I thank Richard Graham for having secured this important debate. I pay tribute to all the local colleges in the north-east and especially Sunderland College—I regularly meet its representatives, who do such a great job with ever-decreasing budgets.
Between 2010-11 and 2017-18, spending on further education and skills fell by £3.3 billion in real terms. At the same time, employers are reporting another rise in the number of vacancies they are facing as a result of skills shortages. To bridge the skills gap, further education needs investment. However, over the past 10 years colleges have had to deal with an average funding cut of 30%, while at the same time costs have risen dramatically. Funding for adult education has been cut by 62% since 2010.