The Economy

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:24 pm on 8th July 2020.

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Photo of Karin Smyth Karin Smyth Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland) 4:24 pm, 8th July 2020

I am grateful for that intervention. That is exactly the point that I was going to make—more than 2 million well-paid jobs in this sector. In Bristol, social care makes up 13% of employment and it desperately needs supporting. The Minister has left the Chamber, but he commented in relation to another question that women’s income is quite important to families. It is not the 1950s. It is not pin money that women are earning. They are supporting their families and the gentlemen in the Treasury need a bit of help on the real economy as it affects women, which we are ready and willing to offer.

I want to focus my final comments on the further education sector and adult skills and training. They seem to be a bit hidden with respect to what we have seen today, and I am still trying to understand the detail, particularly as it affects apprenticeships. I am co-chair of the all-party parliamentary group on apprenticeships and I have long supported the Government’s work in this area, working very closely with Ministers. Again, I want to see the apprenticeship system succeed. It is a ladder of opportunity for my constituents who are the least likely in the country to go to university. Please do better.

I have written to the Education Secretary suggesting an approach by Bristol City Council to retain some levy funds so as to be able to support public sector recruitment for apprenticeships. I would like an answer quite soon. Also, I would like to understand from the Government today whether we can clarify what impact the kick-start programme, which we do welcome, will have on businesses if they take on apprenticeships. If that could be addressed later, I would be very grateful.

It looks like colleges are getting some money, but it is a long way short of what they have been losing. City of Bristol College is hugely skilled in blended learning, supporting the most vulnerable and the least skilled youngsters, as well as those with greater skills, in our economy. We want further education colleges to succeed. They are ready to help with catch-up, training and adult skills, but they need to be properly funded to do that.

I would also like to know what the Government have estimated the regional economy of the west of England to be. We have been a net contributor to the Treasury in the past; we seem to be falling behind. When will we understand what these proposals mean for the west of England? At the start of this crisis, the Government said they would support local government. Bristol City Council is £76 million in debt. We need the Government to do better. Please support Bristol.