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Earlier in the debate the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, said that in the modern world in which we live people need to have largely transferable skills. Our young people need a good, solid base of education and of skills. The latter are often referred to as the training element of education. People need to acquire high levels of capability and competence in skills to enable them to be transferable in the modern world where people cannot expect to hold a job for life but have to move from job to job and retrain. They need to be able to call on the solid base that they have acquired. As I say, this solid base incorporates both education and training. Therefore it is extremely important that both aspects should be considered together. That is the essence of our amendments in this group.
Amendment No. 33 is in many senses the odd one out in this grouping. It seeks to amend Clause 2(3) which is concerned with the facilities that the council must provide. We believe that the provisions in this subsection are static in nature. In this modern age it is important to recognise that facilities become out of date. Anyone who now has a 486 computer will recognise how difficult it is to run up-to-date software on it. One can get by for a while but one has to be able to interchange information with others and that becomes increasingly difficult. These changes take place quickly. As I say, it is important that the facilities that are provided for our young people should be kept up to date. For that reason we have tabled Amendment No. 33 which states,
Lord Northbourne: I speak to Amendment No. 37 which is grouped with the amendment that we are discussing. This is simply a probing amendment. I hope that the noble Baroness will make clear what meaning the Government attribute to the words "education", "training" and "leisure-time occupation". The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, spoke of broadening the mind. I wonder whether cultural education, for example, would be included in the education that the Government envisage. I should like to see education defined in the same way as in the education Act and defined using the phraseology that I included in my Amendment No. 3--the wording of which is taken from the 1988 Act.
Will the kind of education and training that the learning and skills council will be charged with delivering include that wider kind of personal development which is sometimes described as "life skills education"? For example, does it include personal, social and health education and citizenship education, if those have not been adequately delivered to and absorbed by a 16 year-old who may have been out of school for a number of years? I am particularly concerned about education for relationships and parenthood because young people who have missed school and who have disturbed family backgrounds are not likely to have received any guidance whatever with regard to the responsibilities of parenthood. I believe this issue to be of the utmost importance in our society today. I refer to both the responsibilities and the joys of parenthood.
As regards leisure-time activities, does the learning and skills council have the power to fund personal, social and emotional development through, for example, sport, outdoor leisure and adventure activities and challenges such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme? Would the council have the power to support and fund more ambitious projects under Operation Raleigh or the Sail Training Association which can be so valuable in terms of giving young people more confidence in themselves? Finally, would the council have the power to provide supervised accommodation and support for young people while they are pursuing this kind of education?
Baroness Blatch: I believe that the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, could have been satisfied if the relevant wording had been taken from the 1988 Act and included in the Bill. That would constitute a statement to the effect that education is multi-dimensional and involves spiritual, moral, mental, social and cultural dimensions. The inclusion of that wording would have reassured all those people who consider that the Bill is narrowly drawn and ignores those other aspects of education that have been mentioned. I support the thrust of what has been said in this regard. The noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, presented the Government with a simple solution to this problem.
Lord Bach: We recognise and accept that our present arrangements for post-16 education and training are too fragmented and incoherent, and for far too many people are not working as well as they should. The most vulnerable and disadvantaged sections of our community are too often excluded from participation in education and training, a cycle that all too often is perpetuated from generation to generation.
Members of the Committee quite rightly make the point, in Amendments Nos. 24, 28, 29 and 30, that the proposed new arrangements should not simply perpetuate the artificial distinctions and separate systems of the past. The Government appreciate the concern that the form in which the duties of the council are expressed may imply a continuation of such
Turning to Amendment No. 33--the amendment relating to technological development--I should point out that the Government have been paying great attention to ensuring that the rapid pace of technological development has not been leaving our schools and colleges behind. Of particular relevance to post-16 education and training has been the initiative to establish the national learning network, the planned IT infrastructure supported by £74 million of new government funding resulting from our Comprehensive Spending Review. This will be centrally procured on behalf of the further education sector through the Joint Information Systems Committee by UKERNA, the United Kingdom Education and Research Networking Association. The network is to be established by March 2001 and will connect all FE colleges and higher education institutions with links to the national grid for learning.
This will provide the essential infrastructure so that our major providers will have a national learning network linking further with higher education, improved access to IT facilities for both students and staff, including access to modern learning materials. This will also support the sector's capacity to play a leading role in the University for Industry.
All this has been achieved within the existing framework. We expect this work to continue and to develop under the LSC without the need for an express legal duty. The key factor is that the LSC must be led by the needs of the learners who access the provision the council supports. This will encompass a wide range of facilities, not least including those required for agricultural, artistic, scientific and cultural needs. We believe that it would be wrong to single out for special attention and give priority to one set of facilities, important though such facilities may be, and give them priority over others. On that basis, I invite the noble Baroness to withdraw that amendment.
Turning next to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Northbourne, I hope that he will forgive me if I first make what may seem to him to be a technical point more than anything else. Much of the Education Reform Act 1988 has been replaced and its main provisions are now concerned with further and higher education. As of course he knows, matters relating to secondary education are now found in a consolidated