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Baroness Blatch: Before my noble friend decides what he wishes to do about the amendment, perhaps I may make two points. First, since when has "person" been representative of a body or an organisation? It seems to me that a person is a person. There is only one connotation for "person". A body can be an organisation; an organisation can be another group of people or an institution. However, it seems to be a most extraordinary use of language to call the LSC "a person". I have no difficulty about that.

My second point concerns the rest of the sentence. Not only does it relate to an inanimate person who, at the time of the specification, is designated by the Secretary of State, but it is a person who specifies in a way that the Secretary of State stipulates. Therefore, not only must this person, body or inanimate object determine the task given to it by the Secretary of State, but it must do so in precisely the way that the Secretary of State stipulates.

The Secretary of State must make the decision and stipulate it, and the body must carry it out exactly according to the Secretary of State's bidding. Therefore, I do not see the point in devolving the task. If the Secretary of State is to devolve it, to do so to a person who is not a person seems to be extraordinary, and I believe that my noble friend makes a very good point.

The noble Lord seemed to make reference to the LSC and to the fact that, in the scheme of things, the council will almost certainly carry out this work. The council can do so only under this paragraph, exactly as

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the Secretary of State stipulates. The word is "stipulate" and that is a fairly specific word, unless "stipulate" has some other meaning. We almost need a lexicon to accompany the reading of this Bill. If that is the case, it could refer to the council or to any other body which the Secretary of State thinks fit.

Therefore, one could say that it is presupposed that the work will be devolved to the council. I would argue that the council should at least be left to exercise its own professional judgment as to what it should do. However, if it must do what the Secretary of State stipulates, and, as I say, it must be a person who is not a person, it seems to me that this really is gobbledegook of the first order.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: At this time of night I hesitate to rise. However, I must agree that, once again, we have an excessive use of words here, that it is gobbledegook and that, quite frankly, if Clause 94(5)(a) means what it says--that it shall be specified,

    "by the Secretary of State in a way he thinks fit"--

it covers subsection (5)(b) and we can do away with that subsection completely.

Lord Bach: Faced with this unholy alliance at this hour of the night, I must stand firm and tell the noble Baroness something which I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, knows: that the word "person" can have that meaning in Acts of Parliament because of the Interpretation Act 1978. I hope that that deals with that point once and for all this evening.

The meaning of the phrase which I notice the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, is quick, as it were, to jump on the passing bandwagon of--not a happily phrased sentence!--is specified,

    "in a way the Secretary of State stipulates",

is--and I suspect that Members of the Committee understand it--that the Secretary of State can lay down general rules which the designated body will follow in deciding what courses qualify. That is the meaning that it will have and it is the meaning which is now on the record. However, I now look forward to hearing what the noble Lord, Lord Boardman, whose amendment this is, wishes to do.

Lord Boardman: I find the Minister's answer very worrying and quaint. First, under the Interpretation Act "persons" may include corporate bodies, and I believe that it does. However, in general drafting of legal documents normally one does not refer to persons in that particular form. Be that as it may, the purpose of including this subsection is quite meaningless because the person will do precisely what he is told to do by the Secretary of State in the form that he is told to do it. Therefore, the Secretary of State should do it in his own name. If we interpreted all the documents coming from the Secretary of State as being his own considered resolution, we should perhaps be confusing ourselves.

It is nonsense. The Secretary of State should keep the first part of that clause as it is, giving him the right to make his decision in that way and allocating any

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matters which he believes should be dealt with by the council to the council for it to deal with. The members of the council are the experts and the most appropriate people to deal with those matters. The field should not be widened in respect of some unspecified person or corporate body or whatever it may be to carry out functions exactly as he has defined them.

I am extremely unhappy about the wording and I hope that the noble Lord will reflect on it before we reach a later stage of the Bill. In the light of what he said and the answer that he has given, which I find extremely unsatisfactory, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 94 agreed to.

Clause 95 agreed to.

Clause 96 [Further education corporations]:

[Amendment No. 206 not moved.]

Baroness Sharp of Guildford moved Amendment No. 207:

    Page 43, line 16, at end insert--

("( ) Before an order is made under subsection (3) above, the Council must publish a report detailing the effect of the establishment of the proposed institution on education and training provision in the area of the local council in which it is located, and in any adjacent areas which may be affected."").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that should an LEA or other body make use of the powers granted to it under Clause 96(3) to open a new 16 to 19 institution in an area, that there should be wide consultation and consideration of the knock-on effect of its establishment on other educational facilities in that area.

In effect, the amendment is asking for an area educational impact assessment. Although there are statutory procedures for the publication of the proposals to establish a new 16-plus institution which oblige the LEA or the LSC to consider any representations made to them before submitting the proposal to the Secretary of State, they are not obliged to attach any particular weight to those representations, nor to give reasons for rejecting them. Thus, for example, they would be able to discount, if they so wished, representations about the impact which a new institution may have on existing providers, both other schools with sixth forms in the area and further education sector colleges.

While it would obviously be unreasonable for an existing provider to have a right of veto over a proposal to establish what might be a competitor institution, it is not unreasonable to request that the LSC, as the body with a statutory duty to secure proper and reasonable provision, should show publicly the effect of the proposed reorganisation on the existing pattern of education and training provision in the area affected. That is the purpose of the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness Blatch: This is a sensible proposal. I have been accused twice, I think, of accusing the

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Government of having a hidden agenda. On this particular occasion, I think they have. The hidden agenda relates to the illicit establishment in Hammersmith and Fulham which exists as a sixth-form college in all but name. It was established illegally; it has been existing illegally; it is still not legal. It has been receiving funding from the department, which has turned a blind eye to it for a long time. It was going to be dealt with as we left office and that has still not been done. The only point behind the power in the Bill is to make that establishment legitimate. Otherwise, I could not see the Government handing over that power to local authorities. Nevertheless, they have done that.

When that establishment was set up in Hammersmith and Fulham, interestingly, it did have a knock-on effect on the local further education college and on other schools. It seems to me to be a common-sense proposal to have some form of consultation and understanding of what the knock-on effects will be when an establishment may have a very real impact on and may cause the demise of other establishments in the area. I support the amendment.

12.15 a.m

Lord Bach : Clause 96 is concerned not with the creation of LEA-maintained 16-19 institutions but with the transfer of such an institution to the FE sector. I emphasise straightaway that the Government expect such transfers to be rare. They will only take place with the consent of both the governing body of the institution and of the LEA which maintains it, as we believe subsection (2)(b) makes clear.

When establishing or incorporating an FE institution, there must be statutory consultation with a period for objections from any party. Such objections currently fall to the FEFC and will, from April 2001, fall to the LSC for consideration before the Secretary of State makes a final decision. The incorporation of an existing institution would have minimal or no impact on other local learning providers, since incorporation effects a change in the character of an institution and not a change in the learning opportunities it offers. We believe it would be excessively and unnecessarily bureaucratic to require the LSC to undertake the detailed analysis proposed by Amendment No. 207. The original establishment of the institution would have been subject to statutory proposals. Any decision by the school organisation committee or the schools adjudicator to take forward these proposals would have taken account of issues such as the need for places and the impact of the proposed new institution on schools and other post-16 providers in the area. Incorporation would not give rise to any new impact in that sense.

Furthermore, in preparing their annual plans, each local LSC will have to consider the learning needs of the local population and propose how it intends to carry out its functions in order that those needs be met. Its consideration of any proposals for the incorporation of an existing institution within its area would be reflected in its plans.

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I hope that that answer gives some reassurance to the noble Baroness and that she will not press the amendment at this stage.

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