My hon. Friend also spoke about the English baccalaureate and its implications for vocational education. It is a big challenge. Concerns have already been aired about the E-bac—the subjects that are and are not included, the way in which it was introduced, and the retrospective application of a standard that schools did not know about at the time. Those, however, are matters for another day. In today’s debate, I am keen for the Government to give an indication that they will develop a vocational version of the E-bac. It would tell those

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young people who will not follow a primarily academic path that there is something of equally high status and rigour with a strong vocational component that will recognise their achievement.

My hon. Friend also spoke about apprenticeships. I want to put on record my appreciation of those in Liverpool who provide apprenticeships. When Labour regained control of Liverpool city council just over a year ago, a commitment was made, despite the difficult funding environment, to create new apprenticeships. I am delighted that Joe Anderson’s administration has created 133 apprenticeships. It is striking that, when Liverpool city council advertised those new apprenticeships, there were 1,183 applications. That demonstrates my hon. Friend’s point about the demand for the kind of support that apprenticeships provide.

I want to refer to three different examples—two from Liverpool and one from London. If we are to enhance career opportunities for young people, that will not simply be delivered by the state, be that the Department for Education nationally or local authorities. The social and private sectors will also have an important role to play. In Croxteth in my constituency, the neighbourhood services company, Alt Valley Community Trust, is a model of a social enterprise that works with both the private and public sectors to deliver for local people. Its work has been widely praised and recognised. It runs a hugely successful future jobs fund initiative. I certainly do not concur with the hon. Lady, who described that fund as a pre-election stunt. I invite her to come to Croxteth to see the brilliant work that the communiversity is doing with funding from the future jobs fund. Some 800 beneficiaries have been provided with six-month contracts over almost the past two years. There have been more than 500 work placements as a result of that one social enterprise, which is a communiversity or neighbourhood services company based in Croxteth, one of the most deprived parts of my constituency.

From September, when the future jobs fund will come to an end, the neighbourhood services company in Croxteth will work with others, including local housing associations and the city council, to provide a further 60 apprenticeships. Yes, future careers for young people are about what happens in our schools and the policies of central Government and local authorities, but they are also, importantly, about engaging with social enterprises such as the communiversity in Croxteth.

Liverpool city council, in partnership with Liverpool community college and Liverpool John Moores university, is working on a proposed university technical college in Liverpool. It is an exciting opportunity for Liverpool to create a new college for 14 to 19-year-olds. Some 600 students will probably attend the university technical college, if it gets the go-ahead, which I very much hope it does. Its curriculum for 14 to 16-year-olds will be based on traditional GCSEs and A-levels, but with a much more significant technical element for about 40% of the curriculum. It will look at either the traditional or the new strengths in the Merseyside economy. I echo what the hon. Lady has said about the importance of the port. The university technical college will focus on the port and economic activity around it, as well as on

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environmental technology. That is a model of the way in which the education system can meet some of the new challenges we face, particularly in vocational education, which my hon. Friend has set out so eloquently.

Finally, there is the broader question of careers advice. Frankly, we have never got it right in this country, and we can all tell stories about the advice we got when we were at school or college as teenagers. When the Labour party was in government, we tried to deal with the issue, and I was briefly the Minister with responsibility for the Connexions service when it was first set up. We know from all the evidence that, for all the different initiatives we have had, we have never quite got things right. We have to look at new and innovative solutions.

Cardinal Heenan school in my constituency runs industry days. It invites local people who work in a variety of fields to come and meet its young people face to face to talk about the work they do. The school does that with the year 9s before they choose their GCSE options, and it does it again with the year 11s, who are at a crucial stage in their education. That is the sort of programme that we need to encourage and have more of.

Bill Esterson: My hon. Friend is giving some good examples of the importance of a good careers service and good practice. Does he agree that the change to providing careers advice remotely is worrying? The loss of face-to-face careers guidance, particularly where personal relationships already exist, is very worrying, and there is concern about the ability to maintain the benefits of such face-to-face guidance.

Stephen Twigg: . I share my hon. Friend’s concern. I echo what he has said and what my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South said in his opening remarks: a face-to-face element and direct interaction are crucial. In a sense, my argument is that we need more rather than less of that. Some of that advice will come through traditional careers advice in school, but some needs to be different and innovative, and I will give an example shortly.

Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston) (Lab): We all agree about the importance of good-quality careers advice. Is my hon. Friend as concerned as me about the resources for that advice in schools? As more schools set up independently as academies, the resources available to local authorities to support the schools that remain in their ambit will be reduced, so careers advice may suffer.

Stephen Twigg: Absolutely. It is vital that carers advice is seen as a priority by schools—whatever their status, they have to own this issue—and by central and local government.

I want to give an example of a social enterprise. Future First, which was set up by an inspirational young man called Jake Hayman, looks to change the way in which careers advice is provided. Its key aim is to bring former students back to their old schools to inspire, advise and guide the current pupils. It aims to build an alumni network in each school in the state sector and to work with schools to celebrate the diverse range of talents that have come from them. Future First uses these networks to engage with the current pupils

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over four years—this is not a one-off event. It leverages that network with a community of businesses. It is currently working in London with businesses such as Google and PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide work experience, internships and industry days.

I know one of the schools Future First works with in north London. William Ellis school in Camden has built a network of 40 former students, including football coaches, doctors, sound technicians, entrepreneurs and architects, providing a careers curriculum for more than 900 students. Through its alumni network, it has created a range of work experience placements, which includes more than 20 work-shadowing opportunities with leading barristers. That is absolutely the right way to go, because it is about promoting social mobility, narrowing gaps in opportunity between the poorest and the richest and giving young people in state schools opportunities that a lot of young people in private schools take for granted.

Future First has commissioned research into the issues it works on. Some 27% of children in state schools said the careers advice they had received was bad or very bad, whereas the figure in private schools was just 6%. Some 39% of young people attending state schools agreed with the statement:

“I don’t know anyone with a career that I'd like to do”,

and the figure rose to 45% among those receiving free school meals. The polling showed that the Future First style of advice was very popular among young people. Future First receives no Government funding and has been set up voluntarily. The schools pay for its services, but at a heavily subsidised rate. Corporate partners provide the bulk of the funding.

I have mentioned that example from London in this debate about the north-west because I am keen to see a similar programme in the north-west, perhaps starting in Liverpool—just to conjure a name off the top of my head. I have spoken today with Future First, which is keen to go to other parts of the country. That is not an alternative to the proper careers advice service my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South spoke about, but on its own the traditional service is not good enough. In particular, it is not addressing the skills gaps and lack of social mobility that Members have identified in the debate. I would be grateful if the Minister responded specifically on how the Government see the Future First programme.

3.16 pm

David Mowat (Warrington South) (Con): I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) on securing the debate.

It is a pleasure to take part in a debate with the phrase “north-west” in the title, because there is a bit of a structural issue in this place about the treatment of the English regions vis-à-vis other parts of the country. We hear a great deal about Scotland, and we have Scottish questions. We also have Welsh questions and Northern Irish questions. However, we hear little about the English regions, which is why I am pleased to take part in the debate. In that regard, at least, people on both sides of the Chamber have more in common with the each other than not.

I want to talk first about how London-orientated our economy is. The gross value added of the north-west is approximately 60% of London’s, and no other major

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economy in western Europe or the US has a similar discrepancy. That is extremely serious for our constituents, because there is an assumption that anything world-class that happens in this country goes back down to London, and we need to do what we can as MPs to fight that. I will talk a little about some of the world-class enterprises that we have in the north-west, which we need to encourage.

I also want to talk about the public spending that Scotland gets vis-à-vis the English regions. Today’s debate is not the place to discuss the Barnett formula, but it is a fact that if my constituency was north of the border, and it had the same demographics and a similar needs profile, it would get about £1,600 a head more in public spending.

A small thing that happened a fortnight ago should give us all food for thought in the north-west. We have talked about the Mersey Gateway project, but another major bridge programme will take place just north of Edinburgh, when the Forth road bridge is replaced. That bridge will not be tolled, but ours will be, and it is increasingly difficult to understand why such discrepancies and differences can continue in the same country and still be defended.

