What change there has been in the number of adult learning courses in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement.
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We do not collect information on the number of courses offered by providers. Last week, we published "World Class Skills", our plan for implementing the Leitch review, which restates the importance of focusing on longer courses such as full level 2 courses and new training opportunities for those in employment through the train to gain programme.
Can the Minister explain to the House the difference between prioritising the "most beneficial learning" and cutting adult education courses? Is that not just another way of saying that the Government are forcing colleges to divert funding away from adult education?
No it is not. The Government are committed to the recommendations made by the Foster and Leitch reviews. That is why, quite rightly, we want to ensure that people are on longer courses, as I set out in my reply. I remind the hon. Gentleman of our commitments in skills for life, of the tremendous work that our union learning reps do up and down the country and of our commitment to ensuring that the most disadvantaged and the poorest get those basic skills, so that they can take part in the economy in the way that we want.
"There is a pressing need to raise the rates of skills improvements among adults—the UK cannot reach a world class ambition by 2020 without this."
Will the Minister confirm that nearly 1 million places for adults in FE colleges have been lost in the past five years? That is nearly half of all places for adult learning lost. The Secretary of State dismisses those courses as belly dancing and basket weaving, but I am sure that we can all agree that these are deeply enjoyable and worthwhile activities. Moreover, many of the courses are not just belly dancing and basket weaving; they are valuable in helping older workers to enhance their skills and improve their job opportunities. Why does the Minister say that he agrees with Leitch and that he values adult learning, but meanwhile undermines it?
I do not recognise the figure that the hon. Gentleman uses, and I am trying not to recognise the allusions that he brings to mind. I remind him that the proportion of people in adult learning has increased to 80 per cent., from 76 per cent. just two years ago. Either he supports the Leitch recommendations and what we are doing to try to ensure that employers are close to our FE colleges and providers or, he does not. He cannot have it both ways.