12/02/2012 Sunday Politics East Midlands


12/02/2012

Andrew Neil and Marie Ashby with the latest political news, interviews and debate including cabinet minister Eric Pickles on the government's NHS bill.


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Here, the battle between Communities Secretary Eric Pickles

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and community councils. And the bosses' leader who claims

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that cutting pupils at vocational qualifications will hit

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Apology for the loss of subtitles for 1696 seconds

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Hello. I am Marie Ashby. Our guests this week are the Labour MP for

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Leicester West, Liz Kendall, and the Lib-Dem candidate for Ashfield,

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Jason Zadrozny. Liz Kendall is shadow Health Minister and she is

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playing a key role in the fight against the government's Health

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Bill. Jason was just a whisker away from overturning a 10,000 Labour

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majority in Ashfield at the last election. Next week the Lib-Dems

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hold their regional conference. What does the future hold for the

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Liberal Democrats in the East Midlands, the only region in the

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country without a single Liberal Democrat MP? I think things are

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starting to look up for the Liberal Democrats. We have had the news of

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two very impressive by-election gains in Northamptonshire, one with

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a 30 % swing to the Liberal Democrats. I think there will be

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much positive discussion at the conference. Would it help if you

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stop blaming Labour for everything? If Labour were not to blame for

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everything, that would be a possibility. I think people see us

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in a different light. In different is the Liberal Democrats are

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becoming more acceptable because we have our message and a record in

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government. We fed the Liberal Democrat Sea would have had an even

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bigger uphill climb against the Government's health bill, wouldn't

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you? No, I think the government has had trouble on its health bill

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because doctors and nurses think it is wrong. Patience and the public

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are starting to see the consequences in increased waits for

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treatment and more waste. That is the real reason why the Government

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has got problems. In the interest of patients and the taxpayer, the

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Government should drop the Bill. you find it difficult to stomach

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the extent to which Nick Clegg has hitched his wagon to David Cameron?

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We are in a coalition and we have to stand by some things that are

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not Liberal Democrat policy to get through that. Are I understand you

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have had discussions with senior Labour will -- with senior Labour

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officials in Nottinghamshire about switching to Labour? No. It would

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be irresponsible for any opposition member not to have discussions

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about ways of working with other parties. So you have spoken to

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Labour officials, but not about joining Labour? Not about joining

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Labour. But I speak to all sorts of officials about how we can say what

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we mean when we're giving our messages and making sure that they

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come through. We have put through the biggest pension rises ever and

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changes to the tax system that a stand-alone Conservative government

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would never have done. And you joining Labour has never been

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brought up? No, it is not on the cards. But you have resigned from

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the East Midlands executive of the Liberal Democrats? Yes, because I

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have other responsibilities. It is only fair to lead brand new people

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come through. There are bound to be Liberal-Democrats that an unhappy

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with the coalition, but that is not translating to more support for you,

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the Labour Party? Eight days. In my constituency, the remaining liberal

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Democrat councillors lost their seats to Labour. -- it is. People

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who voted Liberal Democrat last time say to me that they cannot

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believe that after pledging to scrap tuition fees, to reorganise

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the NHS, they just do not recognise what they see and they feel

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betrayed by that. But I know that Labour has to work really hard to

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get back the support of people. We do not take that for granted and we

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will be campaigning for every vote. This week has also seen a war of

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words between Communities Secretary Eric Pickles and fellow

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Conservatives on Nottinghamshire county council over spending cuts.

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He has accused them of making disproportionate cuts in the money

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they give the voluntary sector. It is a charge they vigorously deny.

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And their deputy leader, Martin Suthers, joins us now.

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If you have cut the grants that you give voluntary groups by �1 million,

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34 %, when the money you get from central government is being reduced

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by 8%. Is it any wonder that Eric Pickles sees that as

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disproportionate? That is perfectly true, we did carted by 34 %. But

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let's make it clear that you will not find another county in the

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country that was giving �3 million in voluntary aid to that sector.

