1.46 pm

Mr Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab): It is a pleasure to see you back in the Chair, Mr Deputy Speaker. I congratulate you on your re-election. I also congratulate the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) on his maiden speech. I was interested to hear what he said about his constituency. In terms of policy based on his party’s mandate, I believe that the Government should look at giving Scotland full fiscal responsibility. They should take the ball and run with it. They need to do this properly, and they should take some advice on the matter.

John Nicolson: So why didn’t you vote for it?

Mr Mahmood: I would be very happy to vote for it. The Government should take responsibility for what they have said.

I have a huge interest in apprenticeships. I left school with CSEs—many people probably do not know what they were—but I was fortunate to get an apprenticeship through what was then the Engineering Industry Training Board. I spent my first year doing off-the-job training, then I was lucky enough to be picked up by Delta Metals, as it then was, to do my apprenticeship.

Further education colleges are a hugely important asset to people like me who did not take the academic route, as they enable us to follow the vocational route. More importantly, they provide a basis for people who have not been able to get the vocational qualifications in

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school that they need to prepare themselves for their lives. The colleges are the last door for those people who want to move forward and get on in life. The focus for colleges is to enable people of all ages to get qualifications and skills and to help them to get into jobs.

I want to talk about funding. Colleges have had a 24% cut in their 19-plus funding. We have heard about the provision for 16 to 19-year-olds, and about the agenda for 14 to 19-year-olds, but there is a real issue for apprenticeships, because they are necessary to give people the life chances that they need. The Government announced the 24% cut in March, and it will take effect when the colleges’ financial year starts on 1 August. That has given them very little time to prepare. This will hit 16 to 18-year-olds as well as those of 19 and over, because courses are often planned to include both age groups. In certain specialist courses, the age groups are often combined to provide the educational support and funding that they need, in order to make it worthwhile for the college to run the course.

Students who are 19-plus are in college because they have failed to gain qualifications in schools, are two or three years behind and need to play catch-up in their studying. Most people who want to take the step necessary to get to that level are dedicated, because they realise that perhaps they have been let down and the support they needed was not there for them. They have decided to take the baton themselves in order to move forward. It is important that we look at this issue and see how it can be dealt with.

A significant number of adults who come into college have few or only basic qualifications and need to gain others in order to get into a job or to get to a level where they can get an apprenticeship. We need to help these people to move to those level 2 apprenticeships. That is a real issue in many inner-city constituencies such as mine and that of my Front-Bench colleague, my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). Our constituencies have historically had a high level of unemployment, which they have not been able to address for at least the past four decades, and putting this sort of funding burden on the colleges makes it even more difficult for us to address it.

I am lucky that my constituency has the EEF Training college, which is doing well—it is oversubscribed. It is predominantly funded by the EEF, but it faces a funding problem because it seeks to provide the hardware needed to bring engineering apprenticeships into effect. That requires a huge amount of kit. I am talking about traditional kit for the engineering industry, such as lathes, millers and welders. Computer numerical control lathes and millers cost a huge amount of money. When I went to Garretts Green College to do my apprenticeship, all colleges across Birmingham had this sort of equipment and so that training was provided.

My constituency is also blessed with having the advanced manufacturing zone in Birmingham, which means we need more support from people such as EEF. It is also blessed with two colleges, South & City College and Birmingham Metropolitan College, which are working hard to move this agenda forward. The normal further education colleges have moved away, by and large, from that type of engineering training, although some facilities are now being provided at South & City College. Again, it costs a huge amount to put that together, so it is

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important to see what additional funding we can provide to the training providers and colleges that are actually able to provide that sort of training. If we do not do that, all this talk about the manufacturing recovery and the engineering recovery will amount to very little. I am very determined that we examine those issues and see how we can do that. It is important for all of us if we are to be, as Birmingham and the west midlands has always been, at the forefront of engineering development.

We are very glad that Jaguar Land Rover has its new plant in Wolverhampton and we are glad about all the engineering works we are getting. At the moment, one of the world’s leaders in submarine hull valves, a huge speciality area, is working with Birmingham University to try to develop it. A lot of the employers are moving towards working with universities to try to get this support, but we need the trainers to have support from the Government in order to provide the funding for the equipment they need; it is not just about the current funding that colleges have. I am determined that we ask the Government to support 19-plus funding to do that.

Another area of funding has been restricted, again to our detriment: funding for ESOL— English for speakers of other languages. If we are trying to get unemployment down in our inner-city areas, we need to look seriously at that issue. It is not good enough to say that we cannot fund this any more—colleges are under huge pressure not to fund it. Funding is available from employment-type grants and from the Department for Work and Pensions, but if we stick to the current funding reductions for ESOL providers, particularly for colleges in the inner city of Birmingham, we will not be able to move these people forward and lower unemployment in those areas. People in those areas have the skills in most instances, but they do not have the English to match their skills and therefore to be placed into jobs. It is important that we look at ESOL and how we fund it, particularly where inner-city unemployment is high. People want to work and move forward, so it is important that we provide ESOL and fund it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green), who is not in her place, talked about people with disabilities. There needs to be a recognition in further education of funding for disabilities, because if we do not have that, those people will be isolated and left out, and they need real additional support.

It is important for us to provide the right sort of support in areas such as Birmingham and my constituency if we are to move forward and allow people to get back into employment and into apprenticeships, which is what we and employers in my constituency want. I hope the Minister has taken notice of that.

1.55 pm

Amanda Solloway (Derby North) (Con): I, too, would like to congratulate the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) on his maiden speech. I thank the House for allowing me the opportunity to deliver my maiden speech during what is such an important debate, given my training and development background. It really is an honour and a privilege to speak in this House as the Member of Parliament for Derby North.

First, I would like to thank my predecessor, Chris Williamson, who has a long history of being involved in Derby, as a councillor, as council leader and, subsequently, as the MP. None who met Chris could deny his passion

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for and knowledge of Derby North. For me, winning on 7 May was a tremendous victory—with a very respectable majority of 41 votes. I am honoured to be elected to serve the people of Derby North, the only seat to change hands in the east midlands. One of the first notes of congratulations I received was from my right hon. Friend the Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight). His note read:

“Well done, an excellent result!

Congratulations on becoming only the second Conservative MP to represent Derby North since the seat was created.

Yours ever


The first Conservative MP ever to be elected in Derby North”.

I am delighted to be the second Conservative MP for Derby North, the first female MP for Derby North, and the first Conservative MP for Derby North in 18 years, in what has otherwise been a Labour-held seat. Winning by 41 was a little tense, I have to admit, but the House can rest assured that I plan to double that in 2020.

I want to note the amazing work that my team did, throughout the campaign and the years of hard work leading up to it; throughout the day, when they came back exhausted, and I asked them to go out one more time and they did; and then throughout the very long night and morning, standing firm in their resolve at all of the four counts, to secure a Conservative win. I especially want to thank my campaign manager, Miles Pattison, for his immense effort, companionship and sense of humour, which kept me going in the hardest times.

While victory was hoped for, it certainly was not a given, but increasingly we were getting a consistently positive message on the doorstep. People believed we needed to have a Conservative Government to ensure that the country continued to thrive; it was a genuine concern that we would take a step back if Labour won. As has been said many times, we are a nation of aspiration, and nowhere has that been shown more than in Derby North.

I have always had a keen interest in politics, but it is only recently that I had the courage to pursue my dream of serving the people in Derby North. As I stand here among so many people, of all political persuasions, whom I have admired for so long, I feel very humbled. I am also a little scared, as I know my brother will be having me streamed live into his office, delighted by my success. Since arriving, I have been notorious for getting lost, though now I can exit a broom cupboard with such confidence and dignity that it looks like I was meant to be there in the first place!

I do not have a degree or any A-levels that I can talk about, but I do have common sense and a business background. The economy is of paramount importance, with regeneration, production and growth at its centre. My background in retail and manufacturing has given me the opportunity to experience at first hand the impact of good management. We are the only party that can truly manage this country’s economy and growth.

Derby is a thriving city, built on its long-standing engineering and manufacturing pedigree. It was with great delight that we received the Chancellor two weeks ago in stunning Darley Abbey. As he visited one of our rail engineering firms, he announced that the midlands is Britain’s engine for growth, and I can tell Members that Derby North is the heart of the midlands.

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Derby North has long been the unsung hero of industry. As an example of our industrial heritage, we have an amazing regeneration project in Darley mills, which was originally powered by the Derwent. Established by Jedidiah Strutt, it is one of the most complete cotton mills complexes, which now houses all types of businesses, including IT, photography firms and independent gyms.

In Derby North, unemployment has fallen by 64% since 2010. We have a whole host of small and medium-sized enterprises, which continue to grow and thrive as a result of hard work, vision and ambition. I plan to support all opportunities for growth and to help add even more apprenticeships to the 1,200-plus apprenticeships that have been created so far in Derby North.

Derby has many reasons for being well known. Joseph Wright the artist lived there. We have an ever-growing number of microbreweries, one of the most haunted pubs in England—it is probably haunted by my husband trying out one of those ever growing number of microbreweries—and pyclets, a small oat cake, which I recommend to all Members of the House. Derby is also noted for its straight talking, and I hope to bring some good Derbyshire straight talking to this House.

We also have the tremendous football team of Derby County, or the Rams—[Interruption.] I am sorry, but we do. Recently, Mel Morris was appointed the new chairman. Mel, as Members may know, is a local businessman from Littleover in Derby North. As one of our great innovators, he created Candy Crush, which we are very fond of in Derbyshire, as my hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) can confirm.

I also know how important community is. Having worked for Help the Aged—now Age UK—I am even more convinced that we must support elderly people across the country to live with dignity. Having been involved with the Prince’s Trust and latterly the YMCA, I recognise that there are times when some young vulnerable people slip through the net, and I will be working to provide some real solutions to that problem.

When I was 17, I was unable to stay in the family home, and friends took me in for a while, which was really good. We must ensure that people are not left uncared for. Mental health is a personal issue for me. My mum suffered from depression, prescription drug addiction and alcohol abuse throughout her life. It was tragic to watch this beautiful and vibrant woman succumb to the illness. I have also experienced first hand the tragic loss of my gorgeous and fun-loving cousin to suicide. He took his own life at 36 because he thought that he had no other option available. This cannot go on. We need to be serious about the problem, and I am fully committed to helping us tackle mental health issues head on, as it is a subject that we must not ignore.

There is much to do in Derby North, which has business at its heart, and so much needs doing in the community, which has compassion at its heart. I made a promise on election night that I would do my utmost for the people of Derby North. I look forward to many years of fulfilling that promise.

2.3 pm

Imran Hussain (Bradford East) (Lab): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for affording me the opportunity to make my maiden speech in this very important debate. Before I start, may I ask Members to join me in

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expressing sympathy for the fathers in Bradford whose children have disappeared? I am sure that everyone will join me in praying for their children’s safe return.

As I make my maiden speech here today, I reflect on my background and roots. I am a working-class lad from Bradford. My grandfather came to this country from Kashmir in search of an opportunity to better himself and to provide a brighter future for his family. He came from a poor village where there was no electricity, let alone job opportunities. It was the Bradford mills that provided him with that opportunity. He worked there for many years to improve the quality of life for himself and his family.

My father started work at a very young age, in a light bulb factory in Bradford, and then, when the opportunity presented itself, he went on to study part time at college to gain qualifications, thereby enabling him to move on and better himself and his family.

I started work at the age 15, sweeping floors at Morrisons supermarket in Bradford. By the age of 17, I was appointed to the prestigious and much sought after position of head of the toiletries aisle. Members will note that I was even given my very own brush. Bradford afforded me many more opportunities that eventually led me to qualify as a barrister. It is a great honour and privilege to speak here today as the MP for Bradford East, as Bradford the city has given both my family and me so much.

As is customary, I wish to thank my predecessor, David Ward. I did not agree with him very often, and I did not know him very well, but he did have Bradford’s interests at heart. Although David was not from Bradford originally, he became part of Bradford and I wish both him and his staff all the best.

Bradford is a beautiful city. Its hills and panoramic views have inspired generations. Its people demonstrate all that is great about Yorkshire. They are gritty, determined and, above all else, resilient. They are also creative and hard-working. Bradford East mirrors the diversity of the city of Bradford, not just in its people but in its landscape, from the farmlands and leafy suburbs of Idle to the inner-city areas of Little Horton and Bradford Moor. It is a diverse constituency, both ethnically and socially.

More importantly, the Independent Labour Party was also born in Bradford out of the struggles of working people for equality and justice. I salute the courage of those pioneers and pledge to carry on those struggles to address the problems that Bradford continues to face.

