I do not know if he still intends that but I do not want to go that far. It is worth considering whether the Secretary of State might have some legitimate purposes that justify its inclusion, albeit in amended form. I can imagine such purposes. For example, he might want to hold back funds until he is satisfied that certain basic conditions have been, or will be, fulfilled.

For instance, since the Education Reform Act 1988 the Secretary of State has taken certain powers to himself to withhold funding in the polytechnics and universities sector pending the fulfilment of certain conditions. In the past financial year he held back 2 per cent. of the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council's revenue budget pending the introduction of conditions concerning pay settlements with staff and of new contracts including an appraisal system of staff performance. When challenged in the High Court by the Association of College and Polytechnic Teachers I understand that he was upheld.

Possibly Clauses 7 and 53 in this part of the Bill and Clauses 64 and and 77 in the later part of the Bill have been introduced to ward off further challenges. Some people may feel that the Secretary of State is over-reacting and has sought to protect himself to an excessive degree. That may well be the case. However, just as in the higher education sector so in further education the Secretary of State might legitimately want to hold back funds until he is satisfied that local pay bargaining has been introduced and new contracts include a suitable appraisal system, or something of that sort.

Those are what I would call managerial rather than educational conditions. If his object is to introduce a new devolved system, some would consider such initial requirements to be legitimate and I for one would support them. On the other hand, it would be quite a different matter so far as I am concerned if he attempted to use this section in order to dictate the curriculum, or to make misguided attempts at manpower planning by controlling through the councils the numbers entering each subject area. I would consider those to be educational conditions that were unacceptable.

Those are purposes that I would consider to be illegitimate. Young people are not stupid. They are the best judges of the skills and diplomas that they should be acquiring and the whole point of having devolved free-standing colleges is that the system should be demand-led and not led by the nose by the Secretary of State. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, in his reply to the last amendment made reference to the local management of schools and colleges and he referred favourably to that.

This clause is not, in my view, as pernicious as Clause 53 as it does not bite on specific activities in individual institutions. If used for purely managerial functions it can be beneficial. However, it does give the Secretary of State an extremely wide power in relation to the strategic deployment of funds. I therefore feel—going back to my first point—that we do need the safeguard as proposed in this amendment that the Secretary of State must come to Parliament with a statutory instrument subject to affirmative resolution whenever he wants to impose specific conditions under subsection (2) (a).

I would say to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, that I am not advocating specious procedures. There is no special clause, this is normal parliamentary procedure and I hope he may feel inclined to support me on this. If we can have this procedure in place, it will enable us to see whether the Secretary of State is using his power for proper or improper purposes, and to act accordingly. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Seear

It is time that we came clean about this. A great many of us are very worried about the degree of potential interference in the Bill before us. That worry was reflected in what my noble friend Lord Russell said during the debate on the previous amendment. Universities and colleges have to be the best judges of what they teach and how they teach. Of course it will be said—as a matter of fact, I heard this argument today from a civil servant in the department—that the Government are putting up public money and therefore the Secretary of State has a right to find out how that money is spent. However, it was always the principle behind the old University Grants Committee, which had its great merits as well as its defects, that it shielded universities from the interference of people who are not academics, who do not understand what is going on, who have never worked in the university field either as researchers or as teachers, and whose knowledge of what is required in a first-class educational institution is not, to put it mildly, self-evident.

Whether or not this is the right amendment I do not know, but running throughout the Bill is a threat to what is absolutely essential—the independence of universities and other colleges to teach the things which in their judgment are right to be taught. There may be abuses. It may be possible to find other ways in which abuses can be checked. But this overall right of interference is something which, I can assure the Committee, all of us who are or have been connected with the academic world will fight right up to the last line.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

It is always a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness because she is nothing if not consistent. Did she not make exactly the same complaint or express exactly the same anxiety when the 1988 Bill was going through the House? She felt that because the polytechnics were to look for their finance to the PCFC rather than to local authorities, they would therefore come under the control of the Secretary of State.

Baroness Seear

The noble Lord has the advantage of me. I say so many things that I have not the slightest idea of what I said in that regard.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

I should be very happy to remind the noble Baroness of exactly what she said. I shall quote from an article entitled The Kenneth Baker Act which appeared in the pamphlet Unservile State Papers Number 34. It states: Baroness Seear said, 'the proposals for higher education have sounded alarm bells ringing … Major concerns include the increased control over what is to be taught, exercised through the University Funding Council … [and] widespread anxiety regarding funding for basic research". She said that three years ago yet it has not happened. But that has not stopped the noble Baroness saying it again in respect of this Bill. One is entitled to ask whether the polytechnics have come under political control and whether they are being told what to teach. Are academics being told how they are to conduct their discussions? My noble friend Lady Perry of Southwark said that those provisions have been a tremendous success. She and her colleagues who have experience of the polytechnics have said that nothing like what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, in 1988 would happen has happened. Surely we are therefore entitled to point out to her that when she says that that will happen under this Bill it is equal nonsense. It has not happened and it will not happen. I hope that she will stop voicing these imaginary fears and putting terror into everyone's heart.

Baroness Seear

I do not know whether or not it has happened. The influence of the funding has been considerable in many areas. The noble Baroness, Lady Perry, is pleased with the results, but not everyone else is pleased with the results; and even the noble Baroness does not speak for the whole of higher education—not yet at any rate.

There is a danger there which is widely expressed. It is only three years since that legislation was passed. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, cannot believe that anything is established one way or another in a period of three years.

Earl Russell

My noble friend made those remarks in 1988. She was quite right: it has happened. It was not necessary for the Secretary of State to intervene in detail in infringing technical autonomy; the control of the unit of resource through funding has been quite enough. While making a statement on the Bill in March, in reply to me on the subject of efficiency, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that I ought to pay attention to the great success story taking place in the polytechnics. I just managed to bite my tongue and prevent myself from saying what I shall say now. That is quite different from the story that I hear from all my friends who teach in polytechnics. They have been approaching me in desperation asking me to help them write letters to enable them to obtain another job; that is, any other job in any other profession so that they can get out from where they are. The reduction in the unit of resource, unfunded expansion and overcrowding have reduced the quality of the job to the point where it is not worth doing.

I do not know how far those fears are justified. However, I know that that is what my friends in the polytechnics tell me. I also know, because I read newspaper reports and because I listen to many of my friends, of fairly considerable disturbance which is taking place at present. I have never heard before of a sit-in for the doubling of an institution's library budget. That is what happened at Thames Polytechnic. It was successful. I believe that the polytechnics are in considerable trouble at present because the unit of resource has been reduced too far.

I am reminded—and this is not a digression—of what I think is one of the classic political documents of the 1960s. The Free Wales Army had let off a series of bombs. Gwynfor Evans, President of Plaid Cymru and MP for Carmarthen wrote a letter to The Times saying that all his life he had told the Welsh to stick to legal, democratic and parliamentary methods. In pursuit of that aim he got elected to Parliament. He put down over 1,000 Questions on Welsh affairs. But nothing changed. Then a few bombs went off and a shower of concessions rained down from Whitehall. That was not Mr. Evans's mistake.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I fear that we have strayed a long distance away from the meat of the amendment which we are discussing. Nevertheless, it seems appropriate to reply briefly to the remarks made by the noble Earl about what has been happening in polytechnics. First, so far as concerns academic freedom, since the passing of the 1988 Act we have enjoyed such a freedom which is unknown in our history. We have been free from any kind of control over the development of new courses, either by the local authority or indeed by the much discredited FE 21 system of the DES. That freedom has been an enormous boon and a benefit to those of us who run the institutions and who teach in them and also to our students.

In regard to financial matters, I can only speak for my own institution. But I believe that I am far from untypical. We have not suffered from any gross reduction in funding; nor, I believe, do the staff in my institution feel any increased pressure upon them, although at a time of change and accelerated expansion there are bound to be feelings of anxiety. However, I can tell the noble Earl that when we now advertise job vacancies we receive over 100 applications for almost any lecturing post. That must represent the view that the world outside has of the attraction of working in polytechnics. From a very rapid turnover of jobs three or four years ago, we now have an almost too static turnover in many of our departments. Of course, that is for many reasons. But I believe that it is a straw in the wind which rather discounts the kind of picture painted by the noble Earl.

Staff morale is good in most of our institutions. I know that it is good in mine. In the past few years we have been able to buy new buildings and to expand facilities to students in ways which would not have been possible previously. That, as I said, is a long way from the amendment that we are discussing. Nonetheless, since the polytechnics' experience has been made relevant to the case, I should like to state what I believe—and what I experience in my daily work—to be the facts.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I am not sure that it is central to our purpose this evening to debate the present general welfare of the polytechnics, interesting though that theme is. Perhaps I may return to the terms of the relevant clause and ask a question of the Minister which seems to me to be pertinent to the amendment which has been proposed. The wording of Clause 7(2) (a) is: may in particular impose requirements to be complied with in respect of each institution, or each institution falling within a class or description". When I read that and rather similar wording later in the Bill, I found myself uncertain as to whether the Minister would be able to impose a general condition to be followed by all institutions; that is to say, for "each" read "all", or whether he would be able to impose a condition upon particular institutions. I have taken legal advice on the matter, and it has not been unanimous. Eminent legal advice has referred to the matter as hazy.

Members on both sides of the Committee would be greatly comforted if the Minister could assure us that there was no intention of imposing conditions upon particular named institutions. I should welcome that assurance. If we receive that assurance, I shall be interested to know why under paragraph (b) there is the word "otherwise". The paragraph states, shall not otherwise relate to the provision of financial support". If my noble friend the Minister can assure me that the word "otherwise" is otiose and can be deleted without changing the meaning of the Bill, I should be much happier about paragraph (a), and I feel that the force of the amendment—although there may be a number of interesting points made by Members opposite—would be considerably diminished. If "each" implies "particular" there are also anxieties on this side of the Committee.

Lord Renton

I support what my noble friend has just said. My anxiety about the amendment is that it would cause delay in funding. The requirement that there shall be a statutory instrument and an affirmative resolution before a grant made by the Minister shall become effective could lead to several months' delay. Education would suffer accordingly. For that reason alone, it would be unwise to accept the amendment.

It may console the noble Earl to remember that in any event the Secretary of State will be answerable to Parliament because the expenditure of public funds is involved. That will have to be included in his Estimates, and he can be questioned about the matter from time to time.

The amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, would cause practical difficulties. Having said that, the clarification which my noble friend has just sought is highly desirable.

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, for making the point that he did. It was one that I intended to raise on Clause 7 stand part. If we receive a reassuring answer I shall not need to pursue that matter.

Lord Belstead

Perhaps I may return, like noble Lords who have just spoken, to the amendment which relates to an affirmative resolution. I do not believe that it would be helpful. As my noble friend Lord Renton said, the affirmative resolution procedure could lead to considerable delay. I have not taken advice on the point, but it occurs to me that an affirmative resolution procedure could be hybrid if it led to individual applications from colleges. If that is the case, it could lead to enormous delay.

