National Skills Strategy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:56 pm on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Ivan Lewis Ivan Lewis Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Education and Skills) (Skills and Vocational Education) 6:56 pm, 15th May 2003

With the permission of the House, I shall do my best to respond to the contributions, but it is unlikely that I will get through them all. If that is the case, I shall write to those hon. Members whom I do not mention.

Mr. Boswell made the valid point that we must not simply have a collection of existing initiatives and that we need a step change in our approach to skills. He made the Conservative party's proposal on higher education a big part of his contribution. Its policy will deny universities the significant income that they need and cap the aspirations of many young people. When the announcement was made, we heard that the money would be used to invest in vocational education and training, the implication being that money for university graduates would come from a different pot because they are a different cohort of young people from those who take vocational courses. That is not the message that we should send.

My hon. Friend Linda Gilroy made an extremely good point about the positive contribution of trade unions. They have been incredibly effective, especially in respect of the trade union learning fund and the individual learning account intermediary. This is a good opportunity to pay tribute to the work of John Monks at the TUC, who adopted a progressive and positive view of skills. He will soon move on to his new job and I have every confidence that Brendon Barber will adopt a similar approach.

Mr. Willis said far too many nice things about my political future. Many people do not know that my in-laws are voters in his constituency, which may influence what he says to me because his seat is so marginal. They have admitted to voting for him from time to time. He made valid points about the importance of the ILA successor scheme, and I agree with him. He said that funding and other organisational arrangements might have a negative effect on the 14 to 16 flexible work-related learning pilots. Those are being evaluated and evidence is emerging about a positive college-school relationship. We will present that evidence to the House.

The hon. Gentleman set five tests for the skills strategy. I expect us to meet all of them with one exception—the provision of finite resources without regard for the financial consequences. No member of the Liberal Democrat Treasury team was in the Chamber to influence his comments. He wants us to fund everything for everyone without regard to the financial consequences. That is why he is such a good Liberal Democrat.

My hon. Friend Mr. Sheerman will no doubt hold me to account for the skills strategy. He was cynical about our capacity to deliver it in June. We are going to deliver it in June. However, I am not cynical about his capacity to hold me and other Ministers to account on the skills agenda.

My hon. Friend Clive Efford rightly cited examples of good practice in his constituency—Greenacres primary school, Alderwood school, and the work that Greenwich community college and Charlton Athletic are doing. Linking children's education to adult learning is a means of tackling intergenerational underperformance and deprivation. If my hon. Friend can raise aspirations in his communities and get adults learning alongside kids, that is in the best interest of our creating a lifelong learning culture and society and doing something about intergenerational—

It being Seven o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.