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Clause 2

Part of Education and Skills Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:15 pm on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of David Laws David Laws Shadow Secretary of State (Children, Schools and Families) 4:15 pm, 5th February 2008

That is helpful, and I recognise that paragraph 5.27 and 5.26 are saying that the Government do not expect young people who are now in employment to lose their jobs as a consequence of the Bill. It is more likely that some 16 and 17-year-olds who would have had jobs will not be taken on. I still think that that is a major concern when we consider that many of those young people may be more likely to engage in employment and to learn valuable skills in that way than if they go down the route being offered in the Bill.

I come back to the point, which I do not think is addressed in the impact assessment, that the Government have defined down the at-risk group in a number of ways, one of which is the assumption that the participation rate will in any case rise from 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. A lot of those youngsters who might be included in the at-risk group have thus been defined out. Secondly, I wonder whether the Government are being realistic about the number of 16 or 17-year-olds who are in the labour market but who are not receiving training in the way specified, because the Government seem to have used quite a broad definition of training. Also, the Government have excluded particular small firms, medium-sized firms and larger employers, as well as the self-employed from the at-risk group.

I put it to the Minister that he may still have underestimated the employment impact of the Bill. It would be useful if Committee members were told before we debate some of the other clauses that will deal with this matter not only more about the qualification assumptions that the Government are making, but more about the rationale for completely excluding some of these groups of young people from the group who may suffer an adverse impact in terms of their employment opportunities.

We continue to be concerned about both those issues, but I am aware that we will have the opportunity to return to them later in our proceedings. The debates on other clauses will give us an opportunity to flush out some of these facts and, perhaps, to table further amendments. I beg leave to withdraw this amendment.