I want to go back to the point about London. I will not make a party political speech, but the fact is that London has got away from the rest of the UK, including the north-west. That has got worse over the past decade. That was principally because of the financial services boom in London, which caused the rather frothy increase in GDP per head there, and we saw the reckoning that occurred. One of the reasons why the situation got worse—again, this is not a party political point, but one for both Front Benchers—is because two years ago, Government capital spending per head in London was three times what it was in the north-west. That level of discrepancy generated private sector jobs, affluence and all that went with it for London. I very much hope that the coalition will do what it can not to let that happen in the future.

Infrastructure is part of how the north-south divide—

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the subject for debate is a narrow one. We are talking about career opportunities for young people in the north-west, not about the regional or national economy more generally.

David Mowat: My point is that the degree of affluence and gross domestic product that we can generate in the north-west translates to career opportunities. The reason why many of our young people come down to London to make their way is because there are not enough world-class organisations in the north-west. However, I will take your point, Mr Bayley, and move on to the changes in education and career opportunities that have occurred over the past 30 years.

The jobs that our young people need to do, whether or not they are in the north-west, are increasingly technology-based and technology-focused. Companies such as Google, Yahoo!, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are all technology companies. Each has generated perhaps as many as 250,000 jobs in their immediate infrastructure. None of them are in the UK, let alone in the north-west. It is important that this country can compete on technology. One of the most striking things that has occurred over

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the past 30 years is that while we have increased the number of graduates by a factor of five—that applies to the north-west as well—we have fewer people studying engineering than we did 30 years ago. That is not a point for just the previous Government or the Government before that, because it is what has happened in our country. The consequence is that many of our young people cannot compete for high-technology jobs or in the expanding market in high-technology. That is a shocking failure—it is possibly one of the most dramatic failures in education policy in the past. I will be interested to hear the Minister’s response to that.

Finally, our economy will continue to be fairly focused on manufacturing. A unit of GDP generated from manufacturing uses more energy than a unit of GDP generated from services. It is important for the north-west economy, and therefore for the prospects of the young people in the north-west, that energy prices are kept competitive. I am interested to hear how the Minister addresses my concern, which is that this country is sleepwalking its way into having higher energy prices than any similar economy in Europe. That will bear down particularly hard on parts of the country where manufacturing, especially process manufacturing, is a significant feature.

Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): I need to start the winding-up speeches at 3.35 pm at the latest.

3.23 pm

Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab): I will be brief and not take long at all. Thank you, Mr Bayley, for allowing me to contribute to the debate. It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) on securing this important debate. I know from his previous work what a great champion he is for our region, the north-west, and for young people. Before the debate, I read his article on, and it struck me that the points he raises ring true with the experiences in my constituency. We, too, have excellent leading-edge companies, fantastic higher and further education institutions and a population of young people who are as ambitious and aspirational as any of their peers elsewhere in the country.

In West Lancashire, we have leading companies such as Trelleborg CRP, which is at the forefront of marine technology, and the company that was given the job of providing Wembley stadium with a surface that we can all be proud of. We also have social enterprises, for example West Lancashire Community Recycling, which used money from the future jobs fund to support getting people who would otherwise have remained unemployed into work. We have the Construction academy in Skelmersdale, and we need a strong construction sector for people to move into.

This September, a new £42 million further education college will open its doors to students from across West Lancashire and beyond. That college has had £4 million taken away after the Government’s decision to scrap the Northwest Development Agency, which was a vital tool in securing investment in the region. I brought that matter to the attention of the Prime Minister last September.

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When the £4 million was removed, the college had already been half-built up out of the ground. The furniture had been built and there was absolutely no scope for a redesign. The college was in a desperate position. The Minister made a successful visit to see the building and the condition of the old Skelm college building. Sadly, an offer of £19,000 over three years, which will hardly make an imprint on the £4 million that had been stolen by the Government, was made. I asked the Prime Minister for help—not a hand-out, but a hand-up—for young people, and what have they got? The college, whose building is now built, will see further cuts in education—a 4% cut in overall funding. It has lost two thirds of its entitlement funding and is consulting on 17 job losses. It has also cut courses to try to meet the gap. It can do nothing else about it. At a time when youth unemployment is a severe concern, we should be investing in the education and training of young people and equipping them for work.

I fear for future opportunities for young people. As cuts and redundancies bite, my concern is that young people will be lost in the mayhem. Many north-west MPs lived through the 1980s and early 1990s, witnessing at first hand the scale and depth of economic devastation that was wrought by Conservative Governments. Towns such as Skelmersdale were decimated, with real unemployment levels at about 50%. Families were left without work, and many are still feeling the effects of those policies today. We are in danger of going back to the future if we are not careful. For all the success of the schemes that I have mentioned and many others in West Lancashire, the ability to bring on board the next generation of workers is increasingly limited. The future jobs fund has been scrapped, which will hinder many social enterprises and voluntary organisations. Apprenticeship opportunities are limited, and the young apprenticeship scheme is disappearing.

In education, the support given to families through the education maintenance allowance is vital. When I talk to young people in my constituency, they tell me that £30 a week is the difference between their going to college or not. We have also seen a reduction in entitlement funding, which is vital for further education colleges, providing support to young learners that help them to be job-prepared or prepared for university. Previously, that group received 114 hours of support. In Skelm college, that has been slashed to 30 hours. It is clear from the few examples that I have highlighted that the opportunity for young people to develop the skills, knowledge and experience to make them job-ready and able to access career opportunities is being choked off, especially for those from deprived backgrounds.

My message today is that we cannot afford to have another generation of young people thrown on to the scrap heap. We must address two challenges—ensuring that there are career opportunities for the young people of the north-west in the north-west, and ensuring that the pathways of support that will prepare them to take advantage of those opportunities are available. One without the other is of no use at all. I want to see an economy for the communities such as West Lancashire and the north-west that continues to build on the strengths and expertise that we have within the region and that encourage people to remain there. I once again make a plea to the Minister to do what he can to help Skelm college and young people. We cannot and must not forget or write off our young people.

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Hugh Bayley (in the Chair): The generosity of the Opposition spokesman means that there is a little more time for Back Benchers. I call Bill Esterson to speak for a maximum of five minutes.

3.29 pm

Bill Esterson (Sefton Central) (Lab): I add my congratulations to those given to my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) on securing a very important debate. Given the good and positive discussions that we had in the Select Committee on Education some weeks ago on similar topics, I am looking forward to the Minister’s response.

I shall pick up the excellent points made by my neighbour in the Chamber today and in the north-west, my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper), about rebalancing the economy geographically. It is absolutely crucial that we establish good employment prospects for young people, so that they stay in the region. We should do that through investment in the local economy. The abolition of the regional development agency has created a big problem in achieving that, but there are opportunities.

The port of Liverpool has been mentioned. Although the cruise terminal would be a welcome development, we need to go much further than that and provide opportunities for export through the sorts of hi-tech industry that hon. Members have mentioned. It is absolutely essential that we achieve that for the wider economy and for the future of young people.

David Mowat: The RDA has been mentioned in the previous two contributions. I do not deny that that organisation did a great deal of good in the north-west. However, if an organisation is given £3 billion a year to spend, that is what will happen. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that each job created by the RDA in the north-west, which was one of the better RDAs, cost £60,000? That is an awful lot of money, and we need to consider alternatives.

Bill Esterson: I am grateful for that intervention, because it ties in with two other issues that I was going to raise: the abolition of the future jobs fund and the phasing out of the young apprenticeship scheme. Both programmes are being phased out because of the high cost of success. The hon. Gentleman is making the same point about the RDA.

Esther McVey: It is about not only cost but sustainability. We should not have short six-month schemes, because such programmes must lead to sustainability. It is about cost and sustainability.

Bill Esterson: Those are closely linked issues. Whether we are talking about the RDA, the young apprenticeship scheme or the future jobs fund, the issue is about finding better ways of running such schemes, rather than just abolishing them and leaving a void that could go on for many years.

In the north-west, there was the particular problem because the recession peaked in 1981, but youth unemployment only peaked four years later in 1985. Unless we deal with these issues now, there will be a repeat of that pattern. There was success. I consider a

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50% conversion in relation to the future jobs fund to be a success not a failure. We need to learn the lessons of the past if we are to get it right in the future.

I want briefly to say something about the EMA before I finish. The EMA was crucial to apprenticeships and to colleges. It was a core part of family income. Evidence from Hugh Baird college in Sefton and elsewhere in the north-west shows not only that it was a core part of family income, but that it increased achievement and attainment. It is hard for college principals to identify who absolutely needs it and who will continue to attend without it. Those issues were not considered in the haste to make changes. The sorts of changes that have been made to the EMA, the future jobs fund and the young apprenticeship scheme are, as with so many other areas, too far, too fast. That is my major concern.