Famous Bradfordians of note include the magician Dynamo who walked across the Thames, just outside this Chamber. Members need to note that I have no such plans—certainly not in my first 12 months. Richard Oastler is another famous son, who campaigned to end the use of child labour in the mills. Another pioneering figure who can never be forgotten was Bradford MP W. E. Forster, who was the architect of the Elementary Education Act 1870.

Bradford has a proud industrial heritage. Its wealth came from its position as the wool capital of the world, and the names and landmarks in the city, such as Listers and Salts Mill, for example, pay testimony to that past.

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However, that grandeur has now sadly passed. Bradford suffered from de-industrialisation as early as the 1960s, but is still an important manufacturing centre. It is now crying out for a new, modern industrial and manufacturing strategy to challenge the failing low-wage economy.

But the biggest challenge that we face is undoubtedly our educational achievement. Our schools are at the bottom of the league tables, and we have a school places crisis that lies unresolved. That will be a clear priority. One in five adults in my constituency lack any educational qualification and our young people are told that they lack the aspiration they need to go on and succeed. As a young person who was told it was too aspirational for somebody like me—somebody from my background—to be a barrister, I understand only too well how that feels. And it is not that our young people lack this aspiration; it is that the circumstances they find themselves in do not afford them the opportunities they need. It is particularly telling that both my predecessors made reference to education in Bradford as part of their maiden speeches.

We cannot fail our young people any longer. They are the future, and we cannot be in the same place 10 years from now, having failed another generation of young people, having debates about the failure of education in our great city. They have the potential and the talent to make the city a dynamic, forward-looking, wealth-creating city. We just need to unleash it.

I will be working to bring a game-changing intervention to Bradford to solve our education crisis. The benefits and successes of the London Challenge are clear for all to see, and my heartfelt, clear view is that Bradford’s children deserve the same chances and opportunities as young people from everywhere else.

I have fought against injustice my whole life, not just within Bradford but wherever that may be in the world, and I will be a strong voice in this Chamber for the struggle of the sons and daughters of Kashmir, the suffering of the Palestinians and, as we have heard in this Chamber over the last few weeks, the plight of the Rohingya. Indeed, I have tabled an early-day motion this week, No. 121, that highlights the plight of the Rohingyan people in Burma, and I would urge hon. Members from across the Chamber to consider signing it. We are witnessing an absolute human catastrophe and we cannot in these circumstances sit back and watch. We must act in relation to the Rohingyan people, quickly and decisively.

At the beginning of my political career, I made it clear that I am a servant of the people. I want to end here, at the start of this new part of my journey, by saying to all the people of Bradford that I will always remain their humble servant.

2.12 pm

David Mackintosh (Northampton South) (Con): I start by congratulating the hon. Members for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) and for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) and my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) on their maiden speeches in this debate.

I am very pleased to be making my maiden speech today, representing the town where I was born, where I grew up, and where, for the last four years, I served as leader of Northampton borough council. I want to start by paying tribute to my predecessors, including

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Spencer Perceval, who in 1796 was elected as the Member of Parliament for Northampton. To date, he is the only Member of Parliament for Northampton to have become Prime Minister and, thankfully, the only Prime Minister to have been assassinated. He was shot dead in the corridor leading to Central Lobby in 1812. I was reminded of him daily in my previous job because there is a statute of him in Northampton’s beautiful Guildhall, and I was pleased to be invited to the House of Commons by Mr Speaker last year, while I was leader of the council, when he unveiled a plaque to mark the spot.

At the time, it was said that Spencer Perceval was assassinated because he failed to adequately address an issue raised with him by a member of the public. So, Mr Deputy Speaker, you can imagine how nervous I am every time I walk along that corridor, as another Member of Parliament representing Northampton, hoping that I have adequately addressed all the issues that have been raised with me by the members of the public that I now represent.

I pay tribute to my immediate predecessor, Brian Binley, who served here for 10 years. He ably served his constituents, was deputy Chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee and treasurer of the 1922 committee, and served on the Conservative party board. But I want to pay tribute to the work that Brian Binley and I focused on for the last four years—the Northampton Alive regeneration programme, with over 40 projects that are changing our town, including a new railway station and bus station, and the relocation of the University of Northampton to a new town centre campus.

Those projects are regenerating Northampton, but the enterprise zone is a real catalyst for growth and job creation. Four years ago, Brian Binley and I lobbied my right hon. Friend the Chancellor for the enterprise zone. Since then, we have created over 1,000 jobs and attracted over £119 million of private sector investment. That is before the University of Northampton relocation, which is a further £330 million of investment and will make a massive difference to our town centre. The work is testament to Brian’s commitment and the work done by Northampton Borough Council, Northamptonshire County Council, NEP and SEMLEP—the Northamptonshire and South East Midlands local enterprise partnerships—and all the businesses, institutions and organisations in Northampton that work so well together. Those include the University of Northampton, Northampton College, Moulton College and the many fantastic schools, which I am sure my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education will join me in applauding. I know that Members from all parts of the Chamber will join me in wishing Brian Binley well in his retirement, and I know that a certain golf club will already have seen an increase in its takings.

I should also like to thank my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister for coming to my constituency earlier this year to visit Cosworth—a key employer, which is helping to develop high-performance engineering—to see the new advanced manufacturing centre and to see how the enterprise zone is helping our local economy. I am pleased to report that I visited Cosworth again last week to see the latest progress and applaud how the company continues to grow.

Other key employers in the enterprise zone include the brewery, Carlsberg, and Church’s shoes, continuing

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Northampton’s proud tradition as a shoe manufacturing town, plus many of the small businesses that make up 97% of Northampton’s economy.

And I could not, in my maiden speech, fail to mention Northampton’s great sports teams, the Saints, the Cobblers and the Steelbacks, who are fantastic ambassadors for our town.

But today we are debating skills, and a key priority for me is to ensure that we equip future generations with the ability to continue the economic growth and development that we have started. The enterprise zone was a great opportunity to work with employers to improve skills provision, and in Northamptonshire we have two university technical colleges, at Silverstone and in Daventry, which shows that we are at the forefront of the new skills agenda. They are great examples of using local employers to provide skills to young people who are the employees of the future. The Silverstone Formula 1 grand prix circuit, close to my constituency, is also a great location for young people to learn.

I am pleased by the economic growth in Northampton and the jobs that have been created, but with growth comes pressure on our public services and infrastructure. So my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis) and I have both pledged to work hard to secure investment and funding for Northampton general hospital—a key service for our constituents, staffed by excellent people dedicated to our NHS, to whom I also pay tribute today. The general hospital is an important facility, and my hon. Friend and I are committed to working with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health on its future. It is also imperative that the St James’ Mill link road is finally finished, as it is a key road for people using the road networks in Northampton, and will also help businesses in the enterprise zone, which is so relevant to today’s debate.

I take the opportunity to thank all the supporters who worked so hard on my election campaign, and indeed my family, who have always helped and supported me. When I was elected, I pledged to work tirelessly for my constituents and to be there for them in their time of need. I am proud to pledge that again today.

2.18 pm

Yvonne Fovargue (Makerfield) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Northampton South (David Mackintosh) on his excellent maiden speech. I am sure we are all hoping that he continues to answer his constituents’ queries adequately.

I also congratulate the hon. Members for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) and for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) on their maiden speeches—they all have totally different constituencies and different backgrounds, but I am sure they will all make a major contribution to the House.

“You are too bright to take an apprenticeship.” That was the advice given to a young woman in my constituency by her maths teacher. Fortunately, she ignored that advice and took up an apprenticeship with MBDA, a company specialising in missile and defence systems. I digress a little to praise MBDA for its policy of taking on at least 50% female apprentices, which the company says has changed its culture for the better. My young constituent completed her apprenticeship, and I met her

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in this place after she had received an award as apprentice of the year. She is going on to complete a degree sponsored by MBDA, and she acts as an ambassador, speaking to schools about apprenticeships. We all feel extremely fortunate that she did not listen to that well-meaning but misguided careers advice from her maths teacher.

For me, that highlights one of the major problems in our schools: careers advice is a postcode lottery. Many teachers are unaware of the range of business opportunities available in the local area, and indeed why should they be aware? They already have a demanding and time-consuming job teaching our young people. But that means that many of our young people are unaware of the range of pathways available to them. They may know the destination they want to reach, but some of them do not know that there are many different routes.

Mr Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich West) (Lab/Co-op): I am glad my hon. Friend has raised this point. Does she agree that in the past the careers service has been looked upon as a sort of bolt-on to the education service, whereas in fact an effective, well informed, professional careers service is vital for challenging young people not only in their best interests, but in the best interests of the economy as a whole?

Yvonne Fovargue: Indeed. The fact that young people do not know that there are many different routes rather than one academic path disadvantages them. Some 85% of students, according to a survey commissioned by the University and College Union, know how to complete an UCAS form, but less than 20% know how to access information about apprenticeships. Youth Employment UK surveyed 16 to 24-year-olds who had current or recent experience of careers advice, and found that 58% were provided with an interview with a professional careers adviser, but just 1% received advice about all their options; 24% were advised about university courses, 7% about apprenticeships and only 2% were given labour market information.

If we are truly committed to developing a highly skilled workforce for the future, as my hon. Friend says, this situation cannot be allowed to continue. All young people have to receive careers advice that gives them all the options, which must include all the qualifications and training available to them.

However, it is not just schools and colleges that young people look to for advice. Family and friends are important sources of information. How are they to keep up to date with the jobs and training available? I would like to praise my local authority in Wigan, which has a partnership with businesses and colleges called Wigan Works. I recently attended an event at Wigan Youth Zone for young people and their families, where local construction companies that have contracted with the council talked about available apprenticeships, and the trainers and apprentices were available to talk to. The event was very well attended. At the end of it, there were queues of young people and their parents signing up for interviews to take up those apprenticeship opportunities. That must be a great result for both the businesses and the young people.

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Earlier in the week Wigan had held apprentice awards. I agree that apprenticeships have to be given a higher status. One of the ways of doing that is by holding awards ceremonies and demonstrating to young people and their families that the academic route is not the only prestigious choice available.

I cannot end my speech without a plea for the funding of my excellent sixth-form colleges. My constituency does not have schools with sixth forms; students have to move to another establishment. I am extremely fortunate to have outstanding colleges, St John Rigby and Winstanley, in my constituency. I will use as an example Winstanley College, a member of the Maple Group, which comprises the best performing sixth-form colleges. By the end of 2016 it will have lost more than £1 million in funding cuts over the past five years, with nearly £500,000 in cuts to come this year. That is despite the fact that the college has 17 Oxbridge offers to students, 36 offers to future engineers and high quality offers of apprenticeships. Those cuts will impact on the future chances of young people in my constituency.

From September 2016 many of the college’s students will start on three A-levels, not four, and the college is struggling to protect the maximum class size of 24. Wigan and Leigh College, just outside my constituency, offers high-quality vocational education, but it is struggling to attract engineering lecturers and struggling to pay them at the appropriate level. What is the Minister doing to address that gap?

Some 75% of sixth-form colleges have cut their curriculum, including languages and science courses. The school-leaving age will increase to 18 this year. Given that the funding for 16 to 18-year-olds is already 22% lower than for students aged 14 to 16, it is indefensible to cut funding still further, jeopardising the future of the young people in my constituency. Investing in 16-to-18 education and, crucially, giving young people a clear map of the routes through the maze of opportunities and qualifications by providing quality careers advice, is vital not just to the career prospects of young people but to creating the workforce of the future who will provide the foundation for our economic prosperity.

2.26 pm

Mrs Flick Drummond (Portsmouth South) (Con): Congratulations to all those who have made their maiden speeches. They have been fascinating, and it has been enjoyable to hear lots of them from all round the country. I will have them in mind when I start travelling.

I am very pleased to announce that a university technical college will soon be coming to Portsmouth. I rang up about it two years ago, and it is finally coming next year. Education is improving in Portsmouth, but there has been a lack of options for those who are not academically minded, so that initiative by Lord Baker and others will add to the choice for our young people.

Portsmouth is becoming a centre of excellence for maritime services and technology. We have BAE, Airbus, QinetiQ and many other engineering companies, alongside the Royal Navy. I am delighted that many of those companies, along with Portsmouth University, will be sponsoring the university technical college, as well as taking on more apprentices and providing more opportunities for further training.

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We must make sure that the qualifications are suitable, so I am delighted that the Government are bringing in the new technical levels advocated by Professor Alison Wolf, which will provide a vital stepping stone and ensure that employers can recognise that there is a gold standard as an alternative to A-levels. Vocational qualifications should be treated as equal to A-levels, and I am pleased that young people are going to university with a variety of BTEC qualifications. May I congratulate my own nephew, Cuthbert Shepherd, who recently got three starred distinctions in sports development, fitness and coaching? He will be taking up a place at Birmingham University to read sports science. One does not necessarily need A-levels to go to top universities.

