I congratulate Richard Graham not only on his eloquent speech but on taking so many interventions. I also congratulate every Member who is here, because their presence sends out a strong signal, not only to the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, who we know gets the message, but to the Treasury. I hope that the televisions in the Treasury are blaring away with Westminster Hall on the screens, because it is the Treasury that needs to get the message. That is why a cross-party consensus is so important. We are all essentially saying the same thing—that further education has been overlooked and needs sustainable, long-term funding.
We are lucky enough in the Black Country to have some fantastic colleges, including City of Wolverhampton College. It is a place that is close to my heart because I studied my Spanish A-level there alongside those I studied at school. The college provides vital educational opportunities to both young people and adults. It offers more than 300 vocational and academic qualifications to 4,500 students, covering a wide range of full and part-time courses, including a well-regarded journalism course. It also has some fantastic, but expensive to maintain, facilities that enable people to train in the trades, such as plumbing.
Many of the facts and figures have been covered by colleagues, but it is worth saying that the Institute for Fiscal Studies recently said that further education was the “biggest” loser in cuts to education. It simply cannot be right that funding per pupil for 16 and 17-year-olds has been frozen at £4,000 since 2014 and £3,300 for 18-year-olds, or that lecturers are paid about £7,000 less than teachers. It is not about just the money or the statistics; it is about what we value as a society and what our objectives are. If we are serious about tackling inequality and about ensuring that our young people, and adults who have perhaps missed out on opportunities at school, fulfil their potential, we need to do something about the situation.