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Most of the support to the voluntary sector raised through

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commissioning services, and the grant aid, we take the view that it

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should be the icing on the cake. We're probably finding the

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voluntary sector to the tune of about �25 million. Why so much in

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one year, so fast and so hard in one year? Partly to get the

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voluntary sector to make the same hard decisions over overheads that

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we're having to make. Over a four year appeared we will be facing a

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reduction in government support of around 38 %. That sort of figure.

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We have had some great success in doing that because across the

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voluntary sector, they have been cutting back on overheads and

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collaborating with each other, applying successfully for

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substantial sums of lottery funding. It has made them think about those

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issues so we get better value for money, and they get stability.

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These cuts have got to be made and you are basically saying we have

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got to get them done? I think that in Nottinghamshire they are

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disproportionately cutting from the voluntary sector and front loading

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the cuts. The reason that is a problem is because most of them run

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on very low overheads. If you take a big cut in the first year, many

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will end up closing. It is important because voluntary

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organisations provide a lifeline for many people. RDA cutting the

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lifeline? I think they are. The Tory government is making massive

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cuts, and the council's on top of that are doing that

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disproportionately to the voluntary sector. There are difficult

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decisions to make but in my experience, voluntary organisations

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do not have massive overheads. We're starting from a different

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position, from virtually any other county council. That is part of it.

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Over the four year period you will find that because we're achieving

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stability, that maintaining the 2 million for the next three years,

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which is what is in our budget strategy, then over that time the

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cuts will be proportionate, but the voluntary sector will have the

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stability of knowing where they are. We are entering into three-year

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agreements with as many of them as we can. Did you vote against this

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34 % cut? Yes, and there were some issues which the Liberal Democrats

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raised then. The cuts were front loaded. I do not think they are so

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disproportionate across the medium term. They hit the voluntary sector

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in a way that perhaps we would not like, but the medium term gives

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them some stability. One of the fundamental principles of the

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coalition government in terms of local government is that local

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people should decide. Like it or heated, the Conservatives have an

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outright majority on Nottinghamshire council, and Eric

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Pickles should not be meddling. problem with front loading the cuts

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to the voluntary sector is if they work on a shoestring and have small

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budgets, they will be decimated and they will close. That is the real

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concern. I think the cuts go too fast. We need to make sure that we

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retain a good voluntary sector. They are absolutely vital. It is

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hypocritical of a coalition government that said they wanted

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Big Society. Do you want to decimate the voluntary sector?

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is not happening. We work very closely with them. And we will

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continue to do so. �5 million has gone to help people with learning

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difficulties, two point five times the grant aid budget. Taking the

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attitude that we have has given us a positive response. Citizens

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Advice Bureaux, for instance, we now say to them, here is �2,000

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grant, you decide, not politicians, you decide where to spend that

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money. You have about �25 million in unallocated reserves, you could

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take money out of that, would that be a solution? Apart from the fact

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that we have to keep reserves for any unexpected contingencies...

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a rainy day? Yes, but there are problems that will rise. There is a

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very ambitious programme on the road network Q. We cannot squander

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the reserves in the meantime. -- road network.

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Next, an unlikely critic of the government's decision to downgrade

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pupils' vocational qualifications. In future they will count for less

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in schools league tables. But bosses leader Lord Digby Jones says

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that is bad news for pupils and employers in the East Midlands. Rob

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Whitehouse reports. This story has been a gift, you

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could say a gift horse. That is to those who are opposed to vocational

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education. Our schools really teaching horse management, how to

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mark out? Yes, that is one of the 3,000 vocational courses being

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downgraded by the Government after they heard the results of a highly

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critical report. A lot of vocational qualifications are just

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that. They do not belong in a measure of how well as school is

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providing education for children. The Government says that many

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schools are using GCSE equivalent courses to boost their position in

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the school league tables. At this college in Derby they denied the

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charge. We set our curriculum up to benefit our students, not to chase

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league table rankings. These students learning catering skills

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in the college kitchen certainly value their course. I would not

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like them to go because people would be struggling without them.

