HC Deb 20 May 1991 vol 191 cc654-65 4.26 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement on the plans for which I am responsible, which are set out in the White Paper "Education and Training for the 21st Century", announced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

This White Paper will transform the prospects for Britain's 16 to 19-year-olds. The proposals will mean that, for the first time, all young people in the country up to the age of 19 will be encouraged and entitled to continue in education or training—or both—which will take them to higher levels of qualifications than ever before. And the artificial barriers between the academic and the vocational, which have bedevilled us for so long, will be swept away.

The plans in this White Paper represent a clear recognition of the importance of preparing our young people for the world of work, and the priority we attach to it.

First, we plan to attract many more young people into training by giving a training credit to every 16 and 17-year-old leaving full-time education. Training credits are a new way of promoting youth training. The credit puts buying power in the hands of young people. It encourages them to take up their entitlement to vocational education, and to take full advantage of training, and of the opportunity to qualify with a national vocational qualification at level 2 or higher.

Credits are now being offered to 10 per cent. of school leavers in pilot areas. With the experience of these pilots to build on, we will progressively extend credits from April 1993. Within the lifetime of the next Parliament, we aim to offer a training credit to every 16 and 17-year-old in the country who is leaving full-time education.

Secondly, we shall also extend across the whole country the compacts approach to bringing together young people and employers in raising attainment at school and college. At present, compacts are working highly successfully in urban programme areas and similar areas in Scotland and Wales. We shall invite training and enterprise councils, in partnership with local education authorities and others, to extend this approach to all parts of the country. We shall provide financial support to start compacts—matching the support they will attract from private sector and local authority sources.

I turn next to vocational qualifications. A great deal of progress has been made in developing and extending practical, job-related qualifications. Our proposals will create a structure of qualifications that offers the breadth and choice that young people and their employers need, and in which academic and vocational qualifications will have equal status.

National vocational qualifications will be available for all major sectors of employment by the end of next year. We are inviting the National Council for Vocational Qualifications to work with others to develop more general job-related qualifications, within the NVQ framework, suitable for young people who want a broad preparation for employment. We shall promote equality of status for academic and vocational qualifications by developing the new system of ordinary and advanced diplomas that my right hon. and learned Friend described in his statement.

Our plans in the White Paper—especially training credits—will increase the importance of high-quality career services, linked closely to employers. I have been consulting about ways of organising the careers service for its future tasks. There is considerable support for my proposal that training and enterprise councils should be involved as partners with local education authorities in overseeing the operation of the service locally.

We shall encourage local education authorities to work with TECs in partnership for this purpose. We shall provide financial support to start such partnerships where they are proposed. We intend also to legislate so as to open up a range of other options, including direct TEC management of the careers service and contracting out to the private sector. We shall increase investment in the training of careers service advisory staff and in careers libraries in schools.

Employer commitment is essential if young people are to be well prepared for the demands of working life. The measures that I have announced today will give employers, through TECs, extended roles in training credits, compacts, and the careers service. My right hon. and learned Friend's proposed reforms of further education will include measures to involve TECs closely in the new funding arrangements.

The range of proposals in the White Paper will provide greater opportunities for young people to unlock their potential, a much wider choice in how they develop their talents, and a strengthened support system to guide their progress. These proposals will open doors for all our young people, whatever their background and their aspirations. They will strengthen the foundation of skills that the economy will need in future. I commend them to the House.

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

First, I shall deal with some of the matters with which we are already familiar. The Secretary of State knows that we support compacts, but we would want to see how the pilot schemes for credits progress. Will he state clearly that no young people will be prevented from pursuing the career of their choice by inadequately financed credits? Will credits be a cash-limited voucher or a genuine entitlement to train, with the credit varying to meet the cost of that training? Will he comment on the fact that there have been real-terms cuts of some £400 million in youth training in the past few years? That cannot be the best way to launch a new training credits scheme.

As for proposals on the careers service, I hope that the Secretary of State will agree that the careers service is vital to improve training. He said that he intends to legislate for an option of contracting out the careers service to the private sector. What does he mean by that? We vigorously oppose any attempt to privatise the careers service or to allow it to opt out of local education authority control. As for a halfway house of part TEC, part local education authority control, will he guarantee that independent and impartial careers advice will be open to young people?

Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman accept that the client of the careers service must be the young person concerned, not the employer or company? Will he therefore accept that, in involving the training and enterprise councils, he must guard against the risk of a conflict between the interests of employers and companies and those of the young person? That is precisely what the independent careers service is designed to guard against.

Will the Secretary of State outline much more clearly the rules that will apply in this new partnership, and say how the new system will work? In particular, who will take ultimate responsibility for the critical decisions that affect young people?

Have not the Secretary of State and his right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science admitted many of the criticisms that the Labour party and others have made of the divisions between education and training in the past few years? The Secretary of State for Employment has accepted—there is now agreement—that there is a division between standards and status in vocational and academic qualifications; that that division is harmful; and that it is imperative to remove it to improve the performance of the economy and provide opportunities for our young people? That much we can agree on. Is not the difference between what the Government have proposed today and the Opposition's position that the Government believe that it is possible to retain a separate and divided system of qualifications, and still abolish the difference in status, whereas we believe that abolishing the separate and divided system of qualifications is an essential part of abolishing the divided status?

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

That is levelling down.

Mr. Blair

No, it is nothing to do with levelling down.

Will the Secretary of State confirm, because I do not think that some Conservative Members realise it, that the advanced diploma does not replace the existing divided system of qualifications, but is superimposed on it? The diploma is a layer of qualification on the existing system, not an attempt to deal with the real problem—the division of the system itself. That is why the proposal bears all the hallmarks, not of the bold and radical step that the Secretary of State presented, but of an uneasy compromise between two Ministers in two different Departments with the essential divisions remaining intact.

I say to the Secretary of State for Employment that, if all that were required to achieve parity of esteem were ministerial words, the Business and Technician Education Council or the City and Guilds would already have achieved those results. Despite their attempts, excellent though many of them are, in the real world the problem that everyone recognises is that people go for the vocational route when they fail the academic route. That system, based on failure rather than achievement, is at the heart of low staying-on rates, low participation, low opportunities for progress and low attainment.

There cannot be equivalence of esteem while there are different styles, structures, contents and modes of assessment. If we do not deal with those differences, we do not deal effectively with parity of esteem. The Labour party believes that a divided system of qualifications will never produce a unified status of achievement. That is why we have proposed an entirely different idea from that of the Government—a unified system of qualifications. That is not just the Labour party's policy, but the policy of the Royal Society, the Association of Principals of Sixth Form Colleges and many other organisations.

One of the reasons for proposing integration between vocational and academic qualifications is that it allows transfer between those two systems. How will that transfer operate under the Secretary of State's advanced diploma? If that transfer will not operate—as I believe it will not —why is he simply perpetuating the irredeemable choice at 16 for either the vocational or academic route, which is at the heart of the problem?

We believe that the problem required vision and leadership, which have been lacking from today's statements. We believe that our young people have enormous ability, but that we waste it through outdated examination systems and old-fashioned structures which have no place in any country preparing itself for the 21st century. Our young people have the talent, but they are hindered by a Government that neither believe in them nor are prepared to help them. In order to have that help, young people will have to wait for this party to take office.

Mr. Howard

First of all, I welcome what the hon. Gentleman said about our proposals for compacts. I am astonished that the hon. Gentleman has the temerity even to mention funding, bearing in mind the facts that we are spending two and a half times as much in real terms as that being spent on training when the last Labour Government left office, that 350,000 young people are receiving training on Government schemes compared with 6,000 when the Labour Government left office, and that every time the hon. Gentleman pops up to mention funding he is promptly disowned by the shadow Chief Secretary, as happened most recently on television yesterday.

The hon. Gentleman asked me to acknowledge the importance of independence and impartiality in the careers service. I readily do that. They are important. I believe that the conflicts to which the hon. Gentleman referred as a result of the training and enterprise councils are not likely to give rise to serious problems. We had an overwhelmingly favourable response in our consultation exercise both from training and enterprise councils and from local education authorities about the proposal for partnership.

