HL Deb 10 February 2000 vol 609 cc818-43

(" .—(1) The Council shall secure the provision of financial resources to persons providing transport to enable people with learning difficulties to participate in post-16 education and training.

(2) The Council must make and publish a plan for the delivery of appropriate transport services and support for people with learning difficulties.

(3) The Council may pilot dedicated transport schemes, in partnership with statutory and voluntary organisations, for people with learning difficulties up to the age of 25.

(4) In undertaking an assessment of the transport needs of people with learning difficulties and in establishing pilot schemes, the Council shall have regard to individual needs in relation to orientation and personal safety when utilising transport options, such as the prevention of bullying and abuse.

(5) Local learning and skills councils must secure the provision of mobility training requested by people with learning difficulties participating in post-16 education and training.

(6) For the purposes of this section transport includes—

  1. (a) the use of public transport;
  2. (b) the use of general transport provided by institutions, employers and training providers;
  3. (c) the use of transport provided by voluntary sector providers;
  4. (d) the use of private hire vehicles and other forms of private transport;
  5. (e) the use of specialist transport provided for disabled people.

(7) For the purposes of this section a recipient of financial resources shall include people with learning difficulties up to the age of 25 who have extra transport costs in accessing post-16 learning.

(8) For the purposes of this section mobility training includes enabling disabled people to access vehicles safely, orientate themselves on vehicles, travel in safety and deal confidently with the street environment.").

The noble Lord said: This amendment is designed to deal with one of the major problems that affects those with learning difficulties; namely, transport to colleges. Students' limitations as regards transport may mean that they cannot actually, participate in [the] post-16 education and training", which is available to them under certain circumstances, and reach the appropriate level in that educational process.

The proposed new clause would mean the introduction of a training programme and strategy to enable people with learning difficulties to gain access to the appropriate college. They would be given training and back-up facilities would be available. The amendment emphasises "training", which is designed to get people to use public transport independently.

I hope that the Government will endorse this proposal. It would mean that people with learning difficulties would, as members of a society, actually be integrated into the process of being out in society. Moreover, a large part of their experience in the education system means that they will be mixing with their peers and, indeed, the outside world. Once again, if the transport system does not work and they cannot gain access to such educational establishments, such integration cannot take place. I hope that the Government will give us a very favourable response. However, if they feel that my amendment is not needed, I trust that they will clearly state why it is not needed and tell us how they are going to address these problems. At present, much of the evidence I have gathered and most of the comments from people in this field seem to suggest that it is not happening: it is down to chance and luck as to whether "persons with learning difficulties" can get to such courses. I beg to move.

Baroness Darcy de Knayth

I warmly support this amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Addington, has already put forward most of the arguments. I very much like the amendment because it spells out the huge mix of transport needs for these people. It suggests ways of solving such problems and also emphasises the need for mobility training, which is very important. We tried to address this issue in 1992 and failed.

We are all agreed that post-16 learning is important for all, and especially so for people with learning difficulties. I should stress that I mean "learning difficulties" within the meaning of Clause 13, and not just those with learning disabilities. The Bill recognises this fact but, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, without the proper, planned provision, many disabled learners will not be able to benefit from what the Bill offers; and it offers a lot!

I turn now to the consortium on post-16 education. I should mention briefly and in parenthesis that SKILL is involved here and I declare an interest as I am its president. The consortium recognises the difficulties surrounding the transport issue. It is willing to assist the DfEE and the councils in finding solutions and, if it would be helpful, to address the practical implementation of the legislation in this respect. I very much hope that there will be an extremely positive response from the Government. This issue is crucial to the success of a Bill that has so much to offer.

Lord Rix

I intended to speak to this issue on Second Reading, but I had to delete that part because my speech was already so long. Therefore, I should like to say a few words today to illustrate the importance of appropriate transport; and, indeed, the importance of training to negotiate public transport, especially for people with learning disabilities and those with learning difficulties. It is often assumed that the only barriers to transport are physical ones and that, therefore, people with learning disabilities are at no great disadvantage. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

Travelling by public transport can be an extremely complex procedure, especially where a change of route or mode of transport is necessary. As we have just heard, for those who can eventually travel unaided, travel training is often a necessary pre-requisite. For many young people and their families there are also wider issues to consider, particularly issues relating to personal safety. Mencap's report, Living in Fear demonstrated that 25 per cent of people with learning disabilities who were surveyed had been bullied on public transport within the past year. This is an offensive and an unacceptable statistic, which will need to be tackled before transport can really be considered to be truly accessible.

I should like to give Members of the Committee an example, which may help to highlight some of my concerns. A young person I know through Mencap had great difficulty in using public transport. Her parents feared for her safety as she had been verbally and physically abused on her local bus service many times. She attended a college with a large and complex campus and needed some assistance in finding the pick-up point for the taxi that she used to travel to and from college because the meeting points varied from week to week. No one saw it as his or her job to give this help and, in the end, her parents had to withdraw her from the college because of fears for her safety.

I am, or have been, chairman of three other charities other than Mencap, each of which has been involved in funding transport for young people with disabilities and supporting the purchase of a large number of buses—not just for recreational purposes, but also for educational purposes. Public transport is not serving the wider public and local authorities are not meeting demand for specialist provision. In my view, this issue should be at the forefront of the efforts of the learning and skills councils to ensure, as we are promised, learning for all.

Lord Baker of Dorking

I should like to express my support for this amendment. I should also declare an interest as I am president of the Royal London Society for the Blind, which maintains a school for blind and visually-impaired children, and also a college for students aged 16 to 19 who are blind or visually impaired as well as having other multiple disabilities. I strongly support the amendment on the grounds adduced by the noble Lords, Lord Addington and Lord Rix, and the noble Baroness, Lady Darcy de Knayth.

It does not really matter whether the education is adequate, sufficient or appropriate if it cannot actually be accessed. If a child under 16 has been statemented and goes to a school, the local authority has a statutory obligation to en sure that he or she gets to the appropriate school. However, that does not apply to those young persons aged 16 to 19.

I made some inquiries of our students to see how they coped with the situation. Some students are in residential boarding accommodation, so they have access to the college immediately. Others make a daily journey. For some it is hazardous and very difficult. In some cases parents or friends help out. For the most part, the students have to make their way themselves, often bearing the cost themselves. Some may benefit from the mobility allowance; others do not.

