HC Deb 02 July 1986 vol 100 cc1007-20 3.34 pm
Mr. Speaker

Mr. Kenneth Clarke.

Mr. Donald Dewar (Glasgow, Cathcart)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I understand that a significant statement is about to be made—I have not seen the text —on vocational education and training. May I inquire through you, Mr. Speaker, whether the Minister who is to make the statement will deal with questions about Scotland? I ask this because on the Order Paper there is a written question in the name of the hon. Member for Renfrew, West and Inverclyde (Mrs. McCurley)—No. 140—which asks the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a statement on vocational education and training in Scotland. A statement is something of a misnomer, as the response will be a written answer.

If the Paymaster General is not to deal with the Scottish aspects of vocational education and training, Scottish Members will not be able to raise any parallel or Scottish difference points and will not have rights that will be available to Members from other parts of the United Kingdom. I want to be clear on whether Scottish Members can ask questions of that sort and whether something can be done to protect their interests.

Mr. Speaker

I am unable to answer that question because I have not heard the statement yet. But perhaps the Paymaster General will be able to enlighten us in his opening words.

Mr. Gordon Wilson (Dundee, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Is it the same point of order?

Mr. Wilson

It is in connection with this matter.

By arrangement with the House, Members of the Scottish National party receive advance copies of statements on Scottish business. I have checked and apparently we do not have a statement on this. If the statement is to refer to Scottish business, we shall be at a disadvantage.

The Paymaster General and Minister for Employment (Mr. Kenneth Clarke)

The position in Scotland will, I trust, become clear in the course of the statement and the subsequent exchange of questions. My responsibility for the Manpower Services Commission extends to Scotland and I am making this statement because it appertains to the work of the MSC. It also has implications for Scotland and I shall be in a position to answer questions on that.

But, with permission, Mr. Speaker, perhaps I should first make the statement, which is about major Government decisions on vocational education and training announced in the White Paper published this afternoon. They are about the national extension of the technical and vocational education initiative and the reform of vocational qualifications.

The technical and vocational education initiative was launched on a pilot basis by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in November 1982. In chosen schools since then the Government have, through the Manpower Services Commission, made additional funds available to local education authorities to develop new ways of increasing the vocational content of the curriculum and offering pupils of all abilities between the ages of 14 and 18 more work-related learning.

By the end of this year there are likely to be almost 100 education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland taking advantage of the initiative; which will be covering over 600 schools and colleges and helping nearly 50,000 pupils.

As the pilots have developed, so too has appreciation of the way in which TVEI has been able to enrich the curriculum. It has opened up new opportunities for more young people of all abilities to see how school can be made more relevant to adult and working life.

We want to keep up the momentum and to extend the benefit to many more pupils. We have decided that the MSC should be asked to administer the extension of TVEI from a pilot to a national scheme beginning in the autumn of 1987.

The Government are making a substantial financial commitment to this improvement in our schools. We are setting aside sums which build up from £12 million in 1987–88 to £41 million in 1988–89 and to £84 million in 1989–90. The average annual expenditure over the next 10 years or so will be about £90 million. These amounts will be found from the provision we have planned for young people within the MSC's budget.

Each authority's TVEI proposals must be consistent with our overall policy of improving the school curriculum. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, who is in his place today, is publishing separately today a statement of the curicular criteria which extension proposals must meet.

The extension of the technical and vocational education initiative to a national scheme is a major advance. But reforming and developing the curriculum in schools is not enough. We also need to improve the vocational qualifications system to encourage more people, young and old, to improve their skills when they have left school. For that reason we are also announcing a new system of qualifications for skilled work at all levels in England and Wales.

Last year we set up a working group under the Chairmanship of Mr. Oscar de Ville to review the pattern of vocational qualifications in England and Wales. The group's report was published in May.

