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Lord Cotter: I thank the Secretary of State for today's Statement about skills. It is important to emphasise this field and I very much agree with what has been put forward. Will he consider one area which is of concern-that is, careers advice? It should be ensured that careers advice is top-rate in both schools and
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"I don't see the use of Job Centre Plus. They just look at jobs you've been applying for and that's it, you're done in 5 minutes. They've never given me advice about apprenticeships or stuff like that. I want to do something with my life".
I know that attempts have been made to improve careers advice, but could the Secretary of State look again at this very important area, particularly in schools but also in jobcentres? If people have a bad experience there, they get discouraged and do not feel that they can advance, either through skills or jobs.
Lord Mandelson: The noble Lord is absolutely right to place this emphasis on careers advice. Two sorts of information, advice and guidance, are needed. The first relates to the individual's aptitudes, potential and ability to aspire to different sorts of vocational work and careers. The other is the sort of information that they expect to get about different courses, colleges and the opportunities that are available to them. That, too, I am afraid, has been lacking in the past. By giving learners greater power to choose among courses, we also expect to see the quality of those courses rise. We want individuals to become well-informed, active consumers of what is available from the system, so as to drive improvements in what providers offer. That is why all colleges and learning providers should provide quality-assured data about performance at individual course as well as institutional level, so that people can not only receive careers advice, but make informed choices about the courses of training or education that they are able to follow.
Baroness Howarth of Breckland: My Lords, in welcoming this report, I ask the Secretary of State about those who are now at the bottom of the group of young people who previously would have gained a great deal of help and expertise, but who are being lost because there is now above them another layer of young people who are benefiting from many of the schemes. I mention in particular those in schemes run by the European Social Fund, for example, and schemes run by voluntary and other non-governmental organisations. I have not heard the Secretary of State mention non-governmental organisations at all in terms of giving employment help to these young people. This is the group that, when numbers increase, is much more likely to fall to the bottom of the pile. It is the group that will become criminals and fail in their families. Previously they have benefited from these schemes. Is the Secretary of State aware of this and will he take note of this group's needs?
Lord Mandelson: I am grateful to the noble Baroness for making that point; it was remiss of me not to make it myself. She is absolutely right. We value the important role that voluntary third-sector organisations play in the delivery of quality learning and skills. A whole host of organisations comes to mind. I cannot name them all. This is important; I agree with the noble Baroness on this. In our response to young people's
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Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, I endorse the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Cotter, on the crucial importance of careers advice, to which the Secretary of State responded very favourably. As I am sure he is well aware, the new engineering diploma for 14 to 19 year-olds has got off to a very good start. However, it is depressing to read the following in the Institution of Engineering and Technology's report on the diploma's first year. The report states:
Of course, that is the responsibility of another department-the DCSF. I hope that the Secretary of State will use his influence to see that this is done because if students do not know what the options are, they will not end up with the right training, the right skills and, eventually, the right careers.
I wish to mention one other matter. I declare an interest as the honorary president of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear. The sector skills councils vary enormously in their competence and achievements. I would not have accepted that post if I had not been entirely satisfied that the NSAN comes right at the top of the league. However, a lot of them do not. When the Secretary of State talks about getting rid of some of the clutter, is he indicating that there will be a substantial rationalisation of the sector skills councils, so that those which are not making progress and have lost the confidence of employers will disappear and their functions will be taken over by those which can properly claim to be employer-led? Some of them have told me very firmly, "Yes, publicly we say we are employer-led, but in fact we are not; we are led by the Government". That is not a successful recipe.
Lord Mandelson: I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, for his comments, which I found very educative. I will now train my sights rather more on the sector skills councils than perhaps I might have done otherwise. I do not know how substantial a rationalisation is justified or possible. It is very important for us to work with the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and employers on such a rationalisation. It will receive both my energy and that of the relevant Minister in my department.