The hon. Gentleman referred to legislating for opting out. The present position is that, even if a local education authority would like to contract out the delivery of the careers service, it is unable to do so. We shall legislate to enable it to do so if it wishes and to enable the partnership between the TEC and LEA to do so if it wishes; we shall see how that develops over the fulness of time. If, as may well prove the case, that model proves successful, it would be right to have reserve powers to ensure that it becomes the normal way in which to deliver the careers service.

The hon. Gentleman referred to vocational qualification. I can only conclude from his remarks that he has completely misunderstood the effects of our proposals for a diploma. We are not dividing, or persisting in the divide between, academic and vocational qualifications. We are bringing the two together, and bringing together the best of the two without abolishing A-levels, which is the Labour party's only policy in the area. The Labour party is the enemy of excellence; it always has been and it always will be.

The hon. Gentleman was disingenuous in his remarks about training credits. He said that he would see how our pilots were developing and examine training credits. However, he knows full well that there is a complete antithesis and contradiction between our approach of credits, which is a voluntary approach that gives young people the opportunity to buy training for themselves, and his approach of taking the big stick of compulsion, and forbidding young people to have jobs without training while allowing and encouraging them to go on the dole without training. That is the Labour party's policy, and it is not surprising that the hon. Gentleman was too ashamed of it to mention it this afternoon.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to remind hon. Members about the pressure on the subsequent debate. I will allow questions on the statement until 5.5 pm. Then I regret that we must move on. I ask hon. Members to put brief questions.

Sir Norman Fowler (Sutton Coldfield)

May I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on his proposals on training credits and on his other fundamentally important proposals? Does he agree that one of the outstanding successes of the Government has been the introduction of compacts throughout the country? Does he also agree that that signifies a real revolution in training, in that the worlds of education and of industry have now come close together, which is fundamentally important for young people?

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend, and I pay tribute to his work during his time in the Department, both on compacts and on training credits. He did much of the spadework on that. He is entirely right: it is one of the Government's great achievements, now recognised on all sides, to have brought together the world of work and the world of education. It was not always so. When we first proposed the technical and vocational education initiative, the Leader of the Opposition went around the country denouncing it as a scheme fit only for hewers of wood and drawers of water. I am delighted that the Labour party appears to have learnt something from the year's experience.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

As my hon. Friend the Minister for Truro (Mr. Taylor) said, we substantially support the package presented today. However, I am sure that the House agrees that changing institutions and arrangements is no substitute for restoring the cuts in funding in recent years.

Will the Secretary of State answer the question put by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) on training credits? He asked that the credit should not be a cash limit on the course of training sought by a young person. Although the Secretary of State makes a persuasive case for the voluntary approach, what advice would he give a young person who finds himself or herself in a job with an employer who is not amenable to that young person pursuing a course of training?

Mr. Howard

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's last question, I must say that one of the great advantages of the training credit is that it can be used in a number of ways, and not simply and solely with the employer. If a young person has an employer who is not amenable to providing training, he can use the credit in a number of other ways, such as to purchase open learning, which is becoming increasingly important in the acquisition of qualifications, and in which this country leads the world.

On the hon. Gentleman's first point, I am happy to confirm that the account on the training credit will not be a limit. It will be topped up by employers or by the training and enterprise councils to reflect the full value of the training concerned.

Mr. Andrew Hargreaves (Birmingham, Hall Green)

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept my warm congratulations on the measures that he has announced? Will he accept that Conservative Members warmly welcome the bridging and equalisation between the more vocational structure and the purely academic structure, with the raising of standards of careers qualifications? That is a great step forward for thousands of people who will be able to raise their standards.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend; he is entirely right. Far too often in the past young people pursued vocational qualifications because they had failed, or were thought to be likely to fail, academic qualifications. That should become a thing of the past. We want to encourage true parity of esteem for vocational qualifications so that young people who are more suited by their abilities and aptitudes to pursue vocational qualifications should be able to do so to a high standard. The proposals will deliver that.

Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West)

Is the Secretary of State aware of the report on young people, benefits and training, published by the Children's Society on behalf of the Coalition of Young People on Social Security? That report points out that 45,000 young people are currently without jobs, youth training or income support because, although the Government may have promised a youth training scheme, they have cut income support, totally undermining the youth training guarantee. How will the training credits resolve that problem?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong. Far from undermining the youth training guarantee, the fact that young people are encouraged to take a place on youth training if they wish to receive benefit reinforces the importance and usefulness of the guarantee. The hon. Gentleman has his facts entirely upside down.