The group concluded that the present system was complex and incomplete, and recommended that a new system of qualifications should be set up within a framework to be called the national vocational qualification. It urged that a National Council for Vocational Qualifications should also be established to work with the existing bodies to set up that framework. The Government accept those recommendations.

The council will be set up in the autumn of this year and will be asked to have the new system of qualifications in England and Wales and Northern Ireland in place by 1991. I am glad to say that Mr. de Ville has accepted our invitation to act as chairman of the council during its all-important formative period.

We shall provide pump-priming funding, but the aim will be that after three years the council will become self-sufficient, from income received from bodies whose qualifications it accredits.

The recommendations of the report have been generally welcomed and we believe that they will lead to a much better system of vocational qualifications, which will be widely understood and respected by individuals and by employers. We hope that they will be encouraged to invest more time and money in training.

It is vitally important that for young people moving from school to adult working life we have a good system of vocational education and training. All young people must be given the opportunity to leave full-time education or training with relevant qualifications and to build on them throughout their working life. The extension of the technical and vocational education initiative and the setting up of the new framework of national vocational qualifications are major advances towards that objective.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield)

Regardless of the promises to us about other statements, this statement was made in another place at 3 o'clock. One would have thought that, on the auspicious day of the Paymaster General's birthday, the noble Lord the Secretary of State would have allowed him to go first for a change. If the statement on the extension of technical and vocational education means that technical, academic and practical education will be available to all our students, we broadly welcome it.

From reading the statement, we suspect that the amount of cash will not be enough. Will the Paymaster General tell us how much will be available per school for implementing technical and vocational education and how that compares with the pilot financing? Will he assure us that it is not a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul? Reading between the lines of the statement, it seems that the money for this expansion of the technical and vocational education initiative will come away from the youth training scheme. The YTS is already under-financed and under pressure and the quality of its training is inadequate. If money to fund the TVEI is taken from the YTS, that will lead to a further deterioration in training standards, and we are extremely worried about that.

The Paymaster General spoke about a review of educational and vocational qualifications. Will he think again about the way in which the new council will be set up? Many Opposition Members have great misgivings about the decision of the Government not to take the opportunity to review all qualifications at the same time. There is to be a review of vocational qualifications, but academic qualifications have been left alone.

We are fearful that we will see from the Government an attempt via the back door to introduce a 14-plus or a 16- plus examination to take the place of the 11-plus selection that we all know damaged children's opportunities and perspectives. Will the Paymaster General assure us that he is aware of the dangers of polarisation that arise because of technical education for some children and another more expensive and exclusive type of education for other children.

We have had many statements over the last few years and all of them introduced minor changes, some of which were welcome. Those statements were made against the background of a collapse in our training and technical training. As the National Institute of Economic and Social Research said just last week, there has been a 40 per cent. drop in training since 1982. This statement is small beer compared to the collapse of our training system.

Mr. Clarke

The extent to which statements are first made in one House or in another depends on the procedure of both Houses. This statement was delayed in this House by the vital matter of Scottish questions. I was able to sit on the throne—[Laughter.]—on the steps of the throne in another place and there I listened to the noble Lord Stoddart of Swindon welcome the statement. He did so with a considerably lesser show of reluctance than the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) has shown, but in the end he welcomed it.

The cash that is being made available for the extension of technical and vocational education is substantial—an average of £90 million a year over a 10-year period. During that period, it will steadily increase as the applications come in and the benefits of the initiative are spread throughout our school system. It will be up to individual local authorities to determine exactly how that money is to be distributed within the schools put forward, but on average it should work out at about £30 extra per school —[Interruption.]—at about £30,000 extra per school in each authority which applies. That is a significant addition to the budget of each school, enabling it to broaden the curriculum and improve the relevance of its education to pupils.