However, university is not for everybody, so I welcome the massive increase in apprenticeships, many of which have been taken up by young people in Portsmouth in a variety of jobs. BAE is taking on 80 apprentices this year, up from 40 the last year. There are also opportunities in leisure, sport, travel and tourism. I have visited many schemes, including those at the Kings theatre, Portsmouth College and the Cathedral Innovation Centre, to name just a few. I know that an increase in apprenticeships and technical levels will add hugely to engaging our young people in Portsmouth and around the country, and I welcome the initiatives that this Government have introduced.

2.28 pm

Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central) (SNP): Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, for calling me to speak in this important debate on skills and growth. I begin by paying tribute to those who have made their maiden speeches this afternoon, some of whom have left now. I associate myself with the comments of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) about ESOL and English as a second language, which is a huge issue in my constituency too. I was touched by the tributes of the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain). He is a huge credit to his family and he should be an inspiration to all the young people in Bradford. The hon. Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) is not my in-laws’ MP, unfortunately, but my husband bears the same name as the artist from that town, so I have a soft spot for it.

I intend to focus on the need to improve skills, particularly in the area that I represent. My predecessors in the seat—Anas Sarwar, Mohammad Sarwar, Mike Watson and Robert McTaggart—all made reference in their maiden speeches to the need to boost employment in the constituency, so it seems appropriate that I should make my maiden speech this afternoon.

There have been many changes in employment in Glasgow Central over the years, marked in the main by a decline in heavy industry and a move to a more service-based economy. The situation is similar in many constituencies, as we have heard this afternoon. There are particular challenges in that. I urge anyone who is not familiar with the work of Scotland’s outgoing chief medical officer, Sir Harry Burns, to seek out his thoughts on the disproportionate effects that de-industrialisation has had on the city of Glasgow and on the health and wellbeing of the people who live there. His key point is that people must have a sense of control over their lives.

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A sense of pride in one’s work is absolutely vital, which is why it is so important to build up skills and support people to achieve.

People who lose their skills can suffer the effects of hopelessness for the rest of their lives. Sir Harry Burns often refers to the late, great Jimmy Reid, whose portrait hangs in the People’s Palace in Glasgow Green. Jimmy Reid’s famous Glasgow University rectoral address, which the Scottish Government have made available to students across Scotland, contains much about alienation and a critique of the rat race. I ask hon. Members to reflect on this quote:

“To appreciate fully the inhumanity of this situation, you have to see the hurt and despair in the eyes of a man suddenly told he is redundant without provision made for suitable alternative employment, with the prospect in the west of Scotland, if he is in his late forties or fifties, of spending the rest of his life in the Labour Exchange. Someone, somewhere has decided he is unwanted, unneeded, and is to be thrown on the industrial scrap heap. From the very depth of my being, I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable.”

It is in that vein that I implore the Government to change track. I urge them, instead of beating people of all ages with sanctions, to invest in enabling people to develop their skills and use their talents, and to support people in employment.

The Scottish Government have done a great deal in the areas over which they have control. More people than ever are active in Scotland’s labour market, and we are taking action to help them into work. Economic inactivity is at the lowest level on record. When I wrote this speech earlier, I put that the female employment rate was 72.4%, but it is actually 72.5%; it has gone up in the figures that were released today, making it the highest in the UK and among the highest in the EU. Increases in childcare entitlement, support for women to start their own businesses and a raft of support to tackle youth unemployment are all helping women into work. That should be commended and reflected here as well.

Figures released today show that youth unemployment is at its lowest rate for six years. The Scottish Government continue to act to address the long-term effects of unemployment through strategies such as “Developing the Young Workforce” and the refreshed youth employment strategy, and initiatives such as Community Jobs Scotland, the youth employment Scotland fund and “Opportunities for All”.

Our employability fund in 2013-14 provided £34 million to offer 17,150 pre-employment skills training places to unemployed people of all ages. It achieved 68% successful job outcomes, compared with the UK Government’s Work programme, which averages 20%. During the past year, the Scottish Government’s Partnership Action for Continuing Employment initiative for responding to redundancy situations, like those of which Jimmy Reid spoke, supported 12,161 individuals and 252 employers over 392 sites in Scotland. The latest research shows that 72% of those surveyed who received PACE support obtained employment within six months. The significance of that to workers and their families cannot be downplayed. We seek further powers to make work pay—powers to raise wages and to build the fairer Scotland that we seek. We have a mandate for that, and the people of Scotland have high expectations that it will happen.

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I am proud to have been allowed the honour of representing the Calton ward as a councillor in Glasgow over the past eight years. I was sad to leave that role to come here, although I was pleased with the result. The ward covers the Calton, Bridgeton, Dalmarnock, Parkhead, Gallowgate, Reidvale, Saltmarket, Lilybank, and Barrowfield communities. Despite unfair characterisations of the east end of Glasgow, kinder and more generous people are not to be found anywhere, so I am glad that the Glasgow Central constituency encompasses some of those communities.

The Calton is one of Glasgow’s oldest communities and it has the distinction of requiring “the” in its title. It is a community dominated by formidable women, such as the late Betty McAllister, a community activist and Labour stalwart, who famously told a certain Conservative Prime Minister in most unparliamentary language what she could do with her poll tax. I firmly believe that the UK Government have never done enough for communities such as the Calton, and I seek a better deal for all such communities.

Bridgeton and Dalmarnock have seen stunning transformation over the past few years, with community-led regeneration through the urban regeneration company Clyde Gateway, which is a partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, Glasgow City Council and South Lanarkshire Council. Clyde Gateway has learned the lessons of failed regeneration projects that were imposed on people, and it is working closely with the local community to spearhead the changes in the area and turn around decades of post-industrial decline. Clyde Gateway has brought much needed investment to the area and supported 700 local people into work, some of whom are working for the very first time. Clyde Gateway has seized the opportunity brought to the area by the Commonwealth Games, and it has embedded good practice, working incredibly hard alongside local people to improve their lives. Through the innovative use of community benefit clauses in contracts, Glasgow residents have been able to access apprenticeships and many have now moved on to employment. Any Member in whose constituency construction work is taking place should find out whether such a clause can be brought to bear, because they were of huge value to local people in my constituency.

The offer of an apprenticeship was not the only important thing, however; for a significant number of people in the area, their skills were not adequate to allow them to be considered for an apprenticeship. In the Clyde gateway area, 46% of people do not have formal qualifications, but that is being addressed by community centres, housing associations and other agencies, which are all working hard to target that group and ensure that people of all ages can acquire the qualifications and the soft skills that they need to get into the workplace. In the area covered by Clyde Gateway, the number of people moving into higher education has improved from 11% to 17% since 2008, but it still lags far behind the overall Scottish figure of nearly 40%. There is a lot still to be done, but things are moving in the right direction.

Clyde Gateway has a 20-year plan, and that foresight is what is required; there is no quick fix for problems of de-industrialisation and generational unemployment. The UK Government must look at the example of

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Clyde Gateway and factor meaningful training into their plans, otherwise they will set people up to fail. I invite all hon. Members to come to Glasgow to see the transformation that is taking place, and to speak to local people, such as Grace Donald, whose powers of persuasion have seen Scottish Government Ministers part with many a bawbee.

Many hon. Members have spoken passionately about their constituencies, but few constituencies can be as diverse and exciting as Glasgow Central. It covers the city centre, which has the best shopping area outside London, the international financial services district, the vibrant merchant city and institutions such as Strathclyde and Glasgow Caledonian Universities, the world famous Charles Rennie Mackintosh Glasgow School of Art—at which the exceptionally talented students have their degree show just now—and the City of Glasgow and Glasgow Kelvin Colleges. They all combine to make Glasgow a vibrant and creative city that leads in many sectors.

There are too many brilliant community organisations to mention each by name, but I would like to single out the Glasgow Women’s library in its new home in Bridgeton. Its staff and volunteers deserve recognition for the work that they have done for women from all backgrounds in Glasgow and beyond. I am proud to be the first woman MP for Glasgow Central, and I will donate to the library’s archive a copy of this speech along with my rosette and my yellow election dress.

The city bears the slogan “People Make Glasgow”, and that is absolutely true. Glasgow Central is diverse in its population, with many churches, mosques, gurdwara and the synagogue in Garnethill. There are people of many faiths and none, with many languages and backgrounds. Some are born and bred, and others, like me, have chosen to make Glasgow their home and raise their family there.

Glasgow Central is dominated by the great River Clyde, which flows through it and deserves to be a focal point of our city. North of the Clyde are the city centre and the communities of Townhead, Garnethill, Dundasvale, Cowcaddens, Anderston, Yorkhill, Park Circus and Finnieston. South of the Clyde are the communities of Toryglen—where, I am sad to say, Government Members will not find very many Tories—Hutchesontown, Oatlands, the Gorbals, Laurieston, Govanhill, Strathbungo, Pollokshields, Dumbreck, Cessnock, Kinning Park and Tradeston. Each area has a distinct identity, which is why I have mentioned them all by name. To me, Glasgow is like a series of villages, rather than an urban mass, and I aim to respect and represent each one of them.

The constituency contains many wonderful arts and cultural institutions, such as the Kings theatre, the Tron, the Tramway, Kelvingrove Art Gallery, the People’s Palace, the Panopticon, where Stan Laurel played, and of course the much-beloved Barrowland ballroom. I was sad to see that one such institution, the Arches, went into administration last week, and I hope that a solution can be found to keep it open. Glasgow Central has modern venues too, such as the SSE Hydro arena, which has a very significant distinction: our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the only politician to fill the 12,000-seater venue.

My election result is no mean achievement; the hon. Member for Harwich and North Essex (Mr Jenkin) and my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara) can surely testify to that as former candidates

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for the seat. In winning in Glasgow Central, I have managed to achieve something that Nicola Sturgeon has not: defeating a Sarwar. In all seriousness, I would like to say a few words of thanks to my predecessor, Anas Sarwar, who represented Glasgow Central with great enthusiasm from 2010, and to his father Mohammed Sarwar who became the UK’s first Muslim MP when he was elected in 1997 for the Glasgow Govan Constituency. They worked hard over the years for the communities of Glasgow Central, and I thank them for their endeavours.

The result in Glasgow Central in the early hours of 8 May was nothing short of extraordinary. It came on the back of decades of discontent in the city. These are communities who became scunnered with the Labour party, but not with politics. The referendum has changed Scotland, resulting in the most politically engaged and educated population anyone has ever seen. In Glasgow Central people campaigned to save Govanhill baths, to save their schools, to save the Accord centre, to keep the Buchanan Street steps, and to secure a yes vote in the city of Glasgow. The Labour party slung them all a deafie, and now the people have had their say. I and the SNP will do all we can to honour their trust.

2.40 pm

John Howell (Henley) (Con): May I say what a privilege it is to be called in this debate—first, Mr Deputy Speaker, to welcome you back to the Chair, but also to follow the excellent maiden speech by the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss)? She represents a fascinating area of the country and she gave a very good explanation of what has been going on there and her role in it. Her speech comes on the back of an enormous number of excellent maiden speeches, including those of the new broom, the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), and the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), if I may pick out just two. The latter reminded me of my days as an archaeologist at the University of Edinburgh. I am very familiar with the Antonine Wall that he described.

I want to deal with apprenticeships. I can agree with the first bit of the motion—

“That this House notes that improving education is imperative for the future economic growth of the country”—

but not with the rest of it. If the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), who is no longer in his seat, wants a more bipartisan approach, it could start with this motion acknowledging that the apprenticeship programme has been a flagship programme of this Government and we have put £1.5 billion into making sure that it works.

The wording of the motion does not bear comparison with the situation in my constituency, where the advancement of the apprenticeships scheme is having an excellent result. One way of seeing that is to look at the unemployment figures in the constituency. The figures released today show that the total number of people unemployed across the whole constituency amounts to 244. That is a diminution in the number of unemployed on the previous month, and in effect it represents full unemployment and the normal churn of people looking for jobs. Most importantly, in the previous month the number of youth unemployed in the constituency was down to 30. I have every sympathy for those 30, but this

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represents a very good achievement for the Government. I welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Watford (Richard Harrington), who is no longer in the Chamber, to his new position. He is right to stress the role of MPs in driving the process along; each of us has the ability to do that. In my constituency I have Henley College, which is a very strong player in providing training for apprenticeships and has been working hand in hand with companies to promote those apprenticeships.

