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We would also like to hear more—amendments Nos. 16 and 18 relate to this—about the protections there will be for the records of young people who are
13 May 2008 : Column 1307
affected by this Bill, when information about them is passed not only from educational organisations but particularly from non-educational organisations. We had an extensive debate on that in Committee, and many Members are still concerned about the type of information that could be accessed and its relevance.

Amendments Nos. 19 and 70 relate to the crucial issue of the flexibility there will be for employers in relation to the provision of in-house training and the burden of checking on those young people aged 16 and 17 who will be employed by businesses, which will have obligations to check whether those individuals are compliant with the Bill’s proposals on accredited education and training. We have a concern, which has also been expressed by those on the Conservative Benches, that some of these proposals could destroy the youth labour market and close down job opportunities, which might be better for some young people than being in a more formal education and training setting.

On young people’s rights in the process of appeal, we discussed in Committee whether a young person or their representative could be invited to attend the appeal stage in relation to the issuance of any attendance notice. We would like to know whether the Government are willing to be more flexible on that, and whether they have further considered the limits there will be on the penalties imposed on young people and how they will relate to young people’s incomes, particularly for those on very low incomes, and to the current level of the education maintenance allowance.

Having left the Secretary of State so much time, I hope he will now be able to respond to a few of those issues at least.

Philip Davies: I intend to use just a minute of the remaining time to highlight new clause 23, which would allow a pupil to leave school after year 9, at the age of 14, to pursue full-time vocational education, provided they had the written permission of their parent or guardian and of their head teacher, and that they had achieved level 5 at key stage 3 in English, maths and science.

This country has the big problem of trying to force all children down the same academic route in schools. I believe in horses for courses. Every child is good at something, and we should provide an education system that allows children to pursue their area of expertise and the areas in which they might be able to thrive, rather than force them to stay at school to pursue an academic line when it clearly does not suit them. Some children are playing truant from school and some are causing big problems for teachers in terms of school discipline. Allowing such children to leave school at age 14 to pursue full-time vocational education would re-engage some of them with the education system, it would provide them with the skills they need for future employment and it would improve the discipline and truancy rates in our schools.

The proposal is also supported by many teaching unions. Stuart Herdson, who is both a constituent of mine and the immediate past president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, supports it. He has articulated such a proposal on many occasions, and I pay tribute to him for doing so. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to the proposal, and to how we can allow children, whatever their expertise, to shine in
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that particular area and how we can encourage more vocational education, rather than forcing everybody down an academic route.

Ed Balls: I shall speak to Government amendments Nos. 100 and 105, and try to respond to as many points as possible. I want particularly to focus on new clauses 6 and 9, but before I do so, may I say to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) that I very much understand the points that he makes? The work that we are doing on studio schools and alternative provision deals precisely with the issues that he raises. All the powers that we need to provide vocational opportunities outside the school setting are already in place—we do not need new legislation—but I would be happy to ensure that he receives detailed briefing on that matter as we move towards our alternative provision White Paper.

A number of other detailed issues were discussed at length in Committee. I know that because I have been told as much by my hon. Friend the Minister for Schools and Learners, who described to me the length of the Committee debates. He seems to have managed to organise today’s business to reveal to me just how lengthy the debates were; he has ensured that I have dealt with all today’s debates rather than him, although he will get an opportunity on Third Reading.

On amendment No. 29, I can reassure the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) that young people in custody will not be excluded from the Bill’s provision and that we will ensure that their needs are properly addressed. I can reassure the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) that information and guidance are paramount to our thinking too. He rightly says that they are integral to the success of the Bill, but I do not think that strengthening the Bill in this regard will make any difference, because what really matters is ensuring that we deliver, with the local authorities, on the information and guidance requirements that we have set out.

As we have discussed before, I think that Alison Wolf is far too pessimistic on the jobs issue, not least because 65 per cent. of young people aged 16 to 18 who are in work will not be affected at all by these provisions. They are working part-time—they are doing fewer than 20 hours a week—so will be entirely unaffected. Her estimates are far too pessimistic, but we are determined to work with the CBI and other employer organisations supporting the Bill to ensure that there is no negative impact on the youth labour market. As somebody who worked closely on the minimum wage to ensure that it had no negative impact on the youth labour market, I can assure hon. Members that that is of paramount importance to me.

On amendment No. 70, I say to Opposition Members that there will not be a need for employers to check with individual learning providers on enrolment—that will not be a matter for them. I know that those issues were discussed at length in Committee, and we have been true to what we said then. I do not think there is a need to amend the Bill; the important thing is to ensure that we deliver on the commitments that we have made, and we will do that.

Youth appeals are a matter for the Ministry of Justice—the penalties regime—rather than for our Department, but we will ensure that we consult it fully. On information sharing, I know that there has been a
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report today from the Joint Committee that oversees human rights issues. We will respond in due course and ensure that our response goes to hon. Members in advance of those issues being discussed in the Lords.

As we have discussed, new clauses 6 and 9 have been raised by Barnardo’s and by Rainer. We are grateful to them and to Opposition Members for the part they have played in highlighting the approach being set out with learning agreements and for the work done on the education maintenance allowance, which is all about a quid pro quo—something for something, whereby young people have to demonstrate that they are learning and attending to get the money. We have also introduced issues around behaviour to the EMA. That shows that we are sympathetic to this approach.

We are piloting and delivering a similar approach in activity agreements and learning agreements for 16 and 17-year-olds who are not in education, employment or training. Many voluntary sector organisations, including Barnardo’s and Rainer, have played an important part in that “something for something” contract. The issue is whether we need to put that in the Bill.