I hope that such an approach will not lead to young people of the current generation paying a very steep price, as people of my generation did in the ’80s. Even now, some of those people have never found well-paid jobs or established careers. Their families have paid the price over many years. I hope that the Minister will address those points in his summing up. We are 14 months into this Government. If we do not get it right very quickly, the time will have passed and it will be too late for this generation as well.

3.34 pm

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): I am particularly pleased that we are serving under your chairmanship today, Mr Bayley. For my sins, I was campaign manager for the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election earlier this year. I have fond and vivid memories of driving through the snow on the M62 to deliver the keynote speech for the celebration of achievements at a spectacular and ambitious college called York college. I understand that you are a massive champion of that fantastic further education institution, Mr Bayley, so it is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) on securing the debate. I pay tribute to him not only for being a first-class Member of Parliament on behalf of his constituents, but for his excellent work on the Front Bench in respect of further education colleges and adult skills. He knows how important it is for young people to have opportunities provided to allow them to have fulfilling and rewarding careers and lives and for professionals to have the support and resources to navigate the young people through the options that they face.

We have had a good debate. Hon. Members from all parties have articulated the enormous potential of the north-west. As I was listening to the debate, it struck me that the north-west is very similar in terms of its history and potential to my region of the north-east. We were once the workshop and powerhouse of the world, and we also suffered too much from changes to industry in the latter half of the 20th century. However, our economies have diversified and both areas now have great potential to take advantage of the opportunities in the 21st-century global economy.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South said, the north-west has a strong network of further and higher education institutions. It is also very similar to my area of the north-east in having a positive culture

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of welcoming apprenticeships. My hon. Friend mentioned world-class apprenticeship schemes in the north-west such as those run by BAE Systems. I should like to mention companies such as MBDA in Bolton. I greatly enjoyed going to that factory when I was a Minister. A few months ago, I welcomed apprentices from the firm to the House with my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton West (Julie Hilling). The quality of MBDA’s apprenticeship scheme is absolutely first class. I particularly like the way that apprentices visit schools to teach younger pupils about science and engineering. They spark pupils’ interest in the issues, ignite their ambition and encourage mentoring and work experience opportunities. The MBDA apprentices are the very model of professionalism. They are marvellous ambassadors not only for their firm and Bolton, but for young people across the country.

The debate has provided a good opportunity to ask the Government what they have against the young people of this country. In the space of a few short months since coming to office, they have stripped young people of opportunities through the abolition of the future jobs fund, the cancellation of education maintenance allowance, the trebling of tuition fees, the ending of Aimhigher, the cancellation of the youth opportunities fund, the ending of young apprenticeships and the loss of the careers service without any replacement put in place.

Any Government should be judged on their ambition for the future by the way in which they help, support and nurture young people. I am afraid that this Government have been found wanting at best and downright neglectful and damaging to the next generation at worst. It is little wonder that the Education Committee concluded in its recent report on services to young people:

“we comment that the Government’s lack of urgency in articulating a youth policy or strategic vision is regrettable. The Government needs to acknowledge the reality of what is happening to many youth services on the ground and act now.”

We have heard in the debate how the economic certainties that the post-war generation had have gone for ever. People in the north-west in the 1950s and ’60s might have had a very clear form of career road map, as was also the case in my patch. People might have gone into the Ferranti works in Hollinwood, Oldham, or been employed by Crossley in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South. Alternatively, they might have worked at the docks in Liverpool or on the railways in Crewe. Those places were the absolute bedrock of the local economy and provided a certainty of long-term employment that is no longer there. My hon. Friend recalled vividly how his father left school at the age of 14 and expected to work in the same place for 30, if not 40, years.

Young people are starting their careers in a much more complex and more challenging world, which has been made even more difficult by the global financial crisis. In an economic downturn, young people will find it especially difficult to secure and maintain employment, because by definition they do not have experience of work. They face that Catch-22 situation—they cannot find work because they have not got experience, but they cannot secure experience because they have not got work. We in the House have to help young people to break that cycle.

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In these challenging times, it is more vital than ever that young people have the support, help and tools they need to navigate the various options that they face when trying to secure further education, training or employment. Now, more than ever, we need an effective careers service for young people. That is why the Government’s inept and shambolic attempts to reform the careers service are particularly damaging. The move from Connexions to a national careers service, with schools having a greater responsibility for the provision of such information, advice and guidance, has been botched. I like the Minister very much—I should like to consider him as a friend—but I have to tell him that on this occasion and on this issue he is guilty of being asleep on the job.

I have a series of questions that the Minister needs to address, and he needs to address them urgently. Will he update the House as to where we are on the transition plan? In March, during the consideration in Committee of the Education Bill, I stressed to him the urgency of producing rapidly a comprehensive transition plan for the careers service. We are now at the stage, more than three months after discussing this in Committee, where we still have no real additional information. That is not good enough. School leavers have a matter of days—literally, days—left in education, but no real clarity on what will happen come September. How shambolic is that? Will the Minister get his finger out and do something quickly to prevent those young people, in the north-west and elsewhere, from drifting because of ambiguity, uncertainty and dithering by the Government into a lifetime of low pay, low skills and low expectations?

I understand that the careers summit between the Minister and professionals will take place soon—I think it is on 15 July. I fear that this is far too little far too late, but will the Minister provide further information on the agenda and invitees to the event? Parliamentary questions from me were answered by the Minister of State, Department for Education, the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr Gibb)—it is unusual to get Education Ministers to answer parliamentary questions, but I will leave it at that—but the answers were spectacularly uninformative. Does the Minister now accept that the summit is happening too late? What does the Minister hope to achieve from the summit and how will practical recommendations and suggestions arising from it be communicated and disseminated to schools and other stakeholders, particularly given the time of the year? The summer holidays will start a matter of hours after the summit.

Face-to-face guidance was mentioned in the debate, and that is a good part of good-quality information, advice and guidance. It worries me that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills states on its website that it will provide:

“free face to face guidance to priority groups”.

Will the Minister confirm or deny that not all pupils will receive face-to-face information, advice and guidance? Will he articulate what the phrase “priority groups” actually means, and what will the criteria be for such groups? Will he reassure me that priority groups will include all children—all children in schools—to let them have the opportunity to have face-to-face guidance on careers to allow them to make meaningful choices and decisions about their future career?

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The Minister’s Department’s website states:

“the network of organisations funded by BIS will be able to offer services on the open market to those individuals/organisations which are willing to pay”.

Will the Minister explain that in more detail? In particular, will he rule out the prospect of high-quality information, advice and guidance, including that important point about face-to-face careers advice and guidance being provided to pupils only where parents are willing to pay an additional fee for such a service? Can he rule that out immediately?

Many careers professionals lost their jobs when local authorities dispensed with Connexions at the end of March. The Government talk a good game when they say they wish to trust professionals in education policy but not, evidently, when it comes to careers professionals. How will the Minister ensure that that experience, skills and professionalism will not be lost permanently for young people, when thousands of staff lost their jobs in March?

The Minister is aware, because my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool South rightly pointed it out, that funding for careers has been cut severely. My hon. Friend mentioned the pooling of 22 separate funding streams, including that for Connexions, into a single early intervention grant. He made the point, in a great and articulate way, about the additional services that this early intervention grant has to produce. In addition to Connexions and youth services, it is intended to fund Sure Start children’s centres, build capacity for local authorities to extend free early education to disadvantaged two-year-olds, provide short breaks for disabled children, support vulnerable young people to engage in education and training, prevent young people from taking part in risky behaviour such as crime, substance misuse or teenage pregnancy, support young people at risk of mental health problems and help young people who have a learning difficulty or disability. There is simply not the funding in place to have an effective careers service. Can the Minister do something about that, especially when we are thinking that the early intervention grant will be cut by a further 11 per cent next year?

The Government have failed to articulate their vision about how they will help young people develop and prosper in the most difficult economic circumstances for a generation. More damning is that the Government have simply failed young people. We have seen the Secretary of State for Education lose control over his Department, fail to address the real needs that young people and industry require and fail to be on the right side of the argument on the careers service, school capital, school sport and the education maintenance allowance. He has emphasised elitism in education at the expense of excellence for all. As we have heard several times during the debate this afternoon, we now face the appalling prospect of a lost generation failing to achieve its potential and having a poorer quality of life than the previous generation. That is not how it should be. The Minister needs to raise his game and do something to help the young people of the north-west and, indeed, the young people of the entire country.