Dame Angela Watkinson: Will my hon. Friend join me in welcoming the increasing number of girls who are taking STEM subjects, which are leading to apprenticeships in engineering and technical subjects, and does he agree that we need more of them?

John Howell: I absolutely welcome my hon. Friend’s comments. She makes a very good point that we all need to bear in mind.

At the time when the recession was at its deepest, I took the initiative in my constituency to get together a whole lot of players in this field, including Henley College, to help businesses cope with the fact that they were going into recession. Henley College rose to the challenge very well. It was instructive to find that many people in the room from firms that had done business in the area for 25 years did not know a single soul among the rest of those gathered there. I think that if I were to do the same thing now, that would not be the case. They know where they are going, and they are taking the lead in promoting apprenticeships.

Colleges like Henley can make an important contribution in encouraging the provision of training. This is to do with a lot of the work that companies are undertaking to find the best training providers to help them in delivering apprenticeships. I recently went to see two contrasting companies in the constituency to hear about the work they were doing in apprenticeships. One was DAF, the truck manufacturer, which is one of the biggest companies in my constituency and sits at the centre of a web of apprenticeships that goes right across the country. It has made great efforts to find the right training provider to help it in this—a college down in the west country with which it can work to deliver this training. It has degree-type award ceremonies at the end of the apprenticeship training so that people feel they have got something out of the whole process. I have been invited to the ceremony it will conduct in September, to witness it at first hand.

The other company I went to visit was Williams Performance Tenders. Despite the constituency being landlocked, Williams Performance Tenders is the biggest producer of boats by volume in the whole country. Having been on one of those boats, I know they are extremely fast. This company, too, has a very good apprenticeship scheme that it manages largely by itself. That scheme operates in the most deprived village in the whole of my constituency, and it is making a big difference to people’s lives.

As a result of all this, if we look back to the beginning of 2010, we see that there has been an increase of some 58% in the number of apprenticeships taken up in the constituency. That is an excellent achievement. I put on record my thanks to all the businesses that have participated in and are contributing to this.

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Dame Angela Watkinson: Does my hon. Friend attribute that to good co-operation between local education and training providers and local employers, so that the skills that employers need are identified and young people are taking the right courses?

John Howell: That is a difficult question to answer. I attribute it partly to that, but the role of schools needs to be worked on further, because they can do more.

During the election campaign, I became aware of the way schools in the constituency still regard apprenticeships in an academic light as providing an academic training rather than a genuine life option for people.

Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) (Lab): I am interested in the increase in the number of apprenticeships in the hon. Gentleman’s area. Despite the statutory duty on schools to provide a better careers service, the opposite has happened. We are finding that they are not giving people the option of doing very different things or telling them about the availability of apprenticeships. Does he agree that we need to invest more in the careers services in our schools so that people get proper advice and are offered the very different options that are now available?

John Howell: I think I agree with the hon. Gentleman, but I would like more effort to be put into encouraging schools to focus on apprenticeships being self-standing as a life’s ambition that can be fulfilled. So many schools approach apprenticeships as though such people were going to university and deal with them in the same way—the careers advice process still encapsulates the whole thing—which is wrong. We need to ensure not just that providers and companies provide quality, but that the schools regard them as providing quality. To that extent, I fully agree with the hon. Gentleman. There is therefore an onus on the Government to redirect some of their efforts towards schools to encourage them to do this, and to move the debate on so that in a few years’ time people will have genuinely equal opportunities, whether they want to go to university, as I did, or have an apprenticeship, as so many young people in my constituency want. I welcome the Government’s emphasis on apprenticeships, and the important part that apprenticeships play in delivering the long-term economic plan.

Several hon. Members rose—

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. May I just say that we will stray over time if we are not careful? [Interruption.] I am not going to impose a time limit, Mr Rotheram; do not worry about that. If hon. Members aim for between seven and eight minutes, we will all be happier.

2.51 pm

Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): Welcome back to your place in the Chamber, Mr Deputy Speaker. I thank the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) for her speech and congratulate her on it. I have a great affection for Glasgow as well, and for her predecessor, Anas Sarwar. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the new Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain) on his maiden speech, and all other Members who have made their made their debuts in the Chamber today.

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It is a pleasure to be back in the Chamber, following my narrow electoral victory, to speak on the really important issue of apprenticeships. First, I want to place on the record how concerned I am that the City of Liverpool College is facing further cuts on top of the 24% FE cut to date. If that cut is implemented, it is estimated that it will equate to a further reduction of about 1,300 off its rolls. That is setting a near-impossible task for colleges, such as the City of Liverpool College, in continuing to provide courses to disadvantaged students from places like Walton.

I want to press the Minister to look more carefully at his Department’s flawed decision to scrap its plan for a UTC in Anfield, which had been hugely welcomed in Liverpool, Walton and had the backing of major companies, including Peel Ports. The decision flies in the face of the Tory rhetoric about commitments to having UTCs in every city.

Colleagues who sat in the last Parliament will be aware that I was critical of the Government’s use of rhetoric over reality in relation to apprenticeships. It will therefore come as no surprise to Conservative Members to hear that I have no intention of discontinuing that particular stance in this Parliament when they get things wrong. The reason for that is quite simply that apprenticeships are close to my heart. As a former apprentice bricklayer, I know their value and necessity in the modern age.

It is irresponsible of any Government erroneously to claim that they have created 2.2 million apprenticeships, when they have in fact created nowhere near that number—not proper apprenticeships anyway. The apprenticeships that the Government claim to have created are on programmes where the average length of stay is a duration of just 10 months. One of the Conservative Members—I cannot remember who—highlighted an example of best practice in an apprenticeship that was 16 weeks long. That is not an apprenticeship. I obtained that figure of an average stay of 10 months from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, so the Minister may wish to have a word with his colleagues in BIS before attempting to question his own Government’s figures. Such illustrations highlight the problem. Short-stay programmes are simply work-based training programmes re-badged to hit Government apprenticeship targets. These distortions, which are commonly perceived as bona fide apprenticeships, dilute and devalue the brand.

Huw Merriman (Bexhill and Battle) (Con): We have created 2.2 million apprenticeships, which the hon. Gentleman doubts, and we have also created 2 million jobs. On that basis, are people not moving from apprenticeships into jobs, and therefore carrying on their training in the workplace?

Steve Rotheram: No. The hon. Gentleman conflates two things, which is exactly what I am trying to highlight. Taking somebody in a job who is getting some training and re-badging them as an apprentice is wrong. That is not an apprenticeship. Most think of an apprenticeship as having a duration of two and a half or perhaps three years and involving people learning the skills of a particular occupation and going on to get a full-time job in that skills area. It is not the 16-week shelf-stacking example that one of the hon. Gentleman’s colleagues gave.

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In my constituency, we now have the worst of all worlds, as the plans for the UTC have been scrapped, and there has been a fall of 32% in apprenticeship starts in Liverpool, Walton for 16 to 18-year-olds since the Tories came to power.

Alex Cunningham: I am sure my hon. Friend’s majority is as narrow as the Mersey.

Our FE colleges are playing an increasing role in supporting apprenticeships. We heard some great examples of that on Monday, when the Association of Colleges held a reception. Yet colleges’ ability is restricted by funding cuts and the fact that they are paid up to a year in arrears for new courses that they develop. That is putting them at the mercy of the banks as colleges run out of money. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need to sort out this funding mess, and release our colleges to drive the apprenticeship programmes we know they are capable of providing?

Steve Rotheram: My hon. Friend highlights just one of the anomalies in the funding system for FE colleges. I hope that I will be able to tease out one or two other anomalies in the time remaining.

I believe that we have to be honest about the scale of the problem facing our nation, so I want to talk specifically about apprenticeships in technical sectors. As colleagues will know, our country needs 82,000 additional engineers, scientists and technologists by 2017. To compete globally, almost half of those in technical roles will require upskilling to keep pace with technological advancements. Some 10,000 new technicians are required for the rail industry, of which 30% are required in London and the south-east alone. In aviation, 7,000 new engineers are needed between now and 2020, of which 30% need to have an NVQ level 4 and above. A growing number of engineering roles feature on the national shortage occupation list, and there is the stark statistic that two in five businesses requiring employees with STEM qualifications and skills are reporting difficulties with recruitment.

The time has come for the Government to roll out advanced technology colleges across the UK to match their, as yet undelivered, commitment for a UTC in every city. We have long lived in a country where the post-16 education system is geared towards results and targets, rather than businesses and young people’s needs and aspirations. In essence, this country faces a skills shortage in many leading industries, such as engineering and construction, because we have not focused our post-16 education system on equipping people with the skills that businesses need in order to thrive. Successive Governments have sometimes got this wrong, and I believe that one way to address the escalating problem is to increase the number of advanced technology colleges.

Last week, I had the privilege to visit Prospects College of Advanced Technology in Basildon. PROCAT is an advanced technology college that specialises in the engineering, rail, aviation, construction and building service sectors. It comprises three skills campuses, with more than 2,000 students and 850 apprentices. The previous Labour Government invested significantly in this facility, with a bursary of about £20 million. I visited to learn about how it recruits, trains and retains apprentices in specific sectors, because I am interested in how we can develop the ATC model across the

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country. In fact, in the 1950s a host of what are now known as universities, such as Brunel, Aston, Bradford, Cardiff and many more, were all ATCs before they became polytechnics and then universities. The beauty of an ATC is that it has a direct link to the business—it is a model, I think, of absolute success.

ATCs align themselves with businesses that invest in their apprentices, helping to provide a clear and professional training environment and a guaranteed job and career at the end of the training, which is exactly what I was trying to outline to the hon. Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman). The curriculum at an ATC is also aligned to the needs of that business, which helps to ensure that all apprentices leave with the necessary skills to be employable.

Lord Heseltine made it clear in his 2013 report on growth that university technical colleges, with links to businesses, are the way forward. I would not normally quote Lord Heseltine; it is not easy for me to quote him, but, after all, he was responsible for bringing Thatcher down, so every cloud has a silver lining and all that! Indeed, I think we must go full circle and return to ATC status in order to restore parity of esteem and to address the urgent need to deal with our growing skills shortages.

In my remaining time, I would like to touch on another issue. Another anomaly in the education system is the entry level for UTC students, which currently stands at 14. At 14, many students will have decided what path they wish to take and whether they want to specialise in any particular occupational area. A UTC is therefore perfect for them, as it allows them to begin their vocational training in a new college at an early stage and focus on that specialty 40% of the time, with the other 60% focused on STEM subjects.

I implore the Minister to study the faculty of foundation apprenticeships, which is being developed by PROCAT and offers pre-apprenticeship training to any 16-year-old seeking to enter technical apprenticeships. There is a gap in the system, and that would be a good way for the Government to address it. They should look seriously at promoting ATCs, step up their game and improve the quality of apprenticeship training to provide real choice for young people deciding between an academic or vocational route to the workplace. We could then finally achieve that parity of esteem we so often hear about in this place.

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): There are four remaining speakers. With nine minutes each, we will have time for the Front-Bench speeches and a 4 o’clock vote.

3.2 pm

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): It is a pleasure to speak in this debate. This topic is one of the most important facing our country. We must skill the next generation for the jobs of the future. I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram), who set out clearly some of those challenges.

We know that the UK is facing the worst skills crisis for a generation, with skills levels failing to support the diversity of the modern economy and secure job opportunities and investment for the future. A number of recent reports, such as those of Lord Adonis and the OECD, clearly showed that skills shortages were the

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main barrier to growth among employers in our top 10 major cities. They made it clear that we need to do a much better job of linking the development of relevant skills to growth sectors in our economy. Only then will we deliver the economic growth that is needed for the future.

Nowhere is that more exemplified than in my own area of the north-east of England. We had a very interesting report from the local enterprise partnership last year, which set out the challenge very clearly, stating that, for the north-east, it

“is not just the number of jobs but the quality of these jobs”

Improving the quality is fundamental to its plan. It says:

“the area needs to increase the volume of skills at a higher level to address a changing demographic, in particular higher skills required by employers of younger people and those moving into and between work”.

That clearly sets out the situation we face. The report also highlighted the fact that productivity levels are a real problem—we have heard about that today—as are the skills levels. The report mentioned the disparity in skills levels between more advantaged areas and disadvantaged areas, including areas such as the north-east. It states:

“The proportion of secondary schools judged as good or outstanding for teaching in the least deprived areas is 85%—almost equal to the national average of 86%. In the most deprived areas however, this drops to 29% compared with the national average of 65%.”

This shows the “massive…percentage point difference” between the proportions achieving five A to C grades at GCSE in the average areas in comparison with the most deprived areas. The Government have not given that problem enough recognition when it comes to putting additional resources into the areas that need it most.

