Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: I thank the Minister for his reply and also thank the noble Lord, Lord Tope, the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, and my noble friend Lady Blatch for their support. It perplexes me,

8 Feb 2000 : Column 616

the innocent that I am, that the executive puts forward the most noble opinions from the Front Bench, but when we poor fellows in Opposition ask for those opinions to be put onto the face of the Bill, it will argue over how many angels can dance on a pin. All I am asking for here is allocation of resources and care for diversity but, like the Government's predecessors--I was not a member of the previous government, but all executives are alike--pinning them down causes them terror. However, I shall be back to harry the Government. Believe me, the next amendment will be even nastier. But for the moment I shall withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 36 to 38 not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clause 3 [Education and training for persons over 19]:

[Amendments Nos. 39 to 49 not moved.]

Clause 3 agreed to.

[Amendment No. 50 not moved.]

Clause 4 [Encouragement of education and training]:

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 51:

    Page 3, line 19, at end insert ("appropriate to their needs").

The noble Baroness said: I am sorry that I stopped the flow. I shall speak only to Amendment No. 51, the first in this grouping. It adds to the end of Clause 4(a), "appropriate to their needs".

I was reminded of a young man I met not long ago in the north-east, an area in which I was involved as a Minister, who said to me, "If they send me on that course one more time, I will scream". He was not able to get a job, mainly because in his area there were no jobs available to him. However, he kept being sent on courses that were of no interest to him and that were not furthering his skills and aptitude.

What that young man needed to secure one of the jobs available reasonably near to where he lived were skills matched to the needs of the skills requirements in that area. It was not the case that there were no jobs, only that the young man was not being equipped and fitted for those jobs. The courses that he wanted to take were not made available to him. If we are to make sense of the Bill, then the council must encourage individuals to undergo post-16 education and training--there is no argument about that. However, if it is to be fruitful and to properly equip young people for the particular jobs available in their area, that education and training need to be appropriate to their needs. I believe that this is a simple amendment. It is a totally cost-free amendment for the Government and it would be quite heartening if it could be accepted. I beg to move.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I rise from these Benches to support the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, in her amendment. I endorse entirely what she has said. There are many occasions when people are sent, so to speak, on inappropriate courses, and I believe that it is useful that we have the word "appropriate" on the face of the Bill.

8 Feb 2000 : Column 617

I should like to speak to Amendment No. 52, which is a probing amendment. It refers to "qualifying learning accounts" or what in common parlance are now known as "individual learning accounts". We shall consider those later in the Bill under Clauses 93 and 94. I should like to raise this point because, as envisaged in the various Green and White Papers that have preceded the Bill and above all perhaps in the report on further education by the noble Baroness, Lady Kennedy, the idea was that contributions would be made into such accounts by the three partners to post-16 training and education; namely, the individual, his or her employer and the Government.

This amendment seeks to point out the kind of framework which the Government are considering setting up for the individual learning accounts. Do they envisage that employers should finance training via individual learning accounts or more directly? Is payment to be made to the individual? If employers are to make payments into such individual learning accounts, what about the Government? Will they, as another partner or stakeholder, also pay into such individual learning accounts?

Baroness David: I associate myself with these amendments. I believe that it is important not only that we provide what is appropriate for their needs but also that young people themselves can have a say in what they believe is appropriate.

Lord Boardman: I wish to speak to Amendment No. 54 which is being discussed in this group of amendments. The amendment seeks to,

    "encourage persons to provide post-16 education and training".

Under the Bill as it stands, the council must encourage individuals to undergo post-16 education and training, encourage employers to participate and encourage employers to contribute to the costs. It leaves out the potential field of the valuable assistance that can be received from people who are neither employees, nor individuals undergoing training, nor employers who are contributing to costs. I believe that they form an important part.

That is particularly so in days when learning markets are changing so rapidly--when the whole issue of e-commerce and so on can open up vast opportunities. It is a vast, expanding market for learning skills. It may be right to encourage the assistance that one can receive from third parties outside who will welcome a group of young people to be trained in those fields. They should not be overlooked. Therefore, we should encourage them. My amendment proposes to encourage them in the list of those who participate.

Lord Wade of Chorlton: I should like to speak to Amendments Nos. 55 and 56, both of which are supported by the TEC National Council. The purpose of Amendment No. 55, which adds the point to,

    "encourage links between education and business",

is to draw attention to what could be a great increase in demand for new and innovative ways of educating people. We are all aware of the need to build a demand

8 Feb 2000 : Column 618

structure within education so that the right business opportunities can respond to that demand. Quite clearly, the opportunities for investing in infrastructure which relate to the supply of information, learning and teaching will be important, as will be the use of the new technologies that are now available. I believe that we should consider an overhaul of the rigidities which are now often within the system. The learning market is open to a whole range of new opportunities.

