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Lord Myners: My Lords, the agreement secured at the European Council, endorsed by all members of the council and building on the work done the previous

2 July 2009 : Column 330

week at ECOFIN, was fully supported by all European nations, including France. At the heart of that agreement were proposals built on the original letter of 3 March from the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the Czech Republic presidency, as modified to take into account the de Larosière proposals and to address the issues to which I have referred relating to the upgraded Lamfalussy committees and the European systemic risk council.

Lord Trimble: My Lords, do those conclusions not include a provision whereby there could be arbitration between competing regulators and that the Lamfalussy committees would then have the power to impose a decision? Was the Commission not instructed to draw up legislation along these lines, or advancing further along these lines? This matter is by no means concluded.

Lord Myners: My Lords, I fully agree with the noble Lord, Lord Trimble, that the matter will not be concluded until such time as the necessary legislation is approved. I think that, in referring to arbitration, he actually means binding mediation, which has been accepted in respect of disputes between home and host countries for banking regulation, precisely responding to a point emphasised and first raised by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his letter of 3 March.

Lord Dykes: My Lords-

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords-

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross Benches.

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, when can we expect the Government's White Paper on their regulatory proposals, which press reports have suggested is imminent?

Lord Myners: My Lords, we are departing some way from the Question but, if it helps the House, I anticipate that the Government's paper on the future of financial markets will be published within the next fortnight.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, does not the Minister find it very eccentric indeed that members of UKIP and some old-fashioned and eccentric people in the City are always going on about the virtues of the single market in all respects except when they suddenly regard the City of London as fit for special exemption? Is this not an illogical position to take, bearing in mind that we need a central single market in financial regulation as well?

Lord Myners: My Lords, my regular contacts with the City suggest to me that most leaders of opinion and trade bodies in the City fully recognise the very real advantages that come from being a member of the single market.

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Comprehensive Spending Review


11.30 am

Asked By Baroness Noakes

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): My Lords, departmental budgets are set until April 2011. As the Chancellor has said, given the degree of economic uncertainty, now would be the wrong time to set departmental budgets through to 2014. The Chancellor will return to these issues at the PBR.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. The Prime Minister has spent weeks denying the fact that the Budget's spending projections to 2014 contain real terms cuts in total public spending. Indeed, if you strip out debt interest and social security payments, there are real terms cuts of 7 per cent to public service spending. However, instead of being straight with the public, the Prime Minister sent the First Secretary of State out to tell the media that the Comprehensive Spending Review, which could not have concealed the truth, was cancelled.

I know that the Minister will want to be honest with the House. Does the Chancellor really believe that forecasting uncertainty is a good reason for not being up front with the public about the need to control public expenditure and set priorities? Does he agree with the director-general of the CBI who said yesterday that the Government are creating damaging uncertainty for business?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I always wish to give forthright and honest answers to the noble Baroness's questions. The answer is yes to the question about the Chancellor's views.

Lord Barnett: My Lords, does my noble friend recognise that the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, is not at her best playing party political games? However, will he confirm that the Government have in mind not to start to cut public expenditure, and possibly increase taxation, until the recession is clearly over and we are into positive growth, but that then major cuts in public expenditure and/or tax increases will be needed?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Barnett for his always perceptive questioning. The outline for government expenditure and taxation through to 2013-14, as set out in the Budget, follows precisely the pattern that he suggests. We will maintain public expenditure to support the economy during a period of global recession, but thereafter we will-we are committed to do this-reduce progressively public sector borrowing as a percentage of GDP to take it

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back to a level which we regard as more sustainable. In the interim period, real expenditure from now to 2013-14 will increase at 0.7 per cent per annum.

Lord Newby: My Lords, does the Minister accept that we heard the Prime Minister say yesterday that the only action that would be required in the years ahead to bring public expenditure under control was a combination of asset sales and efficiency savings? Does he accept that that is a completely inadequate response? If the Government bring forward specific programmes in the Pre-Budget Report which can no longer be afforded, will he urge his ministerial colleagues in the Treasury to cut them?