I was delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman defending the youth training scheme, and I think there is a growing realisation among Opposition Members about its value. I am happy to be able to assure him that these arrangements do not in any way jeopardise the YTS or the financing of it. The money is coming from the provision we have made for young people generally. The exact spending will depend on the number of local authorities that take up the opportunity presented by this initiative, and the number of pupils between 14 and 18 years who choose to remain in school, taking part in this curriculum, compared with the number who leave and engage in YTS. Obviously, the total number of young people will not increase in the 10-year period. Indeed, it will fall markedly. For that reason we can make this generous financial provision to schools for extending the curriculum without jeopardising other provision for young people, particularly YTS.

The review of vocational qualifications has also received a general welcome. I believe that that was the implication of what the hon. Gentleman said. The particular qualifications that we have had reviewed and which we shall now have farther reviewed by this new national council are the maze of technical qualifications, which are difficult to understand for parents, would-he trainees and employers looking for qualifications of the right type. The new arrangements will be of benefit to all of them, and will enable a clearer system to emerge and people to know exactly what qualifications of what standard they should aspire to for any particular occupation.

I note what the hon. Gentleman describes as a collapse in training. We know that we have a serious problem and that more resources and effort need to be invested, particularly by employers, into the training and preparation for work, especially of our young people. I do not accept his description, especially when it is applied to the Government's efforts. He knows that as a result of our changes in training arrangements we have virtually doubled the number of adults whom we are assisting in training through Government programmes.

Sir William van Straubenzee (Wokingham)

May I ask my right hon. and learned Friend two questions arising from this most welcome statement? First, regarding the new council or otherwise, does the White Paper contain any mechanisms for monitoring the effects of these new initiatives on academic achievements in schools, for example through the number of pupils taking A-level courses, bearing in mind the evidence published yesterday by the Education Select Committee which seemed to establish a linkage between YTS and the fall in the number of those taking A-levels? Is any monitoring envisaged?

Secondly, although I make it perfectly clear that I intend no personal reference, is this statement not one further proof that the time is past when training as a subject, however ably administered at present, should be brought within the ambit of the Department of Education and Science?

Mr. Clarke

On his first point, I can assure my hon. Friend that we shall monitor the position closely. We are carrying out a number of surveys to see what happens to the post-16 age group. We are hoping to produce a system which will allow for a well-informed choice to be made by more pupils. They will decide whether they wish to remain in school and then pursue an academic course in further and higher education, to leave and join YTS, or to take advantage of this sort of curriculum in a school which has taken advantage of this initiative. We shall certainly study the Select Committee's report.

It is difficult to analyse what has happened to the figures, but it is probably in the interests of some pupils, for example, to contemplate the possibility of a YTS scheme rather than staying on in the sixth form to retake one or two 0-levels or going through to a full A-level course. We are carefully monitoring what is happening, and the main thing is to ensure that people take well-informed choices in the genuine interests of the individuals seeking to make the transition from school to work.

Obviously I cannot comment on the proposals that my hon. Friend makes about the structure of government, but on the issue that lies behind it, I hope that when he looks at the White Paper he will see it as a considerable breakthrough in narrowing the gap between the world of education and the world of work. It brings together the objectives of good education and good training policy very considerably. The two Departments are working closely together. The beginning of the White Paper contains a statement of the objectives of my Department, and it concludes with a statement of the objectives of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science. Between the pages is a considerable improvement in the system that will bring the two closer together and make the transition from school to work much better.

Mr. Richard Wainwright (Colne Valley)

Does the Minister agree that the careers preparation scheme for those between the ages of 14 and 18 has in recent years been confused and frustrating for such people? Therefore, the thrust of his statement is welcome. Can he also assure the House that in the new TVEI—as distinct from a regrettable lack in the pilot TVEIs—there will be ample bridges and ladders for young people who in midstream find themselves on the wrong course so that they can change direction and be assisted to a new level of learning if they prove able to take such courses?

As for the admirable de Ville recommendations, which the Government are so wisely accepting, what precisely will the Government do to enable the 35 per cent. of our adult work force with no qualifications to obtain them, or are they merely erecting new and rather impressive goal posts without assisting people to shoot for goal?

