Further Education

Part of Opposition Day — [10th Allotted Day] – in the House of Commons at 6:50 pm on 18th November 2015.

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Photo of Nicholas Boles Nicholas Boles The Minister for Universities and Science, Minister of State (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills) (Jointly with the Department for Education) 6:50 pm, 18th November 2015

I am not going to give way to the hon. Lady.

Jo Cox seemed to regret the fact that colleges can borrow money to invest in new facilities, whereas that is a key freedom that I know colleges enjoy and make use of. Mr Lammy decried cuts in adult learning budgets, but then criticised the inclusion of 35-year-olds in apprenticeships. I have to admit that I was confused by his argument. If apprenticeships are not right for adults, why is adult learning so much better?

Mr Robinson said that Coventry City college, which is indeed a fine college, wants to bid for more apprenticeship funding this year. I can tell him that fortunately we will be able to meet some bids for growth funding for apprenticeships in the remainder of this financial year. I hope that the college has made such a bid. I cannot promise that it will be successful, but if the college is as good as he says it is, it has a very good chance. We heard further contributions from the hon. Members for West Bromwich West (Mr Bailey), for Heywood and Middleton (Liz McInnes) and others.

This debate has distilled the essential difference between the Government and the Opposition. The Government stand for, and propose, reform—reform to institutions to make them stronger, and reform to technical and professional courses to make them more valuable. That is why I am so delighted that an excellent former Labour Minister, Lord Sainsbury, will chair our independent panel, along with Professor Alison Wolf and Bev Robinson, the principal from the local college of Mr Marsden, to ensure that we improve technical and professional courses. We propose reform to apprenticeships to increase their number, quality and impact on the future earnings of our constituents.

What the Opposition stand for, and propose, is money—from higher taxes, from higher borrowing and from higher debts that the next generation will have to pay. I will ask the House to reject the motion tonight because there is a clear choice. We will invest in the future generation and their capacity to earn money for themselves by investing in apprenticeships and making apprenticeships better, longer and more rigorous. The Opposition will load more debt on the next generation’s backs. The Opposition will ask future generations, the people who will attend these colleges that the Opposition want to support, to pay for their decisions now, and for their failure to get borrowing under control. We will not go down that path: we will invest in reform and improvement, and I therefore reject the motion.