§ Lord Colnbrook
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether they have reconsidered the provisions for student union reform in the Education Bill in the light of the Second Reading debate and their subsequent consultations.
§ The Minister of State, Department for Education (Baroness Blatch)
It was clear during the Second Reading debate there there was acknowledgement of the case for reform, to which the Government are committed. Following constructive discussions with the representative bodies for the further and higher education institutions, we have concluded that the provisions of Clause 21(2) should be recast and strengthened to enhance the requirements for best practice in student unions' conduct. Institutions will be required to set out their arrangements for implementing these requirements in codes of practice. These requirements will include the opportunity for students to opt out of student union membership. The Government's approach will provide students with the choice that they do not now have over student union membership, and secure improved democracy and accountability.
There was concern, however, about the implementation of reform, and particularly the provisions in Clause 20 limiting student unions' use of public money to "core" services that would be defined in regulations. We have concluded that Clause 20 should be deleted, as should Clause 21(4). Government amendments to this effect are being tabled today. The Government's intention is to secure democracy, accountability and choice in a way that does not inhibit the important extra-curricular activities of students.