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Dawn Primarolo: I assure my hon. Friend that provision has been made to stop that happening, but I also assure him that the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Skills, my hon. Friend the Member for Bury, South (Mr. Lewis)—who will follow up a number of other issues that relate to 16 to 19 skills—and I intend to monitor the wider issues. This is the first step that the Government have taken in this area, but it needs to be monitored and that is a high priority. I am certainly satisfied that that is the best that we can do. Unfortunately, I cannot say that unscrupulous people will not seek ways to exploit the system, but we will do our best to combat that and to try to ensure that it does not happen, and monitoring is one way to do so.

The proposals in new clause 1 that relate to the list are dealt with in the regulations, which can be amended and developed as we become satisfied about the proposed schemes that may be added at a later stage.

On how to ensure that young people are properly informed, I will not be as mischievous as the hon. Member for Twickenham with regard to the
 
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Conservative party's future plans about publicity and how it would make cuts in that respect. A much more important point needs to be made about the March 2004 report, "Supporting young people to achieve". Again, as I pointed out to the hon. Member for Rayleigh (Mr. Francois), that report commits the Government to ensuring that information about the financial support available for post-16 choices is given at the same time as general advice about post-16 choices. The Department for Education and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions are working on that and will ensure that such proper advice is available.

New clause 1 is, frankly, not necessary because it would duplicate work of the Government that is already under way. I hope that the hon. Member for Rayleigh will not press it to a Division.

New clause 2 relates to volunteering. I wondered whether I needed to speak about it, because the hon. Gentleman made my points for me by quoting my comments from the Committee. I fully support the principle that he is putting forward, as did many members of the Committee. In "Supporting young people to achieve", which was published last March, we recognised that volunteering and informal training could provide an effective means of re-engaging young people, especially those who are marginalised. Indeed, during my consultation with young people they flagged up not only the benefits of volunteering, but the problems involved in providing volunteering that is recognised as being relevant experience and part of a qualification while preventing young people from being exploited.

It was concluded that we should take the consultation a step further. As I explained to the hon. Gentleman in Committee, this will be the second stage of the consultation. We will report the results of our consultation on volunteering, and the question of whether it could be accredited through such bodies as the Prince's Trust, in the forthcoming Budget. The Government will respond to what has been said and explain how they can take things forward.

The Government, however, have done more than just that. They have set up the Russell commission. Additionally, a conference on volunteering was held in the Treasury on 31 January, which was announced as part of the pre-Budget report, to examine specifically with the sector how volunteering and mentoring could be taken forward to provide an additional avenue of experience for young people.

For the reasons identified by the hon. Members for Twickenham and for Rayleigh, it would be dangerous to introduce such a measure at this early stage. We would not be able to quantify it, or know whether it would work. We would not know the benefits that young people would receive, and we could inadvertently provide for their exploitation. The question of extending such financial support has thus been left to one side although, as I explained in Committee, the door has not closed. We are waiting for the Russell commission's report and want to conclude the consultation in which we are engaged. We will report back on the consultation and the next steps to be taken at the time of the Budget. The Home Secretary and the Chancellor led the conference in the Treasury on 31 January, so they are keen to take the process forward.
 
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I hope that the hon. Member for Rayleigh will agree that he has pushed far enough to make it clear that volunteering will be addressed. After taking account of the responses that we receive, we will try to find a way of updating things. I am happy to ensure that he and other hon. Members are kept fully informed of developments. On that basis, I hope that he will not press new clause 2 to a Division. If he does, I shall reluctantly have to oppose it—not on principle, but because such a mechanism could not be introduced practically or sensibly at this stage.

Mr. Francois: I have listened carefully to the remarks offered by the Paymaster General. In responding, I shall take the new clauses in reverse order.

