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Mr. Willetts: Set a target.

Mr. Blunkett: I thought of that, but I decided that it would be unwise to threaten to resign if we did not reach it. We have every intention not only of making people happy, but of making them productive, capable of taking a job and employable, and of ensuring that, in doing so, they can hold their families together.

There was a time when the Conservative party was in favour of the family--when the party believed in supporting and reinforcing families, and in helping them stay together. Apparently, that is not the case any more if that involves family-friendly working practices, or us--that is, the community--helping each other in measures such as the sure start programme. Such measures are always condemned by Conservative Members as bureaucratic or interventionist, or for spending money that they would cut. We all know that, if they had the chance, the Conservatives would cut the £40 billion on education and health. They would cut out the new deal, which the shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment described tonight as monumentally irrelevant.

The new deal is not monumentally irrelevant to the 160,000 young men and women who have entered it, nor to the 38,000 who have been placed in a job--70 per cent. of them in an unsubsidised job. That is the answer to the spurious nonsense that the new deal has nothing to do with employability or preparing young people for the world of work. It is certain that giving young people the opportunity to gain a qualification is a sight more preparation for employability than the 29 makeweight schemes that the previous Government invented during their 18 years in office.

One only needs to talk to young people such as David Habachi, who said that, when the new deal was working, he was working. That is true. It is true for those who already have a job, for those who are on the full-time education option and for those on the environmental and voluntary service option. It is giving young people real hope for the first time in generations. To denigrate it is not only cynical--it is a disgrace.

I welcome that small group of Conservative Members of Parliament who have joined us in trying to make the scheme a success, and who have contacted their local Employment Service and engaged with their jobcentres--as many of my right hon. and hon. Friends have done. The easiest thing in the world--as the right hon. Member for Wokingham displayed this afternoon--is to declare that one is against everything. That is what the Opposition are doing. They are not saying that there may be problems and they want to help to sort them out. They are not making contact with employers and then putting them in contact with us.

Every employer who has contacted my right hon. Friend the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities or me has automatically been put in touch with the Employment Service, and we have sorted out their problems. W. H. Smith told me two weeks ago about the vacancies that it had. We immediately

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connected the vacancies with the jobcentres. We are doing a first-rate job to ensure that many young people will have a job between now and Christmas, in order to have an income for Christmas.

The answer to the silly survey by the Centre for Policy Studies is that it can pretend that the programme costs £11,000 a job only if it adds up all the sums that go in without adding all the earnings, the reduction in benefit, and the tax and national insurance that will be paid by those who get a job. Being prepared for getting a job and having a qualification to enable one to hold a job down is the whole point of the new deal.

Mr. Willetts: Does the Secretary of State endorse the Chancellor's original proposition that the new deal will end up being self-financing?

Mr. Blunkett: When young people have been in a job for a number of years and secured earnings, they will have refinanced the investment. That is the basis of investing in state education and of the whole existence of the Employment Service and the jobcentres throughout the country.

Job clubs are supplied where unemployment requires such action, and as unemployment has dropped and employment has increased by 400,000 since the general election, we have been able, not to cut the Employment Service, but to reinvest: through the new deal, we have allocated £3.5 billion more to putting people into work and preparing them for jobs, which is what our policies are all about.

Conservative Members have attacked the new deal and shown a cynical disregard for what it means for young people to have a job. This evening, we have heard sneering of the kind that the Leader of the Opposition indulged in yesterday. The shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry even expressed the belief--I think that I am quoting him correctly--that Members of the House of Lords are the voice of manufacturing industry. Well, there we have it.

I shall think about that staggering revelation on my way to Harrogate. I would have taken up the kind offer to travel with the shadow Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), but they will be travelling on the right side of the road and I want to travel on the left.

Mr. Don Foster: Unfair.

Mr. Blunkett: After that appeal from the hon. Gentleman, I withdraw the allegation against him, in the spirit of unity and--

Mr. Foster: Co-operation.

Mr. Blunkett: Of course. I was struggling to find the word.