Mr. Clarke

I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman's extremely clear analysis of the problems that people are facing in moving to their careers from the ages of 14 to 18, and I hope that this statement helps to bridge that gap.

I shall certainly draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of those responsible for looking at the applications submitted by education authorities. I am sure that the education authorities will seek to build in the necessary ladders to enable people to correct choices that they might make mistakenly during this vital period of their educational lives.

The criteria for the curriculum that we are setting down are today being published by my right hon. Friend, and it is important that these schemes are set up in the right way.

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for welcoming the new system for national vocational arrangements. It is indeed important that a higher proportion of our population get training and qualifications of good quality before and during their working lives. The Government have already doubled the number of people that they are assisting to obtain that training, but it requires a greater effort on the part of society as a whole and British employers to increase the amount of training in our economy.

Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I welcome the extension of TVEI, which has been a great success in two schools in my constituency. Is my right hon. and learned Friend satisfied that employers will be able to play their part by providing sufficient work experience places for people on these courses?

Mr. Clarke

I am delighted to hear that the pilot schemes have gone so well in Bolton. I believe that employers will readily provide the number of places required to give work experience to pupils. Such places are of enormous benefit to pupils, because they enable them to have an insight into what it will be like when they take up a career while they are still taking advantage of their

Mr. Jim Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)

The Paymaster General referred to his MSC responsibilities in Scotland. How much of the £90 million coming from the MSC budget is earmarked for Scotland, and how will the new Scottish Vocational Education Council dovetail with the arrangements that are being proposed for England and Wales?

Mr. Clarke

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's first point, Scotland has taken considerable advantage of the pilot schemes. As Strathclyde is such a large authority, it has several pilots within its territory. I believe that it is the only authority which has several pilot schemes. The announcement that I made today on TVEI applies fully to Scotland, which will receive at least its fair share of the available resources if experience is anything to go by.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has decided that he wishes to make progress with the changes already in hand in Scotland under his 16-plus policy. However, the Scottish Office will have observer status in the national council and will keep in touch with developments on the National Council for Vocational Qualifications which will apply directly to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Sir Kenneth Lewis (Stamford and Spalding)

I welcome the statement which my right hon. and learned Friend has been able to make on his birthday, which will help many young people to become better qualified through their education. However, has he had any discussions with the trade unions to enable them to become more up to date? Has he consulted the trade unions with the aim of encouraging them to provide apprenticeships and so help young people when they leave school and enter a place of work? The trade unions are still old-fashioned in that area and it is time that they came to terms with the 1980s and 1990s.

Mr. Clarke

I was proposing to spend my birthday at Wimbledon at one stage. However, I was absolutely delighted to find myself spending my birthday in the Chamber delivering my statement instead, as it is of great value to the young people involved.

Oscar de Ville's working party contained people from the world of education, employers and trade unionists. It was a remarkable achievement that these bodies reached unanimity. They all agreed on the analysis of the problem and the Government have accepted their proposals. One of the most important facets of the new national council's work is that it will accredit qualifications which are based on measuring the standards of performance and ability of someone who has been trained for that qualification. It will rely to a much lesser extent than was previously the case, on time-served or academic qualification before admission can be obtained. That is an important step as it brings everyone concerned into the 20th century and into line with the modern economy that is likely to exist.

Mr. Max Madden (Bradford, West)

Will the Paymaster General confirm what some of us thought that he said, that the money that he has announced this afternoon represents £30,000 per school? Can he say when he will be ready to receive applications? Will he give an assurance that those local education authorities such as Bradford which have co-operated in the pilot study, will be given sympathy if applications are submitted for the national scheme, bearing in mind that Bradford has been starved of education resources and is unique amongst local education authorities in facing a considerable increase in school rolls?