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3.46 pm

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. It is also a pleasure to respond to this debate, which I congratulate the hon. Member for Blackpool South (Mr Marsden) on securing.

I am going to discuss three things, and I will try to deal with as many of the points that have been raised as possible. First, I want to speak about apprenticeships. Secondly, I want to talk about the careers service, information, advice and guidance, as that is what the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr Wright) and other hon. Members focused on in particular. But before I deal with those, the third thing that I want to speak about, which I will deal with first just to create a degree of excitement in my short peroration, is macro-economics.

Macro-economic strategy is critically important to the future that we want for our young people—indeed, for all our people. The Government’s emphasis on dealing with debt is an important pillar in that strategy. In that effort, the recalibration of our perspective on what government does and does not do needs to be taken into account. The silver lining, if I may put it that way, of the very tough comprehensive spending review that we have endured is that we have had to think more critically about the value for money that we get from all the taxpayer funds that we invest.

The second pillar of the macro-economic strategy, which is less often spoken of but is no less central to our ambitions, is to rethink the character of our labour force. We do so against a background, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool said, of greater uncertainty and more rapid change. In order for our economy to succeed, it must be more sustainable. That sustainability will make it better able to endure some of the challenges that we have faced in the past two years when they doubtless happen again, because as you know, Mr Bayley, economies move in cycles. That redrawing of what Britain can be and should be requires us to think about what modern economies look like. Modern economies are more advanced, more high tech and more highly skilled, and they change more rapidly. That dynamism, and indeed that high-tech work force, will be essential if we are going to develop the productivity and competitiveness that we seek, which underpins prosperity.

As Minister, my task is to implement measures that allow us to develop that high-tech, highly skilled work force fit for a high-tech, highly skilled economy. That is why I focused so heavily on apprenticeships when I became a Minister. The hon. Member for Hartlepool—I have two hon. Members shadowing me, because the Opposition know that one would not be enough—is right that the previous Government understood that, too. Indeed, he was a Minister in the previous Government. I do not, for a moment, claim that we have a unique insight into the value of apprenticeships. However, the difference between his Government and ours—where his Government got this wrong and we have got it right—was to make apprenticeships the pivot around which the rest of the skills offer moves. To do that, we transferred money from the Train to Gain budget to the apprenticeship budget, as the previous Government could and should have done. The support that the previous Government gave apprenticeships provided an important foundation, and there was trend growth in apprenticeship numbers—I want to acknowledge that

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clearly—but we have gone further and faster than they did or perhaps would have done. I say that with as much generosity as I can summon, which is not easy for a party politician, although it is made all the more easy by the two people who shadow me, who are diligent, studious, committed and decent.

Let us look at how the constituencies of Members currently in the Chamber are affected. Since we came to office, there has been a modest but not insignificant increase of 4% in the number of apprenticeships in the constituency of the hon. Member for Blackpool South, and a 13% increase in your constituency, Mr Bayley—all the figures are based on the latest data, which I announced to the House on my birthday only a few days ago. In my Parliamentary Private Secretary’s constituency of Bromsgrove, the increase was 16%, in Wirral West 23%, in West Lancashire 22%, in Warrington South 11%, in Liverpool, West Derby 22%, in Sefton South 27% and—

Bill Esterson: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Hayes: In South Holland and The Deepings the increase in apprenticeships was 43%—but I did not know that until I came to the Chamber.

Mr Iain Wright: What about Hartlepool?

Mr Hayes: I am saving Hartlepool—I am building up to it.

Bill Esterson: The Minister did not mention my constituency because it is called Sefton Central, not Sefton South, but I am grateful for the figure.

I mentioned young apprentices in my speech. The worrying finding in Professor Wolf’s inquiry was that most of the increased number of apprenticeships have gone to 19 to 24-year-olds. The danger is of a gap among the 16 to 18-year-olds who are not able to take up apprenticeships. How does the Minister intend to rectify that?

Mr Hayes: The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. There are particular pressures on 16 to 18-year-olds, and some of those pressures are to do with the perceived and real risks for businesses taking on a young person. That is particularly true for small and medium-sized enterprises—small businesses perceive an associated risk because they have a small base—while the capacity of large organisations to absorb such risk is rather different. Nevertheless, the figures that I announced a week ago of about 114,000 more apprenticeships in total throughout the country, amount to the biggest single boost in apprenticeship numbers ever in our history, and I have no doubt that at the end of the CSR period we will have 500,000 apprentices, which is a previously undreamed-of figure. Also, when I looked closely at the figures, there has been growth for 16 to 18-year-olds, for 19 to 24-year-olds and for 25-plus, which suggests significant latent demand on the part of learners and of employers. We can talk about that at greater length when we have more time, but I suspect that we have further untapped demand, as well as some trend changes in how businesses are interfacing with the skills system and how learners are making choices about the route best suited to them.

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Mr Wright: The Minister has mentioned macro-economics. Economic growth has been forecast downwards repeatedly and quite dramatically. Will that impact on his target of 500,000 apprenticeships, which is obviously based on demand in the wider economy?

Mr Hayes: I never have targets; I only have ambitions—it would be vulgar to describe them as targets. The hon. Gentleman is right that, at the next stage of implementation, we need to tie our skills strategy more closely to growth, so next I want to identify those parts of the economy with the biggest growth potential and where skills gaps might inhibit that potential growth. Over the coming weeks and months, I hope to look specifically at the inhibitors to growth in those areas where we can create maximum opportunities for employment, including employment for young people. He is right that, in developing the strategy that I laid out last November, we certainly need to be mindful of growth and, in particular, of sectors and subsectors where there are real skills gaps that are impacting on productivity and competitiveness. For example, I was at Ravensbourne academy today, talking about the creative industries, which have real capacity for growth but also unmet demand, and we need to address that issue of skills. Advanced manufacturing is another such example. We need to look at such challenges, and he is right to raise the issue.

I have spoken about macro-economics and apprenticeships, although I am at risk of becoming an apprenticeship bore. Suffice to say that, for the whole time that I am the Minister, which my hon. Friends throughout the Chamber hope will be for a long time, although that is down to the Prime Minister and not to me, apprenticeships will be the pivot. Shaping the skills system around apprenticeships creates a different dynamic and a different set of expectations, as well as a vocational pathway that is as navigable, progressive, seductive and rigorous as the academic route on which so many of us travelled. We need a longer vocational ladder, which is rigorous and provides opportunity for young people, and which means that those with practical and vocational tastes and talents do not see vocational learning as a cul-de-sac. For too long, people have not seen the route to higher learning in that vocational pathway, which they need to do if they are to make the right choices at the right time that are most likely to allow them to fulfil their potential.

I have said that I will discuss careers advice and guidance; it would be wrong for me not to do so. I will be making a major speech on the subject tomorrow, so the hon. Member for Hartlepool can look forward to that with bated breath. I could say more now but, in fact, I will do more than that, although my officials will shudder: I will deal with all the questions that he asked today in that speech tomorrow—it will require some redrafting, because we did not know what questions he would pose until a few moments ago—but I will ensure that I do, as I owe the hon. Gentleman that.

In summary, however, the hon. Gentleman grossly overstated my few weaknesses and understated my many strengths. I do not mind his doing that, because I like him as he likes me. I believe passionately in advice and guidance, for the reasons that my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral West (Esther McVey) has mentioned. She is doing such incredible work: for example, by

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pulling together the Wirral youth summit, in just a few days’ time, and by doing immense work promoting careers advice and guidance. My hon. Friend the Member for Warrington South (David Mowat) and the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Stephen Twigg) understand the difference for social mobility of ambition and rebalancing advantage in society—as a Tory, I believe in rebalancing and redistributing advantage in society—and the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Rosie Cooper) feels the same. Therefore, we need to ensure that we give those young people who do not have access to familial networks or similar social networks the best advice, so that they get their chance of glittering prizes as well. That is why we need good advice and guidance.

