HC Deb 19 February 1996 vol 272 cc11-2
11. Mr. Jacques Arnold

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what recent action he has taken to encourage schools in Wales to offer vocational courses. [14167]

Mr. Richards

Our "bright future" programme charts the way ahead. General national vocational qualifications are being introduced in a range of subjects in schools and colleges throughout Wales. By September 1996 a total of 46 schools will be participating in our development scheme for 14 to 16-year-olds.

Mr. Arnold

Is it not significant that there will be an even wider choice of GNVQ subjects in Wales than in England? Is that not extremely important, given that the requirement for skills is vital to the success of Britain as a whole and of Wales in particular in the economy of the future?

Mr. Richards

My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The development scheme in Wales is supporting the introduction of full GNVQ, GNVQ units and GNVQ part 1, because the national curriculum requirements are different in Wales and permit schools greater flexibility in timetabling.

Mr. Hain

How can the Minister expect schools to undertake additional responsibilities when he is cutting the budget of the new Neath and Port Talbot authority by more than £7 million, which will have a savage impact on local schools, nursery provision and the rest for which West Glamorgan has a proud record? Should not the Government approach that settlement afresh and grant the new unitary authority the extra funds that it so desperately needs to maintain essential services?

Mr. Richards

Whenever a Labour Member speaks on education, the stench of hypocrisy fills the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman knows full well that local authorities and local education authorities decide their own priorities.