Mr. Clarke

I will not say that I was leaving a few noughts off my figures, but the figure that I finally gave of £30,000 per school was the correct figure. That would be an average figure. It does not mean that there will be precisely £30,000 for each school. In each case, the local authority will determine exactly how it distributes the money between its various schools. The new national extension will come into effect from September 1987. Obviously, applications will come in and be considered between now and then.

There are a few local authorities which, for one reason or another, have not felt able to participate in the pilots. We will expect these authorities to have a three-year pilot scheme before that is extended. It is important to build up the initiative in such a way that people build on their experience of TVEI. If, as I believe, Bradford has been participating, it should be well placed to submit an application and to take advantage of the scheme on a much wider scale.

Dr. Keith Hampson (Leeds, North-West)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that his presence here today supports the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) about the fact that this is a Department of Employment statement rather than a DES statement? Does he agree that it is odd that some local education authorities are not participating? If it is so important, and the previous Labour Government started this debate in 1977, to have a more practical thrust in British education, the authorities should be required to ensure that all pupils of that age group take part in TVEI.

Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the fact that a long time scale is involved under the national vocational qualification — to 1991 — and there is a pressing need to quicken the process up? It is not a good precedent to consider the Engineering Council and the Finniston report and the amount of time that has been taken to get more direction through that body?

Mr. Clarke

On the first point, the present constitutional position is such that this is essentially a voluntary arrangement. It is up to each local authority to decide whether it wishes to participate and whether it wishes to apply for funds. There has, however, been a rapid increase in the number of authorities taking part in the initiative. I very much hope and believe that the remaining 18 will rapidly take advantage of the opportunity again being presented to them to come into the scheme, acquire additional funds and broaden the curriculum available to their pupils.

On the second point, there is a great deal of work to be done by the national council in beginning to pull together the present mish-mash of qualifications. Although 1991 seems some way away, the council has a formidable undertaking to take on in collaboration with all the certifying bodies and all the examination bodies.

Mr. Hugh Brown (Glasgow, Provan)

Will the White Paper proposals be flexible enough to cater for the special needs of schools in socially deprived areas, where the big problem is in getting 16-year-old low achievers to stay on at school to take advantage of TVEI? If the proposals do not specifically include that, will he and his colleagues look sympathetically at such representations as may he made?

Mr. Clarke

Each local authority will obviously look at the particular problems of its schools when putting in an application and deciding how it wishes to distribute the available funds among the various schools. I very much hope that broadening the curriculum in this way will make staying on at school more attractive to many young people, particularly those living in districts of the kind described by the hon. Gentleman who probably have the most advantage to derive from it. An average amount of £30,000 per school per year can make a significant difference in what a school is able to offer.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on widening the scheme? Does he agree that the success of TVEI has been due partly to the value of the course content and thus the pupils' interest in what they are doing and partly to the fact that the scheme has always been well staffed? As the staff required will have to come out of a teacher shortage area, will there be any problems in staffing the widened scheme? Will he also consider giving parity of esteem to pupils involved in A-levels, YTS and TVEI? Does he agree that if one group is advantaged compared with another, pupils may not always make the right choice for their needs?

Mr. Clarke

I note my hon. Friend's comments about the courses being well staffed. The money available will certainly extend to an additional member of staff—not necessarily always a member of the teaching staff, but perhaps a technician—in each of the schools involved, with other expenditure on equipment, and so on. That is what authorities find best. The extent to which this might increase demand for teachers in shortage subjects is outside my responsibility and outside the scope of my statement today, but it is no doubt being addressed, among other things, by all concerned in the discussions about teachers' remuneration and career structures currently taking place under the auspices of ACAS.