So we will do three things. First, over the past year, we have done a great deal with the careers profession, which in the coming months—certainly by the autumn—will be in a position to announce an unprecedented degree of co-operation among careers professionals, leading to a new set of professional standards with linked training and accreditation. The national careers service will be founded on the expertise and professionalism of the careers sector, reprofessionalised and emerging from the dark days under the previous regime to a new era of purposeful drive, in which it is valued and its role is central to the work that we will do to foster social mobility. That will be laid out in the autumn—I always said that the national careers service would be up and running next year, not this year. The hon. Gentleman will have a chance to look at those proposals, and I think that he will be proud of the work that the Careers Profession Alliance has done following the work of the task force led by Dame Ruth Silver.

Secondly, we will change the statutory duty on schools to ensure that they secure independent professional advice—the Bill is going through the House now—which I expect them to do. For too long provision has been patchy. The hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby talked about the difference between the independent sector and the state sector, and he is right. Connexions did not do the job—let us be frank. Connexions did some good work, of course, and many people were dedicated to that work, but the structure itself was faulty, because it had to be a jack of all trades rather than a master of careers. We are therefore changing the statutory duty incumbent on schools, and we will deliver a tough statutory arrangement to ensure that schools live up to it.

Finally, we will provide national access to the national careers service through co-location with colleges throughout the country and Jobcentre Plus. We will lay all those proposals before the House, so the hon. Member for Hartlepool can be confident that, in every part of Britain, young people and others will be able to obtain the careers advice and guidance that they need to make the best of themselves—to be their best and to do their best. I will say more tomorrow, but I know that you, Mr Bayley, and others will leave this Chamber with a spring in your step, because you know that the Government are committed to the young people of the north-west and to all the young people of Britain.

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Phonographic Performance Ltd

4 pm

Ms Margaret Ritchie (South Down) (SDLP): I am grateful for the opportunity to have this important debate under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. I want to talk about the licence regime operated by Phonographic Performance Ltd, which governs copyright for musical recordings, and by the associated Performing Rights Society; they issue music licences that cover the copyright for musical and lyrical compositions. Both licences are required by businesses if they want to play music in public places or hold a live performance.

I want to draw attention to the over-complex and expensive licensing regime in this market. The problem has been highlighted by the European Union and the Federation of Small Businesses, and by various businesses and constituents throughout my constituency in Northern Ireland. The regulations impact financially on many small enterprises across Britain and Northern Ireland, which are already over-burdened by Government regulation and red tape. Broadly speaking, as we seek to develop and grow the economy in Northern Ireland, such measures can place an undue strain on businesses that already have narrow profit margins.

The Government have acknowledged that the economy in the north of Ireland needs to be rebalanced, and the proposed steps to devolve corporation tax powers to the Northern Ireland Executive are encouraging. However, it has been noted that businesses are still subject to around 60 regulations, including licensing arrangements, which cost firms throughout the UK £13 billion. Those regulations may be particularly burdensome for our small and medium-sized businesses, which may not have staff dedicated to compliance issues. It is therefore important that we pay attention to the criticism that such firms have expressed about the licensing arrangements for performance music.

I would like to draw attention to more specific issues within the broader context of the debate. In March 2009, the PRS introduced an exemption rate for businesses with fewer than four employees to cover employees playing music in private that was not audible to the public. Under that arrangement, such companies were to pay £44 a year plus VAT, and that decision has since been upheld by the High Court. Such exemptions are welcome, but unfortunately they are some way short of a classification that would help small and medium-sized enterprises, given that SMEs are classed as organisations with fewer than 50 employees. I want to encourage the Government to examine such exemptions, and to make them more consistent with the definition of a small business.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): After 10 years as a Member of Parliament, I have not received one complaint on the subject from an SME in my constituency, and I, too, represent a rural area. Most small businesses are content to pay a small price to enable them to use wonderful music to enhance their businesses. When the hon. Lady is talking about exemptions, is she thinking about the musicians, most of whom survive on less than £16,000 a year? If small businesses with fewer than 50 people were exempt, the impact on

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musicians would be massive. Does she understand that musicians are struggling, and survive on the scraps that they get from the PRS?

Ms Ritchie: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome intervention. I recognise that in another life he was a musician, and is a member of a popular Celtic folk band in Scotland, which has played in Northern Ireland on several occasions. I recognise the musicians’ plight, and that they and the music industry are an integral part of small businesses. I am reflecting on the position of small and medium-sized enterprises in Northern Ireland, where we have a predominantly public sector-led economy, and are trying to grow our economy and encourage small businesses. Any additional taxation or fees simply imperil their financial situation.

Mike Weatherley (Hove) (Con): Does the hon. Lady agree that it is a blunt instrument to use the arbitrary definition of small businesses as being those with fewer than 50 people, when radio usage in small companies is often higher than in large companies?

Ms Ritchie: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I am simply using the definitions proposed by the European Union. I accept his point, but perhaps I could continue my speech.

It is likely that many firms with fewer than four employees are unaware of the exemption, and more should be done to ensure that they are not paying excessive amounts. That brings me to a related issue: the cost of referring a case or complaint to the Copyright Tribunal can be prohibitive. As Consumer Focus highlighted, that is especially likely to be the case for small and medium-sized businesses, and even for a trade association, such as the Federation of Small Businesses. We must be especially aware of such concerns given the relative monopoly held by the collection organisations. Businesses have no alternative within the market.

In contrast with most other European countries and the US, the UK does not provide in law for the regulation of licensing collection bodies, and no authority is charged with their ongoing supervision, except in relation to the ad hoc resolution of complaints through the Copyright Tribunal. Given that somewhat unbalanced field of play, it is important to consider the charges that companies face. With reference to the PPL charges, businesses defined by the European Commission as small enterprises —including, for example, a hair salon with more than four employees and with more than five treatment or stylist chairs—that use a radio, CD player or MP3 player will have to pay PRS £169 and PPL £121 a year. An office or factory with 135 employees will pay PRS £1,142.03, plus VAT, and PPL from £113 depending on square metres. A small café seating up to 30 people will be charged for television, radio and CD. The PRS fee will be £440.72 and the PPL fee will be from £113, depending on square metres.

Set against that, I note that the PPL’s total licence fee income grew 10.7% to £143.5 million from £129.6 million the previous year. It boasts of a revenue growth from

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public performance of 2%, and claims that that is noteworthy. Its last press release around 8 June stated that

“it was achieved despite...extremely difficult trading conditions for many of the company’s customers and licensees.”

The fact that so many businesses are complaining about the high cost of the licences and the undue strain that it is placing on their finances indicates that there is a more draconian approach to compliance. It is vital—I say this advisedly—that PPL works closely with such businesses, and that the relationship is symbiotic rather than confrontational. Proclaiming their own revenue growth at a time of difficulty for the businesses that purchase their licences is not a step in the right direction.

As well as considering the level of charges, it is important at this stage to consider the sort of businesses that are most likely to be affected by the current arrangements. In my constituency, which is on the east coast of Northern Ireland, a large proportion of the economy revolves around the tourism and hospitality industry. The complexity and cost of requiring two separate licences, combined with an aggressive compliance regime, can put undue pressure on the bars, hotels and restaurants that form the background and backbone of our tourism industry. If those establishments are forced to cease playing music, business will suffer, customers may leave and the public’s exposure to artists’ music will be greatly decreased. As highlighted in a recent report by Consumer Focus, the European Commission commented, in reference to competition, copyright and collective rights management, that

“no other sector operates such complex licensing arrangements.”

Before concluding, I wish to raise an associated and relevant concern that relates specifically to businesses that play radio stations. Although the radio station will have paid a royalty fee for playing the music, the small or medium-sized enterprise effectively has to pay that fee again, which I consider amounts to double taxation. In a similar manner, an hotel may be faced with a double cost for playing music in separate areas. That overly severe and inflexible approach damages small businesses. If those businesses are forced to stop playing music, it will hurt not only the businesses but those artists who, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) pointed out, may live off a small wage and rely on being played on the radio for exposure. In summary, the licensing arrangements, which in some instances comprise many different tariffs, are cumbersome and cost-prohibitive for many owners of small and medium-sized businesses.

Mike Weatherley: I wonder whether the hon. Lady will expand on one aspect of that argument. If music is a necessity and part of the raw material required to provide a service in a café, for example, how does it differ from any other products offered by that café, such as coffee? Does the hon. Lady suggest that the Government should subsidise all other services offered by that business?

