LIFE LONG LEARNINGACTION PROGRAMME
Letter from Bill Rammell MP, Minister
of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education,
Department for Education and Skills to the Chairman
I am writing to update you on the revised timetable
for the agreement of this proposal, as this has changed since
I sent you the Explanatory Memorandum 9697/06 on 12 June.
As a result of the late agreement of the financial
perspective, the timetable for the Lifelong Learning Programme
became increasingly tight. Following discussions at COREPER on
21 June, the Austrian Presidency decided to place the Lifelong
Learning Programme on the agenda of the Environment Council on
27 June, as an "A" point for political agreement.
Owing to the fact that the Committee will not
have had the opportunity to discuss the proposal on 27 June, the
UK will abstain from the political agreement at this stage. However,
the common position is due to be agreed in mid July, by which
stage I hope that the scrutiny process will be complete and the
UK can vote in favour of the proposal.
27 June 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Your Explanatory Memorandum dated 12 June was
considered by Sub-Committee G on 29 June.
We note that a final Council decision on the
budget package proposed is expected early next month. We also
recognise that the outcome is the product of lengthy and detailed
negotiations under Austrian Presidency, although it is perhaps
regrettable that we were not given an opportunity to consider
the likely results at a much earlier stage.
As you know, our Inquiry Report on the Life-long
Learning (HL Paper 104-I) noted that the budget of 13.62
billion originally proposed would require searching investigation
and convincing justification. I drew your attention to this in
my letter to you dated 31 October 2005 while confirming that we
were broadly content for the proposed partial political agreement
to be secured at the Education and Youth Council on 15 November
On the whole, we are satisfied that the total
budget of 6.97 billion now apparently agreed is much more
realistic and we note that the Government is content with it.
We are rather more concerned about the proposed
allocation between the respective integral programmes. We welcome
your assurance that, although the minimum allocated to the Grundtvig
programme has only been increased from 3 per cent to 4 per cent,
the actual allocation will be 5.14 per cent. This is undoubtedly
a welcome improvement and in-line with our Report's Recommendations,
although we would have preferred to have seen even more allocated
to Grundtvig. We are also anxious that the 5.14 per cent allocation
should be maintained consistently throughout the life of the programme
and not cut back to the 4 per cent minimum in future years. We
would appreciate a clear commitment from the Government to ensuring
that this will happen.
We would also have preferred an increased allocation
for the Leonardo da Vinci programme and are disappointed that
the Government was unable to secure that. We firmly believe that
adequate allocations are essential for both programmes if the
aim of a genuine life-long learning programme is to be achieved.
We are also most anxious that everything should be done to make
participation in those programmes in particular as inclusive as
The increase in the Comenius allocation is also
welcome in principle. We hope it can be used imaginatively, but
we recall from the Inquiry how witnesses from schools in particular
found the bureaucratic requirements and lack of supply teacher
cover a significant disincentive. It would be a great pity if
those difficulties led to an underspend so far as the UK is concerned.
We are also disappointed that some reductions
appear to be necessary in the Transversal programme to improve
policy development, dissemination and good practice and enable
projects to bridge sectoral strands, especially to help improving
standards of language and ICT development. You will see that our
Inquiry Report described the Transversal programme as a potentially
positive innovation, although many of the details of how it was
intended to work in practice remained unclear at that stage. We
look to the Government to ensure that this programme is imaginatively
and effectively used and hope that the funding allocated will
indeed prove to be adequate, especially as the programme gathers
momentum in the later years.
We are also disappointed that Member State Governments
apparently have so little scope to vire funds between individual
programmes especially, it seems, where more than one national
agency is involved. Since we understand that the UK is unlikely
to appoint only one national agency it appears that we may be
at a disadvantage in this respect and would welcome your clarification.
As things have worked out, it seems that we
have really very little say in the allocations at this late stage.
On balance, we are prepared to release this document from scrutiny
to enable the expected Council agreement to be secured. But we
would be grateful if the Government would bear the above reservations
in mind as the programme progresses and especially when it comes
to be reviewed.
In the meantime, we trust that the Government
will make every effort to ensure that the money available is well
spent and that the UK derives maximum possible benefit from these
programmes. We look forward to our continuing informal dialogue
with your officials about the latter aspect.
3 July 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Bill Rammell
Thank you for your letter dated 27 June. This
arrived too late to be considered by the meeting of Sub-Committee
G on 29 June, but was considered by Sub-Committee G on 6 July.
By now you should have received my letter to
you dated 3 July conveying our decision, following the meeting
of Sub-Committee G on 29 June, to release this document from scrutiny
to enable the Government to endorse the Council agreement which
was then expected in early July. That letter also made some observations
about the individual programme budget allocations on which we
look forward to receiving your comments.
We are very grateful to you for writing to inform
us of the unexpected last minute action by the Austrian Presidency
to place the programme on the agenda for the Environment Council
on 27 June. We are glad to note that the Government, quite properly,
abstained from political agreement at that meeting because scrutiny
clearance had not been given by then.
Please let us know if the expected Common Position
is agreed at Council later this month.
6 July 2006