With regard to parity of esteem among the various qualifications, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is important that pupils of all abilities have a clear and intelligible choice before them and that they make the right decision for their own case in terms of what suits their temperament and career wishes. The various paths through A-levels, YTS and TVEI, possibly followed by A-levels or some other qualification, are now coming together to present a much better and clearer way forward for the average 14 to 16-year-old contemplating the possibilities available.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Does the Minister agree that to get the best value at 14 additional resources are needed for education before the age of 14 and that to differentiate between today's training statement and a possible education statement is dangerous and false in that respect? Is he aware that the recent report by Her Majesty's inspectors shows that the scarcity of resources for books and school buildings is having a damaging effect on education at all ages? Does he accept that until we put education right at an earlier age we shall not obtain the value of the money announced today to do the things that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has mentioned?

Mr. Clarke

On this occasion, we are talking about new resources for local education authorities in a particular part of their education system. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science will clearly not diminish his interest in problems in the rest of the education system, including the need for more expenditure on books and repairs. I believe that recent reports on the education system show that more money alone is not necessarily the answer. The Audit Commission, Her Majesty's inspectors and others have suggested that improved management of resources also has a part to play.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

I welcome today's statement, but has my right hon. and learned Friend considered taking the process further by discussing with our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science the setting up of technical and vocational schools on continental lines, particularly on the lines of the West German hauptschule which I suppose might be loosely translated as "secondary modern"? Do I take it that we are now rejecting the Socialist concept that there is something inferior about technical training and that all children should be force fed with academic training with the result that large numbers of children leave school without any qualifications at all and totally alienated from the education system?

Mr. Clarke

Like my hon. Friend, I hope that we are rejecting any distinction in status between academic and technical education. The boundary is often artificial and impossible to draw. All these qualifications should be available to pupils of all abilities so that they may choose one route or another. Questions on the structure of our schools should continue to be addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Mr. Wilson

As the Paymaster General purported to speak as a United Kingdom Minister, why did his statement not explain the impact of the new scheme on Scotland? In view of the disgraceful lack of information provided in response to the question put to him by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), will the Paymaster General now tell the House how the scheme will affect Scotland as we have had no information so far?

Mr. Clarke

I made the statement because of my responsibilities for the Manpower Services Commission, which operates in England, Wales and Scotland. I have responsibilities for the MSC in all three countries but not for education in any of those places. I have made it clear that the part of my statement concerned with technical and vocational education applies to Scotland as much as to England and Wales and that we expect full Scottish participation in that initiative. On the review of vocational qualifications, the Scots are pursuing a separate path, having already embarked on their own policy, but they will retain observer status in what we are doing. Both Departments agree that we must have qualifications accepted throughout the United Kingdom. We are keeping closely in line on these matters, but my statement about the new national council does not apply directly to Scotland.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I will do my best to call those hon. Members who have been seeking to catch my eye.

Mr. Richard Holt (Langbaurgh)

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's statement, but I am sorry that his Civil Service advisers did not read the whole of my maiden speech, including the part concerning qualifications, in which I suggested that the City and Guilds might be expanded. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that that institution, of well over 100 years' standing, enjoys international as well as national repute, that it has all the qualifications modules on base and that employers accept City and Guilds qualifications beyond all others? hope that it will not be stifled.

Mr. Clarke

A large number of bodies give qualifications of one kind or another, but the field is dominated by a few. Bodies such as the City and Guilds, the Royal Society of Arts and the Business and Technician Education Council all provide very well known and well recognised qualifications and they will continue to do so. The new national council will not supplant them in any way by giving qualifications of its own but will set up a framework into which all the qualifications from the various certifying bodies can be fitted so that they can be accredited by the council and people can understand exactly how one relates to another. People seeking qualifications and employers seeking qualified people will then have a better understanding of the relationship between one qualification and another. The City and Guilds will continue its very distinguished work, but its qualifications will now fit into a far more intelligible framework governing the qualifications of all the certifying bodies.

Mr. Alan Howarth (Stratford-on-Avon)

I welcome the statement made by my right hon. and learned Friend. Does he agree that the important progress that the Government have made in the provision of opportunities for technical and vocational education needs to be complemented by a vigorous continuation of the programme of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education to make the content of education more appropriate for less academic children from the primary stage? Does not my right hon. and learned Friend agree that we have to devote too many resources of time and money to remedial education in basic numeracy and literacy in the 14 to 18-year-old age group?

