Ministers asked to back agency

The ambitious Mr Ward even decided to seek endorsement of ELS from the government. In October 1995 he wrote to Jonathan Anstey, at the DFEE, reminding him that he had introduced John Kirkland, the owner of ELS, to Tim Boswell, then education minister.

Over two pages he praised the achievements of ELS, saying it was one of the fastest growing companies in Europe. "I bring these developments to your attention because to my knowledge they represent the single largest example of private-sector investment in the FE sector.

"I would have thought that such a significant breakthrough as this should deserve some ministerial encouragement, if not actual endorsement, sometime later this year over which I will have a chat with you later this month."

In October 1995 Mr Ward wrote to Geoff Lennox, ELS chief executive, on the issue of sponsorship.

ELS staff had been talking to CEF staff about a modest level of sponsorship for a forthcoming CEF conference. The board of CEF was grateful for this assistance. "However, CEF, given its endorsement of ELS's operations in our sector, is anxious to look for some broader sponsorship arrangement."

Mr Ward said he would like to create a new post entitled something like "CEF research director - sponsored post by ELS". "In order to complete our financial year to 31 July 1996 this would require 8 months at a sponsorship of #163;2, 500 per month. Can ELS assist in this project?"

In October 1995 Mr Ward attended a special FEFC briefing on the Government's Private Finance Initiative. Afterwards he suggested to Mr Lennox that: "It strikes me that there really must be something in this for John Kirkland and his [construction] company. I would like you to look through some of these documents and let me know what you think. If you agree I suggest we do a joint letter to John forwarding the documents on to him."

As he pointed out, many PFI schemes would involve construction programmes in FE colleges and sixth forms. One of the documents was the projects register. "If you run through this you will see there is some seriously big building work to take place nationwide and one would have thought that if John established a special department to approach these colleges, many of whom are well known to me, something may come of it."

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