New Forest East


Mr David Willetts: My hon. Friend [Oliver Heald] speaks for many Members, from all parts of the House, who are very concerned about what is happening to the proposals for their local further education colleges and their capital programmes ...

Dr Julian Lewis: When my hon. Friend turns to that horrific topic, will he make reference to Brockenhurst college in my constituency, which I think he knows a considerable amount about, and the terrible position it has been left in as a result of the LSC's appalling mismanagement?

Mr Willetts: My hon. Friend is absolutely right: I did indeed visit Brockenhurst college recently for a briefing on the problems that it faces ... My speech is being cut even more rapidly than the FE capital programme ... I have listed other colleges, which have a similar story to tell. One example is Brockenhurst – my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) is in his place – to which a clear commitment was made to provide new training opportunities. Colleges have often been encouraged to bid and then told, “Ah, you're only bidding for £20 million – that's pathetic. Have you thought of bidding for £50 million or £60 million?” They have been actively encouraged to do that. Even when the original idea was for refurbishment or a modest set of improvements, they were told, “No, knock the whole thing down and go for a grandiose capital project.” Having had their hopes raised by the LSC, the Department and Ministers, they now find those hopes dashed. That is a cruel trick to play on a crucial part of training and skills in our country.