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Amendment of the Law

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:27 pm on 24th March 2011.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills 2:27 pm, 24th March 2011

No, I have taken a lot of interventions, and the hon. Gentleman has already made his intervention from a sedentary position.

The role of government is not only to get out of the way when they are blocking growth, but to intervene when there is a genuine market failure. Training is one such area, and we are seeking to alleviate the problem by supporting apprenticeships. When we came into office, 150,000 apprenticeships were planned for 2010-11 to be part-funded by government. We have increased that number, even in an environment of cuts, by 75,000 over the spending review period and in this Budget we have added another 50,000. The problems of training are massive. Let us remind ourselves that we inherited a system in which 14% of the adult population have poor literacy skills—we are talking about the reading age of a 12-year-old—and 19% have grossly inadequate mathematical skills. That is the base from which we start. [Interruption.] A lot of people, both in this House and outside it, would take this issue of innumeracy among the public much more seriously than the Labour Front-Bench team.

In the Budget, the Government have also invested further in science, particularly in research infrastructure. Through a combination of policies—the protection of the ring-fencing of the science budget; the legislative action to protect scientists and others from libel action; and the launching of the technology and innovation centre and advanced manufacturing—we have made a very firm declaration of support for the science community and the commercial application of science.