HC Deb 15 June 1993 vol 226 cc728-9
10. Mr. Kirkwood

To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will estimate the number of students accepted for NVQ courses who have withdrawn for financial reasons; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Boswell

This information is not collected centrally. However, we have no evidence to suggest that withdrawals are a major problem. NVQs are normally taken by people already in employment and tax relief is available to help meet the cost of course fees.

Mr. Kirkwood

I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. I am also grateful for the announcement, made yesterday in a written reply, that increased money had been put into access funds for the current financial year. But that answer made it clear that only £4.6 million was being made available for further education access funds. Does the Minister believe, having regard to the downward pressure that central Government are exerting on local authority discretionary education budgets, that that fund of money will be enough to give national vocational qualifications to those qualified enough to have access to courses?

Mr. Boswell

First, may I make two brief points of qualification relating to the hon. Gentlemans' remarks. The first is that the announcement related to England. The second is that his assertion that the Government are putting downward pressure on the level of money available for discretionary awards is not the case. We continue to fund them. The incidents, effects and current practice of discretionary awards are now being considered by two independent foundations which will report shortly.

Sir Giles Shaw

Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the NVQ award system is of great importance to employers and local industry and forms a clear relationship between the education system and the craft system of old? Will he ensure that every encouragement is given to NVQ awards in the development of his education policy?

Mr. Boswell

Yes and yes.