To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Science what plans he has to improve access, facilities and learning programmes in the further education service for people with disabilities and/or learning difficulties.
The Further and Higher Education Bill currently before Parliament will ensure that a wide range of educational provision for students with disabilities and learning difficulties is maintained and developed in the new further education sector.
Does the Minister agree that life-long education is a right, not a privilege, and that it should not be any less of a right just because a person happens to be disabled? Is the Minister aware that many disabled people are concerned that their rights will be reduced if further education colleges are taken out of local authority control? Does the Minister agree with the almost unanimous view of the disability lobby that the best way to protect the rights of disabled people would be to introduce anti-discrimination legislation now?
I can offer the hon. Gentleman the reassurance that he seeks. The Bill places clear duties on the further education funding councils to cater for people with learning difficulties and those councils will be required to allocate resources to discharge those duties. It is for the councils to determine how they distribute funding, but the Bill gives the councils wide powers to be used in support of students with special education needs. The Government will ensure that no less than the existing level of resources will continue to be available in the new further education structure and that funding will be apportioned between local education authorities and the funding councils in line with their responsibilities for securing the provision of further education.