Overall, there has been an increase in levels of educational attainment in the north-east and a fall in the proportion of adults with no qualifications. As I said, however, we need to increase the volume of higher-level skills to address the changing demographics in the region, with a particular focus on key sectors, particularly the STEM—science, technology, engineering and maths—sector. In many areas of the UK, there are too few people achieving qualifications in STEM subjects, particularly among women.

Andrew Gwynne: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on these issues. Does she think that it was a retrograde step when the previous Government scrapped Aimhigher? We all talk about aspiration, but in many of the communities my hon. Friend mentions, we need to raise those ambitions further.

Dr Blackman-Woods: I agree with my hon. Friend that it was a hugely retrograde step to get rid of Aimhigher, as indeed it was to scrap other measures that supported young people, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, into taking up opportunities in further and higher education.

The CBI cites major skills shortages in STEM subjects as being a major barrier to growth, while the Royal Academy of Engineering forecasts that the UK needs an extra 50,000 STEM technicians and 90,000 professionals each year just to replace people retiring from the work force.

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We are really fortunate in the north-east in that there have been more new technology company start-ups than in any areas of the UK outside London. However, due to skills shortages, organisations frequently need to recruit from outside the region—and increasingly overseas—to fill the skills gaps in the area. We want to see young people skilled, and the reskilling of those who are currently seeking work, so that they can find employment in some of the key sectors that are growing in the north-east, such as advanced manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, our university and technology sector, professional services, tourism, creative and digital industries, logistics and the renewable energy sector. Improved investment and additional skills are needed if we are to achieve the 100,000 additional jobs that the LEP wants to see across those sectors over the next 10 years.

We also want an expansion of high-quality vocational education and youth apprenticeships to establish a stronger non-university route into employment. That is not to say that higher education is not important—I think it is, and we must continue to invest in it—but we want to ensure that young people know that there are wider training opportunities available. They might want to know that they can combine vocational education in the workplace with education in the university and further education sector. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne), one of our Front-Bench team, produced a wonderful report last year called “Robbins Rebooted” that really highlights the mixtures that we are capable of achieving when we are imaginative about training opportunities for young people to take them from school into the workplace. They can be then assigned to college courses to ensure that they get the skills levels they need.

Let me make two brief points before I conclude. Funding from Europe is really important in the north-east and sustains a lot of our skills and education. In future debates about staying in Europe, it is really important that European social fund financial support is put into the mix, because we could not sustain the skills levels without it.

Devolution is very much on the agenda in helping areas to link the skills that are needed to future economic development. The Association of Colleges has produced a very helpful report for all of us that considers what devolution could bring by giving local people much more knowledge about the industries there are likely to be in the area in the coming years and how they can acquire the skills for themselves and for their children and grandchildren so that they can take on those opportunities.

My final challenge is for the Minister. Will he say what he is going to do to sustain investment in the infrastructure supporting education and skills development and to ensure that those opportunities are spread into the most deprived areas of our country?

3.11 pm

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): We have to make education and skills our country’s No. 1 priority. Improving education is the answer to our country’s biggest challenges, as it brings better paid and more secure jobs to areas that have lost their traditional industries, tackles poverty and improves social mobility, boosts productivity, builds a stronger economy and enables us to tackle the deficit.

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The only way our country will pay its way, let alone prosper, is with the skills we need to compete. Germany has three times as many apprentices as the UK. The number of young apprentices and apprentices in IT and construction is falling and, although I welcome degree-level apprenticeships, they account for less than 2% of the total number. On education, we are no longer merely falling behind Finland, South Korea and Germany in basic numeracy and literacy but behind Estonia, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic as well. Think about this: we are the only country in the developed world in which those approaching retirement are more literate and numerate than those entering the workforce.

Children today will work with technologies that have not yet been invented or even imagined. They will have more than a dozen jobs over their lifetime, so they must learn how to adapt, how to learn and how to acquire new skills, but a CBI survey found that nearly a third of employers were dissatisfied with school leavers’ basic literacy and numeracy.

We should all agree—all parties, the Government, schools, colleges, universities, the teaching profession and businesses—on clear long-term targets to improve education and provide the skills we need to compete. The CBI is right to call for a cross-party review of 14-to-19 education considering exams, the curriculum and the status of vocational education so that we can plan properly for the future and prevent the sort of problems we face in Dudley at the moment.

Mike Wood (Dudley South) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real need for greater and better capacity in vocational education for children with special educational needs, particularly for 14 to 19-year-olds?

Ian Austin: The hon. Gentleman is completely right. As he represents Dudley South, he will know that Dudley College has just opened fantastic new facilities on The Broadway. I do not know whether he has had a chance to visit yet, but he definitely should. It provides fantastic opportunities for young people with profound disabilities and learning difficulties. It is a unique institution, the first of its kind in the country. It is another brilliant success, which is down to Principal Lowell Williams and his colleagues, and it is an example that colleges around Britain should be following. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right and I look forward to working with him to drive up educational standards and improve standards not just for children with special needs but for all children in Dudley over the next five years.

Under the brilliant leadership of Lowell Williams and his colleagues, Dudley College has not only provided those fantastic facilities but has transformed our town centre and opportunities for local people. Our new manufacturing college, Dudley Advance, has been developed with Aston University and local manufacturers. We have a new vocational centre, a new sixth form college and plans for a new construction centre. Ministers will be pleased to hear that the vast majority has been funded by more efficient use of the college’s own resources and not by external funding. Ofsted has rated all aspects of the college’s provision as “good” or “outstanding” in its most recent inspections and the college has been named one of the top three colleges in the country for

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students completing apprenticeships, with nine out of 10 students successfully completing their training compared with 69% nationally.

Mr Williams and his colleagues are helping local businesses to grow, educating young people and helping adults to get new jobs, too. They are doing exactly what Ministers have asked of them, but far from supporting their work, Government policies are putting courses and places at risk.

Cutting the adult skills budget by 24% means that Dudley College will lose £1.4 million, so 30 jobs are at risk and 1,500 places will be cut, most of which are employability programmes for unemployed adults and workplace qualifications in health and social care, early years and construction. The college faces further 20% reductions in each of the following two years, removing another 1,700 adult places. Thousands of adults struggling to find work will lose their retraining and many more jobs are at risk.

Dudley College has worked hard to help Ministers to increase apprenticeships, doing exactly what they want and making it by far the largest provider in the region. In May, the college again requested additional places from the Skills Funding Agency for 16 to 18-year-olds in areas such as engineering, manufacturing and care, which, again, is exactly what the Government want it to do. The agency indicated that that would be possible, as it was in previous years, but the funding is now at risk after the Chancellor’s announcement that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education must find £450 million of savings this year.

Spending on 16 to 18-year-olds is unprotected and apprenticeship providers are worried that the SFA will not be able to deliver the promised funding. That is the complete opposite of the long-term planning needed to fix the skills gap. Dudley College must either turn away 150 apprentices in priority areas or deliver the training without any funding. The college has also requested growth for 2015-16 and beyond, but how will the Government meet their target of 3 million additional apprentices if they cannot fund the growth at successful institutions, such as Dudley College, that are already doing a brilliant job and delivering exactly what the Government want?

Finally, Dudley College is now particularly vulnerable to changes in the amount of funding that the Education Funding Agency will offer for courses for 16 to 19-year-olds. That has been another growth area, with the EFA set to fund places for an extra 263 learners next year. A significant part of the college’s investment in new facilities such as Dudley Advance has been based on the expectation that EFA funding will increase, but the Chancellor’s announcement threatens that funding too, and any change in the number of funded places or the rate of funding will damage the college’s ability to meet local needs skills such as manufacturing. That comes on top of an 8% reduction in funding per learner in the past four years and a 22% funding reduction for 16-year-olds.

All of that shows why we should listen to the CBI, launch a cross-party inquiry and set out a long-term plan to tackle our country’s skills gap and, as I said at the outset, make education and skills our country’s No. 1 priority. But for a long-term plan to work, the Government need to give colleges the certainty they need to keep growing to meet demand.

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Will the Minister work with the Skills Funding Agency to set out urgently the number of places it will fund in the coming year? Will he and the Business Secretary set out plans to meet the spending reductions as soon as possible, so that providers know how much funding will be available in the future? Will he come to Dudley and join me and the hon. Member for Dudley South (Mike Wood) in visiting the college, where he will be able to meet Mr Williams and his colleagues, see the brilliant work they are doing and help them solve the problems they face?

3.19 pm

Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab): May I congratulate you on your re-election, Mr Deputy Speaker? I also congratulate all the new Members who have made their maiden speeches today.

The Achilles heel that is causing the skills and growth shortage is the issue of funding. This debate shows that any pretence the Government have of being in favour of aspiration is a total fabrication. How is it possible to have strong institutions when Tameside College in my constituency of Ashton-under-Lyne has had nearly half its funding cut in the past five years? That amounts to more than £2.3 million—or 44%—of its total budget. Meanwhile, more than a third of the population in Tameside have qualifications below a national vocational qualification level 2.

It just does not compute. How can my constituents aspire to get on in life, gain extra qualifications, get decent jobs and provide for their families when one of their main routes to doing so—further education—is being closed off or shut down? How do Ministers think my constituents will be able to access the jobs that may come from their much-vaunted northern powerhouse project without the training and skills revolution that will be needed?

Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab): I welcome my hon. Friend to the House; she has already made a fantastic contribution. Greater Manchester spends £22 billion on public services and raises £17 billion from taxes. The key driver to bridging that gap over the next few years will be ensuring that we have the skills to wipe our own feet economically as a conurbation. How can the Government talk about a northern powerhouse without investing in improving the skills we need to make sure that we reduce our public spending and increase the amount we raise in taxes through a skilled workforce?

Angela Rayner: I thank my hon. Friend for that contribution.

For people like me who left school at 16, further education was one of the few routes out of poverty. I did an NVQ in care at my local college, and as a young woman—as a young single mum—it gave me just the start I needed to find work and fend for myself. I needed that opportunity to try to make my way in the world.

Further education gave me, and millions more like me, a second chance. It was a vital part of the comprehensive education system, which this Government now seem hellbent on destroying. They are kicking away the ladder

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of opportunity for thousands of young adults in my constituency in Tameside and Oldham. I recommend that they come and visit. It is all right for those who can afford a place at Eton, but there is nothing in this Government’s cuts to further education that will help the people to aspire to go to Tameside College or Ashton sixth-form college. One nation Britain? Do me a favour.

Huw Merriman: Coming from a very similar background to the hon. Lady, and having benefited from a sixth-form college, I will give her a different take. In my constituency, Bexhill sixth-form college continues to thrive and provide vocational education and to build people’s confidence. That is a very different pattern from the one she has just painted.

Angela Rayner: But may I just remind the hon. Gentleman of the enormous 24% cut to the adult further education budget in England? That is a massive blow to the hopes and aspirations of millions of people who just want to get on in life: people who want improved qualifications in order to improve their pay and prospects; people who want to learn English so that they can be fully part of our communities, get work and pay their way in our country; people who may have lost their jobs because of the massive cuts in public services and who want to retrain and develop new skills; women with families who want to return to education and better themselves after bringing up their children; and young people looking for an apprenticeship because they have a vocation in life.

Andrew Gwynne: I welcome my hon. Friend, my neighbour in Tameside, to her place. With regard to upskilling young people, is it not worth commending Labour-controlled Tameside council, which has established a Tameside apprenticeship company, working with local partners and businesses, to provide the opportunities that she is talking about?

Angela Rayner: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, but this Government are saying no to all those people, kicking away the ladder of opportunity. [Interruption.] They are destroying people’s hope. It is a massive blow to our economic success as a nation. They are setting our country back decades. The Opposition agree that the future for Britain is a high-skill, high-wage, dynamic economy in which learning is lifelong. We do not believe in a race to the bottom on the basis of low skills and low wages so that we can become the sink economy of the developed world.

Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): Will the hon. Lady give way?

Angela Rayner: No, I am going to continue.

That way lies failure, waste and stagnation. I call on this Government to think again. You do not have a mandate for this. You did not tell the electorate about it. [Interruption.] If you continue with these shocking cuts, you will be wrecking Britain’s future and blighting the lives of millions of people for whom further education is the route onwards and upwards to reaching their goals and achieving their dreams. You will also set back our economic prosperity. I urge you to think again.

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Several hon. Members rose

Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): Order. To be helpful, Ms Rayner, I just want to let you know that when you say “you,” that means me, and I do not want to accept any responsibility for what you are accusing others of. I have taken the blame, so I do not know why Government Front Benchers got quite so upset.

