John Hayes MP

13 Mar 2009 13:55:00

David Willetts calls funding of further education an "unfolding disaster"

David_willetts_mpThe Department for Innovation, Skills and Universities was up for questions yesterday.

Shadow Secretary of State David Willetts asked about the role of about further education in the recession:

"I want to ask the Secretary of State about something that I hope he will agree is very important in ensuring that people have training and skills in the recession, which is the role of further education colleges. What does he say to a college that had moved out of its old buildings having been promised capital for a rebuild, but will now find itself operating out of temporary classrooms because of his Department’s incompetence in its management of the capital programme? How does that contribute to investing in skills in a recession?

Mr. Denham: As the hon. Gentleman knows very well from my having made a written ministerial statement last Wednesday as promised, we will spend the £2.3 billion that we have been allocated in this spending review period on capital investment in FE colleges. That is in sharp contrast to the position 10 years ago and comes on top of many hundreds of millions of pounds of investment in recent years. His own constituency has benefited from no fewer than 11 different FE capital projects in recent years. He did not say anything about that, surprisingly.

The Learning and Skills Council informed me about 10 days ago that it had given approval in principle to another 79 colleges, with more in the pipeline. It is clear that we cannot fund all those in the next two years, which is why we have done two things. We have asked the LSC to consult the Association of Colleges and others on ways to prioritise those that are in the pipeline, to give colleges some certainty. Secondly, the LSC has agreed to my request that it appoint Sir Andrew Foster to provide a report to me on how this situation could have arisen.

Mr. Willetts: Havant college is actually one of the many colleges affected by the moratorium. We calculate, on the basis of the Secretary of State’s own statement, that 144 will be affected. He said that he had invited Sir Andrew Foster to explain to him what went wrong. Will he confirm the details in the LSC’s minutes, which we have obtained with a freedom of information request, that senior officials from his Department attended every meeting of the LSC when the capital moratorium was discussed, and that it was specifically concluded at the end of the meeting when the moratorium was first imposed that he should immediately be informed? Why is he now saying that he needs a review, given that his Department was kept in touch throughout this unfolding disaster?

Mr. Denham: The position is clear. Ministers were first alerted to a potential problem with the capital programme at the end of November—I am happy to write to the hon. Gentleman with the date. We received the next information just before the December meeting, at which the decision was made not to approve any further colleges in detail. Ministers were not given the picture that I was able to put in the written ministerial statement last week until the week before last—I think, but I will give him the date—as a result of the review that we asked the LSC to conduct. The numbers of colleges that the hon. Gentleman has calculated that were promised approval in detail, and the numbers in the pipeline—that is significant, because not only colleges that have had approval in principle are waiting for funding clearance—did not become available to Ministers with any clarity until that date. We shared the information with the House within the most reasonable timetable possible—after the LSC met last week to consider which colleges could be approved and the shape of the rest of the programme."

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30 Jan 2009 10:31:31

David Lammy is fabulously bad at departmental oral questions

David_lammy_mpQuestions were put yesterday to ministers from the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills.

Shadow Secretary of State David Willetts expressed doubt that Labour is delivering on its promise of boosting internships. As so often, the minister - in this case David Lammy, Minister of State for Higher Education and Intellectual Property - played an old trick. He accused an Opposition spokesman of scaremongering when in fact he was doing his job: holding the Government to account.

"The Minister referred to his national internship scheme. Will he confirm that after I spent a Saturday afternoon chasing him round the TV studios, it became clear that there is no Government-funded national internship scheme and that the companies that he has identified as providing internships made it clear that no extra internships were intended on top of the ones already announced? Will he also confirm that the Government made a clear commitment to review the student loan regime, that the review will take place this year and that the review of student finance will look forward to ideas for the future and not simply be historical?

Mr. Lammy: The first thing to say is that we are doing all we can to work with employers, careers services in universities, the National Union of Students and students themselves to ensure that students have the best choice and the best portfolio of things they can do when they graduate in the autumn. That compares very well with what was effectively the youth training scheme—YTS—when the Conservatives were in power; nothing was offered then. [Interruption.] The internship scheme was begun in a conversation that the Secretary of State had before Christmas with Microsoft, Barclays and others. I have continued those conversations—indeed, I was talking to Barnado’s just yesterday. So, there will be an increase in internships later in the year, and that will happen alongside the career development loans and all the other things that will be on offer at the end of the year. As the president of the NUS has said, this is not a time for panic; it is a time for proper information. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to bear that in mind when he is making public statements."

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29 Jan 2009 16:32:21

MP of the day - John Hayes for standing up to anti-Semitism

John_hayes_3The estimable John Hayes (Shadow Minister for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education) spoke yesterday to a lobby group from the Union of Jewish Students, who were in Parliament to express their concern about anti-Semitism.

Mr Hayes has made his (outstanding) speech available to ConservativeHome, and I have decided to publish it in full.

"University campuses are where the future is made.

The space where ideas take ground, flourish and are subjected to the rigour of academic scrutiny

Many of the people who will go on to shape society form their views and identities at University

Indeed, higher education is where the very nature of that society is questioned: where changes for the better are devised and refined.

Universities are the crucible of learning, fed by the power of ideas.

But not all ideas are good ideas, however seductive they seem.

It is the poisonous inheritance of moral relativism that we have lost our appreciation of absolutes.

So, often, we fail to recognise and speak out against ideas that are absolutely wicked.

We must face the fact that, as the Social Affairs Unit recently revealed, University campuses are "increasingly - if inadvertently - playing host to extremist groups"

These groups spring from across the political spectrum.

Disparate zealots from Hizb-ut-Tahrir to the BNP are united by common hatreds,

In particular a virulently expressed anti-Semitism - hardened by reaction to events in Gaza - disgusts me

Let me be unequivocal about this. There can be no compromise with these forms of wickedness and absolutely no excuses.

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14 Oct 2007 23:59:00

Limiting the LSC's unaccountable power

Hayesinparliament John Hayes MP welcomes an amendment on Thursday that he proposed to the Further Education and Training Bill. It restricted the Learning and Skills Council’s proposed move to sack college principals without needing consent from a Minister:

"The original version of the Bill would have granted sweeping new powers to the Learning and Skills Council to intervene in further education colleges. I raised that on Second Reading with the then Secretary of State, who has now moved on to other things—I will not say greater things. At that stage the Secretary of State said that he did not think that the powers would be used anyway, as they had not been used in their current form. We did not think that was good enough. Throughout Committee and in the other place we pressed Ministers to mitigate the powers, in the interests both of colleges and of proper parliamentary scrutiny and accountability.

The response to those concerns finds form in the Government amendment. It will mean that to intervene, the LSC must have the express permission of the Secretary of State. That means that people in this House will be accountable for decisions made in that regard, as we feared that, under the original form of the Bill, they might not have been. Moreover, the LSC will report annually on how their intervention powers have been used, and that report will be subject to appropriate scrutiny. Furthermore, the Minister has confirmed that at any stage during the process, if any individual feels that the powers have not been used reasonably or appropriately, the Secretary of State will be able to intervene and stop the process—at its beginning, middle or end. That is, in effect, a right of appeal, and I felt that that was important.

In addition, I am assured by the Minister in private discussions and in writing that the powers are not an extension of existing powers."

More from Hansard here.