Our plans to expand and improve apprenticeships in England are set out in “World-class Apprenticeships”. We will ensure that the foundation learning tier is available to young people for whom a programme below level 2 is appropriate. We will introduce new diplomas offering a mix of practical and theoretical learning for 14 to 19-year-olds from September 2008. We are also improving the provision of high-quality, impartial careers information, advice and guidance to young people and adults.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. I listened carefully to his reply and to answers to previous questions, so I am rather confused about why the number of young people between 16 and 24 who are not in full-time education or employment is now 1.24 million. That is 15 per cent. higher than in 1997, which does not seem to be a tremendous record of success.
Whether we are talking about apprenticeships, in which starts and completions are significantly up compared to 10 years ago, or whether we are talking about the proportion of 18 to 24-year-olds who are in the NEET—not in education, employment or training—category, which has fallen from 19.4 to 18 per cent., I am the first to admit that we need to do more, but I will not take lectures from the Conservative party on those issues, where we have made huge progress. We need to be focusing on apprenticeships and developing the diplomas. If we can do both those things successfully, we can achieve our ambition of raising the statutory education and training leaving age to 18.
There has been one area of deafening silence in recent months—