My Lords, I am honoured to have been chosen by my honourable friend Mark Jenkinson to take this Bill through. It is seemingly small but it will benefit a lot of people in a very important way. I must say that for 30 years in this House it has been my ambition to achieve that; Mr Jenkinson has achieved it in one short Bill. I therefore congratulate him and I am grateful to the Government for their support. I beg to move.
My Lords, we welcome the Bill and congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, on continuing the good work of the honourable Member for Workington. I particularly welcome the fact that the Bill includes academies, which is an important aspect of increasing its chances of reaching the maximum number of children to begin their preparations for a career and the world of work. For so long we have been told that academies are often literally a law unto themselves, and the terms of their funding agreements mean that in many aspects of their provision they cannot be told what to do. The Bill demonstrates that in fact they can and that all that is required is a stroke of the Secretary of State’s pen. A precedent has thus been created.
I will not rehearse the powerful arguments advanced by my noble friend Lady Wilcox at Second Reading on the need for effective, regular, independent careers guidance. However, I feel that I have to draw something to the attention of the Minister—if her eyes roll as I start this, frankly, I would not be surprised, because it is about the consistency of government policy again. Yesterday I raised with her the fact that the Levelling Up White Paper talked up mayoral combined authorities at the same time as she was advancing a government position that effectively talked them down in terms of local skills improvement plans. We had the Chancellor talking up the need for an apprenticeship levy review just a month after the Government had voted down a Labour amendment in another place asking for just that. This Bill talks about year 7; it lowers the start of career guidance from year 8 to year 7. Yesterday the Minister said:
“We question the value of provider encounters in year 7, before those students can act on them”.—[Official Report, 24/3/22; col. 1139.]
That is what this Bill does. I may not be alone in being not just perplexed but slightly irritated at the Government’s apparent inability to present consistent policy. It is absolutely right that year 7 should be where it starts, but it was right yesterday in our discussions on the skills improvement Bill as well and I very much regret that that was not accepted.
Finally, the concession on the skills Bill that the Minister made this week in respect of the noble Lord, Lord Baker, and his clause, shows that the Government have finally determined that they will make careers guidance more effective and meaningful and they are supporting it further in this Bill. That is why we welcome the Bill and look forward to it becoming law.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for bringing forward the Bill and I thank all noble Lords who have participated in its passage through your Lordships’ House.
If I may, I will clarify the reference to Hansard that the noble Lord opposite made. When I said that students were not able to act on those encounters, that was not encounters in relation to careers advice but provider encounters with colleagues from further education colleges—UTCs. That is an important distinction to make.
This simple but effective Bill will ensure that all pupils in all types of state-funded secondary schools in England are legally entitled to independent careers guidance throughout their secondary education. That means high-quality support for every single child in every single state secondary school in every single local authority in England, without exception. It will fulfil a commitment in the Skills for Jobs White Paper, reaching over 600,000 year 7 pupils each year.
I am enormously grateful to my honourable friend the Member for Workington for his work on this important Bill and I congratulate him on ensuring that it passed through the other place. I know that the whole House will be grateful for this move to extend access to independent careers guidance, which will be widely welcomed. The Government are committed to supporting schools across the country to develop and improve their careers provision. The Bill is one step forward in ensuring that our young people receive high-quality careers guidance from an earlier age.