HC Deb 18 June 1997 vol 296 c300
8. Mr. Touhig

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what are his proposals for post-16 education in Wales. [2601]

Mr. Hain

All young people will be offered part-time or full-time education post-16. Any under 18-year-old in a job will have the right to study on an approved course for qualifications at college. We will also promote learning throughout adult life.

Mr. Touhig

I welcome my hon. Friend to his new responsibilities at the Welsh Office.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the report by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs into further education which called for a more coherent strategy in the education of 16 to 19-year-olds? Will he take the steps necessary to end the damaging competition between colleges of further education, school sixth forms and training and enterprise councils, which the previous Government simply failed to do? Will he help to ensure the development of tertiary education throughout Wales, which offers students the widest possible choice of A-level and vocational courses—choices which we shall need if we are to create a highly skilled work force in a modern economy?

Mr. Hain

I very much agree with my hon. Friend. There is a damaging free-for-all in this sector of education provision which is infected by too much competition, waste and unnecessary duplication. That does not get the best out of the available resources or provide the best opportunities for our people. We shall review the entire sector, and in our White Paper to be published next month we shall propose steps to eliminate all those problems and provide a much better future for our people.

Mr. Evans

Does the Minister agree that those families who have 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education find the payment of child benefit extremely useful? Will he tell the House whether he will fight to ensure that those payments continue for 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education?

Mr. Hain

The real problem for 16 to 18-year-olds is the dreadful legacy left by the Conservative Government, with rising unemployment in many parts of Wales in that section of the work force. We will provide new opportunities, new support, new training, new education opportunities and new jobs under the welfare-to-work programme, which will be financed out of a windfall tax on the privatised utilities.