What happens after the Skills for Jobs White Paper becomes a Bill?
12th April 2022
AoC and the Independent Commission on the College of the Future have long been calling for FE and skills reform to ensure colleges have the authority and autonomy to deliver for people, employers and communities. This requires legislative change. Now, the Government are set to publish the Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, as announced in the Queen's Speech, with Parliamentarians starting to engage with the proposals.
The announcement of this new Bill recognises how vital colleges are to economic recovery and the government’s levelling up agenda. Colleges showed their worth in the pandemic and they know how to deliver on this and stand ready, with the funding, to step up and show that once again. This is a moment to secure the sustainable future of colleges.
The Skills for Jobs White Paper – published in January 2021 – is a policy document produced by the Government which set out their proposals for future legislation. The White Paper provides the basis for a number of further consultations and has prompted much discussion in the sector and other interested/ affected groups which has informed the Bill that will be formally presented to Parliament.
As the Bill goes through the legislative process, AoC will be working hard to ensure the voice of colleges has influence and member colleges are empowered to do the same.
What is a Bill?
A Bill is a proposal for a new law, or a proposal to change an existing law that is presented for debate before Parliament. Bills are introduced in either the House of Commons or House of Lords for examination, discussion and amendment.
When both Houses have agreed on the content of a Bill it is then presented to the reigning monarch for approval (known as Royal Assent). Once Royal Assent is given a Bill becomes an Act of Parliament and is law. The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill will be introduced by Government in the House of Lords for the first reading.
What might we expect in the Bill?
- A flexible Lifetime Skills Guarantee (including Lifelong Loan Entitlement)
- Putting employers at the heart of post-16 skills (including the recently announced "Skills Accelerator")
- Providing the advanced technical and higher technical skills
- Effective accountability and funding (including duties on providers to review provision and structure)
- Supporting outstanding teaching
What is the first reading and what is next?
First reading is the first stage of the Bill's passage through the House of Lords - usually a formality, it takes place without debate. The short title of the Bill will be read out and is followed by an order for the Bill to be printed. The Bill will be published for the first time and the publication is an opportunity to set out key messages as a sector and for Parliamentarians starting to engage with the proposals.
The next stage is second reading, the first opportunity for MPs to debate the general principles and themes of the Bill. Below are all the stages for a piece of legislation and the opportunities for engagement.
|Stage||Opportunity for influence and activities|
|Skills for Jobs White Paper (published on 21 January 2021)||There are a number of consultations as a result that AoC and members can and will engage with.|
|Legislation to be published as a Bill (18 May 2021)||This is an opportunity to set out key messages through communications and conversations with political stakeholders, including members' local MPs.|
|First reading of the Bill in the House of Lords||Parliamentarians will start to engage with the proposals. AoC will be working at pace to develop its response, with ideas for amendments.|
|Second reading of the Bill (in HoL) – with full debate on the overall Bill||Peers will raise priorities and concerns and there will be significant opportunity for developing media and public pressure for key amendments. AoC will be working with members and stakeholders to develop and communicate these to parliamentarians.|
|Committee stage (in HoL) – a group of Lords (chosen in proportion to party sizes, by the respective Whips) go through Bill line by line.||There is significant opportunity to work with ministers and the opposition parties to agree amendments to improve the legislation. Government officials will be continuing to work closely with AoC through this process.|
|Report stage (in HoL) – updated Bill debated by the whole House.||This is an opportunity to raise outstanding concerns and build support for agreed changes.|
|Third reading (in HoL) – updated Bill is voted upon.|
|And then this whole process is repeated through the House of Commons.||The process finally returns to the House of Lords, where the updated Bill is either agreed, or sent back – which can result in a process called ‘ping pong’.|
|The process finally returns to the House of Lords, where the updated Bill is either agreed, or sent back – which can result in a process called ‘ping pong’.||This provides particular opportunity for influence, given the likely political and media pressure the Bill will be receiving.|
DFE will handle the practical implementation of the Bill, rather than parliament. Even once legislation has passed through the full legislative stages and the Bill is made an Act (following Royal Ascent) there is significant opportunity for influence.
Acts will typically result in a range of technical consultations, as government explore the best way of implementing the legislation. These often results in significant practical changes.
The HE Bill (subsequently the Higher Education and Research Act 2017) saw a raft of technical consultations, including on details such as OfS registration fees and the implementation of the Teaching Excellent Framework. And other organisations will likely also consult on how they best implement any relevant changes – so consultations could be expected in turn from the ESFA, OFSTED, OFQUAL, and perhaps the SLF and OfS.
What are we doing, and what can you do, at this stage?
Currently, we are awaiting the publication of the Bill. In anticipation of this, based on what we know now, we have prepared this briefing for parliamentarians.
For further information on how you can help, please visit our member resources page here.