The hon. Lady makes a valid point. We de-ring-fenced all the components that make up the early intervention grants, and that funding is £2.2 billion, rising to £2.3 billion next year. That is a very large sum. I acknowledge that we had to reduce it by 10.9% as we moved into the coming year, but that is a consequence of the many very difficult decisions we have had to make in government as a result of the budget deficit. I am sorry to sound like an over-wound gramophone, but those are the consequences of being in Government and of inheriting a budget deficit that had to be tackled if we were to get our economy moving again. Young people suffer more than any other group in society when an economy is floundering, and we are in the middle of a very difficult world economic crisis driven by world debt, so we have to get our budget deficit under control if we are to survive as an economy through such difficult periods. I think the best thing for young people is to get our economy growing as soon as possible. That is why we have had to make those decisions.
Local authorities currently have a duty to provide careers advice, and they fulfil that duty through the Connexions service—a service that has, I am afraid, had mixed reviews. The Education Committee’s report said, in measured terms:
“Connexions services have provided careers guidance to individuals alongside wider support services targeted, in general, at more disadvantaged groups; and some Connexions services have been more successful than others in discharging these two duties equally successfully.”
Alan Milburn, who was referred to by the right hon. Member for Leigh, was a little less circumspect in his report on access to the professions when he reported a number of surveys that suggested low levels of satisfaction among young people with the careers guidance they received from Connexions, showing that 45% of over-14s received either no careers advice or advice that was poor or limited. He went on to say:
“Throughout our work we have barely heard a good word about the careers work of the current Connexions service.”
It is very difficult to listen to the emotional tones of the right hon. Gentleman when that is the legacy of the very careers advice that he is so passionate about providing to young people.