Ms Ritchie: If I may, I will say with a degree of temerity that there is a major difference between paying two licence fees, and paying for coffee and other services offered by a café. I am sure that we could elaborate further in the margins of the debate.

The licensing arrangements, combined with what is perceived to be an increasingly draconian compliance regime, is putting businesses under pressure. If we recognise

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that, we must find a solution that protects our valuable music industry, of which small businesses form an integral part. I urge the Government to take steps to create a simpler and more effective licensing regime. It is vital that licensing requirements and costs do not disproportionately impact on small and medium-sized businesses at a time when many already face a challenging economic climate.

In Northern Ireland, all parties are collectively trying to rebalance the economy and change it from being 77% public sector-led, to a system that puts greater emphasis on the private sector and will provide opportunities for people to develop business ideas. Given the degree of compliance involved in the licensing system, and the fees that are charged in such a cumbersome way, the charges need to be streamlined so that people and businesses can enjoy greater comfort. People should be able to enjoy the music without facing difficult charges. It is vital that the licensing requirements be streamlined and reviewed as a matter of urgency, and on behalf of small to medium-sized enterprises throughout Britain and Northern Ireland, I ask the Minister to take those views on board. I recognise that we have devolved arrangements in Northern Ireland, but the responsibility for licensing lies in London.

4.14 pm

The Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning (Mr John Hayes): It is delightful, Mr Bayley, to speak in successive debates in this Chamber under your benevolent stewardship. I congratulate the hon. Member for South Down (Ms Ritchie) on securing this debate and on her speech, and in the short time available I will do my best to deal with some of the points she has raised.

I hope that hon. Members will join me in recognising the success of the 45,000 performers and almost 5,000 record companies that are members of Phonographic Performance Ltd. They make a significant contribution to the cultural life and economic wealth of our country. The industry of which they are part—the creative industries—acts as an important ornament to all that we are and all that we do. It is one of the big growth areas in our economy and has the support of the Government. We are working with the creative industries to develop ways in which they can grow still further. Our country is home to the largest national creative sector in Europe, and the creative industries account for 5.6% of gross value added in the UK, and provide around 2 million jobs. They are not merely ornamental but make a difference to the health and well-being of our economy and of communities up and down Britain.

Intellectual property and the copyright system lie at the heart of our creative industries. Many of those industries are small firms—the hon. Lady drew our attention to that once again in her speech. PPL tells us that the vast majority of its members are small and medium-sized enterprises. As she has said, those industries rely on copyright to survive, and it provides them with a legal framework to sustain and protect creative value. Although we are committed to minimising unnecessary burdens on small businesses, we also want to maintain a fair and balanced copyright system in which artists can gain fair rewards for creative works, and licensees can expect access to content via a licensing system that is fair, transparent, and reasonable.

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As the hon. Lady has said, PPL plays an important part in that system. Like all collecting societies, it has a valuable role in managing and clearing rights. Its collective licensing activities mean that users do not have to approach every single rights holder for permission, which helps to reduce transaction costs. As a collecting society, PPL is a private commercial organisation that manages the rights of its members. The collecting society functions of PPL and all other collecting societies are not specifically regulated by the Government. PPL acts on the basis of mandates given to it by its members, which it uses to license those rights—the exclusive rights that the international and domestic legal framework gives to copyright owners—for those who want them.

The licensing system in the UK is relatively unregulated compared with other jurisdictions. Our system expects the licensor and the licensee—or their representative body or trade association—to negotiate freely and agree a market rate for the licence. If negotiations break down, the licensee or their representative can refer the matter to the Copyright Tribunal. The collecting society has no corresponding right. That is intended to act as a check on the power of what is effectively a monopoly supplier when dealing with, for example, the kind of small businesses championed by the hon. Lady.

As the hon. Lady will know, Professor Hargreaves has reviewed these matters. In his work, he noted that collecting societies in the UK fulfil a valuable role in licensing markets, but that they are also effectively unregulated natural monopolies. Licensees do not generally enjoy the protections that are available to consumers when dealing with broadly comparable organisations such as utility companies. Professor Hargreaves recommended that collecting societies should be required by law to adopt codes of practice approved by the Intellectual Property Office and UK competition authorities to ensure that they operate in a way that is consistent with the further development of efficient, open markets.

Following that inquiry and review, the Government are considering their response to Hargreaves’s recommendations, which will be made public in the near future. The hon. Lady’s Adjournment debate could not be timelier, because the Government are open-minded about this issue, mindful of the recommendations and anxious to move forward. The constraints within which we work are, of course, international and European obligations. The hon. Lady will be familiar with those, too. None the less, I think that further progress can be made, and I will say a few words about that in the time available to me.

Ms Ritchie rose—

Mr Hayes: The hon. Lady wants to intervene to inform my brief contribution with her expertise.

Ms Ritchie: I thank the Minister for his answer and his speech so far. He has referred to the Government response to the investigation and report by Professor Hargreaves. Can he provide an estimated timetable for the Government response? Is it likely to be produced in the next month, the next two to three months or the next six months?

Mr Hayes: I shall deal with that specific question before I finish speaking. No doubt inspiration will wing its way to me to inform my response—the hon. Lady knows what I mean by that. She has made it clear that

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there are areas in which we can make improvements, notwithstanding the constraints to which I have referred. Ah! Inspiration may already have reached me, but I want—not tantalisingly, but temptingly—to delay what I say about that for a few moments.

Pete Wishart: I am very much looking forward to the Minister’s reply to tomorrow’s debate on the Hargreaves recommendations. He knows that nothing in the Hargreaves report suggests or recommends exempting small and medium-sized businesses with fewer than 50 people, so can he now rule that out and ensure that musicians continue to get fair play from the wonderful recorded works that they provide, which enhance so many businesses up and down the country?

Mr Hayes: We will not exempt small firms. That is the answer to the question. The hon. Gentleman has raised the issue, and there is a case for exempting small firms, but the frank answer to his question and the question asked by the hon. Lady is that the UK would almost certainly be in breach of its international and European obligations if it did so. I can be very clear about that.

Let me deal with the hon. Lady’s intervention. Within the next month, she will learn more—because I will insist on it—about the Government’s response and thoughts on how we can take forward the review’s recommendations, where we feel that it is appropriate to do so.

I want to say more about what further progress can be made. First, we need to ensure that people understand the law and understand what not only PPL but all collecting societies from whom they need a licence are doing. We know from the ministerial postbag and from our constituency postbags and surgeries that many small businesses are unaware that they need a licence for the activities that we are discussing. The hon. Lady has made the point clearly. Many businesses question why they need a licence from PPL and PRS for Music to have the radio on in business premises when the broadcaster has already paid for a licence. Many ask why they need a licence at all. Where they do require licences from both PRS for Music and PPL, some businesses query, reasonably enough, why they are not told clearly that they need two licences and why joint licensing is not used to cut costs and the time that they have to spend on that.

PPL tells us that it is doing more to raise awareness among licensees and potential licensees. As a result of this debate, our further consideration and representations made to us from outside this place and within it, we will continue to press PPL to fulfil that commitment. Indeed, as a result of the debate, I will ask Baroness Wilcox, who is the Minister with responsibility for this area, to meet representatives of PPL to talk about how they can make the commitment real and what further steps they will be taking to address some of the questions that I have raised. Trade associations, too, must continue to build on the work that they do to raise awareness among their members. We will certainly involve them in that discussion.

Secondly, where charges are justified, they should be applied in a clear, unambiguous and efficient manner. Those wanting to start new businesses must not be deterred by uncertainties about charges that have no bearing on their core business. Thirdly, inquiries suggest

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that not all trade associations are aware that they can have a role in negotiating the terms and conditions of the licence for their sector. Some trade associations and licensees are even unaware that they can take a case to the Copyright Tribunal, if they are unhappy with the terms and conditions. They simply do not know their entitlements. The tribunal secretariat is working to raise awareness in those areas. It hosts regular user group meetings, which are aimed at making the tribunal more accessible by familiarising users, especially SMEs, with its procedures and giving them an opportunity to meet the chairman and lay members. The secretariat also hosts regular meetings of collecting societies to discuss, among other things, concerns raised by licensees.