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It is a massive help for me. I want to be a chef. Do you think it will

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help you get a job? Yes. At this prestigious Academy, it is

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the downgrading of their engineering diploma, once

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equivalent to five GCSEs, soon to be just one, that has caused real

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offence. They insist it is a rounded course. A qualification

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like this really prepares young people. It gives them core skills

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in engineering. That is what employers tell us they want. That

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is what our partner organisations like Rolls-Royce and tie or a tap

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tell us they want young people to leave with. It is the message this

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sends to bosses that worries some. I hope the government will change

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their mind. It is worth fighting for this one because it is

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important for the country and the East Midlands economy.

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pretending that everything is equal and everything is suitable for a

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15-year-old, we have not increased his stake is a vocational

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qualifications, we have done the opposite. But a public school that

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charges �9,000 per term is more than happy to defend the value of

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such courses. Abbotsholme School, set in the Derbyshire hills,

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regards this kind of education as essential. Vocational courses

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provide an education for life, not just University. They provide

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skills for pupils to be implied. Doing this for occasional cause

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will ensure that I have practical skills to do they know any medicine

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at university. It is totally different from being in a classroom,

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but in the real-world, I think it means more to people. Abbotsholme

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school was created by an educational vision a, a man called

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Dr Cecil Reddie. His aim was to instil education for life. The

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staff here feel that he would not approve of the current bonfire of

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vocation or qualifications. Clearly a lot of concern, but some

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people will say that Labour was asking for trouble when it decided

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to let schools and colleges trade so many GCSEs for Vocational

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qualifications? We have got to make sure that children do not end up

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taking subjects if they want to go to university, that those

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universities will not accept. We also need to make sure that people

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get good quality vocational qualifications. It is interesting

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that businesses are saying that they valued good quality

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qualifications. It is vital for the country. We need to get the balance

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right and my concern is that the Government is throwing the baby out

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with the bathwater. That engineering qualification is now

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worth one GCSE instead of five. that is developed by good, high

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quality businesses. It worries me that those good quality vocational

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courses that business's value and young people like doing are going

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to be thrown out. Wasn't this widely interpreted as a way of

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making the school league tables League better anyway? We need to

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find a way of really stretching children. But also to value the

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vocational qualifications. I think the government is going too far.

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Whose camp are you in? Professor Wolf's or Digby Jones? A little of

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both, as you would expect from a Liberal Democrat. I think there has

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been a downgrading of occasional qualifications. I was not brilliant

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in the classrooms so I did a practical qualification.

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National Diploma in performing arts? Yes, and it did me no harm. I

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knew where it was leading. Now we have nearly 170,000 students are to

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doing courses that do not leading to many were caught other

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qualifications. I can understand why there is a last of -- why there

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is a loss of aspirations. In my constituency, sometimes there is

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fourth-generation unemployment. everyone is academic? And no, but

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the head teachers in my constituency will say to me,

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actually, vocational qualifications sometimes act as a hook backing to

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academic qualifications. They see they can succeed and they can use

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their skills at. We need to concentrate on our core subjects as

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well. Our reputation for languages is terrible? Yes, literacy and

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numeracy are the absolute basics. I am worried about moving towards a

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curriculum which does not recognise the value of occasional

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qualifications. I have so many businesses saying to me, we do not

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get the people we need with the skills we need come and getting

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jobs is what we need in the East Midlands.

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Time now for our regular round-up of the week's political stories in

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the East Midlands. A dozen East Midlands MPs have

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called on David Cameron to cut subsidies to the wind-power

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industry. They want brand new planning rules to make it easier

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for local communities to object to wind farms. Nick Clegg is hit back

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saying he is a massive supporter of renewables.

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Senior Conservative councillors are calling on their leader and

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Leicestershire to resign. It follows an investigation into his

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travel expenses to Europe. He denies any wrongdoing.

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This Leicester teenager is not playing his protest by the book. He

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has made a YouTube video to speak out against the closure of his

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library on his estate. I believe this decision should be reversed.

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Finally, the Justice Secretary Ken Clarke has been named old person of

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the year by the magazine that describes itself as the antidote to

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youth culture. And to think, he is only 71!

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What do you think Ken will make of that? I think so, it is a bit of

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fun, but the serious side is that age is not a barrier to anything.

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do not think he is an old person. I think 70 is the brand new 50. I

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