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12 July 2007 : Column 1670

Mr. Touhig: My hon. Friend is being extremely generous in giving way. I cannot quite get my head around this. Is he saying that if Sir Adrian Webb’s report finally recommends that FE colleges should have the power to award degrees, an Order in Council will be forthcoming to allow that? What is the difference between doing that and the Government agreeing to this amendment?

Huw Irranca-Davies: Yes, an Order in Council would indeed be necessary. Section 76 of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992 needs to be amended, and it would be amended by a National Assembly for Wales measure, followed by an Order in Council, which would be fully scrutinised here. My right hon. Friend asks what the difference is between that and accepting the amendment. In my concluding remarks, I will draw attention to the consultation that is taking place, and how this debate and Members can feed into that directly. If he will bear with me, I hope to deal with his question as I proceed, along with many of the other concerns that were raised.

On the cross-border implications of the current provision and the question raised by the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings, I can confirm that Welsh colleges will still be able to offer foundation degrees through current collaborative work with HE. He also asked when English colleges are likely to be given foundation degree-awarding powers. We understand that it might be a couple of years before they are given such powers. Importantly, that gives the Assembly time to consider the review and to make legislative changes, if necessary.

As I said in my opening remarks, there is a clear and overt policy in “Reaching Higher” on degree-awarding powers, which was reiterated in “The Learning Country” in 2006. That policy makes it clear that Welsh FE colleges should not currently have degree-awarding powers, but should instead work in collaboration. The policy has been evaluated by independent research, and the SQW study to which I referred has shown how well it is working. The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings also asked what our plans are for foundation degrees in Wales over the next year. The independent review of FE reviewed their role in a wide context, including in the delivery of HE.

Numerous other issues were raised. On the demand for degree-awarding powers, we anticipate that between one and three colleges will want such powers—but who knows? As the hon. Gentleman said, more might want such powers in time to come; however, they can work through the collaborative process. The hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) asked about the discussion of foundation degrees with external stakeholders. Welsh Assembly Government Ministers have, and always have had, regular meetings with Fforwm and Higher Education Wales. Additionally, Welsh Assembly Government officers meet regularly to brief Fforwm, Higher Education Wales and others.

My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane), supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian Lucas), drew attention to the importance of the FE sector but to the disadvantages to Wrexham, Denbighshire, Flintshire and other parts of Wales—what he referred to as scouse Wales. He was absolutely right. He also drew attention to the excellence of the FE sector in Wales—quite right—which gives us a good basis for moving forward. Before the debate, he was
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kind enough to provide me with the statistics to which he referred. They show how much ground we have to cover, but, as he will acknowledge, they also show just how far we have travelled in meeting our aspirations for higher and further education in places such as Vale of Glamorgan, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire, Conwy and Gwynedd.

Questions were asked about consultation with Welsh MPs. In terms of the overall outcomes sought in the debate—widening participation, excellence and economic input—Welsh policy goals are closely aligned with those of the UK. However, due to the currently fragmented institutional structure of HE in Wales, the focus of implementation has been on collaboration between institutions, including HE and FE consortiums. That allows further and higher education colleges to exploit economies of scope and scale to deliver those benefits.

Members have expressed concern about the possible future use of degree-awarding powers and about particular geographic areas in Wales. One of the terms of reference of the independent review of further education in Wales is the role of the FE sector in the delivery of HE. The review will consult widely on that topic. The reference group includes strong FE representation to ensure that the sector can gather evidence to inform and direct the review, and the principals of Coleg Menai and Coleg Llandrillo sit on the group. Additionally, Fforwm has already formally met the review panel, carried out research and produced a large number of papers.

How can our debate inform the review? Point 11 of the terms of reference of the review relates to the role of the sector in the delivery of higher education, including the establishment of schools, FE and HE consortiums. I can assure all my colleagues and Opposition Members who have contributed to the debate that following a discussion this morning with Sir Adrian Webb, who is leading the independent review, I will undertake to make sure that MPs can directly feed into the review so that the outcomes in the autumn are informed not only by consultation in Wales but by the input of Members in this place. I give that undertaking to Members on both sides of the House.

I congratulate the Welsh Assembly on its full and thorough approach to policy development. The independent review is a good example of how it is engaging stakeholders. On that basis, and the offer I have made to Members to feed into the consultation, I urge the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Hayes: I am sure, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you, like me, have travelled to a destination that you have not previously visited, without a map, and have desperately tried to find the right route. I have wound down the window of my car and sought advice from a local, but having received it I was more lost than when I began. So it has been with the Minister. He was like the man giving advice.

We are no clearer than we were 10 minutes ago about precisely how things are likely to proceed. We are no clearer about whether the Welsh Assembly requires an Order in Council in this place to grant the degree-awarding powers that many Welsh colleges want.

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Huw Irranca-Davies: I hope that I have clarified all those issues, including the use of Orders in Council, but I would be more than happy to write to the hon. Gentleman and all hon. Members to set out exactly how things will work if it is still not clear.

Mr. Hayes: The hon. Gentleman says that he has clarified the issues. He was asked by one of his hon. Friends—no less a personage than a former Secretary of State for Wales, the right hon. Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy)—whether an Order in Council was necessary, and he said that the measure would not preclude an Order in Council. We learn later in his remarks that an Order in Council is indeed a prerequisite of the National Assembly for Wales granting degree-awarding powers. We heard from the Minister in Committee that colleges in Wales did not seek the capacity to award foundation degrees, yet we heard from various Members who contributed to the debate not only that they do indeed seek that power, but that they warrant it and deserve it.