I hope very much that the Minister will recognise that this is an appropriate amendment. I congratulate her on both Clauses 13 and 14. Undoubtedly, they are a considerable improvement on the present arrangements. To have matters so clearly set out on the face of the Bill in statute is an enormous benefit for anyone aged 16 to 19 who has a learning difficulty. However, in the debates which took place last week the noble Lord, Lord Rix, wanted the age extended to age 25. I agree. But that is for another occasion. I hope that the Minister will be sympathetic to the amendment. It will not have escaped her attention, because she is quite an astute Minister, that it has all-party support. However, she may have some hesitancy in welcoming subsection (1) which says very clearly, shall secure the provision of financial resources", that is, cash.

I can assure my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch that this is an area in which the Treasury will be interested. The Treasury will pay great attention. The dead hand of the Treasury will settle upon it. I hope that the Minister resists that dead hand and welcomes the intention and spirit of the new clause. I am sure that she would not want to be embarrassed at a later stage of the Bill by this Chamber imposing its will on a reluctant government in this area.

6.30 p.m.

Baroness David

As a member of the Labour Party whose name is to this amendment, I strongly support it. In speaking to education Bills throughout my many years in this Chamber, I have always tried to enable children to get to their place of education. The Government have moved a long way forward in helping with financial resources for over-16s. That is admirable. I hope that my noble friend can give some encouragement on the point we are discussing.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch

It must be obvious from what I said earlier today and on Tuesday that I support these amendments. It is not only that if the transport is not available the person cannot get to the education in question, but, speaking of mentally handicapped young people, if they are left hanging around outside the school or the course for a very long time, the effect can be quite traumatic and can nullify any good effect that the education may have had. I fully support the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and hope that the Government can do likewise.

Baroness Blatch

My name is attached to the amendment. I want to make two points. First, the pressure will fall on local authorities for this head of expenditure. Therefore, it will present them with difficulties. The other point is that over-16s in many authorities are at present losing transport whether they have special needs or not.

I have had interesting discussions with Conservative colleagues in local government in different parts of the country where transport has been removed for those aged over 16. If a young person lives in a village some miles from the nearest town and they do not have transport, they simply cannot reach the college. It is too far to walk. The bus services do not operate at times that help them. The one car, if there is a car in the family, has usually been used in the morning by whoever is working in the household. There is an issue about transport for young people in the 16 to 19 age range. But for people with learning difficulties and people with disabilities, the problem is compounded. It does not end at age 19: we are talking here about people up to age 25. My noble friend Lord Baker of Dorking says that the obligation to provide is strengthened by the Bill. However, providing adequate provision for this age group will not be worth anything if they cannot physically arrive at the institution.

Baroness Blackstone

I am extremely sympathetic towards the sentiments that I believe lie behind the amendment. I do recognise, as the noble friend, Lord Baker, said, that there is all-party support for the amendment. Incidentally, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his support of Clauses 13 and 14 and to my noble friend Lady David. I fully accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, says about the availability of suitable transport being fundamental to equal opportunities and enabling some people with learning difficulties to take part in post-16 education and training.

The problem about the amendment is that it goes much further. It would require the LSC to fund transport for all students with learning difficulties regardless of the nature of their difficulty and irrespective of whether assistance with transport was helpful in enabling them to participate in learning. Certainly, the Treasury would want to resist such a change. I would have some sympathy with that approach in the sense that this might not be the most sensible way of supporting some young people who have learning difficulties but who do not have a problem with transport.

There is already provision in place to help post-16 students, including those with learning difficulties, with the cost of their transport. Under Section 509 of the Education Act 1996 local education authorities have a duty to make such arrangements as they consider necessary for the provision of transport for the purposes of facilitating the attendance of people attending schools and FE institutions. Where transport is provided it has to be free of charge. Local education authorities also have power to provide other forms of assistance for any other student. Many students with learning difficulties or disabilities are helped with transport in this way. Colleges can and do supplement what is provided by local education authorities by providing transport themselves or by offering financial assistance towards the cost of provision by transport companies. Much of this support comes from the access funds which the Government provide to all colleges in recognition of the importance of transport. The Government have significantly increased the size of the access fund from £47 million this year to £89 million in the year 2000–2001.

The Government recognise that more needs to be done to improve transport for post-16 year-olds and are currently examining how this can be done. We have recently introduced measures, through the local authority standards fund, which will provide financial assistance for those on low incomes who remain at school after the age of 16. The fund will enable local education authorities to support a range of needs which include transport. Later this year we will begin a new pilot initiative to support 16 to 19 year-old students in full-time education with their transport costs. As with the education and maintenance allowance scheme, it will target support at young people from low income households. It will be piloted in both rural and urban areas. The pilot areas are currently being selected. Our intention is that the scheme should help those students living in areas with particular transport difficulties. We are also considering whether both the LEA pilots and the proposed new transport pilots should be extended to cater for circumstances where people with learning difficulties or disabilities may have finished compulsory education at a later age or have taken longer to complete a course, as is sometimes the case. We will consult the disability organisations before making a decision about whether and how this might be taken forward. Through these improvements in the general level of transport and support for students, I think we will increase the provision which can be used to help students with disabilities. The Government believe that this is a better way forward than identifying specific groups to be given an entitlement which would not be available to others in education and training.

These issues were discussed by the Disability Rights Task Force which, as the Committee is aware, recommended in its report at the end of last year that the transport exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act should end. The Government are considering how to respond to that recommendation.

I share the view of Members of the Committee that people whose learning difficulties or disabilities make travelling a difficult and stressful experience should have access to the transport they need. That is why we are strengthening our existing arrangements. However, I do not think that we can grant an entitlement to transport for all people with learning difficulties regardless of the nature of their learning difficulties. That would work directly at the expense of others such as those in deprived or rural areas who may also be dependent on assistance with transport to take up learning opportunities.

Moreover, the Bill includes powers to enable the LSC to fund institutions and to fund the provision of ancillary activities, such as transport, under Clause 5(3). The LSC planning framework will enable gaps to be identified. The LSC could also consider using discretionary funding. I hope that those who have spoken in the debate will accept that the Government are sympathetic to the intention behind the amendment. However, I hope that in the light of my explanation, the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

Before the noble Baroness sits down, I hope that I may ask her one question. I absolutely take the point that the noble Baroness has just made; namely, there are problems as regards providing a blanket entitlement to all people with learning difficulties. Subsection (1) of the proposed new clause in the amendment states, The Council shall secure the provision of financial resources to persons providing transport to enable people with learning difficulties". If one then inserted the words, who otherwise could not access adequate provision", under the relevant measure in the legislation, one would restrict the measure to those people for whom provision is being made but who cannot access it.

