From education to employment

Chancellor addresses House of Commons

Educational spending has risen to 5.5% of GDP and the government now invests £4,500 per pupil, according to a statement made in the House of Commons yesterday.

Responding to a question concerning the relationship between workforce skills and economic growth [Chris Mole, Lab, Ipswich], Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said: “We have created the new deal for skills, which we will expand. We have the new “Train to Gain” programme, which we will also expand after the Leitch report is published. We have increased education spending from 4.7 % to 5.5 % of GDP ““ investment which we will not cut in future years, but will increase”.

Further, Mr Mole addressed the issue of 20 million graduates from China and 2 million from India emerging every year, to which Mr Brown replied: “When the Leitch report is published the national debate on skills for the future will be led by this Government”.

“We want to see more people who are in work at the moment acquiring the skills for the future so that British workers can get jobs that are available because they have the skills to do so”.

“We have already increased education spending from 4.7 % to 5.5 % of national income. We will continue to increase that figure in future years. What we will not do, in the interests of both stability and public investment, is go for irresponsible tax cuts in preference to investment in education. What we will not do ““ as I now find is another policy of the Conservative party from their economic policy review ““ is to introduce vouchers to pay for our public services. I hope that Conservative Members are aware that that is now their new policy”, he added.

Dr Vincent Cable [Shadow Chancellor, Lib Dem, Twickenham] questioned Mr Brown on the government’s controversial immigration policies: “Does the Chancellor accept the economic analysis published earlier this week that a liberal and flexible approach to the work force, reflected in substantial skilled and unskilled immigration, has boosted growth, reduced inflation and boosted the Government’s revenue? If he agrees, what estimate has he made of the possible cost to the British economy of the Home Secretary’s U-turn on that policy this week?”

Responding, Mr Brown said: “Migration to this country must be managed. We must get the balance right between the number of people we need to fill the skilled jobs that are available and a policy for managed migration to this country”.

“We have benefited enormously from immigration in this country and we continue to do so, but there will always be ““ as there should be ““ managed migration to this country”, he continued.

However, Bernard Jenkin [Con, North Essex], probed the government’s position on adult learning: “Why are the Government cutting adult education grant funding to Essex county council, which is resulting in the closure of Grey Friars adult community college in Colchester? Does not that make the Government’s commitment to skills in the work force rather hollow?”

The Chancellor said: “If the college is providing the right service to the employer and the employee, it will get the business; if the college is not providing the right service, it will have to do so in future”.

“I would have thought that was the policy of the Conservative party, but if that, too, has changed between tonight and today, perhaps the hon. Gentleman will tell me”.

He added: “The Leitch report is considering all aspects of skills for the future of our economy”¦that will require us to spend a higher share of national income on education and training, and it will require employers, as well as Governments, to spend more on education and training”.

“We cannot do that if we have irresponsible policies, promising reckless tax cuts that would put our country’s public services, and the stability of the economy, at risk”.

Vijay Pattni.

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