I will also ask Baroness Wilcox to advance our work with trade associations. Of course, we do not exert executive power in that respect, but we will take the work further to ensure that all the steps are accelerated. It seems to me that a seminar might be appropriate. I am thinking of a seminar in which the interested parties are brought together to talk through what further steps might be taken to deal with some of the specific issues relating to small businesses raised by the hon. Lady. Perhaps my ministerial colleague will write to her and other interested hon. Members, addressing the possibility of just such an initiative.

I have heard much in this debate that provides food for thought. We do not take these matters lightly. In relation to charities, PPL has agreed to joint licensing with PRS for Music, which should reduce administrative burdens. The hon. Lady will know about that. We might be able to discuss, at the type of event that I have described, further steps along those lines, because there are community organisations—some of them are very small—that struggle to deal with some of these matters, not least in terms of information and understanding. On that basis, I welcome the agreement that has been reached and encourage exploration of other areas for joint licensing, notwithstanding the point that I made about exemption and the perfectly proper point that the hon. Gentleman has raised.

We will reflect carefully on these matters before responding formally to the recommendations of the review. We will continue to work to ensure that the framework is explicable and accessible and that it operates fairly. There is a balance to be struck between the interests of different parties, as I think has been made clear in this brief debate. Those parties have a legitimate expectation that the system will work fairly. The regulation should certainly not be burdensome, and we need to ensure that we have some understanding of the costs of the regulation. When we promote steps that are designed to ensure that a system is operating fairly, we should always do so on the basis of understanding the cost burden that it creates. We also feel—I am sorry; I am using the royal “we”. I also feel that measurement of the function of these agencies is important, so having proper lines of accountability to ensure that what is being done is working as it should be is important.

This has been a useful albeit short debate. As I have said, it is remarkably timely. I hope that I have made reasonable commitments to the hon. Lady as a result of it. She will hear more very soon about our further reflections.

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Special Olympics

4.29 pm

Chris Heaton-Harris (Daventry) (Con): It is always a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Bayley. I hope that you will be as benevolent to me as you were to the Minister in the previous debate.

Two Saturdays ago, I was in Athens for the opening ceremony of the largest sporting event in the world in 2011, yet I knew full well that few people in the United Kingdom realised that it was happening. The centrepiece of the day was the spectacular opening ceremony of the Special Olympics world summer games. It was a beautiful parade of 7,500 athletes from 185 nations, who were to compete in 22 sports over the following days. As they walked past me, I felt truly humble to be present at such a wonderful occasion.

Over the last two weeks in Greece, people have been celebrating the ability, the talent and the dedication of those athletes with learning difficulties and their coaches. Team GB comprised 214 Britons—157 athletes and 57 coaches. They were out there to win. Make no mistake about it: these are dedicated and seriously talented sportsmen and women. When they returned to the UK yesterday, our athletes brought back many special things with them, including tales of tough competition and inspirational personal achievement, the odd bruise and injury and 187 medals—72 gold, 63 silver and 52 bronze. Great Britain can truly be proud of its Special Olympians. However, we must remember that just to be there, they each had to raise £2,000, and that includes the coaches. They receive no sponsorship, and for a while now they have received no lottery funding.

There are 1.3 million people with learning difficulties in the United Kingdom, so most families are touched by learning difficulties in one shape or form. However, the Special Olympics are largely unknown here, and I hope that this debate will change that, if only in a small way. Indeed, the press coverage given to the Special Olympics world games in Athens over the last two weeks—bar the beautiful and brilliant exception of ITV Central, which covered the games daily on its news broadcasts—was difficult to spot.

Dignity, acceptance and a chance to reach one’s potential are things that all politicians believe are worth promoting for everyone, and for more than four decades the Special Olympics movement has been bringing a simple message to the world: learning-disabled people can and will succeed if they are given the opportunity.

After visiting institutions across the United States for people with what the Americans call intellectual disabilities in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a wonderful lady, found herself appalled by their treatment. She believed that, given the same opportunities and experiences as others, they were far more capable than commonly believed. She had a vision that things could be improved through the medium of sport.

Shriver put that vision into action in 1962 by inviting children with intellectual disabilities to Camp Shriver, a summer day-camp in her backyard, where they could explore their capabilities in a variety of sports and physical activities. The Camp Shriver concept—that through sports, people with intellectual disabilities could realise their potential for growth—began to spread. In

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July 1968, the first international Special Olympic games were held in Chicago, Illinois, and a movement was born. The Special Olympics have grown magnificently across the world, and the last UK summer games were held in the city of Leicester, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jon Ashworth).

Jon Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman and I have something in common, inasmuch as we have both been Leicester South by-election candidates, so I know that he is familiar with the city of Leicester. Does he agree not only that the games held there in 2009 were a great success for the city, and hugely beneficial and inspiring for many of the athletes, but that they played a great role in countering what might be described as misunderstandings about disabled athletes? That is something to celebrate.

Chris Heaton-Harris: Absolutely, and I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. Given the opportunity, I hope that he will come to a Special Olympics event with me and experience again, first hand, exactly how brilliant these athletes are. It is difficult to describe the achievements that these athletes attain. They are doing things that I cannot do. I competed in one of their unified sports two Sundays ago. I was cycling against two learning-disabled athletes; my partner was from Hungary and was the co-sponsor of an event. I came a miserable fourth, and I was trying really hard. They are proper athletes doing a proper job; I certainly would not be able to do what they, with their disabilities, do.

The Special Olympics movement is where learning-disabled athletes celebrate and are celebrated for their accomplishments. It is often the first time that these athletes have truly taken centre stage and been recognised as individuals in their own right. Sport is a central element of the movement, but it is not the only one. In areas as diverse as health care, leadership training, legislative self-advocacy and employment, the Special Olympics take a global leadership role.

Tim Shriver, Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s son and now chief executive officer of the Special Olympics, says:

“Sport teaches us to recognize our similarities over our differences while celebrating the effort to do one’s best in a spirit of respect. And while Special Olympics has had a positive impact on many persons with an intellectual disability, there are many more people that are still hidden, shunned or abused. We look forward to working more closely with the international sports community to broaden the reach of our organizations and bring the joy and goodwill of sport to many more people.”

Through year-round sports training and competition, the Special Olympics empower learning-disabled individuals in more than 180 countries. The games are often the only place where they have the opportunity to participate in their communities and to develop a belief in themselves. Many lead lives of neglect and isolation, hidden away or socially excluded from full participation in schools or society. The Special Olympics transform the athlete and are a gateway to empowerment, competence, acceptance and joy. Better than that, the movement also transforms communities. When people see Special Olympians in action, they see humanity, joy in competition, pride and potential, and they begin to believe in a different sort of world—a world in which everyone is respected and included.

I shall give some examples. In 2009, the Afghanistan world winter games floor hockey team was honoured with congratulations from the highest levels of Government

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as a tribute to their success. In Romania, children who were once solitary and forgotten now participate in sports training and interact regularly with the community outside their institutions. In the United States, the young girl who was bullied or isolated early in her life is chosen as homecoming queen. In China—I went to the Shanghai Special Olympics summer games four years ago—people who were hidden away in their homes now receive vocational and literacy training at thousands of “sunshine centres” across the provinces.

The Special Olympics movement is also a catalyst for societal change, fostering community building around the globe. It is a leader in diversity and tolerance education, bringing young people with and without intellectual disabilities together in youth and schools outreach programmes. It is a research leader, partnering with Governments, non-governmental organisations and the private sector to develop new ways of including people with learning disabilities in all aspects of society. The movement is also the world’s largest public health organisation serving people with learning disabilities, offering free health screening to the world’s most neglected populations. It is the fastest growing grass-roots volunteer movement on the planet, with the potential to improve the quality of life of millions of people.

Why did I ask for this debate? As a fan, I wanted to tell everyone how much I enjoyed watching Great British athletes competing in the Athens games just over 10 days ago. As a spectator, I want to say how fantastic the opening ceremony, and the buzz around the events, was. It was wonderful to watch our athletes competing for their country, and to see the parents’ pride as they watched them. As a consumer, I want to let people know that the sponsors of such events deserve huge praise. Indeed, Coca-Cola should stand up and take a bow; it gave an awful lot of money to the games. As a friend of Tim Shriver, I want to pay proper respect to him and his family, especially his mother, for driving the movement forward so strongly. As a politician, I want to remind my peers how important the inclusion agenda is, and that we do not constantly have to reinvent the wheel. We have a brilliant example of what we should all be aiming for in the Special Olympics movement, and I am proud to be associated with it.