Perhaps I may digress for a moment before replying to the amendment and make the point that it is a further education and not a higher education amendment. The Secretary of State's funding of education is not a matter of setting conditions, which is what the amendment involves. Funding is about the Secretary of State exercising the Government's policies for which he is responsible. The two are not necessarily the same.

Incidentally, the funding of polytechnics was brought in by the noble Earl as being relevant in the sense that he was arguing that the Government's policies of constantly seeking efficiency were having a deleterious effect on the polytechnics.

Earl Russell

I beg the noble Lord's pardon, but I did not divert us down this path; the point was brought in by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, as a success story. It was merely in reply that I pursued the matter further.

10 p.m.

Lord Belstead

I apologise to the noble Earl. I should say that my noble friend raised the issue originally and the noble Earl followed it up in the way that I suggested. What is absolutely certain is that the matter was concluded by my noble friend Lady Perry who made the point that polytechnics have been doing well. Statistically, that is borne out by the fact that funding for the polytechnics and colleges increased by 10 per cent. in 1990–91 and 1991–92. It will increase by over 12 per cent. in 1992–93. Quite honestly, with inflation as it is at the moment, those are not negligible increases.

The setting of conditions under this clause, if one considers the precedent of the Universities Funding Council and the Polytechnics and Colleges Funding Council, is a course which the Secretary of State is unlikely to use much nor will he set many formal conditions. Funding councils will have the power to advise the Secretary of State of any concerns they have arising from his general policies. Institutions and others can raise their concerns directly with the Secretary of State or through a variety of parliamentary procedures.

I was asked a direct question by my noble friend Lord Renfrew about the interpretation of the drafting of subsection (2) (a) and the meaning of the word "otherwise" in subsection (2) (b). Perhaps I may answer in the same way. My interpretation of the wording of subsection (2) (a), speaking on behalf of the Government, is that the conditions of grant may include requirements to be complied with by all institutions or by institutions falling into a specified class or description. But they may not relate to financial support provided by a council to a particular institution or institutions.

Further, I can give the assurance requested by my noble friend as regards not imposing conditions on particular named institutions in the context of using the word "otherwise". I am advised that "otherwise" is included because the kind of conditions envisaged under subsection (2) (a) would be deemed to fall foul of the provision in subsection (2) (b). However, as I said, subsection (2) (a) conditions will not impact on named institutions.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn

I am grateful to my noble friend. I do not propose an amendment at this stage but the noble Lord, Lord Renton, rather appropriately pointed out to me that if the word "every" were inserted for "each", the difficulty would disappear.

Lord Belstead

I am grateful to my noble friend for saying so. That is the end of my explanation to him and I return to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock.

Lord Peston

Perhaps I may interrupt the noble Lord at this point because it is a serious matter. The word "each" is in the English language and it is neither "every" nor "all". Therefore I do not believe that the Minister has replied to his noble friend Lord Renfrew. I took "each" to mean "a specified institution", and I know of no interpretation of the English language that gives any other meaning.

If the Minister is telling us the word "each" does not mean each, he should not use that word. He should use either "every" or "all". Each means each. We were discussing language difficulties earlier. Most of us do not have language difficulties. I could say that the institution of the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, will not receive any money unless she is fired. I am not suggesting for one moment that that is the case, but that is what the word "each" may mean. If the Minister is saying that each does not mean each, he should follow the advice of his noble friends and change that word. I do not have to remind the noble Lord again, as I did yesterday, that what is on the face of the Bill becomes the law rather than what the Minister has said.

Lord Belstead

I shall stick by what I have said this evening and I shall not repeat it. In my reply I did not become involved in the issue of the words "each" or "every". That is a matter which my noble friend Lord Renfrew discussed subsequent to my reply. The noble Lord, Lord Peston, has now entered that discussion. I suggest with respect that it might be a good idea for the noble Lord to read my remarks in Hansard. I have given a considered reply which may be either wrong or right, but nevertheless it is a considered reply. I cannot go further than what I have already said this evening.

Lord Peston

I hope that this is the last occasion I interrupt the noble Lord on this matter. I accept that he has given a considered reply. I am only asking him to give some consideration to the other remarks that have been made. The Minister usually does that. I am not trying to make difficulties for the Minister at this stage. I am simply asking him whether he will consult with his colleagues to make sure that what he has said is correct, or to discover whether the comments of other noble Lords are correct. I seek no more than that.

Lord Belstead

I am certainly happy to do that. I give the noble Lord that undertaking. The point that has interested me about the amendment is that generally there is a barrage of views in favour of affirmative resolutions. However, there has not been a barrage of such views this evening. I believe the main reason for that is the reason given by my noble friend Lord Renton. I followed that point up at the beginning of my remarks. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, will not feel it necessary to press the amendment.

Lord Kilmarnock

We have had an interesting debate which has flushed out a number of concerns about this clause, if nothing else. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was concerned about improper academic interference. We all share that concern. I do not wish to get involved in the discussion that occurred between the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, on the current general well-being of the polytechnics. That is rather a different matter.

The noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, made an important point on the wording of paragraph (a) of subsection (2). He asked what the word "each" meant. Does it mean "all" or does it mean "every"? The Government will have to sort out that matter, or some of us will have to sort it out for the Government, when we reach the next stage of the Bill. I took the trouble to read the Notes on Clauses which the Government presented in a splendid blue folder. I shall keep that folder for other purposes when the Bill has completed its course. I am most grateful for that folder.

In the Notes on Clauses an assurance was given that there was no intention to bite on individual institutions. However, that is not clear on the face of the Bill. It is evident that that is one point we shall have to clear up at a future stage as regards whether conditions are being imposed on named institutions. I believe that was the phrase the noble Lord, Lord Renfrew, used. Such a provision would be quite wrong.

Clause 53 in Part I and Clause 77 in Part II of the Bill impose conditions on named institutions. No doubt that matter will be the subject of impassioned debate when we reach that clause. However, as far as I am aware, that is not the intention of this clause, but that matter must be cleared up.

The noble Lord, Lord Renton, argued against the amendment mainly on the grounds that it would cause delay. I would say to the noble Lord that the amendment does not bite on Clause 7(1) which concerns the main ability of the Secretary of State to make grants to the councils. It simply bites on his invocation of subsection (2) (a) if he starts to impose particular requirements. It is only then that he would be required to bring a statutory instrument before Parliament.

In replying to the debate, the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, seemed to base his remarks on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Renton. He said also that in this Chamber there is normally a barrage in favour of the affirmative procedure for practically any or every issue. The Chamber appears to be addicted to that Procedure. I am not wedded to the procedure. At a later stage we could perhaps opt for the negative procedure. My point is that some form of brake is required on the clause, and that appears to be the general opinion of the Committee since almost every speaker has expressed some degree of anxiety about it. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, said that the Secretary of State would be unlikely to use subsection (2) (a), but that is the only assurance that we have.

This has been an interesting debate. It has been more interesting than I expected. It has given us a great deal of food for thought and it means that some of us will want to return to the matter at the next stage of the Bill and rally round what we consider would be the proper brake to place upon the clause.

In my opening remarks I said that I was not opposed to the clause in principle and I did not intend to vote against it standing part of the Bill. I am not a dyed-in-the-wool opponent of the clause. Nevertheless, I believe that it needs a brake, a bridle or a bit upon it which we have yet to devise.

I shall read very carefully in Hansard what has been said this evening and return at the next stage of the Bill with an alternative proposal which will fulfil that purpose. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 7 agreed to.

10.12 p.m.

Lord Peston moved Amendment No. 108A:

After Clause 7, insert the following new clause:

("Council schemes

. In exercising their functions under this Act each Council shall prepare and publish in advance of the start of the relevant financial year, schemes of planning and funding detailing the principles and procedures to be applied in determining the grant to individual institutions, such schemes to be prepared after consultation with local education authorities either directly or in the case of the Funding Council for England through the regional committees.").

The noble Lord said: I shall work on the assumption that the Bill before us will become an Act of Parliament and attempts will be made to put it into practice. Whatever else we say about it the Bill will certainly change drastically the further education sector in this country. It will cause a great deal of uncertainty in the institutions which deliver the education we are discussing. With all due respect to the noble Lords, Lord Pearson and Lord Jenkin, and the work they do, they ought to realise that they do none of the teaching or any of the research. That is all done by the academics and teachers in the institutions. That does not mean that the noble Lords have no contribution to make, but the teaching is delivered by people like me and the noble Earl, Lord Russell, and others.

What matters to the people in the institutions is that they have some certainty in their working environment. In particular we do not wish them to spend the next several years wondering what resources they will have and worrying about the principles which will determine what happens to them. I have been the worst of university professors in the sense that I have always hated all the outside influences and have simply wished to be left alone to get on with the job I thought I was appointed to do. I have never seen any value in any of the outside forces. However, I know that that is prejudice, or what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, calls bias, on my part. On the other hand, when the noble Lord produces as many successful students as I have he can talk about achievements in that area.

My purpose is to produce a sensible environment. What worries me about the situation is the possibility of "ad hocery" and not knowing what is happening. The Minister may reply by saying that it is obvious that that is how the funding councils will work. I can only say from my experience of other councils that it is not obvious that that is how they will work; they do not seem to find it easy to tell us what will happen or to plan so that we can adapt to what they wish to do.

That is the main part of the amendment as set down by my noble friend. I would not rely simply on the councils behaving properly. I should like to see a specification of planning and funding details and principles, some of which we have debated, incorporated in the Bill. Equally, as the Minister said, because local authorities retain a major role in that area, it would be helpful to them, to put it at its minimum, both to know in advance as far as possible what is going on and to be consulted in the context of the amendment about what is likely to happen.

I commend the amendment to the Committee. We should not simply rely on the councils to get it right. We should incorporate the amendment in the Bill.

10.15 p.m.

Lord Belstead

We had a short exchange on Amendment No. 93, in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peston, which called, if I remember rightly, for the payments from the funding council to be made according to a funding formula. I endeavoured to run over some of the points that the noble Lord put to me on that occasion, so, if he will forgive me, I shall be brief in talking about schemes for planning.

As I explained in relation to that amendment, the councils must be free to determine the basis of grant to individual institutions and to determine the arrangements for publishing principles and procedures which underlie the grant allocations. I am sure that the councils will publish details of the principles and procedures to be applied in determining the grant to individual institutions, but it would not be right to specify in the Bill a requirement to draw up planning and funding schemes. I endeavoured to explain yesterday why it would be inappropriate to oblige the funding councils to consult local education authorities on matters for which the local authorities are no longer responsible. The Government have decided to transfer the duties to secure the provision of further education set out in Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill from LEAs to the funding councils. The councils must be free to fulfil those duties as effectively as possible and with as few constraints as possible.

