EDUCATION (No. 2) BILL
Standing Committee FEDUCATION (No. 2) BILL
24th June 1986
HOUSE OF COMMONS
Standing Committee F
EDUCATION (No. 2) BILL
Tuesday 24 June 1986
SITTINGS MOTION agreed to.
CLAUSE 1 agreed to.
CLAUSE 2, as amended, agreed to.
CLAUSES 3 to 6 agreed to.
BILL, as amended, to be reported.
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The Committee consisted of the following Members:
(Chairman: MR. DAVID KNOX)
Bennett, Mr. Andrew F. (Denton and Reddish)
Bruinvels, Mr. Peter (Leicester, East)
Callaghan, Mr. Jim (Heywood and Middleton)
Evennett, Mr. David (Erith and Crayford)
Fatchett, Mr. Derek (Leeds, Central)
Fisher, Mr. Mark (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
Flannery, Mr. Martin (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Greenway, Mr. Harry (Ealing, North)
Hampson, Dr. Keith (Leeds, North-West)
Hancock, Mr. Michael (Portsmouth, South)
Hill, Mr. James (Southampton, Test)
Hind, Mr. Kenneth (Lancashire, West)
Howarth, Mr. Gerald (Cannock and Burntwood)
Madel, Mr. David (Bedfordshire, South-West)
Neubert, Mr. Michael (Romford)
Rhodes James, Mr. Robert (Cambridge)
Thompson, Mr. Jack (Wansbeck)
Walden, Mr. George (The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science)
Mr. R. A. Lambert, Committee Clerk2 3 Standing Committee F Tuesday 24 June 1986
[MR. DAVID KNOXin the Chair.]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education and Science (Mr. George Walden): I beg to move, That during the proceedings of the Education (No. 2) Bill the Committee do meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays at half-past Ten o'clock.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett (Denton and Reddish): I am not too happy about Thursdays, but I do not want to oppose the motion. However, I wish to probe the length of time that the Government intend to take on the Bill. You will have noticed, Mr. Knox, that the Opposition have not tabled any amendments, and at this stage we probably shall not want to table many. We are a little concerned, however, that the Government are using a No. 2 Bill rather than the No. 1 Bill. That causes us some difficulties, because most of my honourable Friends who would be considering the Bill are elsewhere considering the No. 1 Bill. Secondly, it has been put to us by ILEA tht it is rather concerned that the Minister is rectifying some of the problems that have resulted from pooling but is not taking the opportunity to deal with all the anomalies. I wondered whether, in deciding whether to sit on Thursdays, the Minister has given any consideration to the problems that ILEA has put to him. The Secretary of State will be aware that ILEA was successful in legal action in June 1985 on another aspect of the pooling contribution formula — the basis on which contributions to advanced and further education were to be calculated. The court ruled that the proper basis would be demand for service, not rateable value. In practice, the basis used from 1 April 1985 in reflecting the court's decision has been the number of students. Despite its victory in the courts, ILEA has not received a financial remedy for the position before 1 April 1985, during which time it contributed disproportionately. Representations to the DES have met with the response that the Secretary of State does not have the requisite powers to make the adjustments before that date. As the Bill gives the Secretary of State the power to make minor adjustments — from the Long Title it would appear that he has the powers to do so — we wondered whether the Government intend, now or on Report, to deal with this anomaly. If they do not, the Opposition might want to consider the matter further. I am sure that the Minister appreciates that in dealing with technical matters of this sort we have 4 considerable difficulties in tabling amendments. It is suggested that ILEA has lost about £100 million over five years and that the arrears for 1984–85 totalled £25 million, which means that ILEA is still out of pocket as a result of the way in which the regulations have been used. I should be grateful in the Minister could tell us whether, perhaps by meeting briefly this morning and then again on Thursday, the Government could table amendments to deal with this matter, or whether they intend to deal with it on Report. We would then know whether we need to sit for long to consider the Bill.
