Ward denies allegation

November 28, 1997

ASSOCIATION of Colleges chief Roger Ward has told the House of Commons education select committee that he denies an allegation that he was paid a consultancy fee by a financial services company.

Mr Ward, who gave general evidence to the education subcommittee inquiry into the funding of further education on Tuesday, was asked by chairwoman Margaret Hodge whether an allegation in the Times Educational Supplement on November 7 was wrong. Mr Ward said that the allegation was wrong.

The committee heard that solicitors McKeag and Co had been appointed by the AoC board to produce a report on the allegation. AoC board member Hilary Cowell, also president of the Association of Principals of Colleges, told Mrs Hodge that the point of the solicitor's report would be to make it quite clear whether or not there was any truth in the allegation. Ms Cowell said that the report was expected very soon.

McKeag and Co have confirmed that the sole term of reference for their report is to ascertain whether or not there has been any impropriety by Mr Ward in relation to lecturer supply agency Education Lecturing Services and/or, as suggested in the TES, Burke Ford Reed, which is a leading financial services company.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Don Foster wanted confirmation that Mr Ward had no connection with anyone from McKeag and Co. Mr Ward said that there was not. And Ms Cowell said she was "relatively certain" that there was no link between the solicitors and anyone, including Mr Ward, involved with the further education sector.

Mr Foster also asked Mr Ward if, as alleged, he, or someone on behalf of the AoC's forerunner, the Colleges Employers Forum, handed an internal mailing list to a commercial company. Mr Ward said that it did not take place.

Mr Foster then asked if any mailing list or information held by the CEF was passed to a commercial company at any time. Mr Ward said only in that a written database had been shared with a number of people who shared the interests of the further education sector.

Mr Foster asked if ELS was included among those sharing such information. Mr Ward said that ELS was not included. He said that when reputable companies proposed services that could improve efficiency within the sector, then the decision might be taken to "distribute material" which "on balance would be helpful to colleges".

Lecturers' union Natfhe has called for the issues raised by the select committee relating to Mr Ward to be looked at by the committee on standards in public life, chaired by Sir Patrick Neill QC.

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