I cannot go much further this evening. I gave one or two more details in reply to Amendment No. 93, but I shall not run over that ground again.

Lord Peston

I thank the noble Lord for his answer. It is extraordinarily optimistic. Unfortunately, neither he nor I will bear the costs of the fact that he is excessively optimistic. I do not want him to go over the details of matters with which he has dealt previously. That would be most unfair of me.

Local authorities retain a role in the area and I should have thought that the least the Minister might have said is that a sensible council would consult them, even if it is not obliged to do so. From my experience of those bodies I am not convinced that they will act according to principle and will avoid "ad hocery", as I call it. One or other of us will perhaps live to say, "I told you so", although I am not sure which one. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Supplementary functions]:

[Amendment No. 109 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 110:

Page 6, line 35, leave out ("and") and insert: ("(aa) shall publish an annual report on the funding and the quality of further education, the educational standards in further education, and the management of resources in the further education sector,").

The noble Earl said: I shall not detain the Committee long with this amendment. The Minister and I have already debated how far the funding councils have power to report directly to Parliament other than through the Secretary of State. He said that the power existed at the moment. I did not think that it did. Both of us need to check our papers on that. If the Minister would accept the amendment, he would save us both the need to check our papers. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

Clause 8(1)(a) provides that the funding councils shall provide the Secretary of State with such information on the provision of further education in their areas as he may from time to time require. The effect of the amendment is to specify additional requirements about the publication of an annual report.

The noble Earl has not made any specific suggestions, but obviously different matters may be put into a report and it is not unreasonable to raise them. The Secretary of State may indeed require the councils to make available information on specific matters. But requirements are likely to change over the years and the Secretary of State will need the flexibility to amend his requirements.

Nonetheless, Clause 8(1) (a) remains on the face of the Bill providing for the funding councils to give the Secretary of State such information on FE provision in their areas as he may from time to time require. So there is no difference between us as regards the fact that there will be a need for a flow of information. In fact it will be vital. These will be very important sources of information so far as concerns the Secretary of State. However, there is a difference of view as to the amendment which we are examining at the moment.

Baroness Seear

I did not quite understand what the noble Lord said in reply. The amendment deals with publishing. It is surely of considerable importance that it should be a document put into the public domain. The word "published" comes into my noble friend's amendment.

Baroness Lockwood

Perhaps I may add that in a way this amendment tries to ensure that there is an annual reports on the work and progress of the funding councils in the same way as in the schools sphere there are reports from HMIs which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, are in the public domain.

The amendment would make the whole business of the work of the funding councils much more transparent, open to discussion and open, if necessary, to raising questions in either this Chamber or another place. There is a very substantial difference between the purpose of the amendment and what is stated in Clause 8.

Lord Belstead

Yes, that is true but I do not think it unreasonable to have the provision in Clause 8 that information and advice provided under the clause shall be provided in such manner as the Secretary of State may from time to time determine. It means that if there is any confidential information, it is possible to keep it confidential should that be necessary. I cannot go further than that this evening. It is true that there is a difference; between that and the amendment, which contains the provision for publication. That is what we do not have in the Bill.

Earl Russell

We have here an interesting misunderstanding. It is not the first time that that has happened in the course of the Bill. Every time I ask for a council to be capable of reporting either to Parliament or to the public, the Minister says that it can report to the Secretary of State. They are not quite synonymous. Other people are interested in knowing what is going on.

There is also the question that we debated earlier today of how far the powers of the Secretary of State can be controlled. There is quite a big issue involved but it is rather late at night to pursue it. I shall have to come back to the matter on another occasion. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 111 to 117 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 118:

Page 7, line 12, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 119. The amendment concerns the Secretary of State's powers to confer supplementary functions on the councils. I am not a lawyer, nor am I professionally expert in drafting statutes, so I should be grateful for any information the Minister can give me about any restrictions that rest on the power to confer supplementary functions. If there are no restrictions, and if the Secretary of State can confer any kind of function, I wish to know what kind of functions are envisaged. I pause because obviously there is business to be concluded. I wish to know why the Secretary of State wants the power to confer supplementary functions. I wish to know what kind of functions he envisages, what control there is in terms of purpose or function as imposed by any other wording in the Bill, but clearly I must wait for a moment to gain the Minister's attention. I wish to know what the provision is for, what purpose it is governed by, why it is here and whether we can have any indication of the kind of things that the Minister wishes to do with it. For example, would it be impossible to use the clause to give councils the power to trade in coal? Is the provision limited by the purposes of the Long Title of the Bill or by any other part? Can we know what it is all about? I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

Clearly, at this stage the Secretary of State cannot predict how the role of the funding councils will need to change and develop as the years go by. The clause as it stands provides for the fact that the councils may at some future stage need to take on additional responsibilities. However, such responsibilities would be limited to those which could be exercised by my right honourable friend and which were related to: facilities for further education for the population of the council's area". In other words, they must be related to institutions funded by the councils. Therefore, the provision about which the noble Earl asks is concerned with the delegation of existing functions rather than with the creation of new functions.

Earl Russell

I thank the Minister for that reply. This appears to be another case of legislation based on the principles of the five reasons for drinking. They are: Good wine—a friend—or being dry—

Or lest we should be by and by—

Or any other reason why".

The Secretary of State is taking the powers in case he might think of any other reason why. Obviously that puts Parliament in difficulty because it does not know what the Secretary of State envisages. In fact, throughout today's debate, from the first amendment onwards, it has emerged in a variety of guises that the power of Parliament to control the Secretary of State is, as a result of the increasing pressure of business and a great many other reasons, diminishing rapidly. I am beginning to believe that one of the underlying themes of today's debate is that of constitutional reform. However, I shall not open up that debate at this time of night and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment—

Lord Belstead

Before the noble Earl withdraws the amendment perhaps I may point out that, although he indicated that this is a wide power, I said at the end of my remarks that the provision is about the delegation of existing functions rather than the creation of new functions. The reason is that there is a read-across between subsection (4), towards which this amendment is directed, and subsection (5), which is the last subsection in the clause. I know that the words "Henry VIII" have not passed the noble Earl's lips and rightly so in this case: the provision is narrowly drawn.

Earl Russell

I thank the Minister for that reply. I was concerned not only about the breadth of the powers but also about the Secretary of State taking them on spec before knowing what he wanted to do with them. In addition to spec building there is spec legislation, but perhaps I may once again beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

10.30 p.m.

[Amendment No. 119 not moved.]

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 [Assessment of quality of education provided by institutions]:

[Amendments Nos. 120 to 129 not moved.]

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10 agreed to.

Clause 11 [Functions of local education authorities in respect of further education]:

Baroness Lockwood moved Amendment No. 130:

Page 8, line 14, at end insert ("and for youth services").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to establish the youth service within the scope of the Bill.

The youth service caters for something over 5 million young people and yet there appears to be no clear statutory framework for youth services. The words "youth services" do not appear in any statute although the term was introduced in a circular by the Board of Education in 1939.

Sections 41 and 53 of the Education Act 1944 are generally taken as conferring upon local education authorities the necessary powers to provide such a service. Clause 11 replaces Section 41 of the 1944 Act.

When the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, introduced the Bill on Second Reading, he indicated that local education authorities would continue to be responsible for the youth services. However, as I have said, the Bill makes no direct mention of youth services. Therefore, this amendment attempts to make that absolutely clear.

A number of national youth services support the principle of the amendment. They believe that the lack of a statutory basis for their service in some ways diminishes them and tends to confuse the situation.

The second amendment, which is grouped with this amendment, aims to make provision for more general leisure activities for young people. Members of the Committee will agree that the whole youth service can be said to come within the term "education" generally, but not all youth organisations work in the same way. There is a whole range of activities which differ considerably. Some of the youth clubs and groups have specific purposes—for example, religious purposes, youth parliaments, youth forums; some cater for the unemployed; and some make particular provision for young girls and women. The whole purpose of Amendment No. 130 is to give a broader outline and framework in which the youth service can operate. I beg to move.

Baroness Brigstocke

Often the youth services are providing free training to enable girls and boys who have either dropped out of school or taken little note of what they were being taught to start again on the ladder of confidence and qualifications. Youth services provide a variety of forms of further education—further to school. For example, they provide health education, computer courses, discussion groups and week-end residential courses.

I can cite the LEAP course run by Bishop Creighton House—the Local Employment Advice Project—which offers training and advice to the unemployed young people of the London boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham. They are mainly black women, often single parents in their early twenties. Those young women are offered all kinds of courses geared to their needs; créches are provided; the courses are run at centres near the estates where they live at times when they can attend, given their family responsibilities. Particularly popular are the computer courses because many vacancies exist in the area for office staff with computer skills, and also courses in driving. Once they pass their driving test those young women can work as drivers for the local women's safe transport project or on school rounds.

I know that the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, is keen that the point should be made that the kind of experiences and activities provided by the youth services give young people who never excelled at school a chance to learn that they are good at something. They gain confidence, whether it is from swimming, learning to play tennis or even computer games. They start to think that perhaps they can go on to learn something else and thereby start on that ladder of confidence and qualifications.

Young people need somewhere to go; somewhere to channel their energies into useful and productive rather than destructive channels. Further education for them must include, their spiritual, mental, physical, cultural and social development". But trained youth workers are necessary. Many of them are volunteers, and youth workers, even though they are not paid, need training, and training costs money.

I beg the Government to take this golden opportunity of safe-guarding the youth service as an essential element of further education provision in the country by agreeing the two amendments.

Lord Rochester

I have a specific reason for supporting the amendment. For many years I have had a close association with the scout movement in Cheshire, and am still a member of the council of the Scout Association nationally. That organisation considers that, although the majority of local authorities make provision for youth services, it is at a reduced level compared with the support given in the past.

On that account the Scout Association believes that it is time for local authorities generally to be obliged by statute to make adequate provision for the youth service. I should add that the inclusion in the definition of "organized leisure-time occupation" under Amendment No. 134 —to which I believe we are also speaking—of, spiritual, mental, physical, cultural and social development activities, has particular application to the scout movement. In those circumstances I hope that the Government will give sympathetic consideration to the amendment, supported as it is on both sides of the Committee.

Baroness Park of Monmouth

I too should like to support the amendment that the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, has put forward. Young people between the ages of 10 and 25 are a very vulnerable group. The youth services perform an invaluable service in providing training, adventure, social education, facilities in general, and just plain interest and occupation for many and the chance to learn to value themselves. We are talking about an age group of over 10 million of whom I understand that up to 5 million may be involved in the youth services.