We heard from the former Secretary of State and other Welsh Members, including the Minister’s immediate predecessor, that this matter has not been handled well. Indeed, I would go further and say that it has not been handled properly. We heard the former Minister—the hon. Member for Carmarthen, West and South Pembrokeshire (Nick Ainger)—say that he was now somewhat embarrassed with what he was obliged to say in Committee, because he was not aware of the views of Welsh colleges or their representative organisations when he gave that advice. He has behaved with great honesty in revealing that to the House today. Yet the Minister stands by his argument that we should not accept these amendments.

As the hon. Gentleman said, much the easiest way to deal with this matter simply and straightforwardly would be for the Government to accept these amendments. However, they remain dogged and stubborn in their determination to stand on ground that is looking increasingly shaky. The Minister has given extremely poor advice to those who seek a destination that, as I have said, Welsh colleges warrant, want and deserve: equivalent status to English colleges and the capacity to award foundation degrees if they wish to do so and can meet strict criteria. It is quite wrong that we should treat Welsh colleges in such a way. It is quite wrong that we should set up two standards—one for Wales and one for England—and it is quite wrong that we should leave teachers and learners disadvantaged. Therefore I will seek to press the amendment to a Division to test the House’s opinion, to find out whether the House agrees with those Welsh colleges and those hon. Members who have spoken bravely, honourably and persuasively on their behalf.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 126, Noes 254.
Division No. 181]
[3.27 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Baron, Mr. John
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Bercow, John
Binley, Mr. Brian
Bone, Mr. Peter

Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brake, Tom
Brokenshire, James
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Browning, Angela
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Butterfill, Sir John
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Fox, Dr. Liam
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
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
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Luff, Peter
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Mr. George
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Penning, Mike
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Teather, Sarah
Tredinnick, David
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Wilshire, Mr. David
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. David Evennett and
Mr. Brooks Newmark

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Anderson, Janet
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Baird, Vera
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne

Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Berry, Roger
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela
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
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hall, Patrick
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
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, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan
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
Malik, Mr. Shahid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall, Mr. David
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McDonnell, John
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John
McGovern, Mr. Jim

McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Milburn, rh Mr. Alan
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, Mr. Gordon
Prescott, rh Mr. John
Price, Adam
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
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
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, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
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:

Mr. Alan Campbell and
Mark Tami
Question accordingly negatived.
12 July 2007 : Column 1673

12 July 2007 : Column 1674

12 July 2007 : Column 1675

Adam Afriyie (Windsor) (Con): I beg to move amendment No. 24, page 15, line 37, leave out from beginning to end of line 2 on page 16 and insert—

‘(a) the institution—

(i) gives the Privy Council a statement setting out the arrangements for partnership working between relevant institutions,

(ii) arranges for progression to one or more courses of more advanced study which have been confirmed in writing by at least one institution mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or one body awarding advanced professional qualifications, and

(iii) places a duty on parties to the agreement to advertise courses and qualifications detailed therein;

12 July 2007 : Column 1676

(b) the institution as a condition of that order continues to secure guaranteed arrangements for progression to one or more courses of advanced study which have been confirmed in writing by at least one institution mentioned in subsection (1)(a) or body awarding advanced professional qualifications;

(c) the Privy Council considers that the arrangements are satisfactory and are likely to be carried out.’.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:

No. 6, page 16, leave out lines 18 to 22 and insert—

‘“(5A) Any institution specified as competent to grant only the kind of award mentioned in subsection (2A) shall not have conferred upon it the power mentioned in subsection (5)(a).”’.

No. 7, page 16, leave out lines 26 to 31 and insert—

‘“(6A) Any institution specified as competent to grant only the kind of award mentioned in subsection (2A) shall not grant such an award to a person unless he was enrolled at the institution at the time he completed the course of study for which the award is granted.”’.

Adam Afriyie: I am pleased to address the House from the Front Bench for the first time. Having come to the Front Bench in the past few days and to the amendment in the past few hours, I look forward to your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and will try to behave myself under your watchful eye.

In principle, we fully support further education institutions being given the power to award degrees. Having read through the Hansard reports of the proceedings in the Lords and in Committee, it seems to me that this is perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of the Bill. Amendment No. 24 seeks to clarify the award-making criteria and secure progression from foundation degrees to advanced professional qualifications. In addition, it seeks to embed the advertising of courses and qualification progress in the new arrangements.

There is no doubt that colleges throughout the country do good work for students and for the economy. The dedication of principals, heads, senior managers and teachers is to be commended and should be recognised. With foundation degrees and through further education institutions, a door has been opened to educational and career achievement which was once firmly closed. Our amendment seeks to build on those opportunities by securing partnerships with the higher education institutions, securing the quality of progression, and ensuring that the information is available to students and to businesses to enable them to make clear choices about the courses in which they invest.

Let us be clear. Further education is important to widen access, to broaden the choices available to students, and to deepen the level of vocational skills in the economy and available to employers. The 20-year history of further education is a proud one. With potentially 60,000 certificated graduates this year, we must not jeopardise foundation degree status by failing to define clearly the requirements for further education institutions to achieve award-granting powers, especially if we wish to increase the number of students graduating to 100,000 or more in the next few years, which is the aim of Ministers.

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