FE's five champions in the House;FE Focus;Further Education Parliamentary Committee

15th May 1998 at 01:00
The new FE parliamentary group has elected five MPs to act as officers. A spokeswoman for the Association of Colleges, which handles the administration for the group, said its predecessor was "a rather quiet affair.

But the turn-out for this group was huge which suggests there is going to be a substantial commitment. We had 30 people, MPs and peers, attending the inaugural meeting, and expressions of interest from up to 50 others. It shows a real commitment by our chairs of governors to approach MPs to ask for their support and we are really pleased about that".

* Julia Drown entered Parliament at the last election when she won Swindon South for Labour. After comprehensive school she went to Oxford (PPE after starting in physics) and became a public-sector accountant, working for the National Health Service. She was a councillor on Oxford County Council 1989-96, vice-chair of the Labour group in 1994-5 and deputy spokesperson on the health committee 1990-96.

A "strong on causes" woman she was on the executive of World Development Movement, in the Labour Women's Network, is a member of Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and CND. She has been a strong supporter of the University for Industry.

* The group will be bolstered by the presence of Tim Boswell, who was a Conservative under-secretary of state in the Department for Education between 1992-95. One of the few Tory ministers who showed a genuine interest in further education he was widely liked and respected. He continued his interest after he ceased to be an education minister. He remained an ally to some of the specialist colleges when he moved on to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1995-97).

Mr Boswell, who is MP for Daventry, is a farmer whose main recreation is shooting.

* Derek Twigg has first-hand knowledge of further education, having been a student at Halton College, in Widnes. He won the constituency of Halton for Labour last year, almost doubling the previous majority. A strong local government man he has been chairman of both finance and housing on his local council, as well as education spokesman. In his maiden speech he called for more skills training. He particularly welcomed the windfall tax on utilities because, he said, 44 per cent of young people in his constituency did not have a job, nor were they in training or at college. He began life as a political consultant, to the Public Services, Tax and Commerce union (PST). His last job may put him on the inside track; he was a civil servant at the Department for Education and Employment.

* Phil Willis produced one of the biggest shocks of the election when he beat Norman Lamont to win Harrogate and Knaresborough for the Liberal Democrats. He is now the Lib Dems further and higher education spokesman and has won a reputation for being a sharp and effective operator. Once one of the youngest headteachers in the country, he has always been keen to promote "inclusive education". In his maiden speech he concentrated on demands that local government should be given back the powers stripped away by the Tories. At his party's annual conference last year he was sharply critical of Labour's funding of education, which he said was inadequate, and the post-Dearing costs of higher education.

* Twenty years as an adult education lecturer, topped up with four years as head of continuing education at Manchester College of Arts and Technology, gives David Chaytor the perfect insight into the problems facing FE. Another Labour new boy he finally won election at his third time of asking. Though his first two attempts were in a different constituency, and he had to find somewhere else to stand because of the imposition of an all-women shortlist. Described as "Old Labour" - he joined the party during the miners' strike - he represents Bury North. Soon after being elected he was protesting against the under-funding of FE colleges. He urged the Government to undertake strategic planning, rather than the "shambles" of the internal market, in order to prevent bankruptcies.

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