Baroness Wall of New Barnet: My Lords, I join many other noble Lords in welcoming the Statement. I follow the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, on sector skills councils. However, I share my noble friend's disappointment at the broad-brush response from the Conservative Benches. That does not do justice to noble Lords who sit on those Benches and who made many important contributions on the
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Lord Mandelson: I am grateful to my noble friend. Key to a more intelligent skills system is ensuring that providers deliver the skills prioritised by their employers and learners. This system has to work in a way that relates not just to sectors but to local and regional labour markets. That is why we have tasked the regional development agencies with producing regional skills strategies, working in partnership with local authorities, sector skills councils and other local partners such as local employers. I will have early discussions with the RDAs and employer organisations to ensure that we see proper engagement with the sector skills councils in order to reduce their variable performances and achievements.
Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope: Will the Secretary of State take advantage of this Statement, which I welcome, to confirm that there is a United Kingdom dimension to all this and that there will be proper consultations with the sister legislatures in other parts of the United Kingdom about the deployment of the policy? As a non-executive director of the Wise Group in Glasgow, which is a service provider under the Flexible New Deal, I also ask him whether he agrees about the importance of integrating skills with other departmental programmes, such as the Flexible New Deal, and collaborating with colleagues in education, the Treasury and elsewhere? We need proper integration so that people who work on schemes such as the Flexible New Deal can take advantage of some of the important announcements that he has made this afternoon.
Lord Mandelson: The noble Lord is absolutely right. We obviously have to talk to our colleagues and co-ordinate everything that we do so that we can tie in the experience of governing authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and I assure him that we will do that. We have to ensure that in no part of the United Kingdom are people any worse off due to a patchy framework of provision. We want to see all providers, even the good ones, rising to the standards of the very best, and that is what we will seek to encourage.
Lord Ramsbotham: My Lords, I did not have the advantage of seeing the Statement before hearing it from the Minister, but I thank him very much for what
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Lord Mandelson: I assure noble Lords that we will do all we possibly can to protect training programmes, courses and places. The noble Lord can be assured that that will have my absolute commitment and that of my colleagues. I am not hiding from him the fact that we are entering a period in which we shall experience constraints in public spending, but that makes it all the more necessary and important that we get the best value from what we are already doing. However, we must also carry out reforms in what we are doing to raise the performance of these programmes. If we stand still and stop reforming, we will get less value for money and more people will be disappointed as a result.
(a) review the operation of this Part, and
(b) prepare and publish a report on the outcome of the review.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, I am aware that throughout our debates on the gang injunctions concerns have remained that these innovative provisions could be used against groups that the Government do not intend them to be used against. As I stated in my explanatory letter, I believe that scope for misuse is extremely small. However, I agree that it would be sensible to review the use of the provisions to consider the overall implementation and impact of these new powers.
On Report, I committed to returning to the House with an amendment to the effect of a statutory review. This is set out in Amendment 1, which inserts a new clause at the end of Part 4 introducing a requirement for the Secretary of State to review the operation of the provisions. A report detailing the findings of this review must then be published within three years of commencement and laid before both Houses of Parliament.
When the report is laid before Parliament, it will present noble Lords and honourable Members from the other place with a clear opportunity to review the evidence from the implementation of the provisions and make such representations to the Government as they think appropriate. I am minded that three years will be required properly to review the provisions on account of the injunctions being time-limited to two years. As the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, noted on Report, it is important to allow for the possibility that a number of these maximum-length injunctions may be granted and we should include these within the scope of the review. I hope that this amendment addresses noble Lords' concerns and I commend it to the House.
Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Government for bringing this amendment forward and to the Minister for taking this issue so seriously. He is correct that we were worried about such big powers being given without any sort of review required in the Bill. The amendment goes quite a long way towards meeting our concerns. His helpful letter said that the review must be laid before Parliament. No doubt Parliament will debate it to see whether any further action is necessary. This is most helpful and I am very grateful.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, it would be churlish of me not to thank the Minister for this amendment, even though I have a concern about it. I note that the Minister used the words "both Houses of Parliament" when speaking to the amendment, whereas the amendment refers only to Parliament, which could in certain circumstances mean one House or the other. Even at this late stage in the parliamentary Session, it is not beyond the wit of the Government to replace the word "Parliament" in this amendment with "both Houses of Parliament". I hope that the Minister will take that into consideration.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I do not know whether that can be done off my own bat but I will certainly take it into consideration. I cannot see why it should not be done but no doubt some of the legal beavers might stop me. I will see what I can do.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, Amendments 2, 3 and 4 amend Schedule 3 and place a duty on those local authorities that have not resolved to adopt the lap-dancing provisions introduced by Clause 27 within one year of commencement to consult local people on whether to make such a resolution.
