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18 May 2009 : Column 1260
6.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills (Mr. Siôn Simon): This has been an interesting, serious, and slightly sombre debate. There has not been a lot of levity. The most that I can recall is the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Stephen Williams) telling us about his leg waxing and—

Stephen Williams: Non-leg waxing.

Mr. Simon: About his non-leg waxing and tonsorial treatments at his local FE college. Amusing though that was, he went on to make the point, “My local FE college even does accountancy.” That was a good point, well made. People can do more at an FE college now than was traditionally the case. I recently went to Matthew Boulton college in Birmingham city centre. It is a fantastic college that was built four years ago but is still a state-of-the-art beacon of what can be done—and of what we have done all over this country, as we have built new FE colleges to allow vocational learners to do all kinds of training. At Matthew Boulton, students can do not only accountancy but dentistry, too. There are mini operating theatres and a state-of-the-art broadband wireless fitting thing on which all the Sky installation engineers in the country are trained. That is what one can do in an FE college these days, and that is what people are doing, up and down the land, in the colleges that we have built and that we are continuing to build.

However, having said that, there has been a serious problem in the future funding for the FE colleges that we plan to build. The hon. Member for Bristol, West began the debate on that subject by talking about the numbers of colleges involved in the current difficulties. It was also mentioned by the hon. Member for Havant (Mr. Willetts) and a couple of other Members, and I shall come back to it.

Before I mention the capital, which is the next issue that I shall deal with, I want to mention the thrust of the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson). He spoke with great passion, and from experience, about the union learning fund, its representatives, what they do and achieve, and how important they are. The Secretary of State mentioned them in his opening speech, and said that he had recently been to a union learning facility in his constituency. A week or two before I was appointed to my current job, I visited a union learning facility in my constituency.

It is notable that the shadow Secretary of State did not mention union learning in his speech, and his party’s lengthy documents never mention it. He intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon to say that he had recently had a meeting with the Trades Union Congress, at which his attitude had been sympathetic. I have to say that to those of us on the Labour Benches it seemed more pathetic than sympathetic that he would not guarantee the £21.5 million that we invest in that learning. There was even a parliamentary question tabled by an hon. Member from his party about unionlearn, the thrust of which was, “Why are we spending public money funding people to learn about how to be trade unionists?” As hon. Members will know, that is not what unionlearn is about. It is about union representatives in the workplace signposting and directing into learning workers who otherwise would not get there. It is a great programme, and my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon does great work by bringing it up.

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I have a feeling that in the time available to me, I might not get very much further than the subject of capital. The hon. Member for Bristol, West, talked about the number of colleges affected by the current problem. There are 144 colleges directly affected; 79 have already received approval in principle, and a further 65 have submitted their applications in principle but have not yet received approval. As I have said on many occasions in this House and elsewhere, and to many college principals whom I have met, many other colleges will have invested time, money in some cases, and certainly energy and commitment in drawing up putative plans for future investment, but will not yet have submitted their papers. We are, and have always been, conscious—I have said this many times in the House—that in addition to the 144 colleges mentioned, another subset of colleges is affected in a real but lesser way. The 144 colleges mentioned are those that are directly involved in the current scheme.

Mr. Hayes: The Minister is indeed giving a less pugnacious summing-up than he did on a previous occasion, as my right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) recommended he should. The Minister must by now have come to a conclusion about what that extra number is. It is inconceivable that the civil servants working with him would not have come up with a figure. How many colleges are we talking about? Is it 160, 180 or 200? He must know; it is time that he came clean.

Mr. Simon: I was about to deal with the “pugnacious” slur, but then I found myself wanting to respond that if the hon. Gentleman had the slightest understanding of the issue, he could not possibly ask such a daft question. Of course we could not possibly put a figure on the number of people who may have been thinking about applying to have a new college in future.