Ian Austin: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. I would never use the sort of appalling, sexist language that the former First Minister of Scotland used to describe the right hon. Member for Broxtowe (Anna Soubry), but is it in order for her to chunter from the Government Front Bench all the way through an Opposition Member’s speech, and as loudly as possibly—

Mr Deputy Speaker: Order. We both know that that is not a point of order. It is for the Chair to decide that, and I must say that I thought on this occasion the Minister was much quieter than she normally is, so let us not worry about it.

3.27 pm

Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab): I would like first to congratulate those Members who have made their maiden speeches. I was particularly taken by what the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson) said about a well-educated electorate. I represent Cambridge, so I recognise his description. The point he was making is that the better educated the electorate, the more sensible their electoral choice. If the Government are as successful in their education policies as they claim to be, we will have a much better educated country, so I think the future of progressive politics looks bright. We look forward to their success on that basis. I also agree with the comments of the hon. Member for Watford (Richard Harrington) on university technical colleges. We have a university technical college in Cambridge, and it is doing excellent work and making a major contribution.

I want to reflect on not only some of the problems of the skills crisis, but some of the less well-rehearsed consequences. The problems that my constituency faces—we have an excellent further education college, Cambridge Regional College—are similar to those described so eloquently by many other Members. Unfortunately, there have been similar levels of cuts, with cuts in its budget every year since 2010, and it is facing funding cuts of between £2.5 million and £3 million over the next couple of years.

Yesterday we spoke to a number of representatives from the University and College Union, Unison and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. They fleshed out what those cuts actually mean. While Government Members are claiming that things are going well, the people on the front line are telling us what that means in practice. We heard about the effective deskilling of many of our key people. For instance, people who had been lecturers are becoming instructors. I do not think that many of us would like to be offered the opportunity to come back the following year to do effectively the same job for £10,000 a year less, and with a very different status, but that is clearly what is happening in a number of places. Whatever one feels about the effect on those individuals, we have to ask what the effect is on the learner experience. I do not believe that it can be good.

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If Government Members do not want to listen to the people who represent the staff, I suggest that they talk to employers in their area, as I do in my area. The messages that I hear about skills shortages are absolutely clear. Our local enterprise partnership recently conducted a survey and found that about 91% of employers had problems recruiting in the previous year because they could not find people with the right skills. That is a block on economic progress in our area. Last week, I met the Federation of Small Businesses, which said that the biggest issue its members face is exactly the same problem: they cannot find people with the right skills to do the jobs.

Perhaps more surprising is what I heard from local housing associations when I met them yesterday. Housing associations have a lot on their plate at the moment, as Members can probably imagine. Should the Conservative party’s policies be implemented, they will be required to replace houses. The problem they face is that finding the skilled people to build houses in areas like Cambridgeshire is near impossible. That is the basic problem with that policy. I will tell Members what the answer is for the housing associations. It is migrant labour, because people from other countries have got the skills and will come here to do the jobs.

Interestingly, it is often claimed in debates on other issues that the pull factor to this country is benefits. Actually, the pull factor is the lack of skills in this country—our inability to train our own people to do the jobs that we need to be done. This is a five-year Parliament and there is a long time ahead, so I suggest to Conservative Members, in a friendly, positive way, that if they want to have economic success, they will have to analyse the problem correctly in the first place. If they misdiagnose the problem, they are certain to fail to get the right answer.

Alex Cunningham: One problem in this country is the difference between the regions. Unemployment is almost 50% higher in the north-east of England than in the rest of the country, yet there has been a shift of money from the north to the south. I appreciate that my hon. Friend has problems in his area, but there has been a shift of funding from north to south. Does he agree that the Government need to tackle that issue?

Daniel Zeichner: It is certainly right that we need different approaches for different parts of the country. That is why I have always been a strong regionalist and why I decry the savage cuts to the regional structures that were made by the last Government. However, I have funding problems and inequalities in my part of the world. Schools in Cambridgeshire are woefully underfunded compared with schools in other parts of the country. This is a complicated set of issues, but my hon. Friend is right that, in general, there has been a shift of resources from poorer areas to wealthier areas. That cannot be right.

I want to reflect on some of the alternative solutions. Given what I have said, it is obvious that in my view the policy that is being pursued of reducing the resources that go to those who provide our training services is not the right way forward. However, this matter goes beyond our colleges. As I just mentioned, our sixth-form colleges have suffered an enormous hit to their funding over the past few years. I understand that over the past five

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years, their budgets have been cut by as much as a third. My constituency has some fantastic sixth-form colleges—some of the best performing in the country—but they continue to perform well only because of the heroic efforts of their staff in very difficult circumstances. Some of them face appalling recruitment problems. That is not sustainable. We will not be able to go on producing good results with ever-diminishing resources. Frankly, that will not work.

We have seen the near destruction of the careers service in many places. That means that, all too often, the provision of careers advice falls to teachers, who are not necessarily trained in making the right suggestions to young people. Understandably, they tend to fall back on their own experiences. What happens far too often is that the advice given to our young people does not necessarily put them down the vocational route that would be best for them.

Some good things are happening. Marshall Aerospace is doing a very good job in my constituency, working with schools on a programme it has just launched, of encouraging more young people to go into engineering. Frankly, however, it is a drop in the ocean compared with what we need. We need a major change of tack to tackle this problem. I have to say that I have not heard much from Government Members to give me great confidence that that is going to happen. I fear we will to have to wait for a different Government to solve these long-term problems.

3.35 pm

Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab): This has been an excellent debate. It has been made all the better for the outstanding maiden speeches we heard from the hon. Members for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss), for Derby North (Amanda Solloway) and for Northampton South (David Mackintosh) and my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain). I was very glad to hear about the warnings and risks to our line of work from the hon. Member for Northampton South. The hon. Member for Derby North spoke with great courage about the progress we need to make to improve our mental health services. My hon. Friend the Member for Bradford East spoke with real passion and force about the transformative power of education. They all spoke with great wit, great eloquence and great passion, making a mark on both the debate and the House.

What we have sought to do in the debate is put the challenge of productivity centre stage. I am delighted that the Chancellor has now woken up to the productivity crisis that bedevils us, albeit arguably five years too late. The facts are very clear, extraordinary and alarming: there is now a 20% productivity gap between the United Kingdom and our G7 competitors. What does that mean? It means something pretty stark: what the rest of the G7 finish making on a Thursday night takes us to the end of Friday to get done. If this carries on, it will mean something pretty simple for the UK economy. We will become the cheap labour economy of Europe, while the rest of our competitors—we have heard many of those stories today—will continue to streak ahead. Quite simply, unless we grow smarter, we are going to grow poorer. There is no other way of raising living standards

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in the medium term unless we improve our productivity. It is good that the Chancellor has finally woken up to this issue. In three weeks’ time, he has the chance to set out a Budget that reflects on the contributions we have heard this afternoon and, crucially, does something about it.

The productivity crisis has come around every decade or two in this country since the second world war. In the 1970s we invented a phrase for it. We used to call it the British disease. Right now, the growth in productivity is worse—not better—than it was at the end of the 1970s. The British disease is back and it is worse than ever. The danger is that this is unfolding at a time when our challenges are getting stronger. We are now all pretty familiar with the strength of the education system in countries such as China and in cities such as Shanghai. I commend the Government for seeking to learn what lessons they can about how we improve our education system from some of those new competitors. I think it is next year, however, that China will spend more on science than the whole of Europe put together. Four out of the top 10 biggest global technology firms are now Asian. We are going to fall behind, and fall behind fast, unless we tackle skills and growth with greater vigour.

Across Westminster and beyond, I think there is an acceptance and a sense that reform of technical education is too fragmentary, not ambitious enough and too piecemeal. What we are seeing in some of the Government’s reforms are challenges to every single rung of the ladder. It is not clear whether the EBacc will apply to all students in all schools, such as UTCs. I hope the Minister can clarify that.

The hon. Member for Watford (Richard Harrington) was heroically, and quite understandably, unable to answer that question. We hope the Minister will do a better job.

The number of unqualified teachers in our classrooms is up 16% at the last count. Half of state schools do not send a single girl to do A-level physics. The CBI says our careers service is on life support. As the Minister will know, the number of apprenticeships for under-25s has not risen in the past year, but has actually fallen. The Secretary of State needs to talk far more about the apprenticeship opportunities she is championing in government for 16 to 19-year-olds. It is now widely accepted that it is not enough for the Government to talk about their ambition for the number of apprentices; they have to talk about raising the quality bar too.

A far-too-small number of apprentices go on to degree-level study. I know the Minister is working hard on this, but it is simply not good enough, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) pointed out, that only 2% of apprentices go on to degree-level studies. At the moment, 70% of higher apprentices go to over-25s, and there has been a 40% fall in the number of people studying for HNCs and HNDs. As a result, the skills gap is getting wider and wider. The chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover, Mike Wright, says that there is a 40% gap every year in the number of qualifying engineers. My hon. Friend the Member for City of Durham (Dr Blackman-Woods) set out with tremendous eloquence what damage that is doing to the fabric of our economy.

Of all the challenges, however, perhaps the most serious is that the Government seem hellbent on destroying the spine of the technical education system—our further

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education colleges. This afternoon we have heard powerful testimony about the damage being wrought all over the country. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr Mahmood) spoke with his customary eloquence about the impact of the 24% in-year cut to the adult skills budget. It is hard for cities such as Birmingham to move people up the skills ladder when every rung of that ladder seems to be being broken. He was absolutely right to set out the extraordinary work that colleges such as South and City College Birmingham and Birmingham Metropolitan College are doing, but they are doing it despite the Government, not because of them.

Antoinette Sandbach (Eddisbury) (Con): The right hon. Gentleman’s words might have more credence were Labour not doing the same in Wales to further education colleges there. It is clear that cuts are being delivered and that qualifications, particularly in STEM subjects, are not being achieved in Wales.

Liam Byrne: The hon. Lady cannot evade the fact that a 24% cut is being delivered to adult education budgets across our country. Right now, colleges and college leaders all over Britain are saying to right. hon. and hon. Members that many colleges are about to fall over. If the Minister is serious, as I hope he is, he has a judgment day coming at him in three weeks. If the Chancellor stands at the Dispatch Box and does not deliver a sensible, sustainable settlement for further education, I fear that the Minister’s ambitions for the future of the technical education system will come to naught.

My hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Steve Rotheram) set out the horrifying scale of cuts to the City of Liverpool College. I cannot believe that such a college is having to lose 1,300 places at a time when the prospects for regeneration in Liverpool are pretty good. My hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North talked about the catastrophe unfolding at Dudley College, which is doing anything and everything to help people in Dudley get up the skills ladder, get qualified and get better jobs, and again it is doing that despite the Government, not because of them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) has not been in the House long, but she made a powerful speech about the damage being wrought to Tameside College and the denial of opportunities she is already seeing in her constituency. The right answer would have been to protect the 16-to-19 education budget, which would have delivered a £400 million uplift to further education over this Parliament.

The Government will have to make a decision in three weeks’ time. Are they serious about backing the Secretary of State for Education in her ambitions? Are they serious about backing the Minister for Skills in his? It will be decision time, and Ministers will be judged on whether the Chancellor delivers.

George Kerevan (East Lothian) (SNP): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that one of the prime examples of the lack of numeracy in the United Kingdom workforce that is undermining our productivity is the inability of Conservative Members to make any association between

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the massive cuts that they are introducing and the reduction in the skills base and skills training in this country?

Liam Byrne: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. The same case was made earlier, with some force, by my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner).

There has been an improvement in the youth unemployment figures, but they are still too high. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State should listen, because it is in towns such as her constituency of Loughborough that employers are “sponsoring in”. This country imported 300,000 people over the course of the last Parliament because firms were able to prove that there was a skills shortage here, and I am afraid that that gap, and that pull, will only increase unless the Secretary of State weaves her magic with her right hon. Friend the Chancellor in three weeks’ time. Where initiatives such as the northern powerhouse are creating the opportunities for which we pray, those initiatives will come to mean nothing to families unless we give local people the skills that will enable them to do those new jobs.

Last week, in Westminster Hall, the Minister reflected thoughtfully—as he often does—on his ambition to agree strategic principles for the long term to underpin reform of the technical education system. Our motion this afternoon, which has been welcomed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, gives him a chance to seize that opportunity with both hands, and I hope that he will take up the offer to agree on principles that could reform the system for a generation to come. There are points of consensus, a couple of which were identified by the hon. Member for Watford in what was a very thoughtful speech.