Baroness Blackstone

If the noble Baroness or any of the other speakers in this debate wishes to table an amendment along those lines, the Government will certainly consider whether it is acceptable. Of course, in doing so we would have to consider problems of definition.

Lord Addington

I thank the Minister for that reply. I also thank those who have taken part in the debate. The noble Lord, Lord Baker, congratulated the Minister on Clauses 13 and 14 of the Bill. I very much admire the elegant way in which he waved a parliamentary rapier at the Government with regard to certain issues.

We seek to ensure that there is coverage across the board on this matter. Every time disability problems arise, we are invariably told that good practice exists. As I say, one of the main aims of the amendment is to seek coverage across the board. The Minister did not properly address that point, probably because she could not do so as provision depends on the scheme someone is involved in. I suggest that the most important provision is mobility training to enable people to access public transport. We should all reconsider other approaches to this issue to push the matter further at a later stage. I shall certainly return to the matter. I encourage everyone else to rack their brains in this regard. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 [Disabled persons]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 94: Page 7, line 17, at end insert ("and to each local authority").

The noble Baroness said: Clause 14 concerns a report to be prepared by the council. Amendment No. 94 seeks to include a requirement that a copy of the report should be sent to each local authority. Clause 14(2) states, The Council must send a copy of the report to the Secretary of State".

We have all said that local authorities constitute the democratically elected people on the ground. They will be intensely interested in all the activities of the council. I believe that if the Secretary of State is to receive a copy of the report it should be stated on the face of the Bill that each local authority should also receive a copy. That is necessary not simply because they are interested in the provision of education and training and links with employment in their areas but also because, under the local government legislation, they also have e n obligation to become involved in economic regeneration in their areas. Therefore I believe that they are entitled to receive a copy of the report. I hope that the Minister will accept the amendment. I beg to move.

6.45 p.m.

Baroness Blackstone

Clause 14 will make sure that the learning and skills council accounts for the provision of post-16 education and training that it makes for people with disabilities. It carries forward the duties placed upon the FEFC by the Disability Discrimination Act. As Members of the Committee have already said, Clause 14 will be of help in creating wider access for adults with disabilities, as the Disability Rights Task Force has recommended.

I also take the view that we should leave this matter to the good sense of the learning and skills council. At present, for example, although the FEFC is not under a duty to send copies of its report to anyone other than the Secretary of State, it nevertheless sends a copy to each FE college. That is good practice and common sense. I would expect the LSC to adopt a similar approach and, reflecting its wider responsibilities, send its report not only to LEAs but also to employers, FE colleges and voluntary organisations with whom it will work. However, these arrangements should be a matter for the LSC and not for legislation. I hope that the Committee will be reassured that local authorities will have access to the LSC's reports in this area, and that the noble Baroness will withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I believe that the arguments put forward by the noble Baroness apply also to the Secretary of State. One could argue that if the council is to produce the report, that is clearly intended for someone and therefore the Secretary of State would receive a copy. I suggest the wording "all relevant bodies" as the Disability Rights Commission will presumably take an interest in the report as it concerns disabled persons. I shall reflect on what the noble Baroness has said. I believe that either Clause 14(2) should be deleted as the council will in any case send a copy of the report to the Secretary of State, or the words "all relevant bodies" should be included in the provision. Local authorities are worried that they appear to be "airbrushed out" of the system here. As I say, under local government legislation, they are obliged to become involved in certain matters. They certainly will be concerned with education, training and links with employment. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15 [Plans]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 95: Page 7, line 29, leave out from second ("year") to end of line 31 and insert ("and which should reflect the education and training needs of each local learning and skills council area").

The noble Baroness said: I hope that this amendment will not be misunderstood in the context of the council being accountable. However, as the noble Baroness will know, I am concerned about what appears to be a very "top down" system. Directions will come from the Secretary of State to the national council. They will cascade down to 47 local councils and to local education authorities. In addition, rural development agencies and other such bodies have to be taken into account. As regards education, particularly training and links with industry and employment, plans should reflect needs at a local level and should not necessarily conform to the directions of the Secretary of State. This is merely an attempt to make sure that where the council publishes a plan for each financial year it should cover all the things that one would expect. In Clause 15 (4)(a) the council has to set out how it intends to achieve within any financial year objectives which should be achieved in that year. It is about setting out in its plan how it intends to achieve the aims and objectives. The Bill should reflect not what the Secretary of State is saying but what are the education and training needs of each local skills area. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

We on these Benches have considerable sympathy with this amendment. Many organisations, including the CBI, the Federation of Small Businesses, the TEC National Council, British Chambers of Commerce and the Local Government Association have all been very concerned indeed that plans drawn up by the LSC, and in particular by the local bodies, should reflect local needs. At national level there should also be some consideration of the overall national skills needs. In particular the CBI is very concerned about that issue.

However, I am not convinced that this amendment rightly fits at this point in the Bill. I have pondered the issue. It is concerned with the annual plans of the council itself, but local needs come later on under Clause 22. We shall be putting forward a number of amendments to take account of local needs. However, generally we support the spirit of the amendment because of the strongly expressed views of a number of organisations that the council should take into account the users of skills as well as the providers.

Baroness Blackstone

The LSC as a whole will draw its strength from having both a coherent national strategy and strong local arms which will ensure that local needs are met. That is at the centre of the new arrangement. We believe in the importance of local arms, contrary to what I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, was suggesting in saying that we were adopting an excessively top-down approach. That is why we are recruiting influential people to the local councils of the LSC. It is also why we are devolving decision-making on the allocation of the majority of the LSC's budget to local level and why we are establishing a system which makes possible a bottom-up approach to drawing up local plans which will encourage local providers to put forward their proposals for meeting the needs and requirements that have been identified locally.

Therefore, I believe it is self-evident that the plans of local LSCs, as provided for in Clause 22, will set out how they propose to discharge their responsibilities in the light of the education and training needs of the area. That is exactly what these plans are for.