Crime prevention experts believe that the youth service does much and could do more in terms of prevention. That too seems to be a very strong argument for ensuring that the youth services are explicitly covered by the Bill, above all in terms of a claim for statutory funding; the more so since I understand that the funding and expenditure survey of 1988–92 published by the National Youth Agency demonstrates a decline in support for youth services from local authorities since 1990–91. I realise that this is probably a question of priorities. That seems to make it all the more valuable to ensure that the terms on which the youth service can expect support are clearly identified in the text of the Bill. The noble Baroness's amendment should have that effect.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

As has been pointed out by the last two speakers, there is a very distinct reduction in the provision by local education authorities for youth services. I believe that on all sides of the Committee there is agreement that youth services are an important aspect of our social life. Like my noble friend Lady Lockwood, I have been approached by a number of national organisations. There is one among many about which I am particularly concerned. It deals with youth exchanges within the Commonwealth.

These are the kind of activities that both enrich and underpin our democratic society. It is important that the Government show that they are putting a statutory duty on local authorities to continue to support, and with greater resources than is done at the moment, the youth services of the country. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was courteous enough to reply to that point that I raised at Second Reading. In his letter to me he states: You pointed out that there is no specific reference to the Youth Service in the Bill. The Youth Service is covered by the reference in clause 11 to, 'vocational, social, physical and recreational training'. Under this clause, local education authorities will continue to be under a duty to secure the provision of adequate facilities for the Youth Service, which is part of further education". If the noble Lord stands by that, surely he will accept this amendment which, if it does no more, will give some assurance to those engaged in the youth service that here there is a statutory duty for the continued support of these services and there is no ambiguity. If it is left out of the Bill then, as has been pointed out, it may very well fall to the bottom of local authority priorities.

Lord Belstead

We have two amendments here; the first two, Amendments Nos. 130 and 130A, are specifically about both naming the youth service and then describing—

Baroness Lockwood

Amendment No. 130A is separate.

Baroness Blackstone

Perhaps I can help the Minister—

Lord Belstead

That is all right. I am on my feet at the moment. Amendment No. 130 has been spoken to with Amendment No.134. Amendment No. 130A has not been spoken to. That makes my task rather easier. There is a difficulty with simply naming the youth service. The difficulty is that if one looks at the present provision—the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, rightly said that at the moment the words "youth service" are not be found in statute, and as far as I know have not been found in statute—what happens is that there is a kind of cross-fertilisation of descriptions which go to make up the youth service. They are quite complicated.

Members of the Committee will forgive me if this is familiar - although not specifically mentioned, the youth service is statutorily covered at the moment by the reference to vocational, social, physical and recreational training in the revised Section 41 of the Education Reform Act 1944 which is inserted into Clause 11. It is also covered by the reference to organised leisure time occupation. In those two references we are actually following the existing wording of Section 41.

However, it goes further than that. Local education authorities have the power under Section 53 of the Education Act 1944 to provide for persons under compulsory school age and Clause 11 already provides for persons over compulsory school age. Therefore, in providing in this Bill for the youth service we have provisions both for over and for under compulsory school age.

Perhaps I may stop off for a moment to say that the amendment does not define what is meant by youth service: I wrongly thought that we were taking Amendment No. 130A as well, but we are not. Incidentally, the use of the plural may be intended to cover the partnership between the maintained and voluntary sectors of the youth service. I am not sure about that. If so, there is nothing in present legislation to prevent the two sectors working in partnership.

I shall now return to the cross-fertilisation of descriptions which go to make up the youth service. In Clause 11 we are also requiring local education authorities to have regard to the facilities provided by other bodies in exercising their function. That includes voluntary bodies and Section 53 of the 1944 Act, too, provides for co-operation with voluntary bodies. That was another point of importance for youth service. In addition to that, Section 19 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 enables local education authorities to make grants or loans to voluntary organisations providing recreational facilities. That is another part of the omelette, as it were.

Therefore I am saying that I think that describing legislatively what goes to make up the youth service is rather more complicated than just simply sticking the words "youth service" or "youth services" on the face of the Bill, although I well understand the aim of the speeches which have been made this evening—particularly those of my noble friend Lady Brigstocke, who spoke most eloquently and feelingly about the importance of youth service, the noble Lords, Lord Rochester and Lord Hatch, and indeed the noble Baroness, Lady Lockwood, in introducing the amendment.

Having said that, I think it is, if I may say so, a false argument to suggest that the absence of the words "youth service" is in some way dangerous and not only could lead, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, said, has led to a diminution of the importance of the youth service. I really caught my breath in amazement when the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, more or less said that because the fact is that the present legislative framework seems to have provided quite an adequate basis for growth. The latest available data suggest that local education authority expenditure on the youth service has more than trebled between 1979–80 and 1990–91, to over £200 million in total, which is a real-terms increase of more than 50 per cent. So we have not done too badly with the situation as we find it at the present time.

I hope the Committee will forgive me if I have not been helpful on this matter. At least I have tried to spell out why I am not being helpful, but before I sit down perhaps I may turn to the words which Members wish to insert on the face of the Bill by means of Amendment No. 134: including their spiritual, mental, physical, cultural and social development". I suspect that the best place to put words of this kind in, if they were to be put in, would not be in a definition of organised leisure time occupation. While the youth service, which is statutorily part of further education, might be said to promote these attributes, so also, I would suggest, might other parts of further education.

If the Committee would be content to take this amendment away and look at the concept further in relation to the whole of further education for which local education authorities will be statutorily responsible - as indeed I offered to do with the amendment of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford—I would be very happy to accept that. We can, at any rate, return to the matter.

I genuinely believe that there is a problem in thinking that one can simply put the youth service on the face of the Bill and disregard the complicated and different cross-fertilisations of provisions which have been built up in statute and which have all had their bearing on the youth service over the years. That is not perhaps an exciting thing to say but I believe it to be true. We need to be careful before we tamper with the legislative structure that goes to make up the youth service at the present time.

Baroness Blackstone

I am grateful to the Minister for explaining this rather complicated legislative structure. It strikes me as almost too complicated. What is rather attractive about the amendment is that it seems to set down a clear duty on local authorities to provide for a youth service. The youth service is somewhat concerned about the lack of a clear duty in the Bill.

The Minister also suggested that present spending on the youth service is in no sense declining. My information is rather different. In 1990–91, the latest year for which figures are available, nearly two-thirds of local education authorities were forced to cut their youth service, some of them by more than 50 per cent.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for suggesting that it might be possible to take the amendment away and look at it again. I rather hoped that the Government might take it away and look at it again, particularly in the light of the concerns expressed on all sides of the Committee. It is vitally important that the youth service should be maintained, and maintained at a reasonable level of provision, particularly in the kind of circumstances in which many young people in disadvantaged areas currently live. I was especially interested in the view put forward by both noble Baronesses opposite, that one of the roles of the youth service is to prevent crime. Because of that, and because of all the other very positive things that it does, I hope that we can look again at the amendment and that the Government will come up with proposals at the next stage in order to ensure that we do not see a further diminution in the provision of youth services.

Lord Belstead

I would not dream of not saying that I would look at the point if the noble Baroness wishes me to do so. Once again I am anxious, before we leave this matter, to leave it with the facts in our minds. Most uncharacteristically, for once the noble Baroness slipped slightly in saying that either there is not a duty or that people are worried because there does not appear to be a duty and that the youth service will thereby suffer. I am not a very good legislative reader but my reading of Clause 11 tells me that there is a duty. New Section 41(1) of the 1944 Act will state: It shall be the duty of every local education authority to secure the provision for their area of adequate facilities for further education". What does "further education" mean? Subsection (3) provides: Subject to subsection (4) below and section 14 (1) to (4) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, in this Act `further education' means". One then sees in paragraphs (a) and (b) the words which go to make up the only legislative description we have today of the youth service.

Baroness Lockwood

I am grateful to the Minister for that response. I am especially grateful to him for setting out the very complicated framework in which the youth service works. However, it is that complicated framework which worries the youth service and the youth organisations. It is not my concern; it is the concern of the youth organisations. They came to me because I had introduced a debate on young people in the European Community in which the youth services featured most prominently. They asked me if I would put forward the amendment, although I must tell the Minister that, originally, their amendment was more complicated than the one I have moved. They wanted to include the ages of 11 to 25. But I was told by the Clerks that that would be specifically outside the scope of the Bill, which deals with further and higher education. Therefore, as I said, it is not something about which we are concerned on behalf of the youth organisations; it is the youth service that is concerned.

In view of the Minister's remarks, I think that it would be appropriate specifically to put the youth service within the terms of the Bill. I had hoped that he would be prepared to do so. I still hope that he might give me a little more encouragement that either he will do so or that he will be prepared to consider sympathetically a different amendment at a later stage.

I am grateful to the Minister for what he said about Amendment No. 134. I should be glad if he would look at it to see whether it could be better phrased. However, I am not happy about what he said in relation to the basic amendment the purpose of which was to include the youth service in the scope of the Bill. Can the noble Lord give me a little more encouragement in that respect?

Lord Belstead

My reaction will depend upon the sort of amendment that the noble Baroness may bring forward.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

Does the Minister recall that he concluded his last comments by quoting from Clause 11(3) (a) which defines what the Bill means by "further education". It reads: full-time and part-time education suitable to the requirements of persons over compulsory school age". Does the noble Lord realise that many of the youth services have members who are under the compulsory school-leaving age?

Lord Belstead

Yes. I covered that point when making an earlier intervention.

Baroness Lockwood

I shall read carefully in Hansard what the Minister said and return with a further amendment at a later stage to ensure that the youth service is incorporated in the terms of the Bill. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford moved Amendment No. 130A:

Page 8, line 14, at end insert: ("(1A) A local education authority shall discharge that duty so as—

  1. (a) to secure that facilities are provided at such places, are of such character and are so equipped as to meet the reasonable need for education to which subsection (1) above applies, and
  2. (b) to take account of the different abilities and aptitudes of persons within its area.").

The right reverend Prelate said: The amendment now before the Committee does not relate to the youth service. It is rather more widely drawn. The concern has been expressed as to what might happen now that responsibility for adult education provision is being divided between the further education council and the local authority. I believe that many people are concerned, especially in the rural areas, that the adult education provision should continue and not be allowed to atrophy in any way. The provision from the local education authority will be of great importance to people who are—it is to be hoped—on the way into adult education which may ultimately lead to a certificate.

Clause 11 lays a duty on the local education authority. But if one compares that with the duty laid on the council in Clause 3(2), it will be seen that that is spelt out rather more firmly. I propose that that same general provision should be reflected in what the LEA is asked to do, to ensure that the education provided by the LEA is not underrated, undervalued and unrecognised. I beg to move.

Baroness David

I support the amendment. Everyone is aware of the anxiety in the adult education world. If the Minister could go so far as to accept the amendment it would give some reassurance. The right reverend Prelate drew the analogy with Clause 3. That is suitable. The amendment could be inserted here; so I hope that for once the Minister will listen sympathetically and accept it.

Lord Belstead

The amendment reproduces for the LEAs the terms which apply to the duty of the funding councils as laid down in Clause 3(2) in respect of the part-time education of those over compulsory school age and the full-time education of those who have attained the age of 19.