Mr. Michael Alison (Selby)

May I add my congratulations to my right hon. and learned Friend on the generous, imaginative and skilfully purpose-designed scheme, which focuses on the most vital component in our society—the seedcorn of our national future?

May I draw my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the phenomenon that there are still some youngsters who manage to slip through into their first job—and others will do so in the future—without having any preliminary training? If they have the misfortune to be made redundant early in their working life, is it possible for the scheme to be applied retrospectively to those of a certain age group, so that they do not finally miss the bus? I speak on that with some feeling against the background of substantial redundancies, about which I have written to my right hon. and learned Friend, at Middlebrook Mushrooms in my constituency.

Mr. Howard

I understand my right hon. Friend's concern about the case that has arisen and about that group of people. Many of them would be entitled to the credit. It is to meet the needs of the first group identified by my right hon. Friend—those who have slipped through into jobs without training—that the entire proposal for credits is designed. From the pilots, all the signs are that the scheme is proving extremely successful, and I intend to build on that success in the years ahead.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon)

Can the Secretary of State ensure that there will be further consultation with careers masters on this matter? Can he also ensure that the responsibility in Wales comes cleanly under the Welsh Office and that there is no split in responsibility? Will he clarify whether the £1,000 referred to as a typical voucher may be extended to £1,000 in a second year for training courses that may go on for more than one year?

Mr. Howard

On the last point, it can certainly be extended in that way. I reiterate what I said earlier—that the face value of the voucher does not represent the whole of the entitlement of the young person. Very often, a voucher with a face value of £1,000 or £1,500 will be able to be used to buy training worth up to £4,000, and the balance will of course be found by the employer or the training and enterprise council. The voucher is merely the first part of the entitlement.

Responsibility for the careers service in Wales will continue exactly as it is at the moment. We have consulted widely about the arrangements for the careers service, and if there are any further views or representations that careers officers wish to make, of course we will wish to take those into account.

Mrs. Maureen Hicks (Wolverhampton, North-East)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, with the announcements that are made today, the Government are committing themselves to harnessing the energy of school leavers, whatever their background and whatever their ability, whether it be vocational or educational? Will provision be made within the training credits scheme to give those children who leave and who are less able the opportunity to use that credit for further education in basic education—reading, writing and arithmetic?

Mr. Howard

Where that is necessary, arrangements can be made within the training credits scheme for provision of that kind to be made available to the young person. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to the importance of the proposals. They represent a landmark in the development of opportunities for our young people. It is a pity that that cannot be recognised to a greater extent on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Does not the Secretary of State acknowledge that fine phrases such as "true parity of esteem" are very much part of Opposition Members' fundamental philosophy and belief? It does not stand up to a very much detailed examination coming from the right hon. and learned Gentleman, any more than from the Prime Minister talking about a classless society, when we know, and all the evidence shows, that people in our society with academic qualifications on the one hand and a vocation on the other do not receive true parity of esteem throughout their working lives. The gaps between their incomes, for example, get wider and wider throughout their working lives.

One example of the Secretary of State's real commitment to true parity of esteem would be his commitment, as it is our commitment, to a national minimum wage which would at least put a little bit of beef behind his words and recognise the fact that everyone in our community is esteemed and valued and that no one should fall out of the net.

Mr. Howard

I wish the hon. Gentleman could see the face of the hon. Member for Sedgefield as he asked that question. I had imposed a self-denying ordinance on myself this afternoon. I was not going to mention the national minimum wage, despite the fact that only today the Fabian Society, no less, has produced a pamphlet in which it estimates the number of jobs that it would destroy at 800,000—not quite right, not quite accurate, not the nearly 2 million that it would in fact destroy, but at least we are making progress when the Fabian Society recognises that that would be the case. If the hon. Gentleman really thinks that destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs is a way to improve opportunities, he would have great difficulty in persuading the electorate of that.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)

Both Secretaries of State should take no lectures from the Opposition about the quality of education or training. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Employment is well aware that most local education authorities in this country are controlled by the Labour party, so they must take the blame for low standards. Is he aware that, where a local education authority controlled by the Conservative party seeks to tackle the question of vocational studies such as through magnet schools, the Labour party is the first to rail against the proposal?