But it is not what the national LSC's operational plan is for. The purpose of that document is to set out how the LSC will deliver the objectives set for it as an NDPB which has agreed with the Secretary of State what targets it plans to meet and how it will spend its budget. Where the Secretary of State directs the LSC in accordance with his powers in Clause 25, it is surely essential that the council should set out how it proposes to comply with the directions in making and publishing its plan. If it did not do so, its planning would be neither effective nor transparent. Having heard those remarks, I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Blatch

My nervousness is shared by so many people outside. Clearly, from what the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, has said and the list of outside bodies mentioned by her, there are concerns about this matter. It is all very well to say that the national council will reflect local needs. The truth is, whatever the local councils and the LEAs do, they will be obliged under this Bill to act only in conformity with what is happening at national level.

There is a worry that a straitjacket will be created and movement within that will have to be in conformity with the framework sent down from on high. I heed the cautionary words of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, in that this might not be the right place in the Bill to deal with this issue. What we all want is something in the Bill which gives force to what the noble Baroness aspires to; namely, that the process should be bottom-up and not top-down.

At the moment everything in the Bill emanates from the Secretary of State through the national council down to the local skills councils. There needs to be something on the face of the Bill to indicate that that is not so. The plan will be business driven, skills and local education needs driven, but very much at a local level. When we speak about people moving from education training into the workforce, it is only the local influence which is going to work and not national plans or strategies, which may dovetail together in some parts of the country but not in others. We all know that this country is very diverse. The idea of a single plan coming from on high within which everyone has to operate is a cause of concern. We shall continue to badger on this point until we find something on the face of the Bill which gives strength to the points that we are making. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 96: Page 7, line 33, at end insert— ("(5) The Council must send a copy of the financial plan to the Secretary of State and to each local authority.").

The noble Baroness said: This amendment suggests that the council must send a copy of the financial plan to the Secretary of State and to each local authority. It is important. This amendment is also linked with Amendment No. 98 where the council has to set out how it intends to achieve its objectives within the budget.

We have had a good deal of aspirational talk. I have been reading the document ConneXions. I reached about paragraph 5 and said to myself that I could not disagree with a single word of it. It uses aspirational and reassuring language which makes one feel good, but when one asks what will happen on the ground and what are the practical policies to deliver the aspirational hope, it is difficult to find real material and practical points and policies. It is very hard.

All policies begin with the grand visionary statement, but ultimately the devil is in the detail. Where aims and objectives are set out, however laudable they are, it is important to set out in a practical way how they are to be achieved within the set financial parameters. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

Amendment No. 96 is not necessary. The plan will be published and made available, including on the Internet, for whoever wants to see it. We have to take into account new technology even in areas of this kind. Local authorities may well have an interest in the plan, but a statutory requirement to send hard copies to each of 388 local authorities in England is unnecessary. It is also bureaucratic and not quite in touch with the 21st century. Given the concerns expressed by noble Lords earlier this week about the need to reduce bureaucracy, I am surprised that this amendment has been tabled.

As we made clear in the prospectus, local authorities already have a dual role in the new arrangements that this Bill will secure as key providers of adult and community learning and as bodies which have a vital strategic role to play in furthering the social and economic interests of their communities. Our arrangements reflect that dual role. Clauses 22 and 23 provide ways of preparing the plans. Local LSCs will set out the provisions which LEAs will be expected to secure and the resources to be made available.

Turning to the issue of the Secretary of State being sent a copy, we would expect DfEE officials to discuss with the LSC its proposed annual plan in the course of the normal relationship between a sponsor department and an NDPB. A specific provision to send a hard copy to the Secretary of State is therefore not necessary. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, will agree to withdraw this amendment.

Turning now to Amendment No. 98, the rolling strategy document provided for in Clause 16 will have a medium-term scope of at least three years. It is designed to identify strategic objectives and priorities for post-16 learning and as an account of the role that the LSC will play, alongside others, in pursuing those objectives and in achieving targets set by the Secretary of State—for example, the national learning targets.

This document is not the place to set out in detail what the LSC will purchase with its budget indeed, it may not know in detail its forward budgets for the whole of the period in question. The place for this more detailed information is in the annual plan provided for in Clause 15. I hope, therefore, that this amendment also can be withdrawn.

Baroness Blatch

There is an inconsistency in the Bill and in what the noble Baroness said. The Minister's argument on Clause 14(2) was that it was important to put on the face of the Bill that the council will send a hard copy of the report to the Secretary of State. Her argument on Clause 15 is that of course the Secretary of State will receive a hard copy of the report and therefore there is no need to put it on the face of the Bill. That seems I o me to be an inconsistent argument. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

7 p.m.

Clause 16 [Strategy]:

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 97: Page 7, line 34, after ("a") insert ("workforce development").

The noble Baroness said: Although Amendments Nos. 97 and 98 are grouped together, they are separate amendments and I shall speak to them separately.

Amendment No. 97 seeks to require the National Learning and Skills Council to formulate a development strategy at national level which expressly reflects national workforce needs. The amendment picks up the proposal from the National Skills Task Force that the Government should develop a national workforce development strategy.

As we know, in this country we have for many years had problems in terms of skills and we suffer from inherent skill shortages from time to time. The concept of the national workforce development strategy is that there should be within the rolling plans to which the Minister referred a short time ago—which are the strategic plans—some consideration of how such national needs should be met.

That, of course, is complemented by developments at local levels as well, and I shall speak later about local needs and the need to reflect local needs. We spoke a little about that in the previous amendment.

The amendment reflects the desire of the employer organisations that proposals put forward by the Learning and Skills Council should reflect needs at a national level and also at a sectoral level, and the involvement of the national training organisations here is another example. The amendment reflects the deeply held view that the Learning and Skills Council should develop a strategic overview of its functions. Without the amendment, the clause implies that a broad overview strategy should be involved. We feel that it is important that such an overview should take account of the supply and demand situation within a broad national market.

Turning to Amendment No. 99, this amendment concerns a somewhat different issue. The amendment seeks to place a duty on the Learning and Skills Council to consult with government departments other than the Department for Education and Employment and to consult also with local authorities. Again, we are looking not at the question of consultation at a local level but of consultation at a national level. Other government departments and local authorities are important as providers, commissioners and users of skills and it is important that there should be some discussion with them. The amendment is, if you like, seeking that joined-up government be put on the face of the Bill. I beg to move.