Over the last year, my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) and I have set a number of principles, which I offer the Minister this afternoon. First, there must be a broad and balanced curriculum in our schools. That will be harder to deliver at a time when school budgets are being cut by 10%, and at a time when there is ambiguity and confusion over whether every pupil in every school is required to take the English baccalaureate. Secondly, we need to rebuild the careers service in this country. Modern economies need strong careers services in schools. There is an obvious place to look for the money: £50 million could be taken from the widening participation fund.

Thirdly, there must be huge support from the Government for the city apprenticeship agencies that are being established by Labour councils such as those in Leeds and my home city of Birmingham. They are important, because they help small and medium-sized enterprises by finding young people who want to take up apprenticeships. SMEs are creating most of the jobs in our economy today.

Fourthly, there must be more specialisation and quality in further education, which will require a sensible funding settlement. That is the only way in which we can set good examples such as Prospects College of Advanced Technology, or PROCAT, which was mentioned earlier. Fifthly, we must allow more apprentices to study skills to degree level. We cannot simply pass a law to deliver parity of esteem between apprenticeships and degrees. We must create a system that will allow more than 14,000 apprentices a year to proceed to higher-level skills.

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When we live in a country where those who are retiring are more literate than those who are coming into the labour market, we face a very serious challenge, and, this afternoon, no one described that challenge better than my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North. The challenge of technical education has long frustrated us in this country. It was back in 1944 that Lord Percy said, in a report that he delivered to the Government, that

“the position of Great Britain is being endangered by a failure to secure the fullest possible application of science to industry… and…this failure is partly due to deficiencies in education.”

We do not want that conclusion to be delivered again in 50 years’ time.

I hope that the Minister will take it on himself today to deliver a level of consensus, agreement and support for the motion. I hope that generations to come will look back on days like today and say, “That was the moment when partisan differences were put aside, and the parties decided to come together to rise to the challenge of the future.” I commend the motion to the House.

3.49 pm

The Minister for Skills (Nick Boles): This has been an excellent debate. We have heard a series of remarkable maiden speeches telling the story of what we all want to see: a nation of opportunity and aspiration, and a nation in which people of every background in every part of the country are able to achieve professional success and, in the case of those hon. Members making their maiden speeches, the ultimate accolade of election to Parliament.

We heard from the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (John Nicolson), with whom I have not exchanged words for about 25 years. We met once, many years ago.

Mr Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): Tell us more!

Nick Boles: Sadly, there were other people present.

We heard from the hon. Gentleman that he had been the first person from his family to go to university, and here he is now. He is going to do his constituents proud in this Chamber. I should like to add a note of thanks for his generous tribute to his predecessor, Jo Swinson, who was probably the Conservatives’ favourite Liberal Democrat.

We also heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Derby North (Amanda Solloway), who will be relieved to hear that I am not going to recall a meeting of 20 years ago with her. She spoke of the idea of a nation of aspiration that had given her the opportunity, despite having had an education that had not given her great qualifications or a degree, to succeed in retail and manufacturing and then to find her way on to these green Benches. Having heard her fantastic speech, I can assure her that she will do much more than double her majority in five years’ time.

We heard from the new broom in Bradford East, the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain). His grandfather found opportunity in Bradford’s mills. How proud he would be today to see that his grandson had not only qualified as a barrister in the courts of the United Kingdom but now been elected to Parliament.

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My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton South (David Mackintosh) spoke eloquently and with the experience of a local government leader on the role of education in regeneration and, in particular, on the project that he has spearheaded—the Northampton Alive regeneration scheme. I have no doubt that he will never give any of his constituents reason to follow the example of the assassin of one of his predecessors.

The hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) spoke very well of the work of the Scottish Government on improving skills training. I have heard good reports about the Scottish apprenticeship programme from employers who provide apprenticeships in all parts of our country. I believe in learning from anyone and everyone, and I would be keen to learn from Scottish Ministers what they have found to be successful. I am planning to visit the hon. Lady’s fair city this summer, and I shall be sure to visit the area of Toryglen, even if I am the only Tory in it.

Following this debate, I wish I could report that Her Majesty’s Opposition were reflecting on the result of the election and on the messages sent to them, ever so politely, by the British public. I wish I could say that they were approaching that subject with humility and an open mind, asking themselves whether there was anything in their presentation before early May that they should perhaps revise. Sadly, however, that was not to be. We heard groundhog day of the Labour story. All we heard from Opposition Members was an endless series of increasingly hysterical attacks on cuts in public spending.

I have a lot of time for my opponent, the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). I believe he is a good and thoughtful man, and that he was a good and thoughtful Minister in his time, but he can tell his colleagues why those public spending cuts were necessary.

Tristram Hunt: Will the Minister give way?

Nick Boles: I will not give way.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spent quite a lot of the past six to eight weeks opening his breast pocket and brandishing a letter from the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill, in which he said that there was no money left. We never wanted to cut public spending and never wanted to impose those difficult decisions; we have done so because of the legacy that he left us and made fun of in a letter—we are living with those consequences.

Tristram Hunt rose—

Nick Boles: I will not give way, as the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill has had his go.

We heard barely a word from Labour Members about qualifications reform or about our apprenticeship reforms, which are putting employers in charge of developing standards and controlling Government investment in apprenticeships. [Interruption.]

Madam Deputy Speaker (Mrs Eleanor Laing): Order. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to give way, he will do so. It is not for others to tell him to give way—he is not giving way.

17 Jun 2015 : Column 375

Nick Boles: Let me make it clear that I would be happy to give way to a Back Bencher, but I think we can all agree that we have heard quite enough from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent Central (Tristram Hunt) this week, in his not-so-pithy contributions to our debates.

We heard barely a word from Labour Members about our plans to ensure that anyone who has been failed in school and who has failed to achieve sufficient qualifications in English and maths should carry on studying them, through a further education college or whatever other route they take. That is a plan we have invested in and that we are developing.

Alex Cunningham rose—

Nick Boles: I am happy to give way to a gentleman who is also always pithy.

Alex Cunningham: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He mentioned trying to give opportunities to those who fail to achieve the necessary standard in maths and English. When will the Government provide parity of funding to our colleges so that they can do that job?

Nick Boles: I am sure the hon. Gentleman is aware that, unlike under the Government he supported, when sixth forms in schools received much more money per pupil than sixth-formers in other institutions, we have an absolutely equal funding system. Whether someone is in a sixth form or school, or a further education college or a sixth-form college, they will receive exactly the same amount of money per pupil, as he should know well.

We do not believe that we have a monopoly on good ideas, and we are not remotely complacent about the state of education for 14 to 19-year-olds, but we will oppose the motion because a review or, God forbid, the royal commission that one Labour Member called for would distract the Government at a time when we are making real progress. We are making progress in ensuring that everybody secures that vital passport to success which is a mastery of English and maths. We are making progress in reforming qualifications so that they are rigorous, respected and backed by employers. We are making progress with apprenticeships, not just by increasing their number to 2.2 million in the last Parliament, but by introducing reforms that got rid of programme-led apprenticeships, which the last Labour Government introduced. Those involved no employer, no job and a few months of training in a college, yet Labour dared to call them apprenticeships. We have got rid of those and our reforms will continue.

We are making progress with the introduction of university technical colleges, and I was glad to hear support for the concept from Opposition Members. We want UTCs, spearheaded by one of the greatest Education Secretaries that any Conservative Government have ever had, to be within reach of every city. But we want them to flourish too, and we will be looking to make sure that every UTC can succeed, both financially and educationally.

We are agreed on one thing at the end of this debate: we have huge ambitions for our education system, and they are not yet met. We have huge aspirations for every

17 Jun 2015 : Column 376

young person going through school and going into a further education institution in our country, and those aspirations are not yet guaranteed. We will not rest until everybody in this country, in this one nation—in Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland—is able to leave school and college with qualifications that equip them for a life of work; a life that is fulfilling and rewarding and that helps to make this country one of the greatest countries on earth.

Question put.

The House divided:

Ayes 265, Noes 315.

Division No. 17]


3.59 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Abrahams, Debbie

Ahmed-Sheikh, Ms Tasmina

Alexander, Heidi

Ali, Rushanara

Allen, Mr Graham

Anderson, Mr David

Arkless, Richard

Ashworth, Jonathan

Austin, Ian

Bailey, Mr Adrian

Bardell, Hannah

Barron, rh Kevin

Benn, rh Hilary

Betts, Mr Clive

Black, Ms Mhairi

Blackford, Ian

Blackman, Kirsty

Blackman-Woods, Dr Roberta

Blomfield, Paul

Boswell, Philip

Bradshaw, rh Mr Ben

Brennan, Kevin

Brock, Deidre

Brown, Alan

Brown, Lyn

Brown, rh Mr Nicholas

Bryant, Chris

Buck, Ms Karen

Burden, Richard

Burgon, Richard

Butler, Dawn

Byrne, rh Liam

Cadbury, Ruth

Cameron, Dr Lisa

Campbell, rh Mr Alan

Campbell, Mr Gregory

Campbell, Mr Ronnie

Champion, Sarah

Chapman, Douglas

Cherry, Joanna

Coffey, Ann

Cooper, Julie

Cooper, Rosie

Cowan, Ronnie

Cox, Jo

Coyle, Neil

Crausby, Mr David

Creagh, Mary

Cruddas, Jon

Cryer, John

Cummins, Judith

Cunningham, Alex

Cunningham, Mr Jim

Dakin, Nic

Danczuk, Simon

David, Wayne

Davies, Geraint

Day, Martyn

De Piero, Gloria

Debbonaire, Thangam

Docherty, Martin John

Dodds, rh Mr Nigel

Donaldson, rh Mr Jeffrey M.

Donaldson, Stuart Blair

Doughty, Stephen

Dowd, Peter

Dromey, Jack

Dugher, Michael

Durkan, Mark

Eagle, Ms Angela

Eagle, Maria

Efford, Clive

Elliott, Tom

Esterson, Bill

Evans, Chris

Fellows, Marion

Ferrier, Margaret

Field, rh Frank

Fitzpatrick, Jim

Flello, Robert

Fletcher, Colleen

Flint, rh Caroline

Fovargue, Yvonne

Foxcroft, Vicky

Gapes, Mike

Gardiner, Barry

Gethins, Stephen

Gibson, Patricia

Glass, Pat

Glindon, Mary

Godsiff, Mr Roger

Goodman, Helen

Grady, Patrick

Grant, Peter

Gray, Neil

Green, Kate

Greenwood, Lilian

Greenwood, Margaret

Griffith, Nia

Gwynne, Andrew

Haigh, Louise

Hamilton, Fabian

Hanson, rh Mr David

Harman, rh Ms Harriet

Harpham, Harry

Harris, Carolyn

Hayes, Helen

Hayman, Sue

Healey, rh John

Hendrick, Mr Mark

Hendry, Drew

Hepburn, Mr Stephen

Hermon, Lady

Hillier, Meg

Hodge, rh Margaret

Hodgson, Mrs Sharon

Hoey, Kate

Hollern, Kate

Hopkins, Kelvin

Hosie, Stewart

Howarth, rh Mr George

Hunt, Tristram

Huq, Dr Rupa

Hussain, Imran

Irranca-Davies, Huw

Jarvis, Dan

Jones, Gerald

Jones, Graham

Jones, Helen

Jones, Mr Kevan

Jones, Susan Elan

Kane, Mike

Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald

Keeley, Barbara

Kerevan, George

Kerr, Calum

Khan, rh Sadiq

Kinnock, Stephen

Kyle, Peter

Lavery, Ian

Law, Chris

Leslie, Chris

Lewell-Buck, Mrs Emma

Lewis, Clive

Lewis, Mr Ivan

Long Bailey, Rebecca

Lucas, Caroline

Lucas, Ian C.

Lynch, Holly

MacNeil, Mr Angus Brendan

Mactaggart, rh Fiona

Madders, Justin

Mahmood, Mr Khalid

Mahmood, Shabana

Malhotra, Seema

Mann, John

Marris, Rob

Marsden, Mr Gordon

Maskell, Rachael

Matheson, Christian

Mc Nally, John

McCabe, Steve

McCaig, Callum

McCarthy, Kerry

McDonald, Andy

McDonald, Stewart

McDonald, Stuart C.

McDonnell, Dr Alasdair

McDonnell, John

McFadden, rh Mr Pat

McGarry, Natalie

McGinn, Conor

McInnes, Liz

McLaughlin, Anne

Meacher, rh Mr Michael

Meale, Sir Alan

Mearns, Ian

Miliband, rh Edward

Monaghan, Carol

Monaghan, Dr Paul

Moon, Mrs Madeleine

Morden, Jessica

Morris, Grahame M.