So the purpose of the amendment is to draw attention to what could be an exciting development in education, particularly for the people we are talking about. It also encourages business and education to come together so that business can be encouraged to provide new opportunities.

The other amendment draws attention to the role that employers can play and inserts after the word "persons" in line 26 the words "including employers". It is important to keep businessmen involved in such matters and they should be supportive of the new councils. We have to understand the role that employers can play in teaching. Many people learn from their first employers the skills which give them a successful life. Those employers teach and train them effectively and create the disciplines and the excitement of working in new areas. The role that employers can play, have played and will continue to play if given the right encouragement in the new arrangements needs to be recognised.

Lord Bach: I turn first to Amendment No. 51, in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. Our visions of a lifelong learning society will require us to overcome our nation's history of low levels of demand for education and training, both from individuals--particularly adults--and from employers--especially small firms. Often that is because people simply do not recognise the links between learning and skills on the one hand and economic success and personal fulfilment on the other.

The clause places a specific duty on the LSC to promote lifelong learning by encouraging people to undertake education and training. It is self-evident that the LSC will not succeed in that challenge if it encourages people to undertake learning which is not relevant to their needs. Indeed, it would not be reasonable for the LSC to promote learning which was anything but appropriate to the needs of individuals.

I should point out that the Bill already addresses the concern of the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch. The core duties of the learning and skills council under Clauses 2 and 3 of the Bill refer to the provision of education and training

    "suitable to the requirements of"

those who receive it. Therefore, I hope that the noble Baroness will not feel the need to press this amendment.

Turning to Amendment No. 52 in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, I can assure her that the Government see individual learning accounts as one of the initiatives that will encourage employers to build

8 Feb 2000 : Column 619

on their existing levels of investment in learning and development. Employers will be key in promoting learning accounts to their employees and will be encouraged, where appropriate, to contribute to their learning accounts and to provide advice, guidance and other workplace support.

In answer to the questions raised by the noble Baroness, I point out that the framework is entirely voluntary. We shall encourage employers to contribute to learning accounts, but we shall not force them.

Clause 10 sets out the roles that the LSC will or may have in relation to individual learning accounts, including its power to promote learning accounts with individuals, employers, and other key stakeholders. Learning accounts are only one of many strands of this Government's vision of a lifelong learning society where responsibility for learning is shared, among others, by government, employers and individuals. Therefore, in this case we believe that it is unnecessary, indeed inappropriate, to specify learning accounts in Clause 4.

I turn to Amendment No. 54, the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Boardman. I make it clear that the LSC will support and develop the provision of post-16 learning of all types. Its aim will be to develop a network of well-managed and innovative providers, capable of identifying and responding to the needs of learners and employers.

For the first time we will have a single planning and funding system which brings together previously separate strands of provision. Through the local learning partnerships we will encourage all providers to work together more effectively for the benefit, we hope, of individuals and employers.

Local LSCs will also promote imaginative arrangements with providers, designed for example to meet the needs of particular groups such as women returners and learners from ethnic minorities. That will include the greater use of on-line learning through the University for Industry.

Those are all important objectives of the new system. But they are encompassed already by the LSC's duty to make proper and reasonable provision and by its powers to fund providers. We argue that the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, is not needed in the circumstances of the explanation that I have attempted to give.

Finally, I turn to the two amendments spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Wade. First, Amendment No. 55. We made clear in the prospectus that improving the links between business and schools will be yet a further way that the local LSCs will drive up the availability and quality of provision for young people. We have said that we want to build on the excellent work of EBPs and other local organisations to encourage more businesses and the wider community to support schools, working closely with local learning partnerships.

8 Feb 2000 : Column 620

In accordance with the Government's wish to further strengthen those links, Clause 8 of the Bill gives the LSC powers to secure provision of work experience for those in the last two years of compulsory schooling and those in post-compulsory education up to the age of 19; and also to provide for educational business links for young people in education or training from any age up to the age of 19. Linked to that, Clause 4 places a duty on the LSC to encourage employers to participate in the delivery of post-16 education and training.

Secondly, I turn to Amendment No. 56. Clause 5 details the main powers of the LSC, but only addresses in broad terms the range of activities that the LSC can fund. This again, if I may coin a phrase, is intentional. We do not believe that it would be helpful to specify a particular group or organisation as it would be an impossible task to capture in legislation the full range of organisations that could contribute to what we hope will become the learning age. Even if that were feasible, it might constrain the LSC in encouraging new providers to come forward.

Important issues have been raised by this series of amendments. We believe they are adequately addressed in our proposals. Thus, the amendment, although welcome and subject to a good short debate, is not needed. We invite the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch to withdraw it.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page