Mr. Clarke

I believe that this policy fits in with the Government's whole policy of examining the content of education in schools to ensure its relevance and to maintain good quality academic standards. Certainly I am told repeatedly that in many YTS schemes a great deal of time has to be spent in the first place on essentially remedial education to make up for deficiencies in the basic skills that my hon. Friend has described.

Mr. Patrick Nicholls (Teignbridge)

In the event that a local education authority asks for this money and is granted it, can my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that it will be possible to ensure that that money is used on that project and not generally? For instance, would my right hon. and learned Friend be content to give that money to the alliance-controlled Devon county council which,while constantly criticising the Government for lack of funding for training and educational matters, has just approved £25,000 expenditure on a car for the chairman?

Mr. Clarke

Education authorities can make application to the Manpower Services Commission for the appropriate sum of money. That money will be granted once a deal has been struck between the MSC and the education authority on what the money is to be spent on and what changes are to be made in the curriculum and content of the school's programme. One reason why some local education authorities are not participating at the moment is that they put in applications that were rejected because they would not bring themselves into line with the objectives of the technical and vocational education initiative. That is how we shall ensure that the money being allocated to TVEI goes on worthwhile TVEI objectives. Other than that, I do not want to get drawn into what I hope will be fruitful negotiation between the MSC and Devon county council if it chooses to apply.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

In congratulating my right hon. and learned Friend on his most welcome statement, may I suggest that the success of the National Council for Vocational Qualifications is likely to rest largely on the calibre of the people invited to serve on it? Can he shed any further light on the criteria that will be used to select people to serve on that body? Can he assure the House that the qualifications that are approved by that body will bear a relationship to the actual rather than the theoretical needs of industry in general and of the service industries in particular?

Mr. Clarke

As I have announced, during the early formative stages of the council the chairman will be Mr. Oscar de Ville. I am not in a position to announce the full membership. Our objective will be to have people with practical experience of the world of work and of education, who will represent a broad range of interests and experience required to make the system relevant both for trainees and for the needs of industry and the world of work outside. I accept my hon. Friend's introduction, that the success of the council will depend to a large degree on the quality of the people who are appointed and who agree to serve on the council.

Mr. Nicholas Lyell (Mid-Bedfordshire)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that the pilot schemes under TVEI in Bedfordshire have been enormously successful, both in the full schools and in the linked schools? Is he aware that almost every upper school will be looking hungrily at the £30,000 that might be available to it? How much, overall, can Bedfordshire expect to get in money terms out of the £90 million?

Mr. Clarke

I am delighted to hear again that the pilot has been so successful in Bedforshire. I am sure that I shall find somewhere an example of a pilot that has not gone down so well, but I have not yet. The reaction of everyone concerned over the country has been pretty well as my hon. and learned Friend has described. Therefore, I suspect that there will be no lack of applications. I regret that off the cuff I cannot put a figure on the likely sum that might go to his county, but if anyone can make an estimate I shall put it in a letter to my hon. and learned Friend.

Mr. Malcolm Thornton (Crosby)

May I assure my right hon. and learned Friend that Crosby and other parts of Merseyside where skill shortages and a general lack of vocational training have been identified as problems, his statement will be greatly welcomed? Can he assure us that in the reform and development of the curriculum there will be adequate monitoring of the input that will be essential from employers and industry if the scheme is to succeed? As my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) has already said, it is important to ensure that people of the right calibre are on the council and that they have an input into the reform of the curriculum. That has long been identified as one of the deficiencies in developing vocational training in schools. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure us that there will be adequate monitoring of that factor?