I understand the worries which prompted the amendment. I recognise the force of the right reverend Prelate's arguments, and I should like to consider a little further the implications of the amendment and report back to this place.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I am grateful to the Minister for undertaking further to consider this matter. On the basis of that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 131 and 132 not moved.]

Baroness Seear moved Amendment No. 133:

Page 8, line 26, at end insert: ("( ) The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament in respect of each financial year in which this section is applicable a statement that adequate financial resources are available to funding councils and to each local education authority to enable them to provide adult education of high quality sufficient to the needs of their areas.").

The noble Baroness said: The amendment follows aptly the amendment moved by the right reverend Prelate and given such an encouraging reception by the Minister. I hope that in his consideration of that amendment he will also take into account Amendment No. 133.

Earlier in the debate - I do not know when it was, because on this Bill the days run into one another - we had some discussion about the proper meaning of the subsections of Clause 11. I shall not go over the ground at any great length, but the Minister will be well aware of the great anxiety that there is in connection with adult education and its future funding.

I accept that the Government have moved since the original anxieties aroused by the White Paper. That movement is expressed in Clause 41(3) (a) and (b), and that is welcome. However, those involved with adult education are still worried, partly because the whole matter is clouded in some degree of uncertainty. Many people feel that, while there is an obligation, no one has any idea what that will mean in terms of hard cash. I am aware that the Minister cannot tell us that, but obviously the local authorities, which will be responsible for the work, have a great many heavy statutory responsibilities which they are bound to meet.

As I read the present version, there is a statutory obligation, as the Minister said the other day when we discussed this issue, to provide for adult education. Undoubtedly the fear is that once again adult education will be the Cinderella, and that when all the other obligations—they are demanding obligations—are met by the local authority, the adult education colleges will be lucky if they receive what is left over, and what is left over may not amount to a very substantial meal. The purpose behind Amendment No. 133 is to provide a clear statement that adequate financial resources are available. It will not just be a promise that if there is anything left over when all the other demands have been met, there will be a little for the adult colleges to nibble at. I beg to move.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

I entirely support the amendment put forward by the noble Baroness and I shall not repeat the arguments we used at Second Reading on adult education. Following that Second Reading, I seem to have received quite a lot of correspondence from the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, and I thank him for sending me a copy of the letter he wrote to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. Frankly, I cannot understand it. I wish to know, and this is an opportunity for the Minister to make it plain, why he still objects to changing the word "may" in Clause 7(2) (a) to "shall".

In addition to the promise from the Government that adult education will secure adequate funding in future, can the promise be put into statutory form so that there is an absolute obligation in law for the local education authorities to provide funding and provision for adult education? That would surely be easily obtained and it would still many doubts about adult education—doubts that spread right across the country—if he would change "may" into "shall".

If the Minister cannot do that, I should like to know why. Can he tell us whether he is able to state on behalf of the Government that they have an absolute pledge to the continuation of funding and provision for adult education throughout the country?

Baroness Seear

Perhaps I had better say that I did not thank the Minister for the letter he sent to me which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, because I have not received it.

Baroness David

I have been luckier: I did. I think it was meant to be a copy of the one sent to the noble Baroness—not hers.

My name is on the amendment and I believe that the adult education world needs reassurance. The White Paper scared everyone stiff. The recantation after the outcry which came on 24th September did not wholly reassure people, but if the Minister could accept the amendment, it would give reassurance. I hope that he will accept it.

Lord Belstead

First, I must apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, if she did not receive the letter dated 28th November. It began: I promised to write to you, in response to Lord Hatch's intervention at the very end of last Thursday's debate"— which was the Second Reading debate— about Clause 11 of the Bill". I then go over some of the reasons why I believe that there is a statutory duty, as the noble Baroness said just now. That is on page 2 of my letter, but I shall ensure that a further copy of the letter is in the noble Baroness's hands.

Baroness Seear

Perhaps it is hidden under some papers.

Lord Belstead

I apologise. There is a long paragraph which has been copied to the noble Lord which sets out the reason why even though "may" is there as well as "shall", it is a statutory duty as regards adult education. I shall quote from the letter which states Taken together, these provisions impose on LEAs a statutory duty to secure an adequate supply of those kinds of further education for adults not listed in Schedule 2, including most of what has traditionally been known as 'adult education'. They may provide the Schedule 2 kinds of education for adults also as they may wish". Hence it is—I would add this in parenthesis as it were—that the use of the word "may" occurs. I hope that that disposes of the statutory duty point.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

If that is the explanation, what is the reason for refusing to change "may" into "shall"? As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has pointed out, adult education frequently comes at the bottom of the pile. If this is a statutory duty, and if the Minister says it is already written in as a statutory duty, why can he not simply change "may" to "shall"?

Lord Belstead

As I have said, there is in addition the provision that the kinds of education for adults in Schedule 2 may also be provided by local education authorities. However, that has nothing to do with the statutory duty. Perhaps the noble Lord would care to glance back at the letter again as it sets the matter out clearly.

It is late and all I want to say is that earlier today, and yesterday too, my noble friend Lord Jenkin, in speaking to amendments of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, made the point clearly on two occasions that if we want information no one needs to look further than what Parliament can require. There is a whole system of parliamentary Select Committees and there is a formidable parliamentary finance Select Committee. Parliament is able every year to judge for itself the adequacy of financial provisions made by the Government as there is a presentation of draft estimates to Parliament which are subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

It is perfectly true that we do not have a provision for an annual report in the Bill, but what we have instead—we have been over this ground before so I shall dispose of it in a sentence—under Clause 8 is the provision that information shall be passed from the funding councils to the Secretary of State. It is not stated that that should be in published form and obviously the Secretary of State could under certain circumstances ask for the information to be conveyed in a confidential form if he felt that was necessary. On those general grounds I must resist this amendment.

Baroness Seear

I am sorry the Minister did not feel able to say that, as he was giving consideration to the amendment of the right reverend Prelate, he would consider this one at the same time. I do not think what is being asked for is quite the same as what was being asked for by my noble friend Lord Russell. Amendment No. 133 states: The Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament in respect of each financial year … a statement that adequate financial resources are available".

The amendment does not concern a final report. The amendment seeks to ascertain in advance that adequate finance is available. That is how I understand the amendment. I hope that the noble Lord will reconsider this matter. It is late and I do not in the least wish to continue arguing it. I hope that when the noble Lord considers the amendment of the right reverend Prelate, he will reconsider this amendment to see whether any modification of it could be included in the final version of the Bill.

Earl Russell

I wish to confirm what my noble friend has said. Her amendment does not make the same point as mine. It is very different.

Lord Belstead

I was not suggesting that the amendment of the noble Baroness was making the same point as the amendment of the noble Earl. I said that the points which have been made were disposed of by an argument which was put forward with great clarity by my noble friend Lord Jenkin. The argument he put forward applies both to the amendment and to the point that the noble Earl put forward on a previous occasion.

Baroness Seear

I am not satisfied with that reply, but nonetheless I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 134 to 136 not moved.]

Clause 11 agreed to.

Clause 12 [Provision of further education in maintained schools]:

[Amendments Nos. 137 to 140 not moved.]

The Chairman of Committees

If Amendment No. 141 is agreed to I cannot call Amendments Nos. 142 or 143.

11.15 p.m.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 141:

Page 10, leave out lines 22 to 31.

The noble Baroness said: The amendment is in my name and that of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford. It is an amendment about which I mind a good deal and which I regard as very important. It would permit the use of school premises for family education and permit the cost-effective in-filling of GCSE classes in schools by further education students.

The Government will concede that in trying to provide a clear statutory base for part-time adult students to participate in sixth form classes they have inadvertently closed the door on other valuable ways in which adults can participate in school activities. Family education usually takes the form of extending into the early years of schooling forms of learning together for parents and children which are already familiar in pre-school education. That has often proved most helpful in areas of multiple deprivation where the need to learn about children as well as to learn some of the subjects the child is learning—reading and writing and hygiene—may be present. With proper safeguards, which should be the responsibility of the head, adults have successfully participated in GCSE classes, though school timetables make that a practical possibility for only a very small number of adults.

I should like to read from a letter from the parent education staff tutor at the City Lit who wrote to me and asked that the points she made should be brought to the attention of the Committee. She wrote: My work is completely focused on parents and children learning together in schools. The Family Workshop model of learning which has proved so successful in many areas of Britain, is based on the concept that where children and adults learn together there are benefits for both groups. This has proved particularly true in cases where disenchanted teenagers have been encouraged and supported by having motivated adults in their class. I currently run courses for parents to help them understand the educational system and learn how children develop. This involves parents and children working together. We are therefore very concerned at the City Lit about Clause 12(3) from line 24 of the Education Bill because it would effectively put a stop to all the excellent work in Parent and Family Education that is being done nationwide. We should be most grateful if you would bring these points to the attention of the House of Lords.

I am doing that and I hope that that plea will go to the Minister's heart. I believe that it is something that could be done without damaging the Bill in any way and which would be of great comfort to those who are doing that excellent work in many areas. I consider that a very important letter and I hope that the noble Lord will pay attention to it.

Lord Belstead

I can give the noble Baroness some assurance on the matter.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I should like to support the noble Baroness, Lady David. Our experience is very similar to the one that the noble Baroness has described. I think particularly of parents with low literacy skills being motivated to learn because they accompany their children. Parents and children stimulate one another. Similarly, those with low computer skills—and I number myself among them—can be introduced to computer studies by learning alongside their children. It is a pity that that should be specifically excluded by the Bill, perhaps inadvertently. That is a small point, but one of some importance. I support the noble Baroness.

Lord Belstead

The intervention of the right reverend Prelate reinforces the anxiety felt about this matter. As the noble Baroness, Lady David, said, there may be an elimination from schools of what is sometimes known as family or parent education. I say that particularly in the light of what the right reverend Prelate said about learning about computers. As someone who is computer illiterate, it would assist me a great deal if I were shown a thing or two about computers, as I am from time to time by the younger generation.

According to my reading of the Bill, there is nothing to prevent adults and part-time post-16 year-old students from being taught separately from registered pupils in both primary and secondary schools in spare classrooms during the day or outside school hours. Nor is there anything to prevent adults and children from being together in family or parent education classes which are provided by adult education centres run by local education authorities on school premises.

Furthermore, we must draw a distinction between the formal provision of further education by the governors of a school, where we have taken a view that it would not be right to have the mixture of ages, and those informal activities which often bring parents and children together in the school. Although such activities may have an implicit educational or social purpose, they are usually outside the normal curriculum and would not be held to constitute provision of further education for the adults taking part.

I hope that those remarks may dispel the anxiety that was expressed in the letter from which the noble Baroness quoted. Although normally I do not say this, I should be perfectly ready to return to this matter if, on consideration, she feels that I have not covered the points, but I hope that what I have said is of some use.

