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Bill Rammell: I can lay claim to many skills, but dancing is not among them. What I said about wanting greater self-regulation is not at all inconsistent. I urge
12 July 2007 : Column 1650
the hon. Gentleman to talk to the self-regulation group, which is made up of FE college providers who are enthusiastic and committed to the process. At the same time, those providers recognise that, in extremis, when all else fails, there has to be a back-stop power of intervention. That is what the provisions are about. We have listened, responded and moved significantly, but we have to retain the powers. In that context, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hayes: As I have said, the Minister is a responsible man. He has listened to the measured case that has been put by the Opposition, who have adopted a constructive approach throughout the consideration of the Bill. That is what good opposition is all about. However, frankly, the response to this debate has not been worthy of the Minister or others on the Treasury Bench. The opinion of the House needs to be tested on this matter. Colleges do a good job. They are deemed to do so by their students and by Ofsted. The powers that the Secretary of State has to intervene to deal with failure on the part of principals, governors and others have never been used, but, despite that, those powers are being extended and vested in the LSC.

Finally, the Minister tells us that that is consistent with a move to self-regulation. We trust college governors, principals and managers to mind their affairs properly. It is clear from what we have heard today that the Minister is not prepared to invest the same level of trust in them. We believe in our FE colleges. We do not believe that they are likely to fail and if they do, we think that they will sort those matters out properly themselves. Of course there need to be long-line powers, but they exist. This aspect of the Bill is unnecessary. I am convinced that the clause should be removed from the Bill and I therefore urge the House to support the Opposition amendment—I am delighted to say that the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) has supported it eloquently—which would improve the Bill.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 132, Noes 255.
Division No. 180]
[1.55 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brokenshire, James
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Dunne, Mr. Philip
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don

Fox, Dr. Liam
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Hayes, Mr. John
Hemming, John
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Howard, rh Mr. Michael
Howarth, David
Huhne, Chris
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Moore, Mr. Michael
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Paice, Mr. James
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Price, Adam
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Russell, Bob
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Swinson, Jo
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Teather, Sarah
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Williams, Stephen
Wilshire, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Brooks Newmark

Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul

Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clelland, Mr. David
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Creagh, Mary
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Hutton, rh Mr. John
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, rh Alan
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kennedy, rh Jane
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, Jim
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Mr. Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Jim
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Mike
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen

Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Snelgrove, Anne
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Vaz, rh Keith
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mark Tami and
Mr. Michael Foster
Question accordingly negatived.
12 July 2007 : Column 1651

12 July 2007 : Column 1652

12 July 2007 : Column 1653

Clause 19

power to award foundation degrees

Mr. Hayes: I beg to move amendment No. 23, page 15, line 22, after ‘England’, insert ‘or Wales’.

We move to one of the parts of the Bill that deals with the Principality of Wales. I see the new Under-Secretary of State for Wales on the Treasury Bench. I am sad to say that I saw off the last one, the hon. Member for Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire (Nick Ainger), following the grilling that I gave him in Committee, but I am pleased to see that he is present and we look forward to hearing from him later, perhaps. He made a positive contribution, but despite that, now joins us in a Back-Bench capacity.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Can the hon. Gentleman assist us with the whereabouts of the shadow Welsh Ministers, as he has moved an amendment relating to Wales?

Mr. Hayes: The shadow Welsh Ministers have been in almost constant contact with me on the matter. I have taken their sagacious advice on almost every word that I am about to utter. Their interest in it has been extraordinary, as I will no doubt illustrate in my remarks to the House.

12 July 2007 : Column 1654

In a letter of 27 June 2007 to John Graystone, chief executive of Fforwm, the Welsh equivalent of the AOC, on the opportunities for FE colleges in Wales to apply for powers to award foundation degrees, the Minister of State wrote that these matters are

However, the clause in question relates to the power of the Privy Council. The Welsh Assembly Government has not been devolved any powers with regard to the Privy Council. In other words, there is real doubt about whether the Welsh Assembly has the competence to allow Welsh colleges to award foundation degrees, even if the colleges were able to do so, and even if the Assembly wanted them to do so.

The issue was clarified by Lord Adonis on Report in the House of Lords on 27 February 2007, when my noble Friend Baroness Morris of Bolton asked him to clarify what the Association of Colleges’ sister organisation in Wales had said. She said that there was some confusion in the Welsh Assembly as to whether clause 26 was sufficient to allow the Welsh Assembly to enact similar legislation to enable Welsh colleges to award their own degrees.

The noble Lord Adonis said:

It seems from what Lord Adonis said that the Bill is insufficient to enable Welsh colleges, even if the Assembly wished to do so, to award foundation degrees. There is clearly an important constitutional point here. I will not—because you would not allow me to do so, Madam Deputy Speaker—wax lyrical about the wider issue relating to the way in which the Bill has been dealt with in respect of Wales, although Members in all parts of the House have profound concerns about that. However, in dealing with the amendments it is important to be clear that Welsh colleges should have at least the potential power to award foundation degrees in the same way as English colleges will enjoy after the passage of the Bill.