Like the hon. Member for Bath, I am totally committed to lifelong learning, and to act on that we need, not legislation, but positive proposals and investment. We are working to develop that. We hope to unite the funding agencies and the providers, so that the trainingand enterprise councils, the Higher Education Funding

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Council and all those working in and providing resources for adult learning are co-operating to enable people to renew their education.

Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for withdrawing his scurrilous accusation about where I would drive on the road. Does he agree that people are not working in partnership and that there is real competition in delivering important aspects of lifelong learning? For example, the TECs are competing with the further education colleges. We desperately need some form of clear strategic planning framework for lifelong learning. That cannot be given centrally. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to consider a regional planning framework.

Mr. Blunkett: I accept that undue competition has been destructive to delivering education and getting people to work together. We will take steps to ensure that that is overcome and we already have, through the Further Education Funding Council, regional facilities that need to be adapted and expanded. We need to work with the regional development agencies to pull together lifelong learning and skills provision to meet the challenges.

The Government's record in the past 18 months bears scrutiny. We now have the highest number of people in employment since records began. We have the lowest level of unemployment for 18 years. We have reduced by more than a quarter the number of young people out of work, and we have ensured that we have, for the first time in many years, a strategy for the development of skills under the task force chaired by Chris Humphries.

We have a programme with the national training organisations--there are now more than 60--to get industry, commerce and services to work with trade unions, even though they might not have spoken to each other for years, with the training and enterprise councils and with the Government in a partnership approach.

I know that "partnership" is a dirty word to the Conservatives, but partnership is the only way in which we will be able to progress to the future. The fairness at work legislation will be crucial to ensuring that people can use their energy and time to work in unison, to pick up a phrase from my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne, and to getting people to treat each other with decency.

The enormous challenge of welfare to work has been lost in today's debate. Our proposals for welfare to work in this Session will develop the idea of the single gateway to work and the support that can be given by the new deal advisers, whose role has been imaginatively developed. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Employment, Welfare to Work and Equal Opportunities, who has worked assiduously on this subject and who will have made a signal contribution to ensuring that single parents, men and women with a disability and those who have been long-term unemployed get support when they need it. My right hon. Friend will have helped to ensure that we have rigour as well as care and support, so that people know that they will get something for something, not something for nothing. We will do that in a positive way that renews hope.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Camberwell and Peckham talked earlier of the example that needed to be set by mothers to show their young children that the world

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of work existed. That is true of all parents. We need to ensure that no more children, when asked what they want to do when they grow up, give an answer about their benefit cheque. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, East (Ms Corston) can confirm that that has happened.

We must ensure that children understand that the world of work is open to them. That is why we are against education systems that deny people that opportunity. We are not beleaguering the education profession with initiatives that they do not want, but we are investing large sums of money for which the profession has cried out for years.

We have announced today proposals to spend£5.4 billion, £2.5 billion of which is new money. Unfortunately, it is not new to the BBC, which has decided that any spending that was announced in July as £19 billion of additional resources over the next three years is no longer newsworthy because it is not new. That is an interesting response. If it had been applied to public expenditure survey proposals in the past, nobody would ever make new spending announcements because the details were all in the three-year public expenditure survey proposals. What a load of silly nonsense that is, as anyone with an ounce of sense knows.

Those who really will know the difference when it comes to whether it is old money or new will be the thousands of schools that have had money invested in them. Six thousand schools already are in that position. I went to Parliament Hill girls school this morning, which has a new roof, a new science and domestic science block and the ability to do the job better.

When we announce our proposals for reshaping the teaching profession, they will not be confined to rewarding the high performance of good teachers, important though that is. Our proposals will be about transforming the education service for the 21st century. That will mean an environment fit to teach in, support through teaching assistance and the sort of training that the Tories never gave to teachers. There was no initial teacher training curriculum until we came into government. There was no comprehensive programme for in-service training. There will be, and indeed, there is already under the Labour Government. We shall do the job properly.

If it is thought that a literacy hour that places emphasis on phonics, grammar and spelling is an interference, those who take that view do not believe in giving every child in every school the chance that he or she deserves. I tempt the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts), to his feet again to tell me whether he believes in phonics, grammar and spelling as intrinsic elements of teaching primary school children to be able to read and write. I shall be happy to give way to the hon. Gentleman.

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