Baroness David

I am grateful to the Minister for his reply. I must consult the people who are involved in this form of education and find out whether they are satisfied with his comments. I suspect that they may not be entirely satisfied. I am glad that he said that he will look at the matter. If he is willing, perhaps we might have a conversation about it before the next stage of the Bill. The Minister nods assent, for which I thank him. In that case, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 142 and 143 not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Guildford moved Amendment No. 143A:

Page 11, line 23, leave out ("of any age over compulsory school age") and insert ("who have attained the age of nineteen years").

The right reverend Prelate said: I move this amendment in order to elicit a response from the Minister. I may have misunderstood the point, but I am certainly puzzled because Clause 12(9) (a) appears to suggest that part-time students between the ages of 16 and 19 may be charged for education. If they were receiving it full-time, they would be able to obtain it free, but, because they are receiving it part-time, it appears that they may be charged for it. That appears to be a slight anomaly which I hope that my amendment will remove. I may have misunderstood the Bill, but I should be grateful for clarification from the Minister. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I should like to suggest two reasons why it is appropriate that part-time students should not be treated on quite the same footing as full-time pupils at a school. First, it is desirable that fee arrangements should be the same in all institutions which meet the needs of 16 to 18 year-olds, whether they are schools or institutions in the further education sector. It is not now the practice in further education colleges to charge fees to 16 to 18 year-olds who are studying on a full-time basis. We went over that matter yesterday evening. However, it is common for colleges to charge fees to young people who are studying part-time. Such young people are usually in employment and their employers often meet the cost of fees. I would expect colleges to continue to charge for most part-time students after they have transferred to the new sector, although the decision will be one for the governing bodies.

Secondly, under Clause 12(7), schools may not apply any funds derived from their delegated budget under local management of schools for the purpose of educating part-time students and adults. That reflects the Government's intention, which I am sure the Committee will share, that the main business of schools should continue to be the full-time education of children and young people. It is not desirable that money which schools need for that purpose should leak out elsewhere.

That means that part-timers and adults at schools will he funded by the charging of fees or by means of a subsidy from the local authority or both. The amendment proposed by the right reverend Prelate would preclude the first of those options, and would therefore transfer to local authorities rather than to school governors the effective decision about whether or not part-time students and adults would be admitted to schools. I do not think that that is a desirable outcome when we wish, so far as possible, to give governing bodies the responsibility for the management of their schools.

Finally, I should add that subsection (9) will not affect the young people who hitherto have been admitted to schools, and it is certainly not the thin edge of any wedge. It provides that fees may be charged to the two new groups to which schools will in future be able to offer services: part-time students of any age over compulsory school age and full-time students aged 19 or over. Persons falling into those groups are commonly charged fees at present. It will be open to local authorities and colleges in the new sector to operate schemes of fee remission for any such students for whom they feel that fees would be inappropriate.

I apologise for the length of that reply, but this is an important matter. I thought it right to go over the ground which I know we went over yesterday evening, and I hope that I have gone over it again with rather more certainty.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead. I shall value the opportunity of studying that reply. I think that it clarifies the point. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 12 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 144 not moved.]

Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Initial incorporation of existing institutions]:

[Amendments Nos. 145 and 146 not moved.]

The Lord Bishop of Guildford moved Amendment No. 146A:

Page 13, line 17, leave out ("controlled school or grant-maintained school") and insert ("or grant-maintained school except for those which were voluntary schools before becoming grant-maintained.").

The right reverend Prelate said: In moving this amendment I shall speak to the amendments which go together relating to Clause 15. It is our understanding that Clause 15 empowers the Secretary of State to make certain educational institutions bodies corporate. The intention is, presumably, that they should be those institutions which are in the ownership of the local education authority. However, as drafted Clause 15 includes some voluntary schools—there is a reference in Clause 15(1) (b) to a controlled school—and some grant-maintained schools may be former voluntary aided schools which are now grant-maintained.

It does not seem appropriate that the Secretary of Stage should be able to declare bodies corporate educational institutions which he does not own and which are not in the ownership of the local education authority. Surely the references to those schools should be transferred to Clause 28, which enables the Secretary of State to designate such schools to be eligible for funding.

It seems to us that there may have been some technical oversight in drafting that clause, and that lies behind my amendments, Amendment No. 146A and (when we reach them) Amendments Nos. 155A and 156A, which go together. We should remove those schools from Clause 15. I hope that I have made the point sufficiently clear and look forward to the Minister's response. I beg to move.

11.30 p.m.

Lord Belstead

I recognise that although voluntary-controlled schools currently operate on a basis whereby the local education authority has assumed responsibility for all expenditure, both capital and recurrent, there are nonetheless some important differences between those schools and county schools. For example, the voluntary-controlled schools are charitable institutions conducted in accordance with their trust deeds and there are foundation governors on the governing body whose purpose it is to preserve the character of the school. Moreover, the ownership of the premises is commonly vested in the trustees.

Voluntary-aided schools are, of course, in a particularly special position and reflect the greater contribution, both financial and otherwise, of the voluntary bodies to the partnership between Church and state in education. For that reason we decided to bring them into the new sector by designation under Clause 28 rather than by incorporation, and to build into the Bill particular provisions to reflect their status.

The Government are also committed to a broadly coherent new further education sector and wish only in exceptional circumstances to depart from the principle that further education colleges will be conducted by further education corporations. We have not seen a compelling reason to treat the voluntary-controlled sixth-form colleges differently from county sixth-form colleges, subject of course to the safeguards with respect to their trust deed, to ownership of property and to the preservation of their existing character. The former voluntary-controlled sixth-form colleges in the new sector would therefore continue to operate in accordance with their trust deeds, they will continue to be charitable institutions and there will be no loss of assets by the trustees. Moreover, the Secretary of State will use his powers in the Bill with respect to the instruments of government for the new further education colleges to ensure that the existing position of the foundation governors of voluntary sixth-form colleges is preserved.

I should like to look carefully at what the right reverend Prelate has said. However, I believe that the voluntary-controlled sixth-form colleges will be able to make their particular contribution in the new sector and need have no fears that incorporation instead of designation will in any way be a disadvantage to them.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

I am not entirely happy with the Minister's response in regard to controlled schools. I should be grateful for further discussions with him about that. I should like a further assurance that in any case amendment will be required to the clause because grant-maintained schools can cover former voluntary-aided schools. The Minister has said that their difference should be recognised and that therefore they should be dealt with in another way. I hope that he is saying that there will be further discussions and that in any case some amendment will be necessary.

Lord Belstead

I must confess that the right reverend Prelate has bowled me a ball that is too fast and I do not know the answer. I would be wise to agree to a discussion and I shall hold myself ready. I do not now know whether we need an amendment to the Bill.

Elucidation has come from on high and I understand that no amendment is necessary. Nonetheless, the right reverend Prelate and I might profitably have a discussion as a result of the exchange on this amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Guildford

With that assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness David moved Amendment No. 147:

Page 13, line 18, at end insert (", and (c) each consortium of educational providers which appears to him to fall within subsection (3A) below.").

The noble Baroness said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 148, 153 and 161. I have the support of the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, whose name is attached to the first of the amendments but I believe he also supports the other amendments in the group.

The purpose of the amendments is to extend the FEFC sector to include major institutions and providers of adult education. At present they are excluded from direct membership of the FEFC sector. We wish them to be able to apply direct to the FEFC subject to satisfying criteria relating to size and satisfactory arrangements for management, securing quality and monitoring of outcome.

As it stands, the Bill excludes from incorporation in the new FE sector institutions without full-time students, however high a proportion of their part-time students are studying Schedule 2 courses, which are the Government's priorities. The preservation of a distinction by mode of study, more exclusive of adult education colleges and institutes than was the 1988 Act, in the definition of a college discriminates against the part-time learner in an unnecessary way.

The Government increasingly recognise the serious and vital contribution made by adult education colleges, services and institutions. The inclusion of all major bodies providing substantial elements of Schedule 2 work would properly and publicly acknowledge that. The inclusion of consortia in the amendments recognises the ways in which education for adults is provided on the ground. Increasing numbers of people are studying part time even for clearly and strictly vocational reasons. The bias in the Bill towards full-time study is outmoded and unnecessary.

Part-timers should not be discriminated against in legislation. Therefore, we do not believe that a minimum number of part-time students should be identified for further education corporations. This is an important series of amendments and I hope that the Government will look favourably upon it. I beg to move.

Viscount Combermere

I support the amendments. I declare an interest which I should have declared earlier. I have been in full-time adult education for nearly 20 years and I am currently employed full time at Birkbeck College.

I support the amendment because this includes colleges which can meet the definition of further education colleges as set out in the 1988 Act. The definition of FE colleges outlined in Clauses 15 and 16 is too narrow. The amendments allow specialist adult colleges to be included so that they can continue to provide the whole range of courses, including Schedule 2 work, which they have so ably sponsored in the past.

Without the amendment, AE provision in specialist colleges will probably fade away. In an Answer to a Question in another place on 21st October 1991 Mr. Eggar gave details of enrolments of people aged 19 and over at LEA maintained FE colleges and adult education centres. As at 1st November 1991, there were 1,306,394 students at LEA maintained further education colleges and 1,226,216 students at adult education centres. If one includes students joining adult education centres in the new year, the number of students enrolled would exceed those enrolling at LEA maintained FE colleges.

In effect, by enabling only the FE colleges to offer Schedule 2 work, prospective adult students who had hoped to attend a special AE centre would find themselves with no choice but to attend an FE college catering for 16 to 19 year-olds when all adults do not necessarily wish to go to such colleges.

Adults attending AE colleges enjoy an environment geared for adults, quite apart from benefiting from the rich range and spectrum of adult courses on offer at present. Those AE colleges are very much adult community places where, for example, fund-raising activities for local charities are carried out extremely successfully. Quite apart from anything else, that valuable contribution to local life would be lost if the Bill stood in its present form. In addition, adequate funds must be available for both short-term adult residential colleges and for specialist adult colleges to provide the full range of courses which they now supply. That funding may not necessarily come from LEAs.

I have personal experience of the work done in that respect by both Wandsfell College—one of 28 short-term adult residential colleges—and by specialist colleges such as Richmond Adult and Community College, where I have personally taken part-time university courses for many years. Richmond Adult and Community College, for example, has large programmes of Schedule 2 work. Presumably it would lose funds for that work if the Bill remains unamended, and would not be able to claim direct from the FEFCs because it is barred from direct bidding.

However, there will be other implications for specialist adult colleges and short-term adult residential colleges as those colleges regularly offer accommodation for courses sponsored, for example, by the WEA and by universities. Forced closure due to inadequate funds deriving from the mistaken view that LEA-funded adult colleges can really only offer so-called leisure courses, would mean that the WEA and university-sponsored courses, as well as courses sponsored by charitable groups accommodated there, would go to the wall. I should like to strongly emphasise that point as I do not believe that it has been properly taken into account.

