We now turn to engagement with stakeholders on the policy implications of the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018. We originally intended to undertake stakeholder engagement on this Bill in November 2018 and sought written submissions at that point. However, as formal consideration was then commenced by Seanad Éireann it was not possible to do it at that point. We therefore agreed to write back to those who had made written submissions asking for updated submissions. I thank our witnesses for those submissions.
Quality and Qualifications Ireland, QQI, is very important. It provides services to 582 providers including 441 further education and training providers, 52 higher education and training groups and 89 English language training providers. I do not underestimate the importance of the work we have to do. On behalf of the committee I welcome the witnesses. They are: Dr. Jim Murray, director of academic affairs and deputy CEO of the Technological Higher Education Association, THEA; Mr. Lewis Purser, director of learning at the Irish Universities Association, IUA; Dr. Attracta Halpin, registrar of the National University of Ireland; Ms Tara Farrell, chairperson of AONTAS; Mr. Chris Anako, manager of Study and Protect; Mr. David Russell, chairman of the Progressive College Network; Ms Colette Godkin, secretary of Unite the Union; Mr. John Connaughton, training services manager for Bord Iascaigh Mhara, BIM; Dr. Bryan Maguire from QQI; Mr. William Beausang, head of higher and further education and training policy at the Department of Education and Skills; and Mr. Patrick King, who is the mediator to the English language sector with the Department of Education and Skills. They are all very welcome.
The format of this part of the meeting will be as follows. I will invite witnesses to make a brief opening statement lasting a maximum of three minutes. I ask the witnesses to respect that limit because nine groups are represented here. This will be followed by engagement with the members of the committee. Members should bear in mind that to facilitate the progress of this legislation Committee Stage debates will take place a fortnight from today.
I draw the attention of witnesses to the fact that by virtue of section 17(2)(l) of the Defamation Act 2009, witnesses are protected by absolute privilege in respect of their evidence to the committee. However, if they are directed by the committee to cease giving evidence on a particular matter and they continue to so do, they are entitled thereafter only to a qualified privilege in respect of their evidence. They are directed that only evidence connected with the subject matter of these proceedings is to be given and they are asked to respect the parliamentary practice to the effect that, where possible, they should not criticise or make charges against any person, persons or entity by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the House or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.
I also advise the witnesses that any opening statements they have submitted to the committee will be published on the committee website after this meeting.