Mullin, Roger

Murray, Ian

Nicolson, John

O'Hara, Brendan

Onn, Melanie

Onwurah, Chi

Osamor, Kate

Oswald, Kirsten

Owen, Albert

Paisley, Ian

Paterson, Steven

Pearce, Teresa

Pennycook, Matthew

Phillips, Jess

Pound, Stephen

Powell, Lucy

Qureshi, Yasmin

Rayner, Angela

Reed, Mr Jamie

Reed, Mr Steve

Rees, Christina

Reynolds, Emma

Reynolds, Jonathan

Ritchie, Ms Margaret

Robertson, Angus

Robinson, Gavin

Robinson, Mr Geoffrey

Rotheram, Steve

Ryan, rh Joan

Shah, Naz

Shannon, Jim

Sharma, Mr Virendra

Sheerman, Mr Barry

Sheppard, Tommy

Sherriff, Paula

Shuker, Mr Gavin

Siddiq, Tulip

Skinner, Mr Dennis

Slaughter, Andy

Smeeth, Ruth

Smith, rh Mr Andrew

Smith, Angela

Smith, Cat

Smith, Jeff

Smith, Nick

Smyth, Karin

Spellar, rh Mr John

Starmer, Keir

Stephens, Chris

Stevens, Jo

Streeting, Wes

Stringer, Graham

Stuart, Ms Gisela

Tami, Mark

Thewliss, Alison

Thomas, Mr Gareth

Thomas-Symonds, Nick

Thompson, Owen

Thomson, Michelle

Thornberry, Emily

Timms, rh Stephen

Trickett, Jon

Turner, Karl

Twigg, Derek

Twigg, Stephen

Umunna, Mr Chuka

Vaz, rh Keith

Vaz, Valerie

Weir, Mike

West, Catherine

Whiteford, Dr Eilidh

Whitehead, Dr Alan

Wilson, Corri

Wilson, Phil

Wilson, Sammy

Winnick, Mr David

Winterton, rh Ms Rosie

Wishart, Pete

Woodcock, John

Wright, Mr Iain

Zeichner, Daniel

Tellers for the Ayes:

Bridget Phillipson


Tom Blenkinsop


Adams, Nigel

Afriyie, Adam

Aldous, Peter

Allan, Lucy

Allen, Heidi

Amess, Sir David

Andrew, Stuart

Ansell, Caroline

Argar, Edward

Atkins, Victoria

Bacon, Mr Richard

Baker, Mr Steve

Baldwin, Harriett

Barclay, Stephen

Baron, Mr John

Barwell, Gavin

Bebb, Guto

Bellingham, Mr Henry

Benyon, Richard

Beresford, Sir Paul

Berry, Jake

Berry, James

Bingham, Andrew

Blackman, Bob

Blackwood, Nicola

Blunt, Crispin

Boles, Nick

Bone, Mr Peter

Borwick, Victoria

Bottomley, Sir Peter

Bradley, Karen

Brady, Mr Graham

Brazier, Mr Julian

Bridgen, Andrew

Brine, Steve

Brokenshire, rh James

Bruce, Fiona

Buckland, Robert

Burns, Conor

Burns, rh Sir Simon

Burt, rh Alistair

Cairns, Alun

Carmichael, Neil

Cartlidge, James

Cash, Sir William

Caulfield, Maria

Chalk, Alex

Chishti, Rehman

Chope, Mr Christopher

Churchill, Jo

Clark, rh Greg

Cleverly, James

Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey

Coffey, Dr Thérèse

Collins, Damian

Colvile, Oliver

Costa, Alberto

Cox, Mr Geoffrey

Crabb, rh Stephen

Crouch, Tracey

Davies, Byron

Davies, Chris

Davies, David T. C.

Davies, Glyn

Davies, James

Davies, Mims

Davies, Philip

Dinenage, Caroline

Djanogly, Mr Jonathan

Donelan, Michelle

Dorries, Nadine

Double, Steve

Dowden, Oliver

Drax, Richard

Drummond, Mrs Flick

Duncan, rh Sir Alan

Duncan Smith, rh Mr Iain

Dunne, Mr Philip

Ellis, Michael

Ellison, Jane

Ellwood, Mr Tobias

Elphicke, Charlie

Eustice, George

Evans, Graham

Evans, Mr Nigel

Evennett, rh Mr David

Fabricant, Michael

Fernandes, Suella

Field, rh Mark

Foster, Kevin

Fox, rh Dr Liam

Francois, rh Mr Mark

Frazer, Lucy

Freeman, George

Freer, Mike

Fuller, Richard

Fysh, Marcus

Gale, Sir Roger

Garnier, Mark

Gauke, Mr David

Ghani, Nusrat

Gibb, Mr Nick

Gillan, rh Mrs Cheryl

Glen, John

Goodwill, Mr Robert

Gove, rh Michael

Graham, Richard

Grant, Mrs Helen

Gray, Mr James

Grayling, rh Chris

Green, Chris

Green, rh Damian

Greening, rh Justine

Grieve, rh Mr Dominic

Griffiths, Andrew

Gummer, Ben

Gyimah, Mr Sam

Halfon, rh Robert

Hall, Luke

Hammond, rh Mr Philip

Hammond, Stephen

Hancock, rh Matthew

Hands, rh Greg

Harper, rh Mr Mark

Harrington, Richard

Harris, Rebecca

Hart, Simon

Haselhurst, rh Sir Alan

Hayes, rh Mr John

Heald, Sir Oliver

Heappey, James

Heaton-Harris, Chris

Heaton-Jones, Peter

Henderson, Gordon

Herbert, rh Nick

Hinds, Damian

Hoare, Simon

Hollingbery, George

Hollinrake, Kevin

Hollobone, Mr Philip

Hopkins, Kris

Howarth, Sir Gerald

Howell, John

Howlett, Ben

Huddleston, Nigel

Hunt, rh Mr Jeremy

Hurd, Mr Nick

Jackson, Mr Stewart

James, Margot

Javid, rh Sajid

Jayawardena, Mr Ranil

Jenkin, Mr Bernard

Jenkyns, Andrea

Jenrick, Robert

Johnson, Boris

Johnson, Gareth

Johnson, Joseph

Jones, Andrew

Jones, rh Mr David

Jones, Mr Marcus

Kawczynski, Daniel

Kennedy, Seema

Kirby, Simon

Knight, rh Sir Greg

Knight, Julian

Kwarteng, Kwasi

Lancaster, Mark

Latham, Pauline

Leadsom, Andrea

Lee, Dr Phillip

Lefroy, Jeremy

Leigh, Sir Edward

Leslie, Charlotte

Letwin, rh Mr Oliver

Lewis, Brandon

Lewis, rh Dr Julian

Liddell-Grainger, Mr Ian

Lidington, rh Mr David

Lilley, rh Mr Peter

Lopresti, Jack

Lord, Jonathan

Loughton, Tim

Lumley, Karen

Mackinlay, Craig

Mackintosh, David

Main, Mrs Anne

Mak, Alan

Malthouse, Kit

Mann, Scott

Mathias, Dr Tania

May, rh Mrs Theresa

Maynard, Paul

McCartney, Jason

McCartney, Karl

McLoughlin, rh Mr Patrick

McPartland, Stephen

Menzies, Mark

Mercer, Johnny

Merriman, Huw

Metcalfe, Stephen

Miller, rh Mrs Maria

Milling, Amanda

Mills, Nigel

Milton, rh Anne

Mitchell, rh Mr Andrew

Morgan, rh Nicky

Morris, Anne Marie

Morris, David

Morris, James

Morton, Wendy

Mowat, David

Mundell, rh David

Murray, Mrs Sheryll

Murrison, Dr Andrew

Neill, Robert

Newton, Sarah

Nokes, Caroline

Norman, Jesse

Nuttall, Mr David

Offord, Dr Matthew

Osborne, rh Mr George

Patel, rh Priti

Paterson, rh Mr Owen

Pawsey, Mark

Penning, rh Mike

Penrose, John

Percy, Andrew

Perry, Claire

Phillips, Stephen

Philp, Chris

Pickles, rh Sir Eric

Pincher, Christopher

Poulter, Dr Daniel

Pow, Rebecca

Prentis, Victoria

Prisk, Mr Mark

Pritchard, Mark

Pursglove, Tom

Quin, Jeremy

Quince, Will

Raab, Mr Dominic

Redwood, rh John

Rees-Mogg, Mr Jacob

Robinson, Mary

Rosindell, Andrew

Rudd, rh Amber

Rutley, David

Sandbach, Antoinette

Scully, Paul

Selous, Andrew

Shapps, rh Grant

Sharma, Alok

Shelbrooke, Alec

Simpson, rh Mr Keith

Skidmore, Chris

Smith, Chloe

Smith, Henry

Smith, Julian

Smith, Royston

Soames, rh Sir Nicholas

Solloway, Amanda

Soubry, rh Anna

Spelman, rh Mrs Caroline

Spencer, Mark

Stephenson, Andrew

Stevenson, John

Stewart, Bob

Stewart, Iain

Stewart, Rory

Streeter, Mr Gary

Stride, Mel

Stuart, Graham

Sturdy, Julian

Sunak, Rishi

Swayne, rh Mr Desmond

Swire, rh Mr Hugo

Syms, Mr Robert

Thomas, Derek

Throup, Maggie

Timpson, Edward

Tolhurst, Kelly

Tomlinson, Justin

Tomlinson, Michael

Tracey, Craig

Tredinnick, David

Trevelyan, Mrs Anne-Marie

Truss, rh Elizabeth

Tugendhat, Tom

Turner, Mr Andrew

Tyrie, rh Mr Andrew

Vaizey, Mr Edward

Vara, Mr Shailesh

Vickers, Martin

Villiers, rh Mrs Theresa

Walker, Mr Charles

Walker, Mr Robin

Wallace, Mr Ben

Warburton, David

Warman, Matt

Watkinson, Dame Angela

Wharton, James

Whately, Helen

Wheeler, Heather

White, Chris

Whittaker, Craig

Whittingdale, rh Mr John

Wiggin, Bill

Williams, Craig

Williamson, rh Gavin

Wilson, Mr Rob

Wollaston, Dr Sarah

Wood, Mike

Wragg, William

Wright, rh Jeremy

Zahawi, Nadhim

Tellers for the Noes:

Guy Opperman


Jackie Doyle-Price

Question accordingly negatived.

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4.12 pm

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) (Lab/Co-op): I beg to move,

That this House notes that UK economic productivity has been stagnating for several years with productivity growth the second worst of the G7 countries; recognises that supporting business to improve output efficiency and enhanced productivity is the best route to higher living standards and in turn is crucial for the health of the public finances; regrets that the Chancellor failed to address productivity in his March Budget speech; urges the Government to ask the Office for Budget Responsibility to report on the impact on productivity of the options likely to be considered in the forthcoming Spending Review; and believes that decisions on reducing public service expenditure must take into account their impact on productivity performance.

The productivity of our economy and of businesses, the workforce and the resources of our country is critical for our recovery and for our future prosperity. There should be a cross-party consensus that productivity is the key challenge facing Britain today, which is why I was very disappointed by the Chancellor’s attitude at Treasury questions yesterday and at his point-blank refusal to engage with this crucial debate in the House of Commons today. We have learned that when it comes to dealing with issues that he does not want to attend to, the Chancellor either blames someone else or sends someone else. In that growing tradition, I welcome the new Chief Secretary to the Treasury to his new role.

The Chief Secretary to the Treasury (Greg Hands): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Chris Leslie: Of course I will. How could I not?

Greg Hands: Surely the hon. Gentleman must admit that, given that the Chancellor was here yesterday at Treasury questions, and able to answer questions on productivity, and that he was here again today as First Secretary for Prime Minister’s questions, and able to answer questions on productivity, he has been available in this House to answer questions.

Chris Leslie: I am sure the Chancellor is very much focused on being the Prime Minister in waiting. He is, of course, the eminent First Secretary of State, and I hope his junior Ministers occasionally manage to peek round his door and get the odd minute of his very busy time on these matters.

The mark of a Chancellor focused on our economic challenges would have been to engage a bit more thoughtfully in considering how best we can tackle Britain’s productivity problems, but he could not bring himself to mention productivity once during his 8,000-word Budget speech three months ago.

Simon Hoare (North Dorset) (Con): The hon. Gentleman is being a little churlish. I am sure that we can all be accused of all sorts of things, but over the past five and a half years my right hon. Friend the Chancellor has focused with Exocet precision on making the economy grow, increasing jobs and getting us on the move again. Such churlishness belies the hon. Gentleman.

Chris Leslie: I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman finds my remarks a little churlish. When did he last speak to the Chancellor about productivity?