Baroness Blackstone

On the issue of workforce development, let me reassure the noble Baroness that that will be an important part of the LSC's remit. That is partly why we have said that 40 per cent of the members of the national and local LSCs will have substantial recent business or commercial experience, together with the national chair and most local chairs. The LSC will work at both national and local levels with a wide range of other bodies with an interest in workforce development.

At national level this will include NTOs, trade unions, the Small Business Service, RDAs, Investors in People UK and the UM Working with these partners the national LSC will be responsible for articulating a clear agenda for action on workforce development, for driving this forward through its local arms and for working in partnership with others. For example, it will work very closely with NTOs in developing frameworks for sector workforce development plans.

Local councils will prepare workforce development plans for their areas, taking account of the national framework and the skill priorities identified by the RDAs. We have a real opportunity with the new arrangements to build on the success of TECs, with initiatives such as Investors in People, and to strengthen links between learning and work—links which are at the heart of what we are striving to achieve.

But the amendment that we are considering, in seeking to emphasise the importance of workforce development, would mean that the LSC's three-year rolling strategy would only cover workforce development and nothing else. I am sure the noble Baroness does not intend this. I hope that she will withdraw Amendment No. 97. I can certainly assure the noble Baroness that the plans that the LSC draws up at both national and local levels will give full weight to workforce development.

The sentiment behind Amendment No 99 very much chimes with our expectation that the LSC should be an inclusive body which reaches out and works effectively with all relevant partners. We want to see meaningful consultation ingrained into its culture. We expect that the people we recruit to the most senior posts will be people who can network effectively across a wide range of interests.

As I said, we certainly intend that the LSC will consult widely with all its key partners in putting together its strategic plans. We stated that clearly in the LSC prospectus. This will be essential if it is to draw on the experience that others can offer.

However, we see no reason to set this out as a specific obligation in the Bill. Consultation is already required with a number of bodies, including LEAs, on the national LSC's guidance to its local arms. There is also already provision for wide consultation on the important local plans, and we will consider how we might secure the involvement of all local authorities in this. Key partners will also have a direct input into the direction of the national LSC through their links with members of the council itself, and, of course, with members of the adult and young people's learning committees, and through links at sectoral, regional and local level.

With these assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford

I thank the Minister for her reply. I take on board the reassurances she has given us on both issues. It is good to have it on the record and I am grateful to her for that. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 98 and 99 not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Supplementary functions]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 100: Page 8, line 19, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Baroness said: Often when one wants to have a discussion on a matter, the only way to do it is to table an amendment. It will therefore come as some relief to the Committee that I shall not be pressing Amendment No. 100.

I understand that there is some qualification about how the Secretary of State, if he thinks fit, will impose new powers or duties on the council for post-16 education. I have not had time to study the qualification, but I admit also that I have always found legalese difficult to read. I am anxious to know whether any order imposing a new power or duty would be caught by regulations that would need to come before both Houses through either the negative or the affirmative procedure. If it would not, I should be concerned to know that it should do so. I beg to move.

Lord Bach

The provision in the Bill follows the precedent of Section 8(4) of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 which gives the Secretary of State a similar power in relation to the funding council. That power has been used on only one occasion, when last year the Further Education Funding Council took responsibility for the Government's new dance and drama provisions for talented students.

Just as the power under the 1992 Act has provided a useful safety net for an important scheme which the primary powers of the FEFC would otherwise rule out, so I should expect the similar powers in respect of the LSC to be used rarely. The Government set out their reasons for advocating the use of secondary legislation in that area to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. The noble Baroness will know that that expert committee did not see any need to draw any difficulties over such a power to the attention of the House.

The Secretary of State's power to confer or impose supplementary powers or duties on the LSC is limited in two important ways. First, any supplementary powers or duties must be within the ambit of the Secretary of State's functions. Secondly, they must be relevant to the provision of facilities for post-16 education and training. In response to the noble Baroness's question, as I understand it those regulations would be of the negative rather than the affirmative kind. I hope that that is to some extent the discussion that the noble Baroness sought on that topic. Having listened to what has been said, no doubt she will withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful to the Minister. I wanted to know whether the regulations would come through the negative or affirmative procedure. From what the Minister said, my understanding is that they will come through the negative procedure. That reassures me. If the Minister had not explained that point I was going to come back to say that I recollect seeing a negative order concerning dance and drama when the power was transferred. I am looking across to the Front Bench opposite for nods in my direction, but there are none. I was simply going to ask for the same facility, but if the regulations are to come through the negative procedure, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

7.15 p.m.

On Question, Whether Clause 18 shall stand part of the Bill?

Baroness Blatch

I have tabled the Motion because Clause 18 begs so many questions that I believed that the best course of action would be to oppose it standing part of the Bill in order to try to discover exactly what it means.

We know that there are training and enterprise councils on independent corporations, but also that they have considerable assets. A number of issues arise from that point. First, the TUPE arrangements for the transfer of staff. I know that the Government have not yet pronounced on that matter. It would be helpful to know quite what that is to be. As I understand it, the assets of the training and enterprise councils will, as they wind up, in fact revert to the Secretary of State. If that is the case, where do those assets lie? Do they become subject to possible disposal or acquisition on the part of the clause?

Secondly, the powers relating to the acquisition and disposal of land and property are considerable. In Clause 18(2)(c), there is a reference to investing, "sums not immediately needed"—in other words, if there is money in the purse, there is the facility for investing. However, Clause 18(3)(c) states that they would be prevented from. hold[ing] shares in a company, or otherwise becom[ing] a member of a company, unless the Secretary of State consents". Does that mean that the only place that the money may lie is in a building society or a bank? It is difficult to know how free a body would be to invest money that is not around. We all know the importance of that: if money is lying around and not appreciating, its value is of course depreciating.

I turn to the reference to "gifts". I am slightly unnerved to see that the council will be free to accept gifts. I am not quite sure what that will mean and what the accountability system for receiving gifts and accepting financial resources will be. I am assuming that the reference to accepting financial resources relates to other providers in the field, but, again, I do not know. Subsection (3) states that the council will not be able to borrow or to lend money, with the caveat, unless the Secretary of State consents". I know that there have been instances from time to time where money has been lent. I am not so sure whether the local authority in Hammersmith and Fulham was given powers to lend money to some of the establishments in its authority because it was in particular difficulty this year. Not surprisingly, the Prime Minister has a direct interest in that authority. I do not know whether or not that was the reason for permission being given. I am concerned about the powers to lend and the criteria that would be used by the Secretary of State in agreeing to allow the council to lend moneys.