Mr. Walden: First, I apologise to the honourable Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) for any inconvenience that he has been caused. I am well aware that a good deal is going on at present in education, in which he is naturally playing a role. The Bill was not appended to what has been called the Christmas tree that is being considered elsewhere as-that might have complicated matters still further. The honourable Gentleman righly alluded to the successful outcome of the ILEA challenge to the way in which funds for higher education were distributed in the past. He is asking, in effect, for retrospective legislation to be included in the Bill. The ILEA did not challenge, however, the contribution formula in force prior to 1985-86. The Government do not, therefore, intend to use the Bill to make provision for something which was not challenged. I cannot therefore give the assurance that the honourable Gentleman implied that he might need.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett: I am obviously disappointed by the Ministers reply. I am puzzled because I am assured that when ILEA representatives have been to the Department they have been told that the Government do not have the necessary powers, not that they are opposed in principle to the concept. The Minister, however, has made it clear that whether or not the Government have the powers, they do not believe in taking such action.
Mr. Walden: I can only repeat that to my knowledge we have received no challenge to the contribution formulae in force prior to 1985-86. The honourable Gentleman will be aware that to reopen this subject retrospectively would be very complicated, and the Government have no plans to do so.
Question put and agreed to.
Resolved, That during the proceedings of the Education (No. 2) Bill the Committee do sit on Tuesdays and Thursdays at half-past Ten o'clock.Clause 1
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Mr. Robert Rhodes James (Cambridge): I welcome the clause, as I do the Bill, but subsection (2), which specifies the conditions, states: "the Secretary of State … may also impose such other conditions as he thinks fit." 5 I am not sure that the House of Commons and Parliament should pass legislation which gives an open cheque to any Secretary of State, however honourable he may be. Subsections (3)(a), (b) and (c) specify conditions, but those provisions are nullified by the opening passage which gives any Secretary of State the right to impose whatever conditions may happen to occur to him from time to time. I ask my honourable Friend the Minister to consider that.
Mr. Walden: I understand what my honourable Friend is saying and recognise that such phrases in any language, legal or colloquial, are wide-ranging in implication. I gather, however, that these are the standard conditions incorporated in existing Acts, and that is why they feature in the clause. I hope that I can persuade my honourable Friend not to read into them too much significance.
Mr. Rhodes James: With all respect, the words are clear. They give to any Secretary of State wide-ranging powers which go beyond the Bill. I am not being pedantic. It is unwise for Parliament, without any undertaking from the Minister, to approve words of this kind, which are extremely wide-ranging. What is the point of having a long Bill, with many subsections and conditions, if at the beginning the Secretary of State is given the complete right to impose any conditions he wishes? I approve the Bill and the two units that are to be assisted, and I am worried only about Parliament approving a clause of this sort, which gives such wide-ranging powers to the Secretary of State.
Mr. Walden: The conditions that we are talking about are those that are rightly made by my right honourable Friend the Secretary of State in return for providing the grant. The best way to avoid a longer discussion on this issue is for us to re-examine the way in which this part of the Bill is phrased.6
Mr. Rhodes James: I am obliged.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Amendments made: No. 1, in page 2, line 29, leave out 'a local' and insert 'an'.
No. 2, in line 41, leave out 'a local' and insert 'an'.
No. 3, in line 43, leave out 'a local' and insert 'an'.
No. 4, in line 14, leave out 'local'.
No. 5, in page 3, line 45, leave out 'a local' and insert 'an'. —[Mr. Walden.]
Clause 2, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clauses 3 to 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Question proposed, That the Chairman do report the Bill, as amended, to the House.
Mr. Walden: May I, Mr. Knox, on behalf of myself, and the Committee, thank you for your expeditious treatment of this morning's proceedings?
The Chairman: Thank you very much. Committee members are also due some thanks on that score.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill, as amended, to be reported.
Committee rose at sixteen minutes to Eleven o'clock.
THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE
Knox, Mr. David (Chairman)
Bennett, Mr. Andrew F.
Bruinvels, Mr. Peter
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Rhodes James, Mr. Robert
Thompson, Mr. Jack