Chris Ruane: Like the hon. Gentleman, I was contacted on 26 or 27 June by Fforwm, almost at the end of the legislative process. These are important matters that we are discussing. Has he any concern that HE in Wales and FE in Wales did not contact us at the beginning of the process, but have left it to the very end?

Mr. Hayes: There is a good case, made by Labour Members on Second Reading and subsequently, for the Bill to have been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny. There should have been much more discussion at a very early stage with all parties concerned about the way in which the Bill applies in Wales.

12 July 2007 : Column 1655
2.15 pm

I have an admission. I like to make admissions from the Dispatch Box because politicians are often too arrogant, are they not? We all have a lot to learn, and it was not until Second Reading that I picked up on the significance of the matter that the hon. Gentleman raises, and I did so because of the contributions from Labour Members representing Welsh constituencies, who knew much more about it than I did. Once I became convinced that it was an issue because of their eloquence, I looked at it closely and raised it in some detail, following discussions with my hon. Friends who represent Welsh constituencies and speak for the Opposition on Welsh matters.

In Committee the then Minister dealt with the matter in an extremely diligent and measured way, and we had a good exchange, but I have yet to be satisfied that the matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The hon. Gentleman makes the valid point that there should have been much more discussion at an earlier stage with colleges, Members of the Welsh Assembly and all those affected in Wales and elsewhere.

Chris Ruane: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his generosity in letting me intervene again. He said that he had had discussions with his MP colleagues. Can he tell me the position of the Conservative group in the Welsh Assembly on this important issue?

Mr. Hayes: My office has been in touch with the Conservative Members in the Assembly, and they share some of the concerns that I have described. They feel that there would have been a more satisfactory outcome, had the matter been debated in more detail at an earlier stage. I do not for a moment suggest that I know which colleges are capable, prepared or enthusiastic to award foundation degrees, but I am sure that to build an inconsistency into the system, which means that Welsh colleges will not be able to do so whereas English colleges can, does not seem like good government. I am not sure that we would have reached that destination if the matter had been handled rather more diligently at the outset.

Mark Williams (Ceredigion) (LD): I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way to someone who represents a Welsh constituency. Although I do not disagree with the hon. Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) about the delay, I point out that there were early discussions. There were discussions in the National Assembly’s Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills Committee on 1 February. The confusion at that meeting has partly contributed to the delay, as the then Minister in the National Assembly stated at that meeting that there was very little demand for the provision. That seemed to be backed up by legal advice at the time, then the legal advice changed. That leads us to the amendment, which we on the Liberal Democrat Benches will support. The confusion has been there for a long time, although I appreciate what the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) said about the delay.

Mr. Hayes: I have nothing useful to add, except to say that we now have an opportunity, with a new and enthusiastic Minister, to put matters right. I make no
12 July 2007 : Column 1656
criticism of the previous Minister, as I said. He dealt with the issue diligently, but I wondered whether he was “landed in it” by the circumstances in which he found himself. I am not sure that this is not part of a bigger issue about the way in which the House operates in relation to Welsh affairs. The point was made on Second Reading by Members representing Welsh constituencies. This is not the first time, but the second or third, that the process has occurred.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a lesson to be learned from this? He may remember that on Second Reading it was revealed that the Assembly is consulting on this matter, but its report will not be completed until the autumn. Here we are, enacting legislation on an issue where we do not have a settled view. We must avoid such mishaps in future.

Mr. Hayes: I made exactly that point in Committee. We have not reached a settled position on how we deal with this kind of legislative imperative. It would be extremely questionable if we were regularly to adopt the kind of process that meant that matters were transferred in a way that at least gave rise to a doubt about whether they had been scrutinised and debated as fully as required. I will not put it more strongly than that, because to do so would be an overstatement, but there are doubts about whether this is the right way to proceed, and they have not been answered satisfactorily by Ministers.

As I said, this goes beyond the Bill to wider constitutional points. We will have the opportunity to debate those points in relation to amendments in a later group. However, we need convincing answers from the Minister about whether Welsh colleges will have any power in the short term to award foundation degrees. In correspondence with Jane Davidson, previously Minister for Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills at the Welsh Assembly, Fforwm was given other arguments as to why colleges in Wales should not be given that power, including reservations about the proposal expressed by the European unit of Universities UK,

That is a pretty thin argument, given that those reservations could apply equally to colleges in England. Another argument put forward by the former Minister in Committee was that there is no demand from colleges in Wales. I was surprised by that but was not qualified to challenge it at that point. Subsequently I have had representations from institutions in Wales saying that that is not so, and that there may well be institutions in Wales that would like to investigate whether they should go down this road. I personally have concerns about the cross-border implications, because there is no doubt that colleges that gain this status will, over time, gather a particular esteem and appeal. Given that colleges naturally attract students from across the border, I wonder what the implications for colleges on both sides of the border are if some are unable or forbidden to gain this status and their competitors are moving ahead with alacrity and skill.

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