Lord Myners: My Lords, expenditure must always be targeted at the points where it can be most helpful to the economy and society. Politics and Treasury management are about making difficult choices. We will, through our efficiency programme and prioritisation, ensure that public expenditure is used effectively to deliver value for money and to support the economy, British jobs, British companies and British families during this global recession.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, does the Minister really think that we are so naive to believe that by reducing public borrowing we are not going to cut public services or public expenditure? That is my first point. Secondly, it is all very well to say that we have got to wait until things work out and see whether the recession is going to end on whatever date at whatever hour, but the reality out there is that there are elderly people in care homes that are subsidised by local authorities, and local authority expenditure will be cut; what do those people think? There are young people at the other end-the "NEETs"-who do not even know if they will have jobs. Yet we are told that there will be public expenditure. This does not add up. When will the Government come clean? This is not party-political playing.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Myners: My Lords, let my try to be clear. Public expenditure will increase from today, through to 2013-14, at 0.7 per cent per annum. Public capital expenditure is being front-loaded. There is that dreadful phrase, which our soon-to-be noble friend Lord Sugar would like to use, of things being "shovel ready", whereby projects which can be implemented rapidly are being brought forward. What I can be sure about is that we will continue to support the provision of public health and public education, and that the country can rely upon a Labour Government to ensure that public provision is something which we support, honour and respect.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, does my noble friend share my view that the public view with some distaste the likelihood of having a Punch and Judy show between now and the next general election on the issue of costs, expenditure and cuts? I welcome his statement on when the Comprehensive Spending

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Review will appear. In the mean time, will the Government, given their desire to try to increase democratic renewal with the public, see whether we can devise a system whereby when the public expenditure review comes out and we can see what the Government intend to do, we could introduce a programme whereby both manifestos are put to the public before the election, including the costs and savings that will arise, so that the public in turn can be treated seriously in an adult fashion, and make a proper decision on which party they should support?

Lord Myners: My Lords, the Comprehensive Spending Review introduced by this Government sets out a medium-term planning horizon and priorities for departmental expenditure and is a distinct improvement on the previous annual budgeting exercises which led to far too much short-term decision making. How the electorate form their views on the proposals put forward by the party opposite must be for the party opposite, which must be more precise about its plans. From my perspective, we can be pretty confident that the party opposite would spend less than we would spend on education, less than we would spend on health, less than we would spend on infrastructure, and less than we would spend on security. That will be the clear and stark choice that the electorate will confront when there is an election. I have no doubt that the electorate will evidence their continuing support for significant investment in public provision.

The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Baroness Royall of Blaisdon): My Lords, I respectfully remind your Lordships that Oral Questions is a time for questions, not for statements. I quote from the Companion:

"Supplementary questions may be asked but they should be short and confined to not more than two points ... The essential purpose of supplementaries is to elicit information, and they should not incorporate statements of opinion".

Arrangement of Business


11.38 am

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend Lady Thornton will at a convenient point after 12.30 pm. repeat the Statement on the swine flu update. The luncheon break business will follow immediately after the Statement.

Parliamentary Standards Bill

First Reading

11.39 am

The Bill was brought from the Commons, read a first time and ordered to be printed.

2 July 2009 : Column 334

Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) (Amendment) Order 2009

Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 (Disclosure of Higher Education Student Information) Regulations 2009

Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Act 2007 (Extension of duration of non-jury trial provisions) Order 2009

Children Act 1989 (Higher Education Bursary) (England) Regulations 2009

Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 (Regulated Activity, Miscellaneous and Transitional Provisions and Commencement No. 5) Order 2009

Motions to Refer to Grand Committee

11.39 am

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motions agreed.

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

Main Bill Page
Copy of the Bill
Explainatory Notes
8th Report Delegated Powers Committee
14 Report Joint Committee on Human Rights

Committee (4th Day)

11.40 am

Clause 40 : Education and training for persons over compulsory school age: general duty

Amendment 93

Moved by Baroness Sharp of Guildford

93: Clause 40, page 23, line 33, at end insert-

"( ) consult with local employers and their representatives, including, where appropriate, those persons designated in section 11(1)(b) of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 to issue apprenticeship frameworks in particular sectors, as to the availability and suitability of provision within their area;"

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: This set of amendments is about consultation, asking that local authorities and the chief executive for skills funding consult with employers, trade associations, chambers of commerce and sector skills councils about what sort of training is needed for the local workforce in any particular area.