Moving on to the serious points made on the issue, my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley) asked about the timetable. Again, we have gone through that subject on several occasions. The Learning and Skills Council has convened a panel of college principals, which has met and is looking into the issue. The LSC will write to college principals shortly, letting them know what the prioritisation criteria will be. Subject to the publication of those criteria, decisions will be made very quickly about which colleges can go forward with the work. My hon. Friend suggested that that might be done not in one hit, but in a two-stage process. He suggested that in the first instance, a larger number of colleges would be deemed to have met the criteria, and then a value for money process would be undergone before there was a second phase, in which a final, formal allocation was made. As far as I am aware, the LSC has not made that decision yet, although I am aware that it has been having discussions of that nature. The fundamental point remains that it and we have committed to giving firm answers to colleges about the first tranche, or this year’s tranche, of funding by the early summer—that is, imminently.

The right hon. Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), who I see is in the Chamber, mentioned regional LSC staff. I want to take this opportunity to
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agree with him: all the college principals I meet—and I meet dozens and dozens of them to talk about the issue—make it clear, time and again, that the regional LSC staff with whom they deal are doing a good job. They have no problems with those staff at all. This is a good opportunity to congratulate regional LSC staff from the Dispatch Box on the work that they do in a committed and successful way.

The right hon. Gentleman talked about Craven college and the importance of the rural. He has mentioned that issue before. I have spoken to principals who were on the reference panel that drew up the criteria. One principal of a land-based college assured me that he had raised the issue, that it had been considered by the reference panel, and that it would go forward and influence the decision on the criteria that college principals come up with.

My hon. Friend the Member for City of York (Hugh Bayley) made the case for his local colleges, at least two of which I have visited; both are, as he says, extraordinary. He made slightly mistaken use of the word “cuts” when talking about his early-day motion. I hope it does not say “cuts” in his early-day motion; we should be clear that we were going to spend £2.3 billion on college capital this year anyway, and we are now going to spend £2.6 billion.

The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young), who I see is in the Chamber, and who bizarrely said that I was pugnacious in the Westminster Hall debate, asked whether the schemes that do not go ahead in the current tranche will go to the back of the queue. It is important for people to understand that that is not the case. There will be two processes, one of which starts now; the gateway criterion for that process is shovel readiness, if I may use that phrase. There will then be a second process, using the same criteria that were drawn up in the first process except that of shovel readiness. Through that second process, the second set of colleges will be put through. It is not a question of those colleges going to the back of the queue; they will effectively be dealt with in the same way as the first lot, but more slowly and later.

I do not have time to deal with apprenticeships or NEETs, or the many other issues that hon. Members raised. All that I would say in conclusion is that I hope today’s debate has caused the hon. Member for Havant to reconsider his calls for cuts in the skills budget, and caused him to recognise, as we do, that skills are the bedrock of our economic future. Neither issue—neither skills nor our economic future—can be trusted to the Tories.

Question put (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the original words stand part of the Question.

The House divided: Ayes 195, Noes 277.
Division No. 131]
[6.59 pm


Afriyie, Adam
Ainsworth, Mr. Peter
Alexander, Danny
Amess, Mr. David
Ancram, rh Mr. Michael
Arbuthnot, rh Mr. James
Atkinson, Mr. Peter
Bacon, Mr. Richard
Baker, Norman
Barker, Gregory
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Bellingham, Mr. Henry
Benyon, Mr. Richard
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Binley, Mr. Brian