Will my right hon. and learned Friend comment on the views of the chairmen of the TECs that perhaps, in the long term, training should come within the powers of the Department of Education and Science to bring the whole together?

Mr. Howard

On my hon. Friend's last point, the views of employers as expressed through the TECs and through the Department of Employment have made a very significant contribution to training and, indeed, to education over the past few years. My hon. Friend made an important point about the influence of local education authorities, and it is well known. League table after league table has pointed out that Labour local education authorities spend huge amounts for little attainment and Conservative local education authorities, for much less spending, get the results which the people who live in those areas expect.

Mr. Peter Hain (Neath)

Will the Secretary of State not accept that, despite all his fine words, the fact remains that people will have no confidence in them, given that 60 per cent. of trainees now come out of his Government's training schemes with no qualifications at all? He has cut and cut training provision in west Wales, for example, by half over the past year. Compared with all our foreign competitors, we are now in the worst possible position in terms of training provision.

Mr. Tony Favell (Stockport)

Another lie.[Interruption.]

Hon. Members

Order. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. If I heard that word "liar", which I hope would never be mentioned in this Chamber, the hon. Member should withdraw it, please.

Mr. Favell

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No point of order arises. I am not certain who said it, but I hope that we will not hear that word in this Chamber.

Mr. Favell

I apologise for having said it. but the party opposite is trying to protect—

Mr. Speaker

No qualification, please—just the apology will suffice.

Mr. Hain

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Does the Secretary of State accept that the people of this country will see all those fine words for what they are—an attempt to cover up the reality of lack of training provision in this country—and that, like the Secretary of State for Education and Science, he is providing for a nation of morons who have forgotten how many O-levels they have?

Mr. Howard

The hon. Gentleman's facts are entirely wrong. Of those who complete youth training, 67 per cent. obtain a vocational qualification. The hon. Gentleman's charge is a quite unwarranted slur both on the calibre of our young people and on the calibre of the training that they receive.

Mr. David Martin (Portsmouth, South)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that employers will welcome what he has said in his statement, as they have to find the wages of those who apply for jobs after having been educated and trained? They have been crying out for years for improvements. The proposals, combined with the proposals of our right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, will prove most imaginative for the future. Far from showing that the Government have run out of ideas, the proposals are well beyond any of the ideas that would ever be adopted by the Opposition.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I am sure that he is right, and I am sure that the proposals will be warmly welcomed by employers who recognise full well the importance of having properly trained, properly equipped and properly educated young people leaving our schools and institutions of further and higher education.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

What increased expenditure has been estimated to cover the improved and extended training credits? Will there be a parallel increase in the number of discretionary grants available to students in vocational education provided by local authorities?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that training credits will not be available to be spent at the nationwide network of skill centres that he inherited? Will he confirm that they have been given away to a handful of civil servants, together with suitcases full of money, in a scandalous misappropriation and misuse of taxpayers' funds, which has meant that a nationwide system of skill centres has been broken up and closed down and its teachers sacked?

Mr. Howard

The additional resources that will be made available for training credits amount to £14 million in the year 1993–94 and £35 million in the year 1994–95, and the total resources available to training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies for the new credits in 1994–95 will amount to £200 million. Discretionary grants are a matter for local education authorities, as the hon. Gentleman knows. He has asked questions about skill centres many times before. They have been comprehensively answered, but I dare say that he will continue to pursue his vendetta on that point.

Mr. David Evans (Welwyn, Hatfield)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the Labour party rejects excellence, rejects A-levels and rejects diplomas? Does he further agree that it has produced a new A-level and new diploma which has been passed by the Leader of the Opposition called "lying in Monmouth?"

Mr. Howard


Mr. Speaker

Order. I heard over the weekend that that word was being bandied about. In this Chamber, we keep our standards. I hope that hon. Members will not make charges of that nature against other hon. Members.