We believe that many local authorities will want to go down that road. It is part of ensuring that sanctions and penalties are very much a last resort, as was discussed in detail in Committee. We would go further and strongly encourage local authorities to pursue the approach being proposed by Rainer and by Barnardo’s, and to go down that road before considering any formal enforcement action against a young person.

We support that approach and will specify that in guidance to local authorities, but we do not think that the right thing to do is set it out in primary legislation. It is better to leave flexibility and discretion to local experts who know the needs of particular young people. It would be too inflexible and encumbering to specify it. At this stage, the right thing to do is work with careers services and local authorities to ensure that these measures are genuinely tailored to the needs of young people and we will do so—

Mr. Hayes: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Ed Balls: I will not take any interventions. We will do so in consultation with Barnardo’s and Rainer.

This is my final point. I have also studied in detail what Barnardo’s and Rainer said on the more general point, which is made by the hon. Member for Surrey Heath (Michael Gove), about whether compulsion is the right way to go in the Bill. It is absolutely at the heart of the Bill. Martin Narey said:

Barnardo’s said:

That is the approach we are taking. We are not compelling young people to go into school; we are providing opportunities for work with training or apprenticeships.

Another expert who gave evidence to the Committee, Paul Head—

13 May 2008 : Column 1310

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Give way!

Ed Balls: I have two minutes. If I give way, I will not be able to answer the question.

Paul Head, principal of North East London college, said:

That is the critical difference. We are ambitious for every young person, not just some.

Our approach to the Bill is to ensure that school, college, work with training or an apprenticeship are available to all. We start from an assumption of 100 per cent. Rather than starting from 80 or 85 per cent. and working up, we want to ask, “Why don’t we have 100 per cent.?” That is our approach. The system can be galvanised, as Barnardo’s, Rainer, the Prince’s Trust and the principal of North East London college say, by starting from an assumption that that is universal for all.

That is why we have consistently said that we should have a universal system for all. Compulsion as a last resort is necessary. I urge Opposition Members to change their minds, support excellence for all, not just for some, and back the Bill.

Mr. Hayes: Will the Secretary of State therefore allow consistency on the matter of a reasonable excuse, in the way that Barnado’s and Rainer want, or is he prepared to let that matter be inconsistent, given that he wants a universal level of participation?

Ed Balls: It is important that we consult the local authorities and specify that point clearly in guidance. It does not need to be in primary legislation, although we are happy to take forward the issue of learning agreements. The fundamental issue is whether we believe that every young person should be in school, college or an apprenticeship, or that just some should be. In Committee, Opposition Members opposed the Bill on that issue. It goes to the heart of the legislation. It is not too late—

It being Nine o’clock, Madam Deputy Speaker proceeded to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [this day].

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 140, Noes 259.
Division No. 181]
[9 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Barrett, John
Beith, rh Mr. Alan
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Binley, Mr. Brian
Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Bottomley, Peter
Breed, Mr. Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Mr. Jeremy
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair

Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Clappison, Mr. James
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, Philip
Dodds, Mr. Nigel
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. Iain
Ellwood, Mr. Tobias
Fallon, Mr. Michael
Farron, Tim
Featherstone, Lynne
Field, Mr. Mark
Francois, Mr. Mark
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
George, Andrew
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gove, Michael
Gray, Mr. James
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hammond, Mr. Philip
Hammond, Stephen
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harris, Dr. Evan
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heath, Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Holmes, Paul
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Keetch, Mr. Paul
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Letwin, rh Mr. Oliver
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Maclean, rh David
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
McCrea, Dr. William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Paice, Mr. James
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Prisk, Mr. Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Reid, Mr. Alan
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Hugh
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Robinson, Mrs. Iris
Robinson, rh Mr. Peter
Rogerson, Dan
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simpson, David
Simpson, Mr. Keith
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Teather, Sarah
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Tyrie, Mr. Andrew
Vaizey, Mr. Edward
Viggers, Peter
Walker, Mr. Charles
Walter, Mr. Robert
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Stephen
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Yeo, Mr. Tim
Young, rh Sir George
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Jeremy Wright and
James Duddridge

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Bailey, Mr. Adrian
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Battle, rh John
Beckett, rh Margaret
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benton, Mr. Joe
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel

Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Borrow, Mr. David S.
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Brown, Mr. Russell
Browne, rh Des
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Burnham, rh Andy
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byers, rh Mr. Stephen
Byrne, Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Cawsey, Mr. Ian
Challen, Colin
Chapman, Ben
Chaytor, Mr. David
Clark, Ms Katy
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank
Cooper, Rosie
Crausby, Mr. David
Cruddas, Jon
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs. Claire
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, Mr. David
Durkan, Mark
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Farrelly, Paul
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flint, rh Caroline
Follett, Barbara
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gerrard, Mr. Neil
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goggins, Paul
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Patrick
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hillier, Meg
Hodge, rh Margaret
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Irranca-Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kelly, rh Ruth
Kennedy, rh Jane
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Knight, Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mahmood, Mr. Khalid
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
Martlew, Mr. Eric
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McDonagh, Siobhain
McFadden, Mr. Pat
McFall, rh John

McGovern, Mr. Jim
McGuire, Mrs. Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meale, Mr. Alan
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh Edward
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morden, Jessica
Morley, rh Mr. Elliot
Mudie, Mr. George
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
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
Purnell, rh James
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Ryan, rh Joan
Salter, Martin
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Strang, rh Dr. Gavin
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Thomas, Mr. Gareth
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, Mr. Michael
Winterton, rh Ms Rosie
Wood, Mike
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Tony Cunningham and
Ms Diana R. Johnson
Question accordingly negatived.
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