Our school leavers guarantee will ensure that all young people leaving school this September will be offered a school, college or apprenticeship place. We have allocated £8.2 billion to fund a total of 1.6 million learner places for 16 to 18-year-olds in 2010-11. That includes 142,500 more places than we had originally planned, thanks to the generosity of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with 449 extra places in Milton Keynes in 2010-11.
I thank the Secretary of State for those additional places. He knows that the youth unemployment level in Milton Keynes has gone up quite considerably during the recession. Can he assure me that he will maintain the September guarantee and the funding that goes with it, and that he will not be tempted to remove it too early simply in order to pay down the deficit?
My hon. Friend’s point is very important. In the pre-Budget report, the Chancellor of the Exchequer allowed us, for this year, next year and the year after, to ring-fence funding for Sure Start, for schools and for the school leavers guarantee, with rising funding in real terms, so that we can provide these extra places—a pledge that we will make and that the Conservatives refuse to match, because of their commitment to have cuts now to reduce the deficit.
May I give my hon. Friend a figure about her constituency that I know will be of interest to her? In Milton Keynes, youth unemployment among 18 to 24-year-olds exceeding six months now stands at 365 young people. That is a low number because of the new deal, the school leavers guarantee and the future jobs fund. The figure peaked in June 1985 at 1,285 young people—almost four times as many. That is what happens when one cuts spending and does not act to protect youth jobs.
Can I give the Secretary of State a figure, as well? Over the past 10 years, the number of people aged between 16 and 24 who are not in education or employment has risen by 150,000 to 750,000. In my constituency, H. J. Berry, the oldest chair-maker in Britain, has closed, with the loss of 85 jobs; the oldest shoe shop in Clitheroe, D. Lord & Son, has closed; and we have recently seen the closure of Kaydee bookshop, with a loss of jobs. Let us forget the September guarantee and have the May promise—that we will get off the backs of entrepreneurs and allow them to create jobs for young people and others alike.
It is very important to protect and support entrepreneurs in creating more jobs for the future; there is a consensus on that on both sides of the House. I am proud of the fact that this year, compared with last year, the figures for young people not in education, employment or training have fallen for 16-year-olds, 17-year-olds and 18-year-olds, even in a recession. The reason for that is that, unlike the Conservatives, we will not forget the school leavers guarantee. We will fund the school leavers guarantee so that there is a college, school or apprenticeship place for every young person, not just some young people.