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Adult Education

Volume 516: debated on Thursday 14 October 2010

2. What assessment he has made of the likely effects on development of small businesses of reductions in spending on adult education. (17253)

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the results of the spending review will not be announced until next week. However, a key consideration has been how we best ensure the skills of our nation are improved. I can also assure him that we have modelled the impact of our proposals on businesses and individuals. Skills are crucial to delivering growth and will play a key role in our agenda.

I thank the Minister for that answer. Does he agree that adult education provides essential work skills for some of my most vulnerable constituents and that 40% reductions in spending on adult education will hit those constituents, and consequently small businesses, hardest—when they are both vital in providing economic growth to tackle the deficit?

The hon. Gentleman is right that small businesses form the backbone of our economy, and it is our job to ensure that they get the support they need. An advanced economy needs advanced skills, and backing business and providing growth means investing in skills. As I have said, he would not expect me to prejudge the CSR, but he can be assured that the team on the Front Bench fully appreciates the power and value of skills.

Will the Minister tell me whether his Department has made any progress on the skills needed for small businesses such as those in the curry industry and whether there has been any progress on trying to develop additional learning skills for that industry?

As my hon. Friend knows, because we have discussed the matter—by the way, I pay tribute to her work in that field—just this week I met my counterpart from Bangladesh to discuss the matter. [Interruption.] Sadly, we were not sharing a samosa at the time. I have asked my hon. Friend to make representations to the Department to talk about her work with that industry to deliver the skills that that industry needs.