A Cumbrian peer due to give evidence to MPs today about Newton Rigg says a radical response from them could see the decision reversed.
Lord Richard Inglewood is to answer questions as a witness before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee this afternoon.
The inquiry starts at 2.30pm and we’ll be covering it as it happens.
The inquiry — which will explore the future of land-based education in England — will investigate the reasons behind the decision to close the college.
Lord Inglewood will join managers from Askham Bryan College, Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Jo Lappin and the vice-president of the National Farmers’ Union Tom Bradshaw as witnesses.
He said the committee’s job is to find out how events led to the threatened closure of the college and whether the appropriate steps were taken.
“The report will be focused on skills and training and will acknowledge the events that have taken place at Newton Rigg,” said Lord Inglewood.
“As witnesses we will be asked questions by the committee.
“The way the committee works is that it is given evidence and questions are asked. They have clerks and members of staff who identify important issues and they call witnesses.
“Before the hearing witnesses are advised what the committee is interested in and they haven’t done that in great detail in this case yet.
“The committee then decides what it thinks and makes recommendations and produces a report for the House of Commons.”
This often leads to a political response from the Government, said Lord Inglewood, which is normally expected within 60 days.
“The Government has approved Askham Bryan retreating from the Newton Rigg campus and Askham wishes to sell the land, but as far as I know it hasn’t been sold yet.
“Neil Hudson is working with local providers to do something to at least mitigate the consequences.”
Lord Inglewood, who is chairman of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership has yet to be informed what the brief or scope of the questions will be.
He suspects the review may have come off the back of political pressure from within the county.
“There may have been political pressure applied by MPs and members of the House of Lords from the Cumbrian contingent,” he said. I suspect they have played a big part in this.”
After receiving recommendations from the committee, Lord Inglewood says there are a huge number of options open to the Government.
It could, for example, remove its approval of the decision for Askham Bryan to close Newton Rigg, a move Lord Inglewood said would “put the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons”.
He added: “Everything could go ahead as it is now or we could see a radical response from Government.
“Government can do absolutely anything they want, it is a question of what they want.”
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