Mr. Clarke

There will indeed be monitoring of the technical and vocational education initiative as it goes forward. Changes in the curriculum will be determined by agreement between the Manpower Services Commission and the individual local authority. My hon. Friend will be able to see in a written answer by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science the kind of criteria that we shall expect local authorities to fulfil when they make applications for funds under the initiative. I believe that one of the advantages of the change will be to bring industry and local employers into close contact with the schools, because it is in everybody's interests that schools turn out people who are prepared to meet the needs of local industry to help revive the economy in such a depressed area as Merseyside.

Mr. Peter Bruinvels (Leicester, East)

I welcome my right hon. and learned Friend's statement and his continuing commitment in supporting technical and vocational training in schools. Does he not agree that one of the major problems is that careers guidance in schools has failed dismally and that the Government have to pick up the tab and give genuine advice? Does he not also agree that the successes of the YTS — [Interruption] —particularly in Leicester where 80 per cent. of those on the scheme now have genuine jobs, shows that the Government are totally committed to giving a real opportunity to the young, something that the Labour party always seems to be negative about. This Government provides real help, genuine qualifications and an opportunity for young people.

Mr. Clarke

It is my impression that the quality of careers guidance available varies considerably from place to place. The criteria we are laying down for TVEI put emphasis on the need for good careers guidance within the schools that participate. I agree about its importance. I am grateful for what my hon. Friend said about the efforts that we are making to help young people. Of course, we still have a desperately difficult unemployment position and we still have far too many unemployed young people. I am glad that the rate of unemployment amongst those under 20 is dropping sharply—by 10 per cent. for that age range. Obviously we have to make sure that that continues. It will continue, partly as a result of the announcement today.

Mr. Sheerman

Can the Secretary of State clear up a mystery that seems to have developed during his answers to his colleagues? The figure of £30,000 per school does not add up to the right amount if he is talking about a national scheme. How soon will this be a truly national scheme covering all schools that want to take part and all pupils? When will he give consideration to the strong point made by the hon. Member for Wokingham (Sir W. van Straubenzee) that, to give real choice and real coordination of that choice at 16, we need educational maintenance allowances? His answer was not good enough. The extent of take-up in staying on at school in this country is appalling compared to our competitors.

Mr. Clarke

The purpose of answering questions is to solve mysteries rather than create them. I shall check on the consequences of my arithmetic for a national scheme. The figures that I gave in the body of the statement show how we expect expenditure to build up over the first two or three years. We expect average expenditure over the next 10 years of £90 million each year on this initiative. Where we go will depend to a large extent on the way in which local authorities react to the initiative, how quickly they come forward with applications and on their decisions about the extent to which they intend to take advantage of the initiative. It will also in part depend on the way in which young people react and on the effect on the number who choose to stay at school and on the number who choose to go outside to YTS and so on.

In regard to the suggestion about educational maintenance grants to encourage young people to continue studying after 16, I know of no evidence to support the beliefs of some people that the lack of a maintenance allowance reduces significantly the number who stay on after 16. It would be extremely expensive to introduce such a scheme. One has only to consider student grants to realise the difficulties that arise in trying to get the right priority between expenditure on meeting the living costs of the pupils and expenditure on the educational system itself. The expenditure proposed on positive improvements in the quality of education that is available to young people is the first priority for our money.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. While my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East, (Mr. Bruinvels) was asking his question, I distinctly heard the hon. Member for Islington, North, (Mr. Corbyn) say that my hon. Friend had been raised in a circus. Judging by the dress of the hon. Member for Islington, North, if anyone has been raised in a circus, it is him. But did not the hon. Gentleman make an unparliamentary remark about my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East, especially as we were both educated at the same convent?

Mr. Speaker

I am lost for words. Fortunately, my microphones do not pick up everything that is said in the Chamber.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North)

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Just to clarify the matter, I said that I thought that the hon. Member for Leicester, East, (Mr. Bruinvels) had started his career in a circus, and ended up in a pantomine.

Mr. Speaker

I am glad that I did not hear.