The amendments respond to concerns raised by several noble Lords on Report about the optional nature of the lap-dancing provisions in the Bill. We considered whether these concerns could be addressed in guidance but, having listened to noble Lords saying that such guidance could simply be ignored by local authorities, we resolved to ensure that a statutory duty was placed in the Bill. Therefore, these amendments will ensure that local authorities that have not adopted the provisions within one year of commencement must consult local people to give them the opportunity to express their views on whether the provisions should be adopted. They further empower local communities with regard to the regulation of lap-dancing clubs in their area and mitigate the concern that there could be a mismatch between the local authority and local people's views on the licensing of lap-dancing clubs.
The Government have listened carefully and responded to concerns raised here and in the other place on this clause. I firmly believe that, with this amendment, Clause 27 now strikes the right balance and will ensure that local communities are appropriately empowered to have a say in the opening and ongoing licensing of lap-dancing clubs in their area. I commend the amendment to the House.
Baroness Harris of Richmond: My Lords, I have not previously spoken on this part of the Bill, but I was minded to when I received a briefing this morning from the Local Government Association. It is extremely concerned about this amendment, which it feels will force local authorities to undertake a burdensome consultation if they decide not to use powers available to them.
The association is concerned that the new duties were not consulted on. It feels that the amendment is in direct contradiction to the principles already enshrined in the Bill, stating that councils have the power to adopt the new licensing regime where it is locally appropriate. It feels that this goes directly against the principle of closer working between central and local government.
Councils have been at the forefront of campaigning for the introduction of the new licensing powers and they will not neglect the chance to take them up locally when they are needed. I would be most grateful for the noble Lord's comments on the association's views.
Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, it is always a problem when the Government drip-feed amendments through the last stages of a Bill. I rather hope that I have understood what this composite group of amendments, tabled today and on Report, means. I understand that, on Royal Assent, local authorities will be able to choose whether to implement the new regime. If a local authority implements the new regime, the people living in its area will immediately be able to take advantage of the new provisions for taking their concerns into account. That is right and proper.
If the local authority considers that the new regime is not necessary in its area, it must, under today's amendments, still hold a consultation within a year on whether the community that it represents agrees. If the consultation shows that local residents have concerns about lap-dancing venues, the local authority should
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As the new regime includes an annual review of existing clubs, as well as strict controls on new clubs, any delay in the implementation of the new regime will not prevent objections or concerns from being raised against existing or new venues. Similarly, as the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, knows far better than me, local authorities already have several avenues by which residents can make suggestions and complaints. So even if someone were to miss a consultation, they could still make their feelings known, whether they are for or against the new regime.
I, too, received the briefing this morning from the Local Government Association. I ask only that this should not be yet another imposition on local authorities without their being given some sort of monetary recompense for carrying it out.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, I spoke briefly on the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Gould, at Report, to which the noble Lord, Lord Brett, replied, when he indicated that he might well follow the line now being taken by the Government. I share the views expressed by the noble Baroness, Lady Harris, about local government, if possible, being allowed to decide what it wants to do, rather than having something imposed on it. I recall the Licensing Bill, now the Licensing Act 2003. Those of us who were familiar with the problems in central London were disappointed because it took so long for the disadvantages of the Act to become known throughout the country. It is a sensible fail-safe device to have the opportunity for consultation later to prevent communities from suddenly, through sheer ignorance, finding lap dancing imposed on them. I therefore congratulate the Government on the compromise solution that they have reached.
Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, of course, I, too, read the LGA document issued today. Part of the problem, reading between the lines, is that it cannot decide whether it wants something mandatory or not. Perhaps that is a false judgment, so I shall not pursue it. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, for his support, because we have had a negotiated balance in this House to arrive at the provision. What is clear is that, if authorities adopt the provisions, they will not need to consult. It is important that local people, rather than just local authorities, are consulted on whether to adopt provisions.
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