Mr. Howard

There is an important point behind my hon. Friend's question. When the Labour party talks about parity of esteem, it means lowering parity of esteem. When we talk about parity of esteem, we mean maintaining high standards for both academic and vocational education.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow)

As a long-term sceptic about and opponent of taking the Scottish universities, and especially their science faculties, out of the British university system, may I ask about the financing of Scottish education? At all levels—those for which the right hon. and learned Gentleman is responsible and those for which the Secretary of State for Scotland is responsible —the Scots have an extra number of students over and above England. Now that the responsibility is to be given to the Scottish Office, will the financing be pro rata on the basis of numbers or on the basis of population? What does one say to a lecturer in the biological sciences at the university of Edinburgh? Is his career still as safe and good in Edinburgh as it was before today's proposals were made? And what is—

Mr. Speaker

Briefly, please.

Mr. Dalyell

—to be done about Edinburgh university's desperate financial position, which has forced it to sell its treasures such as the Audubon book?

Mr. Howard

I can confirm that the funding of the Scottish institutions will continue to be linked to the number of students. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman puts the other more specific questions to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Gedling)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that, far from what the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain) suggested, the announcement today about training credits is bold and imaginative and will be widely welcomed by many young people as an extension of their personal choice and opportunities? Is not the announcement a refreshing difference from the policies of the Labour party, which are old-fashioned and out of date on this as on so many other matters, and are based on compulsion and dragooning young people?

Mr. Howard

I agree with my hon. Friend. I was disappointed with the remarks of the hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain). I thought that he would allow me to pay tribute to the Welsh education system, to which I owe so much, but instead he engaged in a characteristic Neath whinge. I say that because Neath was well beaten by Llanelli in the Welsh rugby cup final. My hon. Friend is right to identify the merits of the approach that we have adopted. I dare say that, in time, as in so many other matters, those merits will eventually be recognised by the Labour party.

Mr. Bowen Wells (Hertford and Stortford)

May I congratulate both my right hon. and learned Friends on the thoughtful and imaginative proposals put before the House today? Are not the Opposition strangely out of touch with what is going on in our schools today? Do they not realise that craft design and technology courses are over-subscribed in all our best schools, and that such courses naturally lead on to a mixture of A-levels and vocational qualifications? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that, by retaining A-levels as a standard of excellence and moving vocational qualifications up to that standard, we are making certain that standards are maintained? Therefore, we are seeking to create a system of excellence and to make great attainment available to our people, whereas the Labour party would like to level us all down to a lower standard.

Can my right hon. and learned Friend accept—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is a long question—with not much of a question in it either.

Mr. Wells

I have waited a long time, and I should like to put my last sentence.

Mr. Speaker

Put it, please, but it is at the expense of the hon. Member's hon. Friends.

Mr. Wells

My last sentence is: will training credits be available for studying A-levels as well as for the higher grant diplomas?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is entirely right to identify excellence as the hallmark of the Government's approach to these and other matters. The training credits are intended for training, not for pursuit of A-level courses, and they will be available for vocational qualifications.

Mr. John Bowis (Battersea)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the twin statements will be widely welcomed by the worlds of education and work, in which people will be extraordinarily puzzled by the reaction of the Labour party, which seems to be in favour of no jobs without training, but nevertheless has a policy of unemployment with no training? Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that his statement will provide great opportunities? Will he confirm that that opportunity will be extended to disabled people who need training so that they too can benefit from what should be the golden years of opportunity ahead?

Mr. Howard

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. I am happy to give him the assurance for which he asks. Certainly, those who have special needs will be entitled to training credits. I am sure that they will make good use of the opportunities that training credits will provide.

Mr. Harry Greenway (Ealing, North)

Will both my right hon. and learned Friends accept congratulations on the concept of the advanced diploma? Will it be a pass/fail document or, as I hope, will there be levels of pass, including ones which indicate excellence and ones which indicate perhaps not quite such a high attainment?

Mr. Howard

I draw my hon. Friend's attention to the national record of achievement, which has escaped notice so far this afternoon. It has been issued to 1.3 million people in a short period of time. It will enable the performance and qualifications that people have achieved to be set out in full.

Several Hon. Members

On a point of order.

Mr. Speaker

I will take the presentation of Bills first.