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Subsections (5A) and (6A) were added by the Government amendment in response to the debate in the other place in order to allow the Privy Council to restrict franchising. It is expected that when an FE institution is granted powers for the first time, the Privy Council will make an order that specifies two restrictions, preventing the FE institution from authorising other institutions to grant awards on its
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own behalf and preventing the institution from granting a foundation degree to any student who was not enrolled at the institution at the time of completing the course of study for which the award is made. That represents a significant departure from precedent in respect of degree-awarding powers, but it is appropriate to offer such a safeguard. Those restrictions will be particularly appropriate when foundation degree-awarding powers are first granted. As I said earlier, however, I do not agree that it is either appropriate or necessary to impose such restrictions automatically and for all time.

The independent report of foundation degree-awarding powers will also be published within four years and it will also look into the issue of franchising. It is also the case that any FE institution granted foundation degree-awarding powers will be subject to regular monitoring under the Quality Assurance Agency’s ongoing quality assurance cycle. Failure by an FE institution to guarantee quality standards for its foundation degrees, irrespective of where the provision is delivered, could lead to intervention by the QAA, which is a serious sanction.

With these proposals, we are not saying that the ability of an FE institution to franchise its foundation degrees should definitely be ruled in at any particular stage; equally, however, the power to franchise should not, in my view, be ruled out for ever. That is the key point at issue here. We have struck the right balance between flexibility and quality control in our proposals. On that basis, I hope that my hon. Friend will not press her amendment.

4.15 pm

Amendment No. 24, tabled by the hon. Members for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) and for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), addresses the issues around progression from a foundation degree to a course of more advanced study. Although I rightly welcomed the hon. Member for Windsor to the Front Bench, I recognise that he has come to these deliberations late. If he looks at the Committee Hansard, he will see that the criteria have been made clear and explicit. He cannot credibly claim that progression is put at risk by the safeguards that have been put in place, and he certainly cannot claim that the Government have been reluctant or are dragging their feet. He asked why, if progression was so important, it was not on the face of the Bill. I must inform him that a provision was inserted in Committee, at clause 19(5)(2B)(a), which gives significant reassurance on the issues that he raises.

Amendment No. 24, as crafted, is similar to the Government amendment made to the clause in Committee, except that it seeks to place certain additional requirements on institutions entering into progression agreements. In that respect, it is too prescriptive. In Committee, the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings and I argued that colleges that are performing well should be given the freedom to fulfil their potential free from the constraints of over-regulation and excessive bureaucracy. I am confident that the amendment already made to address the issue of progression, working together with the non-statutory guidance and criteria, achieves the balance that all Members want. Under the Government amendment
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made in Committee, in order to grant foundation degree-awarding powers to an FE institution, the Privy Council must first have received a statement from that institution setting out how it proposes to secure opportunities for progression to at least one course of more advanced study for any person awarded one of its foundation degrees. The Privy Council will also need to consider that the proposals are satisfactory and likely to be carried out before it can grant foundation degree-awarding powers.

Adam Afriyie: I am listening closely to the Minister’s points. Does he accept, however, that there is a fundamental difference between requesting a written plan and having written confirmation of progression to a further course of some description?

Bill Rammell: I shall address that in respect of the quality assurance intervention powers that are in place, which should give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.

The non-statutory guidance and criteria for foundation degree-awarding powers also make clear and emphatic statements about the establishment and maintenance of suitable progression routes for foundation degree students. The guidance and criteria have been developed in close dialogue with the QAA, which will assess all applications for foundation degree-awarding powers. It will be helpful if I say a few words about what the guidance and criteria document covers.

To determine whether an applicant institution’s statement of its proposals about progression arrangements are satisfactory, the Privy Council could consider such factors as whether the institution’s academic management is sufficiently robust to ensure that progression routes are and will be established, both now and in the future, and whether the institution can be relied on to renew progression arrangements or seek new ones if the old ones lapse, with the help of a third-party organisation, such as Foundation Degree Forward, if necessary. To be satisfied that the proposals are likely to be carried out, one of the matters that the Privy Council could consider is the action already taken by an institution with regard to making arrangements for progression from foundation degree courses that are in preparation. The ability of the QAA to intervene not only at the start of the process but once the course is under way, to ensure that progression arrangements are still in place, should give the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks.

Clearly, it is in institutions’ interests to market the programmes and progression routes that they are offering, to attract and retain students. However, I do not agree that we need to legislate for that. The Government are committed to freeing up front-line providers from unnecessarily prescriptive directions on how exactly they should do their jobs—something that the Conservative party constantly urges on us—especially when they are already doing those jobs well. Placing a duty on institutions—that would implicitly require a contractual relationship—to continue the good practice that they are already demonstrating, seems unnecessarily interventionist, and could be counter-productive.

Sarah Teather: I understand the Minister’s point about the duty and contractual arrangements. I can see that that might be perceived as over-regulation. However, I
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am sure the Minister agrees that it is very much in the Government’s interests to ensure that students progress, and know what arrangements are available for them to move from foundation degrees to professional qualifications or higher education. Including that information in guidance might deal with the point raised by the hon. Member for Windsor (Adam Afriyie).

Bill Rammell: I believe that the guidance is already satisfactory, but I will look at it again and ensure that the arrangements are made clearer if necessary. After the debate, I will write to members of the Committee making that plain.