Amendment 93 relates to Clause 40 and local authority duties. Clause 40(1) states that,

"A local education authority in England must secure that enough suitable education and training is provided to meet the reasonable needs of persons",

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aged 16-18 "in their area". Clause 40(3) defines suitable "reasonable needs" as having regard to "ages, abilities and aptitudes", "learning difficulties", the quality available and "locations and times". Subsection (4) lists a lot of things the local authority must do in performing its duty. It must encourage a diversity of provision, especially for those aged 16 to 18 who have to stay in education and training as a result of the Education and Skills Act 2008. It must think about what others might provide, make good use of resources but not incur disproportionate costs.

Yet it need not take account of the needs of local employers, which is extraordinary. Amendment 93 asks that, in its duty to secure enough suitable education and training, the local authority shall be asked to consult local employers, trade associations, chambers of commerce and, where appropriate, the sector skills council about the availability and suitability of provision in education and training in their particular local area. If the local authority is to be the commissioner of education and training facilities in the local area-including, importantly, training facilities for apprentices-it is vital that it takes account of what the local needs are in relation to the provision already there. The people who know best about this are the employers and their representatives: the chambers of commerce, the trade associations and-at a national level-the sector skills councils. The sector skills councils have their own knowledge of what goes on in localities. Amendment 93 asks directly that there shall be consultation.

Amendments 104 and 105 are applicable to Clause 41. Here again we are dealing with local authorities. Again the Government are laying down what local authorities must do. In Clause 41(1)(a), they must encourage those aged 16 to 18 to participate in education and training and in Clause (41)(1)(b), they must "encourage employers to participate" in this provision. Again there is no mention of consultation. These two little amendments gently suggest it would be better if, rather than banging on about it, local authorities got together with local employers and discussed with them how best to promote such participation.

With Amendments 182, 183 and 188, we jump to Clauses 81 to 83 and the duties of the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency. In those three clauses, we are still dealing with 16 to 18 year-olds. Clause 81 is about the provision of apprentice training places, Clause 82 is about co-operation with local authorities and Clause 83 is about co-operation with employers. Clause 83 states that the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency must,

The amendment states that the chief executive, in conjunction with the sector skills councils, should consult and encourage employers and trade associations -in other words, employers' representatives.

With Amendment 188, we jump forward to Clause 84, providing for those aged 19 or over. The wording is subtly different. There is no more talk about "enough suitable" education and training to meet reasonable needs. We turn to the weasel words of the clause:

"The Chief Executive must secure the provision of reasonable facilities",

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suitable for those aged 19 or over. Subsection (3) defines reasonable, which we shall come back to later when we discuss the clause. Subsection (4) is key to that amendment, as it lists all the things that the chief executive of the Skills Funding Agency must take account of. Subsection (4)(c) states that he or she must,

Once again, there is no mention of consultation with employers. This little amendment suggests that, before laying down the law about what is needed locally, the chief executive should consult employers, trade associations, and the sector skills councils-who are, after all, the people who should know what sort of skills training is required. I beg to move.

The Earl of Listowel: What arrangements will there be to consult local authorities about apprenticeships for social work? The Government have introduced a degree course in social work, which is very welcome, but it has attracted a younger group of people into social work. There is great advantage in also securing people with life experience and maturity, and apprenticeship is a good route for that. I would be interested in learning from the Minister, perhaps in writing, how consultation about apprenticeships for social work will take place.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: It seems totally reasonable to include the amendment in the Bill. Consultation is a part of the process to make certain that we get the right policy. Unless we can be assured that that has happened anyway and will continue as the schemes are put into practice, it would be helpful to have the amendment accepted.

Lord Ramsbotham: I am pleased to see the amendment. I mention one particular group representing employers, which I believe has a greater role to play than it is currently being enabled to do: the chambers of commerce. Having talked to representatives of chambers of commerce, I know that they are very conscious that in the areas for which they have responsibility, there is great need for consultation between employers and the providers of apprenticeships to make certain that what is being offered is relevant.

In connection with the chambers of commerce-I know that this is not the responsibility of the departments who are handling the Bill, but so many aspects of the various Bills going through the House at the moment impact on what is going on in other ministries-I mention that there is another burgeoning role that might be considered by the Government. Jobcentres are not the ideal places for advising managers on future movement when they are declared redundant. I wonder whether consideration might be given to giving that role to the chambers of commerce, which understand what managers need, what managers' skills are and where they might be applied. That is particularly relevant to making certain that they, as employers and employers' representatives, are consulted about all the things to do with employers in the area where they are working.

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