I have many questions about the clause, including the issue of risk. Will the Minister make some comment about risk: risk management; the degree to which the council will be able to engage in any activity when it is preserving and conserving its funds; the degree to which risk will be allowed and could be managed; and the degree to which the council would be accountable? Precisely which bodies would be making their land, property and assets available to the council for disposal and acquisition? I oppose the Question that the clause shall stand part of the Bill.

Lord Bach

I fear that I shall not be able to answer all the important questions raised by the noble Baroness. Of course, Clause 18 gives the national LSC additional general powers which it may exercise to enable it to perform its core functions. As she will know, that is a standard approach to ensure that an independent corporate body such as the LSC has the necessary powers to underpin its main functions. The powers enabling the LSC to form companies or take shares in a company may in practice involve facilitating appropriate partnership working at the local and national level for local workforce development or regeneration and economic development objectives. The powers of the FEFC were more limited in that area. If the LSC is to play an important role in local partnerships, as TECs do now, it is important that it has the appropriate powers.

I am sure that most noble Lords would support such activities which can add value and make a difference in local areas, in particular through levering in wider resources. Clause 18 provides the LSC with important supplementary powers to enable it to play the strategic powerful role in the community which we advocated in the White Paper and in the prospectus.

As regards TUPE and the assets of TECs, perhaps I may ask the noble Baroness to be patient and to wait until we debate Amendment No. 202 after Clause 84. That may be a more appropriate point to discuss assets.

As regards lending money, the circumstances in which we see that as both possible and a good thing, would be, for example, to help a provider with cashflow difficulties, and possibly also in the field of individual loans.

The noble Baroness referred to the use of gifts. That is nothing new. There is a provision to the same effect under Schedule 1 of the Act relating to the FEFC. As to her other detailed questions, it may be that some will be answered when we deal with the later amendment. Those are the considerations that we ask the Committee to bear in mind when asking that the clause stand part.

Lord Lucas

Perhaps I may follow up the noble Lord's remarks with a couple of extra questions. I should like him to take advantage of the extensive amount of time that we have available to us this evening to see whether he might reach into the resources available to him and give some explanation as to the kind of balance that the council will be asked to apply in regard to assets, risks and rewards.

The wording of the clause is very strange. It seems that the council will be able to speculate without restraint in land and property. It will be able to enter into contracts—so it can dance around the futures market if it can find a good reason for doing so. But it will not be able to lend money—in other words it will not be able to place money with a bank or building society, because that is letting out money at interest; it is lending money in any ordinary sense of the word. The clause provides no picture of the degree of prudence that the institution is meant to exercise. It will be allowed to invest sums, but if it cannot put them into a bank or building society (because it cannot lend) and it cannot invest in company shares, is it supposed to have some kind of weird gilt-edged "stock-swap" arrangement with the Bank of England? What exactly is going on when it comes to the management of short-term assets? I should appreciate some enlightenment from the noble Lord. I hope that he will find the time and resources to afford it to us this evening.

Lord Bach

I am glad the noble Lord thinks that we have plenty of time on our hands. I am not sure that I agree.

The noble Lord's questions can be answered in the following way. The clause gives the LSE wide powers to manage its funds. We shall look at Hansard tomorrow and at the questions raised in order to see whether we can give a more satisfactory answer, possibly in the form of a letter.

There is nothing unusual in Clause 18. Much of the provision is to be found in the 1992 Act in relation to the FEFC, although, as I have said, this Bill strengthens the powers of the new LSC compared to the previous organisation. We shall take away the questions and comments of the noble Lord and the noble Baroness and see what we can do to help answer them.

Baroness Blatch

I am grateful if the noble Lord is going away to think about what has been said in the course of discussion on this clause. It raises questions about the parameters in which the provision will operate; risk and risk management; accountability; and the definition of lending. I had ruled out almost everything except putting money into a building society; but, technically, that would be lending. Therefore, some clarification would be helpful.

I entirely take the point about TUPE. That is the only subject that I raised which will be specifically dealt with later in the Bill. I shall not insist that the clause is taken out of the Bill at this stage. However, I should welcome a fulsome, comprehensive letter answering all the points raised.

The noble Lord referred to previous arrangements when the FEFC was set up. There is something rather different happening here. There is a national council, 47 local councils, the wind-up of 72 training and enterprise councils, and there will be a massive movement of liabilities, assets, land and property. Some understanding of how all that will be managed would be helpful. I shall not press my opposition to the clause.

Clause 18 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 101 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Local councils]:

Lord Tope moved Amendment No. 102: Page 8, line 31, at end insert ("and a co-ordinating committee for the five committees in London").

The noble Lord said: In moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 114 and 133 standing in my name and that of my noble friend. Perhaps I may comment also on Amendment No. 110 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey.

At the start of our debates in Committee, I proposed that there should simply be one learning and skills council for each of the nine English regions. It follows that I should prefer to see one learning and skills council for the Greater London region. However, if we are to have five local learning and skills councils in Greater London, as is proposed, it is essential that there is also a strong—I stress the word "strong"—co-ordinating committee. That is not just my view, or the view from these Benches. It is widely shared across London. So far I have heard no dissent. I hope also to be able to say that by the end of our debates. The board of the London Development Partnership put forward those recommendations to the Secretary of State; namely that there should be five learning and skills councils within London, with a strong co-ordinating body, to ensure that London-wide challenges were tackled. I understood that the Secretary of State had accepted that. I hope to hear from the Minister that that is the case.

The proposal is particularly important, with the coming of the Greater London authority, the elected mayor, and the transformation of the London Development Partnership into the fully-fledged London development agency, with all the work that that has done. It is important that a co-ordinated view comes from the learning and skills councils so that they are able to make strong representations to the various bodies in London and represent their views. I hope we shall hear from the Minister that the Government accept the need for a co-ordinating committee. I hope also for some indication of what the Government see as the necessary co-ordinating arrangements in Greater London between the five learning and skills councils that they are determined to establish.

I now turn to Amendment No. 110 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey. The amendment helpfully goes into more detail about both the suggested membership and the suggested functions of a co-ordinating committee. That is extremely helpful. My amendment was a simple proposal merely to establish the need for such a committee. Amendment No. 110 goes further and gives substance to the proposal. In general, I support the amendment.