Mr. Boswell: When it comes to contractual relations—what exactly they are, and with whom—I think the Minister and I must defer to the lawyers, but does the Minister envisage the contract being merely between the Department and the Privy Council and the Quality Assurance Agency? Would there not also be a contractual arrangement with the student? If it is implied that progression is available via certain routes, and if—as the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) suggested—there is a possibility that it will be withdrawn, the student may well wish to sue the institution because the implied contractual arrangement has broken down. There is a whole complex of extremely important undertakings here, affecting a great many people.

Bill Rammell: There is, but if the hon. Gentleman looks at the history of the development of higher education he will see that there has been no such undertaking thus far on an explicitly contractual basis. We can debate the extent to which that should happen, but I think that to embark on a different path now in respect of foundation degrees in further education colleges would set a precedent. If we want to move in that direction, let us debate the issue across the board rather than singling out further education institutions. In any event, I am not convinced that it is the right direction in which to move.

The amendment made by the Government in Committee is robust, and addresses the issue of progression in the most appropriate way. In addition, the draft guidance and criteria—including the QAA’s foundation degree qualification benchmark—are transparent, published documents. I will look at them again to ensure that they contain the clarity sought by the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather), but I hope that following those reassurances, the hon. Member for Windsor will withdraw the amendment.

Adam Afriyie: There is no doubt that during the Bill’s passage the Minister and other members of the Government have listened, have been reasonable, have conceded several points, and have promoted amendments that have improved the Bill. There is no ideological difference between the two sides of the House. There is no difference between the Liberal Democrat Front Bench and the Government; there is no difference between the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) and those of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby and Kenilworth (Jeremy Wright). This is a noble Bill which heads in the right direction, and we strongly support its overall aim.

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I listened carefully to the Minister’s explanation of why he had not addressed this issue earlier. It seems that, to a certain degree, he and the Government were dragged kicking and screaming into changing the level of scrutiny given to bodies being granted foundation degree-awarding status by the Privy Council. I thank the hon. Member for Brent, East (Sarah Teather) for encouraging the Minister to take this route, but it strikes me as rather bizarre that all of a sudden, at the eleventh hour, the Minister is going to take a look at the guidance. I do not find that reassuring. There have been plenty of opportunities before now to guarantee progression from foundation courses to further qualifications.

Sarah Teather: It was remiss of me not to welcome the hon. Gentleman to his new post. I apologise for that.

I have the impression that the hon. Gentleman intends to press the amendment to a vote. On this occasion, I am reassured by what the Minister has said. There is only one difference between the hon. Gentleman’s amendment and the Government amendment, which involves marketing. I should prefer that to be dealt with in guidance, but if the Minister gives me an undertaking—on the record—to look at the guidance again, we will not support the Conservatives if they press the amendment to a vote, although I am very sympathetic to the point that the hon. Gentleman has made.

Adam Afriyie: I thank the hon. Lady for making her position clear, if not entirely acceptable to the Conservative party.

The Minister will now, at the last moment, take a look at the guidance but this really is the last moment. I wish to mention two other points within the amendment, one of which is very simple: to have written confirmation from a further education college offering a foundation degree that there is another professional body or higher education institution that would accept the person from that course on to further study on qualification. That seems to be a very small change to make. It does not place any onerous duties upon the further education institution and I am surprised that the Government have not taken the opportunity earlier to address that point.

The second point is that we would seek to enable foundation degrees to become access routes to other forms of professional qualification and not just to university degree courses. That important point has not been picked up. Clause 19 has turned up at the last moment and is a helpful addition; some of the changes made are perfectly acceptable, but they do not go far enough to secure the opportunities for students that we would like to see. On that basis, I wish to divide the House and put the matter to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made :—

The House divided: Ayes 104, Noes 261.
Division No. 182]
[4.27 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Amess, Mr. David
Baron, Mr. John
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul

Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Brady, Mr. Graham
Brokenshire, James
Burt, Alistair
Butterfill, Sir John
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, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Mr. Christopher
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Greenway, Mr. John
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hammond, Stephen
Harper, Mr. Mark
Hayes, Mr. John
Herbert, Nick
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Johnson, Mr. Boris
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
Maude, rh Mr. Francis
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Neill, Robert
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, Mr. James
Penning, Mike
Pritchard, Mark
Randall, Mr. John
Rifkind, rh Sir Malcolm
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Ruffley, Mr. David
Selous, Andrew
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Waterson, Mr. Nigel
Watkinson, Angela
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
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
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barrett, John
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
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
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard

Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clwyd, rh Ann
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
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. Dai
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
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
George, Andrew
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
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
Holmes, Paul
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, David
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
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
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Kramer, Susan
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laws, Mr. David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
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
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McNulty, Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miller, Andrew
Moffat, Anne
Moffatt, Laura
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mountford, Kali

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
Öpik, Lembit
Owen, Albert
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Bridget
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Price, Adam
Prosser, Gwyn
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob
Seabeck, Alison
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
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
Teather, Sarah
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.
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Williams, Mrs. Betty
Williams, Hywel
Williams, Mr. Roger
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winnick, Mr. David
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Dave Watts and
Mark Tami
Question accordingly negatived.
12 July 2007 : Column 1688

12 July 2007 : Column 1689

12 July 2007 : Column 1690

Clause 27

Powers of National Assembly for Wales

Mr. Touhig: I beg to move amendment No. 8, page 21, line 33, leave out clause 27.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment No. 9, page 24, line 13, clause 32, leave out subsection (2).

Mr. Touhig: During Second Reading on 21 May, my right hon. Friend the Member for Torfaen (Mr. Murphy) and I raised concerns about the pre-legislative scrutiny of what is now clause 27. The clause not only transfers responsibility to legislate on further education and training from Parliament to the National Assembly, but makes changes to the devolution settlement in Wales.

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