Clause 5

Part of Further Education and Training Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:00 pm on 12th June 2007.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Skills), Department for Education and Skills 12:00 pm, 12th June 2007

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. However, he was earlier praising the role of the sector skills councils in determining, through labour market information, the kind of economically valuable skills and the qualifications that reflect those skills; it is that which drives the system. I agree with him; it is in exactly the direction that we wish to proceed.

The hon. Gentleman also argues that there may be other courses and other developments, and we recognise that. However, if we are serious about allocating public money—the taxpayers’ money—to those areas where there has been a market failure, whether in literacy or numeracy or in the level 2 qualifications that meet the employers’ needs, it is right to focus those resources on places where market failures have occurred so that we can get people into learning for the first time.

The hon. Gentleman will know of learners, and I have certainly met many, for whom the light bulb was switched on when they undertook their first course, perhaps in literacy; they became switched on to learning in a way that had never happened before, because of the education system’s failure. From that moment, they started on a progression, going on courses that they would never have taken up previously.

The philosophy of taking people who have been let down in the past and focusing resources on them, putting them on the first rungs of that ladder to learning, is important for them, their families and communities; but it also benefits the employers who provide the job opportunities, promotion, productivity and so on. It is not either/or; it is both. As for public money, we must clearly focus our resources on those who need it most.