Perhaps I may make two comments. One is that subsection (3)(b) suggests that, there shall be a majority of members with business experience and members with experience of local government".

I certainly support the intentions behind that provision. However, I am slightly concerned about the way it is described It would meet that requirement, for instance, if there were eight business people and one local government person, or vice versa. I suspect that that is not the intention behind the amendment but the noble Lord will no doubt make that clear.

The other comment relates to subsection (5), which suggests that the chief executive of the co-ordinating committee should be a member. We have discussed the point previously in relation to the national council and I suspect that it will arise in relation to local councils in the future. It is our view that the chief executive should not be a member of the committee, although I accept that, if that is to be the case everywhere else in England, it will have to be the case in London. I should not wish that point to pass without comment in case it comes back to haunt me at a later stage in the Bill. I beg to move.

7.30 p.m.

Lord Dormand of Easington

Can the noble Lord, Lord Tope, tell the Committee what the co-ordinating committee is to co-ordinate? If there are five committees it is inevitable that from time to time there will be disagreement in the sense that they will regard themselves as their own masters and able to do as they wish. That question must be answered. The other side of the coin—perhaps I am wrong—is that the co-ordinating committee will be given supreme power. If I correctly understand the noble Lord, he believes that there should be one committee instead of five but that that has not come about. Therefore, he believes that the amendment will do what he thinks should be done. The noble Lord shakes his head. However, if there are five committees is extremely unlikely that that will happen. I believe that the Committee is entitled to more information.

Lord Tope

I hesitate to respond at this stage because I suspect that in a moment the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, will answer some of the points. I shook my head because I wondered whether I was being criticised for tabling an amendment which sought to achieve what I wanted to achieve. I am sure that that was not what the noble Lord meant but that was how I understood his comment.

I refer the noble Lord to Amendment No. 110 in the name of his noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey. Subsection (4) of the new clause describes very well the functions of a co-ordinating committee. I do not argue with that. I believe it to be a necessary and important function. The fragmentation into five local councils in London weakens the input into the London Development Agency and the GLA. There is a great need to co-ordinate the activity. I believe that the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Harris, describes the position very well.

Lord Harris of Haringey

Since there has been so much mention of the amendment standing in my name, perhaps it is appropriate at this stage to say a few words about it. The Secretary of State for Education and Employment accepted the recommendation of the board of the London Development Partnership that there should be five learning and skills councils within London. I am sure that I do not disclose privileged information when I say that the matter was widely debated by the board of the London Development Partnership and that the recommendation that there should be five learning and skills councils was agreed by only a very narrow margin.

A number of the partners felt strongly that, given the nature of London's labour market, which is distinct from elsewhere in the country, one learning and skills council was appropriate. But even those within the board who argued for five learning and skills councils—in the end, they formed a majority—were clear about the importance of having some kind of co-ordinating body to ensure that London-wide challenges were tackled and that there was a pan-London approach to some of the issues that might arise. Therefore, the recommendation of the London Development Partnership, which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment accepted, was that there should be five learning and skills councils with a co-ordinating body for the purpose of ensuring that London-wide challenges were tackled.

Unfortunately, there is no mention of the co-ordinating body either in the Bill or in the learning and skills prospectus. I am well aware that during the Second Reading debate a number of noble Lords spoke of the need for such a London co-ordinating body. While acknowledging the recommendations of the London Development Partnership, the Minister stopped short, according to my reading, of giving a firm commitment that such a co-ordinating body for London would be established. For that reason I have put my name to the amendment which the Committee is to consider today.

My noble friend has asked what this co-ordinating body might do. I do not believe that it is the intention of anyone that that body should act as a learning and skills council for London as a whole; otherwise, the five learning and skills councils would be redundant. But it is important that the co-ordinating body ensures that across London the skills needed throughout the city are addressed. It is extremely important for the UK economy as a whole that London gets the skills agenda right. London drives one-fifth of the nation's GDP—possibly more, depending on the definitions used—and it is in no one's interest to have skills gaps because of a failure to co-ordinate the actions of five separate councils. We must ensure that we provide the skills and expertise to enable London's economy to prosper. The co-ordinating body will assist in that process. I am sure that that is something which all Members of the Committee support.

It is also of critical importance that an overview is taken of issues to do with social exclusion so that work on promoting skills and work in the city can be addressed across London as a whole. It is difficult to understand how the challenges can be properly addressed in isolation by five free-standing learning and skills councils if London's population is to benefit from the new arrangements proposed in the Bill. The arrangement will work only if there are strong and effective mechanisms for co-ordination to ensure that the councils, albeit using their independent expertise, are able to work together effectively.

In addition, London will be the first city with an elected mayor and assembly, and the only city region in the United Kingdom. It is of particular importance that in London the five learning and skills councils fit their strategies to those of the London Development Agency, which the Bill supports. That can be done much more conveniently if there is proper co-ordination of their work. How can five learning and skills councils work effectively with the other vital pan-London partners, such as the Single Small Business Service for London, if there is no mechanism to do it?

The pace of change in London is very rapid, and people must adapt their skills if they are to stay and progress in work. A recent survey by the London Skills Forecasting Unit showed that employers judged that almost 10 per cent of their employees did not have the skills to carry out their current job responsibilities. It is important that the five learning and skills councils work together to anticipate employers' needs based on a London-wide assessment and analysis of labour market information.

I hope that the good work of the London Skills Forecasting Unit can be made available across London to the new learning and skills council. That can be best achieved if there is a co-ordinating mechanism. Therefore, a new co-ordinating body is needed with powers to enable it to predict future skill needs, secure the continued growth and vibrancy of London's economy, promote social inclusion and address the skills and training needs associated with all of those issues. I hope very much that the Minister will recognise the need to give effect to the unanimous recommendation of the London Development Partnership by making provision for a powerful co-ordinating body for London.

Baroness Blatch

It is difficult to argue for yet more committees given the Bill before us. We must be the most over-governed country in the world. We start off with the European Parliament, followed by the Westminster Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies, rural development agencies, county councils, borough and district councils, town and parish councils, the London mayor, the London assembly and the London Development Agency. We now have a national learning and skills council and 47 local councils. The only argument that resonates with me is the point made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Haringey, which was then dismissed as one that had been lost some time ago; namely, that if there is real force in the argument that London should be regarded as an entity and that policies should apply to the whole of it, it is better to have a single local learning and skills council than five, which entail the creation of another body to ensure that all of them work together.

