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Further Education And Training

Volume 934: debated on Tuesday 28 June 1977

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3.

asked the Secretary of State for Education and Science what special fund will be made available to further education colleges in 1977–78 to assist in the training of unemployed boys and girls in the 16 to 19 years age group.

The report of the Manpower Services Commission's Working Party on Young People and Work proposes that further education and training should be an integral part of an expanded programme of opportunities for the young unemployed and that local education authorities should be reimbursed for the additional provision required in colleges of further education. The Government's response to the Manpower Services Commission's proposals will be announced shortly.

Does my hon. Friend agree that further education colleges have unique facilities, such as buildings, equipment and trained manpower, to help with the problem of the younger unemployed? However, they must have cash if they are to give all the help that they can give. Will he give an undertaking that the cash will be forthcoming?

I am indeed aware of the considerable job that is done by colleges of further education. I must ask my hon. Friend and the House to be patient until an announcement is made on the Government's response to the Holland proposals. I assure my hon. Friend and the House that this will be made shortly.

Will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that the 16 to 19-year-old unemployed students are still held by DHSS offices to the availability criterion? Will he commune with that Department so that there is a chance that someone may have attendance at a college of further education and still get unemployment benefit?

We have tried to make it clear—and, indeed, we have issued a circular to local authorities to this effect— that an unemployed youngster is still entitled to supplementary benefit although he is attending a course for three days a week. It has to be limited to three days. But we are trying to draw that to the attention of young people so that they do not waste their time when they can be attending a limited form of further education.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that one way of keeping down the number of unemployed school leavers is to encourage young people to stay on into the sixth form? In view of the excellent sixth form at St. Marylebone Grammar School—

Order. I am afraid that that matter is sub judice. It is before the courts. We cannot refer to the St. Marylebone School today. I have looked at this matter this morning and gone into it very carefully.

I accept your ruling, of course, Mr. Speaker, but my understanding was somewhat different from your own. My understanding was that the matter had been disposed of in the lower court and that no decision had been taken yet to take it to the Court of Appeal.

The advice which I received this morning was that it was going to a higher court. My advice is that it is sub judice.

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Does that mean that an hon. Member cannot raise the decision made in the lower court yesterday that the ILEA should not close the school?

We are taking up time for Questions. But I can answer the hon. Member for St. Marylebone (Mr. Baker) quite easily. The answer is no, not if the matter is sub judice. It is sub judice. Mr. Christopher Price.

I apologise. The hon. Member for Chelmsford (Mr. St. John-Stevas) was in the middle of a supplementary question.

I had in fact concluded the relevant first part of my supplementary question, and you, Mr. Speaker, seem to have disposed effectively of the second part of it.

With regard to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, of course the Department encourages a further education provision at the age of 16 whether in schools or in further education colleges. With regard to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's question, Mr. Speaker, I bow to your ruling.

Since tomorrow's statement—or whenever it is to come—on the Holland Report will be made by the Secretary of State for Employment, it is important that we should question an Education Minister about this matter. Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the arrangements between the MSC and the further education colleges can do proper justice to both the training and the education elements in the needs of young people in this age group? Secondly, how long does my hon. Friend think it will be before we can offer to all school leavers at the age of 16 an opportunity guarantee which will make sure that they never need to go on the dole at all but can engage in some form of education and training straight away?

I cannot anticipate statements which will be made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, whether it be tomorrow or at any other time. I assure my hon. Friend that there has been close co-operation between my Department and the Department of Employment and that even closer co-operation is envisaged for the future. With regard to co-operation at college level, again my hon. Friend asks me whether I am satisfied. I am never satisfied that it is close enough, but I feel that co-operation does exist.

In formulating proposals in response to the Holland Report, will the Department look carefully at the position of students who have embarked on courses and who, perhaps because of the higher charges, may have to discontinue them, bearing in mind that many of them are not well placed financially? Will the Department also look at the availability of discretionary grants for students who wish to pursue reputable courses but who may find themselves unemployed because they are unable to do so?

My answer to the second part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question is certainly "Yes". With regard to the first part, the Holland proposals really deal with the unemployed and not those already on courses.