Blunt, Mr. Crispin
Bone, Mr. Peter
Boswell, Mr. Tim
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Browning, Angela
Bruce, rh Malcolm
Burns, Mr. Simon
Burstow, Mr. Paul
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Dr. Vincent
Campbell, rh Sir Menzies
Carmichael, Mr. Alistair
Carswell, Mr. Douglas
Cash, Mr. William
Clark, Greg
Clarke, rh Mr. Kenneth
Clegg, rh Mr. Nick
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cox, Mr. Geoffrey
Crabb, Mr. Stephen
Curry, rh Mr. David
Davey, Mr. Edward
Davies, David T.C. (Monmouth)
Davies, Philip
Davis, rh David
Djanogly, Mr. Jonathan
Duddridge, James
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, rh Mr. I ain
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Evennett, Mr. David
Fabricant, Michael
Field, Mr. Mark
Foster, Mr. Don
Fox, Dr. Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Mr. Roger
Garnier, Mr. Edward
Gauke, Mr. David
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Gidley, Sandra
Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl
Goldsworthy, Julia
Goodman, Mr. Paul
Grayling, Chris
Green, Damian
Greening, Justine
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Gummer, rh Mr. John
Hague, rh Mr. William
Hancock, Mr. Mike
Hands, Mr. Greg
Harper, Mr. Mark
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Heald, Mr. Oliver
Heath, Mr. David
Heathcoat-Amory, rh Mr. David
Hemming, John
Hendry, Charles
Herbert, Nick
Hoban, Mr. Mark
Hogg, rh Mr. Douglas
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Holloway, Mr. Adam
Horam, Mr. John
Howarth, David
Howarth, Mr. Gerald
Howell, John
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Hurd, Mr. Nick
Jack, rh Mr. Michael
Jackson, Mr. Stewart
Jenkin, Mr. Bernard
Jones, Mr. David
Kawczynski, Daniel
Kennedy, rh Mr. Charles
Key, Robert
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Kramer, Susan
Laing, Mrs. Eleanor
Lamb, Norman
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Lansley, Mr. Andrew
Laws, Mr. David
Leech, Mr. John
Leigh, Mr. Edward
Lewis, Dr. Julian
Lidington, Mr. David
Lilley, rh Mr. Peter
Llwyd, Mr. Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Mackay, rh Mr. Andrew
Main, Anne
Malins, Mr. Humfrey
Maples, Mr. John
Mates, rh Mr. Michael
McLoughlin, rh Mr. Patrick
Mercer, Patrick
Miller, Mrs. Maria
Milton, Anne
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moore, Mr. Michael
Moss, Mr. Malcolm
Murrison, Dr. Andrew
Neill, Robert
Newmark, Mr. Brooks
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
Oaten, Mr. Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Paice, Mr. James
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Penrose, John
Pickles, Mr. Eric
Pritchard, Mark
Pugh, Dr. John
Randall, Mr. John
Redwood, rh Mr. John
Rennie, Willie
Robathan, Mr. Andrew
Robertson, Mr. Laurence
Rogerson, Dan
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Ruffley, Mr. David
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Scott, Mr. Lee
Selous, Andrew
Shapps, Grant
Shepherd, Mr. Richard
Simmonds, Mark
Simpson, Mr. Keith

Smith, Sir Robert
Soames, Mr. Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs. Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spink, Bob
Spring, Mr. Richard
Steen, Mr. Anthony
Streeter, Mr. Gary
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Stunell, Andrew
Swayne, Mr. Desmond
Swinson, Jo
Swire, Mr. Hugo
Syms, Mr. Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Mr. Ian
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Timpson, Mr. Edward
Tredinnick, David
Turner, Mr. Andrew
Vara, Mr. Shailesh
Villiers, Mrs. Theresa
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wallace, Mr. Ben
Watkinson, Angela
Webb, Steve
Whittingdale, Mr. John
Widdecombe, rh Miss Ann
Wiggin, Bill
Willetts, Mr. David
Williams, Mark
Williams, Stephen
Wilshire, Mr. David
Wilson, Mr. Rob
Winterton, Ann
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Jeremy
Young, rh Sir George
Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John Baron and
Mr. Philip Dunne

Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainsworth, rh Mr. Bob
Allen, Mr. Graham
Anderson, Mr. David
Armstrong, rh Hilary
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, Mr. Ian
Austin, John
Baird, Vera
Balls, rh Ed
Banks, Gordon
Barlow, Ms Celia
Barron, rh Mr. Kevin
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, rh Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Sir Stuart
Benn, rh Hilary
Benton, Mr. Joe
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Blears, rh Hazel
Blizzard, Mr. Bob
Blunkett, rh Mr. David
Bradshaw, Mr. Ben
Brennan, Kevin
Brown, rh Mr. Gordon
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Bryant, Chris
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Ms Dawn
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Caborn, rh Mr. Richard
Cairns, David
Campbell, Mr. Alan
Campbell, Mr. Ronnie
Caton, Mr. Martin
Chapman, Ben
Clapham, Mr. Michael
Clark, Paul
Clarke, rh Mr. Charles
Clarke, rh Mr. Tom
Clelland, Mr. David
Coaker, Mr. Vernon
Coffey, Ann
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Cooper, rh Yvette
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cruddas, Jon
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
Darling, rh Mr. Alistair
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davies, Mr. Quentin
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Denham, rh Mr. John
Devine, Mr. Jim
Dhanda, Mr. Parmjit
Dismore, Mr. Andrew
Dobson, rh Frank
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Drew, Mr. David
Eagle, Angela
Eagle, Maria
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs. Louise
Engel, Natascha
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, rh Mr. Frank
Fisher, Mark
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flint, rh Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings and Rye)
Francis, Dr. Hywel
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
Gerrard, Mr. Neil

Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Godsiff, Mr. Roger
Goodman, Helen
Griffith, Nia
Griffiths, Nigel
Grogan, Mr. John
Gwynne, Andrew
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hamilton, Mr. Fabian
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harman, rh Ms Harriet
Harris, Mr. Tom
Havard, Mr. Dai
Healey, rh John
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Hendrick, Mr. Mark
Hepburn, Mr. Stephen
Heppell, Mr. John
Hesford, Stephen
Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia
Heyes, David
Hill, rh Keith
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Hoey, Kate
Hood, Mr. Jim
Hoon, rh Mr. Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, rh Mr. George
Howells, rh Dr. Kim
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
Ingram, rh Mr. Adam
Irranca-Davies, Huw
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Jones, Mr. Martyn
Jowell, rh Tessa
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Keeley, Barbara
Keen, Alan
Keen, Ann
Kemp, Mr. Fraser
Kennedy, rh Jane
Kidney, Mr. David
Kilfoyle, Mr. Peter
Knight, rh Jim
Kumar, Dr. Ashok
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lammy, rh Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Mackinlay, Andrew
MacShane, rh Mr. Denis
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marsden, Mr. Gordon
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McCartney, rh Mr. Ian
McDonnell, John
McGovern, Mr. Jim
McIsaac, Shona
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
McNulty, rh Mr. Tony
Meacher, rh Mr. Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Miliband, rh David
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Mr. Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moon, Mrs. Madeleine
Morgan, Julie
Munn, Meg
Murphy, Mr. Denis
Murphy, rh Mr. Paul
Naysmith, Dr. Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Olner, Mr. Bill
Osborne, Sandra
Owen, Albert
Palmer, Dr. Nick
Pearson, Ian
Plaskitt, Mr. James
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prentice, Mr. Gordon
Primarolo, rh Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Purnell, rh James
Raynsford, rh Mr. Nick
Reed, Mr. Andy
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Reid, rh John
Riordan, Mrs. Linda
Robertson, John
Robinson, Mr. Geoffrey
Rooney, Mr. Terry
Roy, Lindsay
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Christine
Sarwar, Mr. Mohammad
Seabeck, Alison
Sheerman, Mr. Barry
Sheridan, Jim

Simon, Mr. Siôn
Simpson, Alan
Singh, Mr. Marsha
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Slaughter, Mr. Andy
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Ms Angela C. (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, rh Jacqui
Snelgrove, Anne
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Southworth, Helen
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Spink, Bob
Starkey, Dr. Phyllis
Stewart, Ian
Stoate, Dr. Howard
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Mr. Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Ms Dari
Taylor, David
Taylor, Dr. Richard
Thornberry, Emily
Timms, rh Mr. Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mr. Mark
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Turner, Dr. Desmond
Turner, Mr. Neil
Twigg, Derek
Ussher, Kitty
Vaz, rh Keith
Walley, Joan
Waltho, Lynda
Ward, Claire
Wareing, Mr. Robert N.
Watson, Mr. Tom
Watts, Mr. Dave
Whitehead, Dr. Alan
Wicks, rh Malcolm
Williams, rh Mr. Alan
Wills, rh Mr. Michael
Wilson, Phil
Winnick, Mr. David
Woodward, rh Mr. Shaun
Woolas, Mr. Phil
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Wright, Dr. Tony
Wyatt, Derek
Tellers for the Noes:

Ian Lucas and
Mr. Frank Roy
Question accordingly negatived.
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Question put forthwith (Standing Order No. 31(2)), That the proposed words be there added.

Question agreed to.

The Deputy Speaker declared the main Question, as amended, to be agreed to (Standing Order No. 31(2)).


18 May 2009 : Column 1267

Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): I advise the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Prime Minister.

7.16 pm

Mr. Andrew Lansley (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): I beg to move,

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