The right hon. Lady rightly points out that we must await the conclusions of the Russell commission, which has been looking into volunteering in the broader sense. The type of voluntary activity that we are discussing this afternoon clearly comes within the bailiwick of that commission and, like the Government, we await its report with interest. She intimated that more would be said about volunteering in the Budget. We await the specific detail of that, too.

At this stage, however, our aim in new clause 2 was first, to keep the subject alive for debate. I believe that we have succeeded in doing that and the Paymaster General responded in the right spirit. Secondly, our aim was to get at least an outline financial estimate of how much expanding the Bill's provisions to cover the larger categories would cost. She rightly points out that there are issues of definition to be dealt with; none the less, some outline figure should have been available when the policy decision was taken. I find it difficult to believe that, of all Departments, the Treasury had to choose between two policy options, only one of which was costed.

Dawn Primarolo: It is simply not possible to put a cost on such provision for volunteering. We need more information and the results of the consultation to do so. Similarly, costing the inclusion of unwaged trainees outside the identified schemes is not possible because the data do not exist in a form that would enable a secure and proper estimate to be made and given to the House.

I know that the hon. Gentleman is sometimes sceptical about some of the Government's estimates, even when I assert them forcefully from the Dispatch Box, but I assure him that if I had a figure, I would prefer to give it to him. I am not concealing anything. We are dealing with a difficult and uncharted area and part of the work that we have to do is to get information so that we can produce proper costings and answer the sort of questions that he is raising, and which I, too, want to be answered.

Mr. Francois: I thank the Paymaster General for that detailed intervention. I shall fully respect her right to be assertive—I suspect that she probably never needed to go on an assertiveness training course, but that God gave her that talent—as long as she respects my right to continue, on occasion, to be sceptical.

The right hon. Lady said that the Government will have more to say on the subject in the Budget—it would be helpful if she told us when that will be—and that they
 
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want to consider the conclusions of the Russell commission. It seems most sensible to wait for the Budget, so even though the right hon. Lady has been unable to provide a financial estimate—my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Tyrie) will have more to say on Third Reading about the absence from the Bill of financial information—we shall not press new clause 2 to a Division.

On new clause 1, however, we disagree. There is a lack of detail in the draft regulations. The Paymaster General intimated that the draft regulations lay out a list of all the courses; in fact, they do no such thing. Under the heading "Interpretation", regulation 2 starts "In these Regulations—" and then simply lays out headings for the multifarious courses that will be covered. It does not specify the courses themselves, only the types of course, and there is no appendix that lists specific courses. That is not the comprehensive list that we have been trying to elicit from the Government. We argue that there should be a concise list of precisely what courses are covered, which should be publicised so that people will know whether they are likely to qualify for an extended child benefit payment if they take a certain course. A list of headings does not meet that requirement.

4.15 pm

I shall deal with the point made from the Liberal Front Bench. I should mention as a matter of courtesy that the hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Laws) let me know that he could not be present this afternoon. I am sure he also informed the Minister's office of that. It is a pleasure to have the hon. Member for Twickenham (Dr. Cable) with us.

On publicity, the James review ascertained that a large amount of spending on advertising was wasteful. Having examined it in detail, we are convinced of that. However, there might be a practical purpose in using targeted Government money to advertise something specific. We are in no way arguing for an enlargement of the advertising budget—quite the opposite. We want to spend the money far more effectively, and one way of doing that would be to advertise the list that we advocate in new clause 1. That might not please the advertising department of The Guardian, but it might help a large number of young people who are deciding on their career futures. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne) suggests from a sedentary position that we should put the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the right hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Milburn), in charge, but the right hon. Gentleman may have other things on his mind at present.

We propose publicising a specific list to assist people who might be in a position to take advantage of those courses, and those who advertise their ability to advise them on whether they could take advantage of the courses. We made that specific suggestion in Committee and gave the Government an opportunity to return to it on Report. Unfortunately, they have not listened to the point that we were trying to make, so we shall test the will of the House on the matter.
 
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Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:—

The House divided: Ayes 110, Noes 229.


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