In view of the time that will be taken up and the mixed messages that will come from the Secretary of State through the national council, and sideways through the rural development agencies, the London Development Agency, the co-ordinating council and the local councils, there is a powerful argument for saying that London should be looked at again. To have a co-ordinating committee on top of five committees is not an answer.

Lord Lucas

If we are trying to make sense of the arrangements the Government propose for London, we have to realise that London is an integrated whole with a very good transport system, which leads to large numbers of people living in certain areas and working in others, so that across the five areas of London there will be patches where the training requirements occur in one area for an industry in one area but actually the people live in a different area. There will be a great need for co-operation and indeed cross-working between the five London areas if we are to get an effective system for London.

What concerns me, therefore, is the apparent prohibition in Clause 22(3) of a local council paying for provision in another council's area. Given the particular skills which are going to be available in the educational institutions in the middle of London and the ease of getting to the middle of London, I suggest it would always seem appropriate for some of the rarer skills in particular to be catered for in the middle as a matter of co-operation between all five councils. To have a system which appears to mean that councils cannot pay for that provision out of area, or at least cannot plan for it, would give me considerable cause for concern. I hope the Government will be able to provide reassurance that whatever structure we have for these five councils working together, they will be able to invest training money in each other's areas so that there can be a combined provision between the five areas, though the provision may be located in only one of the areas.

Lord Dormand of Easington

May I ask my noble friend, before she replies, to say whether she feels that London is unique in this respect? What about Birmingham and what about Manchester? Is this something which would have to be done in other parts of the country?

Baroness Blackstone

These amendments confirm the arrangements for managing pan-London issues for the five London councils which will cover different parts of London. I should like to say straight away to my noble friend Lord Dormand of Easington that neither of the cities that he mentioned are anything like the size of London and therefore rather different issues pertain.

Let me take this opportunity to place on record my gratitude for all the work which the RDAs did, and particularly the London Development Partnership, in consulting and advising on the appropriate boundaries for all parts of England. Inevitably there were a number of difficult areas where it was hard to reach a final judgment and, not surprisingly, London was particularly difficult.

In responding to these amendments I do not want to reopen the debate on whether there should have been one pan-London local learning and skills council or whether there should be five or more. A huge amount of argument went on about this. On the one hand, there are a variety of issues where a pan-London view is appropriate and, on the other hand, there are many issues where a local response is necessary and appropriate so that the needs of particular communities in London can be met.

I was a little surprised by several things the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said. He suggested that transport right across London is easy and integrated. I am afraid that after 18 years of Tory rule there is still quite a lot to be done to improve transport across London and I do not think it is that easy for someone living in Enfield to get to, say, Richmond. Perhaps the noble Lord knows of routes that I do not and can get there quickly. It is of course the case that in central London some specialist provision is already made available and will continue to be so in further education because it is easier to get into I he centre from some parts of London than from others.

I should also say to him that I do not think it would be terribly sensible for an individual local learning and skills council to be investing money in other such councils. This would be rather a messy approach and would get us into difficulty. That does not mean to say that councils cannot pay for out-of-area provision. Of course Clause 22 is about plans. We want them to plan for their own areas but not for others.

The solution recommended by the London Development Partnership was for live local councils covering London, with a co-ordinating mechanism to make sure that those pan-London issues to which I referred are dealt with effectively. I was happy to accept this recommendation and I say to my noble friend Lord Harris of Haringey and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, that I am equally happy to place on record here today our commitment to making this arrangement work in practice. However, we do not need a provision on the face of the: Bill to make this happen. As your Lordships will see, we specify very little about local functions on the face of the Bill anyway. After all, the LSC is one organisation, so the duties and powers that the Bill will give are in principle available to the whole of the national LSC. We set out in the prospectus how we will capitalise on the benefits of a strong national council and strong local councils. The Bill provides for the power for the council to delegate to local arms the appropriate powers.

The same approach has guided our thinking on the London co-ordinating mechanism, and for these reasons I do not think it is necessary to include this provision on the face of the Bill. Of course it is the case that the London council, which provides a similar co-ordinating role for local TECs, has done so without a statutory basis. I am confident that a London co-ordinating mechanism committee will do the same thing effectively in the future.

Turning now to Amendments Nos. 110 and 133, there is a risk in specifying the functions on the face of the Bill that we build in conflicts between local councils in London and the co-ordinating mechanism. These matters are best worked out by local people in a spirit of partnership and co-operation, and I am sure that is what we will see. The exact form that the co-ordinating mechanism in London will take will be for the learning and skills council and for the five local councils to determine together. However, I should like to take the opportunity to make it clear that we do not want to see a new tier of management or bureaucracy. I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, about this. We do not want to see this imposed on the London LSCs: nor do we want to see direction of the five London councils by some form of central committee. In fact that was not what the London Development Partnership recommended. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw these amendments.

7.45 p.m.

Lord Lucas

If I might help the noble Baroness with her transport problems, the north London line provides a very adequate link between Enfield and Richmond—indeed it is almost direct—and if the noble Baroness wished to do so she could stop off in Camden and visit Camden School for Girls, which is one of the jewels of the state system but which is sadly in need of new buildings which have been denied for far too long.

Baroness Blackstone

I knew when I was searching in my mind for a difficult route across London that the noble Lord would come up with a perfect answer! As for the Camden School for Girls, I know it well since my daughter attended it. It is a very good school.

Lord Tope

Perhaps I might suggest to the noble Baroness that she should try travelling between Sutton and Richmond by public transport: the link is spiritual only.

I am grateful to the Minister for putting on record that the Government accept the need for what I think she described as a co-ordinating mechanism. I am sorry she was rather longer on what she thinks that mechanism should not be rather than on what it should be. Of course I will read carefully what she has said, but I understood her to say that this is a matter to be determined by the local learning and skills councils when they are established; in other words, quite a long way down the road. It would be helpful to have a little more from the Government, perhaps not tonight but certainly before Report stage, not on what they think the mechanism should not be but on what they think it should be.

I understand why she thinks it would be inappropriate to have this on the face of the Bill. It is here today of course to enable us to have this debate and to try to understand better what the Government have in mind for a co-ordinating mechanism. We shall look forward to hearing more about that, but in the meantime I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 103 not moved.]

Lord Bach

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

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

House resumed.

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