In that connection the definition of colleges outlined in Sections 15 and 16 of the Bill is unhelpfully narrow, and I hope will be enlarged by the amendments. In my view proper adequate funding should be made available to LEAs to enable specialist adult colleges to provide their whole spectrum of courses, including Schedule 2 work, which they have so ably sponsored in the past and which has led to immeasurable enrichment of people's lives.

The term "leisure" in the context of adult education can conjure up pejorative overtones. I personally am taking a two-term course on Islam at an AE centre at the moment. In my view it is an important subject in view of the world situation today and the large Moslem community in this country. A course like that, and many others currently laid on at adult education colleges, taken at an academic level, is not an academic activity like sun-bathing on holiday or watching one's favourite television programme.

In 1973, at the time of the Russell Report, which was debated in your Lordships' Chamber and in which I took part, the government of the day was being urged to increase the provision for adult education from the then level of 1 per cent. to 2 per cent. As I understand it—and I stand to be corrected—the level is now less than 0.5 per cent. of the total education provision for adult courses. Core funding for adult education centres is essential. The amendment would help to provide it and I fully support it.

11.45 p.m.

Lord Belstead

The amendments are important. They are several but have one purpose; that is, to change the criteria set within the Bill for the automatic inclusion of colleges within the new further education sector.

Perhaps I may first refer to Amendment No. 148. I remind the Committee that colleges will automatically transfer to the new sector where at least 15 per cent. of their total enrolments are of students attending on a full-time, sandwich, day or block release basis. The purpose of setting that criterion is to ensure that all the colleges concerned will feel more comfortable in the funding council's sector than remaining with the local education authorities. After examination of the statistical record we adopted the criterion as a proxy for undertaking the kind of further education for which the funding councils will be responsible. We are confident that those colleges which satisfy the 15 per cent. test are all colleges which will have a high proportion of their provision within the funding councils' remit.

The alternative criteria proposed in the amendment would adversely affect a good 12 or so further education colleges, mainly agricultural, which now satisfy the 15 per cent. in the Bill. They have fewer than 200 full-time equivalents and the noble Baroness will therefore, with her amendment, exclude them from automatic transfer. They are colleges which almost entirely make provision which falls within the funding councils' duties and they have every expectation of being included within the new further education sector.

Perhaps I may very briefly try to address the concerns that have been put forward. All those colleges which satisfy the 15 per cent. return detailed statistics to the Further Education Statistical Record. It is that record which is the basis for Clause 15(2) of the Bill. Institutions which provide for adults, most of them on a part-time basis, do not submit those detailed returns. The only exception is the Sutton College of Liberal Arts. The Richmond Adult and Community College will be making a return for November of this year. In no case do the available statistics enable us to calculate with any precision the amount of provision an institution makes falling within Schedule 2. The returns were not requested on that basis. The Secretary of State will not therefore be able to form an accurate judgment about which institutions should be specified in his order if the criteria were set out in accordance with the amendment.

That is the technical argument. The main point to make is that colleges which fall outside the criteria in the Bill can explore the possibility of incorporation with the funding councils. Clause 16(3) is deliberately drafted in order to allow the councils to propose to the Secretary of State that an institution that makes further educational provision of any kind should be included in the new sector. Therefore, the appropriate way forward is for colleges to make application to the councils which will be able to consider the applications sympathetically and with expertise. My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Education and Science for Wales, proposes to ask the funding councils to consider any such applications as one of their first tasks.

As regards Amendments Nos. 147 and 153, the intention of these is to permit small, adult colleges and centres which are to remain with local education authorities to come together in consortia in order to be eligible for support from the funding councils. There are the same technical problems that I have mentioned, but another worrying feature of these amendments is the nature of the new entity which the funding councils will be supposed to fund. It is not clear how the Secretary of State will determine which institutions should be grouped into consortia for the purpose of specifying them within an order.

I know that these are all technical objections to the amendments, but they are no less difficult for that. Although I understand the vehemence with which the noble Viscount, Lord Combermere, puts forward his views which are views at first hand as a teacher and lecturer in adult education, nonetheless, I ask him to take on board the point that I have made that the way forward is to make an application. It is also open for colleges in future to make applications for funding under Clause 6(5) of the Bill. The fears that the noble Viscount voiced about the position of the short-term colleges is not well-grounded. I believe that the position of the short-term residential colleges is no different from that of other adults colleges. They can receive funds from LEAs and, via the further education colleges, from funding councils.

As regards funding for the WEA, that will be from the funding councils. It will be designated under Clause 28. Therefore, in general terms, I beg the noble Viscount not to over-egg the pudding in putting forward fears about the future. It is true that there is to be a new further education sector for those who are running Schedule 2 courses and a local education authority sector outside. My final word is that when the noble Viscount expresses fears about funding, would he please bear in mind the absolutely categorical undertaking that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education gave in the speech at the end of September that it was his firm intention to see that funding continued on an absolutely equitable basis so far as local education authority provision is concerned.

Baroness David

There were many technical arguments and points made by the Minister. These matters clearly need study. I do not believe that he quite covered the point about the part-timers being treated differently. I do not know whether the noble Lord wishes to say anything about that. Clearly, one needs to take advice on these matters and I shall do that. I wondered whether the noble Lord wished to say anything about part-timers. I shall withdraw the amendment now. I suspect that I shall be back with similar amendments at Report stage. In the meantime I shall take advice and also have conversation with the noble Viscount who spoke so ably on the amendments. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 148 to 154 not moved.]

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [Orders incorporating further institutions]:

[Amendments Nos. 155 to 160 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Schedule 3 [Calculation of Enrolment Numbers]:

[Amendment No. 161 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 162:

Page 67, line 15, at end insert ("provided that no person in paid employment for more than six hours a week during term shall be classified as a full-time student").

The noble Earl said: I am sorry, I am afraid that I do want to move this amendment. It relates to the definition of a full-time student as arising under Schedule 3 of the Bill, which, of course, relates only to Clauses 15 and 16 and therefore only to the further education sector. But the point it makes is of general application. It would provide that those who are in paid employment for more than six hours a week should not be classified as full-time students.

This, of course, bears on the question of student support. One of the discoveries that I have been making in my own teaching experience over the past year or so is that the amount of academic work being done by students is declining very sharply indeed. The reason for this, which tends to emerge under questioning, is that they are engaged in doing jobs which, if not full time, take up a good deal more of the week than is compatible with serious academic work.

I know people will tell me that it is done this way in America and that it does not affect the quality of the degree. I have taught there and I accept that. But that is because they have a four-year degree, so they get through just about the same amount of work in four years as we do in three. If we had a fourth year here that would be an acceptable arrangement. As it is, I cannot see that it really is an acceptable arrangement in any sector.

The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, speaking on 15th May last in a debate on the vacation hardship allowance, said something which caused very considerable dismay to my departmental colleagues and, I believe, to many others. She said that an institution did not have the right to tell its students that they could not take full-time jobs and take degrees at the institution. I very much hope that that was a remark made in the heat of the moment and that it does not represent Government policy.

I tabled this amendment to find out how far the Government do in fact accept that students cannot be expected to be maintained by doing jobs during term and that a full-time student means a full-time student. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark

I totally share the concern of the noble Earl, Lord Russell, about the current state of student finances. Many students are in great hardship at the present time and that is a matter of anxiety for us all. Nevertheless, I beg him to withdraw this amendment because, if we deny students the right to work for a minimum of six hours a week—and that is not a great deal with weekends included—we shall be denying to many of them the opportunity of any education at all.

The only way that many students can now support themselves is by taking jobs in the evening and at weekends. They could very well be totting up considerably more than six hours a week and still, bless their hearts, be struggling to maintain a full-time course. I agree that that is not an ideal situation but I earnestly beg the noble Earl not to restrict the possibility of students, especially mature students, pursuing full-time courses in three years and still working to support themselves and sometimes their families.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My mind goes back to when I was on a lecture tour in America. Some of the colleges were what we in England would call further education colleges. I could not understand why some of the classes to which I was speaking after breakfast appeared to be still fast asleep. It was explained to me that, it being a rural area, all the students had been up at half-past three or four in the morning to help their fathers bring in the cattle for milking and generally work on the farm for a good many hours before they came to college. That was not conducive to full-time education.

I accept the point made by the noble Earl, Lord Russell. He was quite right: those students were on a four-year course and therefore they were able to secure their qualifications despite the very long hours which many of them worked. I recognise the anxieties expressed by my noble friend Lady Perry, but, while I do not agree with the noble Earl on six hours, which seems to be unduly restrictive, there is a case for in some way recognising that people cannot embark on full-time courses if on weekdays—the days they may be expected to he in school or college—they are working unreasonably long hours. Perhaps, as my noble friend said, working at the weekend is the only way they can earn enough in order to be able to stay on the course.

There probably should not be a statutory provision but somewhere there should be guidance on how many hours a student on a full-time course should be prepared to work. Somehow—I recognise the fears expresses by my noble friend—there should be some inducement so that people do not work longer than that. Otherwise, the purpose of the course is lost because students are not able to concentrate sufficiently to benefit from it.

Lord Belstead

The noble Earl forecast, as indeed did my noble friends, that I would refer to students who work at the weekends or in the evenings. I do so because, by working at those times, they could easily exceed the limit set in the noble Earl's amendment. It would place an intolerable burden on colleges to have to keep detailed records of what their students did outside college when that was not an essential part of college procedures. That, of course, is an objection to imposing a limit at all, although I would be deaf if I had not heard very clearly the interesting and concerned views expressed from around the Committee about some of the levels of hours worked, including the anxiety expressed by the noble Earl. However, on this amendment I cannot help the noble Earl. I cannot give the figure for which he asks and would not endeavour to do so. All I can say is that I do not think the amendment will do.

I know that this point has not been brought up by the noble Earl but I think it is worth putting it on the record. The sole function of Schedule 3 to the Bill, the schedule in which the amendment is placed, is in determining whether or not further education corporations may be established to conduct colleges automatically under Clauses 15 and 16. It should not be imagined that what we are talking about is the student weightings which the further education funding councils will apply in allocating funds to colleges or for any other purpose. I understand from what the noble Earl said that that was not a concern of his but it may be a concern of others who will be reading the record. I therefore put it on the record.

12 Midnight

Earl Russell

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. In fact, it goes some way towards meeting a concern which I may express on a subsequent amendment. I am also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, for his sympathy as regards the purpose of the amendment.

I listened with great care to the noble Baroness, Lady Perry of Southwark. Of course what she said is completely true. I listened to her remarks with a great deal of sympathy. The question for me now is how much priority I give to those points in deciding what to do. I accept the difficulty about the number of hours. But if the Minister is able to indicate to me that a very slight variation in the number of hours would help, I would be in a position to think about the matter before the Report stage.