The Minister will know that Sport England is talking to Special Olympics Great Britain about the possibility of funding in the future. I hope that any logjams can be eased. Perhaps the Minister could use his good offices to get a group of people in a room and knock a few heads together to try to free up funding that could improve the lives of thousands of people across the country. It would be much better if Sport England could treat Special Olympics Great Britain as any other national sporting governing body, rather than as an individual sport. Over the years that I have been involved in sport, I have heard numerous gripes from the various sports bodies that have had to deal with Sport England, so I understand that it is a complex beast, but I would like to think that when it comes to disability sports, funding blockages can be removed.

However, I am not here to ask the Minister for more money. I know that he is a fan of the Special Olympics movement, but much as I would love more money from the Government coffers for the movement, that is not the purpose of the debate. The purpose is to celebrate

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the Special Olympics movement. I suppose that the Minister could possibly help, though; recently, it has been difficult for Special Olympics GB representatives to meet the officials who deal with learning-disabled and inclusion issues in the Department for Education and the Department of Health. It would be helpful if he could use his good offices to set up some meetings. I believe that the movement and the Departments could learn a great deal from each other.

The main thing that I want to hear from the Minister is the Department’s, and his, commitment to the Special Olympics movement across the UK. I want him to say how he can help to raise the profile of the movement here, and hopefully he may give a few words of congratulation to all those who have represented their country so brilliantly in Athens over the past couple of weeks.

4.41 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport (Mr Edward Vaizey): I am pleased to be speaking under your chairmanship, Mr Bayley. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Chris Heaton-Harris) on securing this important debate. I acknowledge, too, the presence and contribution of the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jon Ashworth), who also takes an interest in the subject.

It goes without saying that I am delighted to begin by congratulating all the participants in the 2011 Special Olympics world summer games, which finished on Monday in Athens. As my hon. Friend pointed out, there was an outstanding performance by the Great Britain Special Olympics team, who won 187 medals—72 gold, 63 silver and 52 bronze; it is worth repeating that. It was not in my notes to congratulate Coca-Cola, but I will follow the lead of my hon. Friend and pay tribute to it for sponsoring the Special Olympics and helping to make them such an outstanding success.

We are rightly proud of the team’s fantastic achievement in Athens, and it is clear that every competitor did their best. I will not comment on my hon. Friend’s athletic prowess, but I can guarantee that if I were to compete in a cycle race, I would not finish fourth; I would probably finish last. Some Special Olympians had the chance to visit the Prime Minister at No. 10 before leaving for the games, and I am sure that there was an equally warm welcome for all the competitors, and the people who have supported them in Greece, when they arrived back at Heathrow yesterday.

It is worth spending half an hour of parliamentary time acknowledging the success and work of the competitors. By calling this debate, my hon. Friend will have further boosted the pride of the competitors and their parents, families and friends, and for that alone he must be congratulated. He has been a supporter of the Special Olympics movement for many years, going back to the time when he was an MEP. He knows better than most about the many years of work that have gone into the success of team GB in this year’s Special Olympics.

Special Olympics Great Britain was formed to offer a lifetime of learning through sport. Even though we should celebrate its most recent achievements, it is also right that we recognise the many benefits that the Special Olympics bring to individuals of all ages and ability levels every day, from those with low motor abilities to the most highly skilled athletes. By bringing together

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coaches and volunteers to provide sports training and competition for children and adults with learning disabilities, regardless of their ability, Special Olympics GB not only reaches out to those who participate, but brings their families, friends and volunteers closer to sport, too.

With such excellent credentials, I can understand why my hon. Friend asks what the Government are doing to support Special Olympics GB, and to help make its good work go further. My Department and this Government support its work and will continue to do so. I will certainly use my good offices to ensure that he gets the meetings that he needs to increase awareness of Special Olympics GB in government, and to get any support that he feels is necessary for this important part of British sport.

As my hon. Friend knows, Sport England’s aim is to grow and sustain participation in grass-roots sport. Central to its work is the £480 million it invests directly through the 46 national governing bodies of sport. Disability provision is woven into the work of the national governing bodies, so part of that investment will contribute to increasing disability participation in sport. The approach is entirely inclusive and looks to offer opportunities for everyone to participate in sport, regardless of their gender, disability or ethnic background. Sports are tailored to meet the specific needs of those groups of people, so they are not separated out from other participants, and that helps to increase accessibility.

To help build capacity and expertise in disability sport, Sport England and the national governing bodies work with the English Federation of Disability Sport. As the umbrella organisation for disability sport, it has responsibility for the promotion and development of sporting opportunities for the 11 million disabled people in England, by providing expertise and advice and by bringing together eight national disability sport organisations recognised by Sport England, one of which is Special Olympics GB.

I was delighted to hear today’s announcement by Sport England—perhaps it was not unrelated to this debate—that it will, for the first time, directly fund disability sports organisations to advise, support and guide other sports bodies as they create opportunities for participation by disabled people.

To complement that core investment, Places People Play is Sport England’s mass participation legacy initiative that will bring the magic of the London games into the heart of local communities, and that includes a specific focus on disability. Furthermore, the school games will offer meaningful competitive sporting opportunities to young people with both physical and learning disabilities at every level.

A lot of work is going on in many places to help get people with disabilities, including learning disabilities, into grass-roots sport. A lot is also going on at the top-end of sport, too. When we won the right to host the Olympic and Paralympic games in London in 2012, UK Sport became clearly focused on achieving performance and medal success. That investment strategy was limited to the Olympic and Paralympic summer sports. However, the International Paralympic Committee General Assembly agreed in November 2009 to include, once again, learning disabled participants in IPC

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competitions, including the 2012 Paralympics. Four sports were targeted for inclusion in London 2012: athletics, rowing, swimming and table tennis.

This decision is most welcome, and we look forward to seeing our best intellectually disabled athletes competing once again at the very highest level. However, much work remains to be done by the sports themselves before the participation of learning disabled athletes can be guaranteed in London 2012. Indeed, the international governing body for rowing has decided not to take up the opportunity at this time.

UK Sport has set aside funding for learning disabled athletes in athletics, swimming and table tennis, now that that category of athlete has been readmitted to the Paralympics. The funds will be allocated to the sports, following confirmation and the outcome of the classification standards and qualification process by the international federation.

Since that decision, the International Paralympic Committee world swimming championships have taken place in Holland, and they included six events for athletes with an intellectual disability. The Great Britain team included four intellectually disabled athletes, who won four medals including two golds. I can also confirm that a number of intellectually disabled swimmers are already in receipt of public funding through UK Sport’s world class programme to assist them in their preparations for London 2012. I am sure that my hon. Friend will agree that those are very positive developments.

We fought very hard to get a good settlement for sport in the comprehensive spending review. We did well, and in a highly challenging economic climate, we have been able to go a long way to protect the central funding streams that we believe add genuine value to the sports sector and the people that it serves. However, there will be financial constraints on our ambitions, and we will have to consider creative solutions to difficult problems. For example, our changes to national lottery funding have helped to release more funds for sport of every kind.

It is also important to recognise that there are a number of competing priorities for sport funding. The latest figures on participation show that far too many of us do no sport at all and those of us who do participate do not do enough sport. That is a fundamental problem, and we need to solve it. Of course, we need to take a proportionate approach, but we also need to prioritise, so Special Olympics GB must be considered alongside priorities for disability sport and sport more widely.

That is not to say that there are not opportunities that we should consider. As I indicated earlier and as my hon. Friend called for, my Department can consider having closer collaboration with the Department of Health and the Department for Education. We also need to look closely at the evidence. Sport England’s active people survey measures participation in sport, but a breakdown of disability by type was only included in the survey from October last year. We should be able to examine the evidence more fully by December this year.

When my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and the Olympics met Karen Wallin, the chief executive of Special Olympics GB, earlier this year they had a very positive discussion. In particular, they covered the lessons that had been learned from the Special Olympics GB national summer games that, as we have heard, were

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held in Leicester in 2009. My hon. Friend hopes to attend the launch of the report about those games, and I know that he will give the same message that I give here: there is more to do and we will keep working with Special Olympics GB to try to do it. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry will also follow developments closely.

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In the meantime, once again, I pay tribute to the fantastic performance of the competitors and volunteers in Athens, and I congratulate Special Olympics GB on its excellent work.

Question put and agreed to.

4.52 pm

Sitting adjourned.