Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Tope: My Lords, I am used to being told that my amendments are unnecessary. I suppose that it is a mark of progress that they are now worthy but unnecessary! I must take what small consolation I can from that.

The Minister's reply was not entirely unexpected. I do not want to take issue with too much of what the noble Lord said. I did not entirely understand his

13 Mar 2000 : Column 1333

reference to the different categories of adults; I do not think that my amendment refers to that. Nor do I want to use this opportunity to argue with him about figures. However, while he talks about the welcome increase in total expenditure on adult education, I think I am right in saying that because of increased access the unit expenditure per adult is decreasing rather than increasing. But we can argue these figures in another place at another time.

Nor do I question the Government's honesty in setting out clearly their priority for 16 to 19 year-olds. They have been quite straightforward about that. There is a sense and logic to that. My concern is not that the Government are setting out their priorities. Of course, they must do so. It is that we are embodying those in legislation until such time as legislative opportunity arises to amend it. I have considerable doubts about that. It sends a message to adult learners and to the adult education world that they are in the second division. That is the distinction between Clauses 2 and 3. It is not simply a matter of the Government stating their priorities. They have ample means and opportunity to do so without enshrining them this boldly in legislation.

However, I do not intend today to press the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 not moved.]

Baroness Blackstone moved Amendment No. 22:

    Page 2, line 14, at end insert--

("(bb) take account of the education and training required in different sectors of employment for employees and potential employees;").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, a number of Peers raised the importance of workforce development for the LSC and the role of national training organisations in the new arrangements. I wholeheartedly agreed that the need for an adaptable workforce which has the capacity and opportunity to learn new skills must influence the way in which the council exercises its main duties.

In response to an amendment from my noble friend Lord Haskel I undertook to bring forward an amendment which would take account of the needs of different sectors of employment, recognising, of course, that national training organisations provide the leading expertise on sectoral issues.

The Government have already made clear in the LSC prospectus how we expect the LSC and NTOs to work closely together. I would also expect NTOs to play the leading role in advising the LSC so that it can properly take account of sectoral interests as this amendment requires.

The amendments also make the equivalent changes to the duties exercised by the CETW. I beg to move.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I welcome Amendment No. 22. I thank the Minister for incorporating the

13 Mar 2000 : Column 1334

provision into the Bill. The national training organisations play an important role in training in different sectors of business and industry and the learning and skills councils will derive great benefit from working with them. It is important to remember that national training organisations deal with sectors of industry and business. The learning and skills councils deal with regions. It is important that they co-operate together. The amendment ensures that that will happen.

I have a letter from Mr Garry Hawkes, CBE, chairman of the National Training Organisations National Council, expressing his satisfaction with the Bill and thanking the Minister for dealing with the issue. He assures the Government that the NTO will give every support possible to the learning and skills council.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, as one who expressed concern in Committee about the failure of the Bill to take account of national training organisations, I join with the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, in welcoming the amendment. I thank the Minister for listening to what we said. I am delighted to see that the provisions are incorporated not only in this part of the Bill but also later. I should like to record our pleasure.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I, too, welcome the amendment. I hope that such a measure will lead eventually to students aged 16-plus who are considering entering a course of education being provided with information on the employability factor that it will add to their portfolio. As with some of the better FE colleges at present, they will know what jobs will welcome their qualifications and the employment records of students who have been through the course. That kind of quality "pull" is a great incentive to ensuring that the courses offered, in particular in FE, are those that industry wants. That information should be provided to a student who is being asked to commit two years to a specific course at an important stage of his or her life. If the Government are moving in that direction, I greatly welcome it.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, perhaps I may respond to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas. Yes, employability is an important concept these days. We are concerned to provide more information to students at all levels about their likely employability as a result of a course they have undertaken.

I express my thanks to all noble Lords who welcomed the amendment, which I commend.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Northbourne moved Amendment No. 23:

    Page 2, line 14, at end insert--

("( ) take account of the education and training required to prepare young persons of different abilities and aptitudes for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of adult life outside the workplace;").

13 Mar 2000 : Column 1335

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in Committee I probed the Government's intentions about the kind of education and training that the learning and skills councils would offer. The Minister indicated that the education and training offered would not be limited to a vocational or work-oriented education and training. However, the noble Baroness did not accept that any positive definition of education and training should be on the face of the Bill.

I have read carefully the Official Report and the prospectus for the learning and skills council published by the Government. I am now concerned more than ever that, whatever the Government intend, on the basis of what is stated in the Bill and the prospectus the reality will be that learning and skills councils will quickly become bodies devoted to preparing people for employment, and little more. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, referred to the issue. It is assumed that those councils are concerned only with employment. About 75 per cent of the prospectus is devoted to employment. I have read the whole prospectus, but perhaps I may quote from the introduction. It states:

    "The key objectives underlying our proposals in Learning to Succeed are to create a new system which will: be responsive to the needs of individuals and employers; promote employability for individuals ...; help employers".

It continues with another four or five objectives, but the first three objectives are clearly and solely employment related. After all, 40 per cent of the learning and skills council members, plus the chairman, will be employment or business related. Indeed, Amendment No. 22 adds fuel to the fire. It adds to the impression that the main function of the LSCs will be to prepare people for work. I fully recognise the nation's need for a fully trained and educated workforce. I also recognise the importance for each individual of being able to obtain well-paid and fulfilling employment. However, if the learning and skills council does not also genuinely address other social and personal needs, a great opportunity will have been lost.

Apart from skills for employment, the main emphasis in the prospectus is on exclusion and disadvantage and I cannot find fault with that. Indeed, I am enthusiastic about it. However, it does not make sense to fight to reduce social disadvantage today while failing to address potential social disadvantage for the next generation. Surely the knowledge and skills required to live together as a community, to be good citizens and, above all, to be good parents are also tremendously important.

In Committee, the Government rejected my proposal for a mission statement, which I believed would cover the issue, and for a definition of "education" to appear on the face of the Bill. I now bring forward a more modest proposal which would place on the face of the Bill a counterbalance to the repeated references to, and emphasis on, preparation for employment which appear in the Bill and prospectus. I hope that the amendment will commend itself to the Committee.

13 Mar 2000 : Column 1336

I shall now speak to two other amendments in the group. They are Amendments Nos. 38 and 72 in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, to which I and the noble Lord, Lord Tope, also have our names. My noble friend Lord Sandwich cannot be in his place tonight and he has asked me to speak to his amendments.

These amendments address one of the dimensions of the wider aspects of education. I refer to global and international understanding, and the ability to communicate and be involved in the globalisation with which we are confronted. Global issues are part of our lives, be it via the food we eat, our jobs, the clothes we wear, television, sports, the Internet or increased opportunities for travel, to mention but a few examples.

The national curriculum document refers to learning in a global society. It states:

    "education must enable us to respond positively to the opportunities and challenges of the rapidly changing world in which we live and work. In particular, we need to be prepared to engage as individuals, parents, workers and citizens with economic, social and cultural change, including the continued globalisation of the economy and society".

I hope that the noble Baroness will be able to give the House strong assurances that the wider cultural and international context of the national, international and global dimensions of education will not be omitted from the objectives of the LSC.

I beg to move Amendment No. 23.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page