However, for the moment, can the Minister be just a little more helpful than he has been; for example, along the lines followed by his noble friends? Can he give the Committee an undertaking that the Government do not regard the taking of jobs by students during term-time as a normal or acceptable means of student support? I should like to know that the Government recognise the fact that when this happens, and if it happens on any substantial scale, it is a sign that something has gone wrong; it will be recognised as such and taken into account. It would be most helpful if the Minister could give me that further help.

Lord Belstead

I shall not be drawn on the issue. I have recognised the concern which has been expressed from all sides of the Committee in this debate. I have gone that far. However, my reason for being so careful is that in dealing with people and with human affairs I believe that it is right to look at individual cases. Therefore, I do not wish to give the Committee a blanket view.

Earl Russell

In that case, although I shall not take the matter further at this stage, I shall return to it on Report. At that time I hope to receive slightly more forthcoming answers to fairly similar questions. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 163 to 165 not moved.]

Earl Russellmoved Amendment No. 166:

Page 68, leave out lines 30 to 33.

The noble Earl said: I am very sorry, but I wish to move this amendment. I am afraid that it is our old friend King Henry VIII again. I apologise for the fact that he has turned up twice on one day. However, I did not arrange the scheduling of the Bill or the insertion of the clauses.

The paragraph in question is not an especially heinous version of a Henry VIII clause. It authorises the Minister to vary the definition of the enrolment figures as set out in Schedule 3. I am grateful to the Minister for setting out the purpose of the schedule. It is most helpful on this occasion. I do not think that it is a particularly iniquitous power for the Minister to have, except for the general principle. Despite the remarks made earlier this afternoon by the noble Lords, Lord Renton and Lord Campbell of Alloway, it seems to me, pending further correction, that what is in a schedule is actually primary legislation. If the Minister can vary it by order, then this appears to me to be a Henry VIII clause.

The real problem here is not the giving of power to the Minister to vary the formula. That does not cause me great dismay. The real problem arises from putting all that formula into primary legislation. The price of putting too much into primary legislation is that an Act of Parliament has to be used to undo it. One has seen this over a long period of time. People put into parliamentary legislation things which one would not normally expect to find. Then further parliamentary legislation has to be used to get them out again.

There is a general problem here about the drafting of legislation. It would be most helpful if the Minister could recognise that fact. As we are dealing with a power to vary primary legislation, it would also be most helpful to receive some encouragement for the view that this may be made subject to affirmative resolution. I beg to move.

Lord Jenkin of Roding

In the earlier debate which arose on the Henry VIII amendment, if I can so describe it, a number of heavy guns were brought to bear; and so I thought better of intervening because I had another engagement within the precincts of the Palace. It is interesting to note that the noble Earl has said that the way to deal with the matter is not to put it in legislation at all. I cannot help remembering occasions when Ministers have brought Bills to the House and have been subject to a barrage of criticism, because of the number of matters that have been left to subordinate legislation that has nearly swept us out of the Chamber.

With great respect, the noble Earl cannot have it both ways. If Parliament were to take the view that every provision, such as paragraph 3, was unconstitutional and should be thrown out, the response of a Government of any party would be: "We will not include it. We shall merely give the Secretary of State an order-making power", and when people ask what will be in the order they would produce draft regulations when the Bill is in Committee. That is sometimes done. Draft regulations are laid before a Standing Committee in another place or are available to Members of this place, and one can debate the clause with the draft regulations.

That then means that the power is merely an order-making one, and the regulations can be changed without the Government running foul of objections to the Henry VIII clause. My view is that that is a less satisfactory way of doing things than putting the initial form of a series of measures in a schedule and saying that circumstances may change and that the Minister will be given the power, by order, to make the necessary changes.

In both cases one is seeking to give the Government, subject to suitable parliamentary consent—in most cases the negative resolution procedure is enough—the power to respond to changing circumstances without incurring the delay caused by having to return with primary legislation. The choice is a pragmatic one: whether one omits the whole thing and has merely an order-making power which, on the whole, is less satisfactory, or whether one includes the first version as a schedule or clause, and, subject to safeguards, allows the Minister to come to Parliament to change it by order. It is horses for courses. In some cases one method is better and in some cases it is the other. To rule out both as Parliament has from time to time been inclined to do by saying, on the one hand that there are too many order-making powers and, on the other, that power should not be taken to change primary legislation, would hamstring governments and cause delays which would result in angry questions such as: Why cannot it happen next week? The answer to which will be, "I am sorry, you must wait for primary legislation."

Earl Russell

The noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding, makes a fair point. It may reassure him to hear that I had already made a substantial part of it to myself before I rose to speak. I had said to myself that I should be a little more selective in arguing that this provision should be on the face of the Bill. There will of course be cases where I will argue that again. I promise the noble Lord that I shall think twice—with the question of repeal in mind—before I do it.

There is of course one way in which the two opposite positions outlined by the noble Lord could be reconciled. They were reconciled earlier this afternoon by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone. They could be reconciled merely by reducing the amount of legislation dealt with in each Session, because the complexity arises from the fact that the amount of legislation is greater than we can always scrutinise. In fact, the amount of legislation that we can scrutinise with care during a Session is about the same as the amount of legislation that a normal Government can introduce in a reasonably considered way. The constraint of the length of the Session on the amount of legislation the Government put forward is perfectly sensible and practical. It tends to improve the quality of legislation. If the Government restrict themselves to that amount, they will restrict themselves to the amount that they can think through and do properly. I cannot see that that would be such a bad thing.

Lord Belstead

While the noble Earl is considering what to do with the amendment, my noble friend Lord Renton made the point earlier today that it is desirable to be able to change a technical amendment. He was talking about Schedule 2 and there was some argument as to how technical that was. This undoubtedly is technical. I gave the effect of it to the noble Earl who was good enough to say that he was pleased that I said it a little while ago.

The real problem with Schedule 3 is the multipliers. They may change as the years go by according to whether new further education colleges come into the sector. My understanding is that that would need to make a purely statistical change to the multipliers. As the multipliers are only part of the computation for deciding whether automatically colleges can come into the new FE sector, I do not believe that there is anything sinister in it. We could go on and on about this, but we must not. I resist the amendment.

Earl Russell

Perhaps I may ask one further question. Would the Minister consider an affirmative resolution?

Lord Belstead

The answer is simple: no.

Earl Russell

For the moment I beg leave to withdraw my amendment. I shall have to think further about it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Principal powers of a further education corporation]:

[Amendment No. 167 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 168:

Page 25, line 20, leave out paragraph (c).

The noble Earl said: In the first instance this amendment is a probing amendment designed to clarify a clause. I am not certain whether I understood it right and would be grateful for enlightenment. Clause 18(3) states: services are supplied in connection with the provision of education … if— (c) they result from ideas of a person employed by them, or of one of their students arising out of their provision of education". Apart from exactly what students are doing in there, I wondered whether this is a case of intellectual property. Is it anything along the lines of an argument we had in 1988 on the Health and Medicines Bill on research contracts by the Department of Health and Social Security? Is it being suggested here that colleges have intellectual property in the ideas of their staff or of their students?

If students are included under that heading, it would be a great novelty. I would be grateful for some explanation as to what the clause is about. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

The wording of subsections (2) and (3) of the clause follows closely that of the Further Education Act 1985 which defined the scope of the commercial activities in which further education colleges might legitimately engage.

The noble Earl's amendment would therefore prevent colleges in the new sector from doing something which they already have the power to do. Without going into the complexities of intellectual property, what we are doing here is not extending the law; we are simply preserving it.

Earl Russell

I thank the Minister for that reply and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 18 agreed to.

Clause 19 [Powers: supplementary]:

Earl Russellmoved Amendment No. 169:

Page 15, line 28, leave out ("or higher").

The noble Earl said: This is another request for clarification. It arises from Clause 19(2): A further education corporation may conduct an educational institution for the purpose of carrying on activities undertaken in the exercise of their powers to provide further or higher education". It was the words "or higher" that rather surprised me in that context. I was not quite sure what they sought to achieve. There is one other case in Part I of the Bill concerning the dissolution of a corporation where the words "or higher" again appear in an unexpected form.

It occurred to me to wonder whether we could be seeing here the beginnings of a system of, in effect, promotion and relegation. If that were so, it would be something fairly significant and Parliament might wish to discuss it before it came into being. I would be extremely relieved on this occasion to be told I had the wrong end of the stick. I hope that the Minister can do that. I beg to move.

Lord Belstead

I do not believe that the noble Earl has the wrong end of the stick. That would not be in character. The dividing line between institutions of higher education and colleges of further education is, at the margins, sometimes blurred. Many colleges which will fall on both sides of the divide offer a rich and variegated mix of further and higher education and it is desirable that they should do so. The Government do not believe there would be any advantage, for example, in preventing a college which specialises in vocational education for 16 to 18 year-olds from offering a few higher level courses in fields which complement their main provision. That seems to be the effect of the noble Earl's amendment. We feel that would be undesirable. It is as simple as that. That is why there is the reference in the clause to the words "or higher".

Earl Russell

I thank the Minister. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

12.15 a.m.

Lord Cavendish of Furnessmoved Amendment No. 169A:

Page 15, line 36, leave out ("disabled students") and insert ("students having learning difficulties within the meaning of section 4(3) of this Act").

The noble Lord said: On behalf of my noble friend I move this amendment and speak to the consequential amendments to Schedules 8 and 9. These amendments will ensure consistency in the way the Bill deals with students with disabilities in both the further and higher education sectors.

These are technical amendments and I say no more than record my gratitude to the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy (de Knayth), and to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for spotting the need for the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Addingtonmoved Amendment No. 170:

Page 15, line 36, leave out ("disabled students") and insert ("students with learning difficulties").

The noble Lord said: I thank the Minister for recognising that a problem had been spotted in the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, and I tabled an amendment which concerned those with learning difficulties and related that to those whose first language was not English. Our amendment tackled the problem of those who have greater difficulties in learning than others. I hope that the Minister can clarify this matter now because it may prevent us having to return to it on a later occasion. I appreciate it is late and that the noble Lord is trying to help. I hope that he can clarify this matter. I beg to move.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

As the Bill is drafted, Clause 19 uses a definition of the term "disabled student" that is narrower than the definition in Clause 4 of the term "student having learning difficulties". These amendments bring Clause 19 into line with Clause 4 over terminology and over the definition. They also make the same adjustment in higher education so that the powers of higher education institutions to provide special facilities for students with disabilities are the same as the powers of the further education colleges. I hope that clarifies the position.

Lord Addington

I thank the noble Lord for that answer and for the fact that he tried desperately to help us and to agree with something that we had said. I shall study the answer. It may be that it has helped to clear up two points of controversy rather than only one. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 171 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Lord Cavendish of Furnessmoved Amendment No. 172:

Page 16, line 15, leave out subsection (6).

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19, as amended, agreed to.

Lord Cavendish of Furness

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.