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Plans for lifelong learning torn up

The delayed White Paper on lifelong learning has been finally torn up, leaving Government plans to support education from cradle to grave in tatters.

David Blunkett, the Education and Employment Secretary, still backs the lifelong learning proposals. However, the Treasury wants no more open-ended cash commitments before its comprehensive spending review.

Mr Blunkett promised the White Paper last May, as the centre-piece of the new Government's commitment to lifelong learning. But publication was postponed at least nine times as civil servants and task groups struggled to make coherent a wide range of commitments to education and industry.

The White Paper was at the printers - having won Tony Blair's approval over the weekend - when the plug was pulled.

Don Foster, LibDem education spokesman said: "This is a decision to go for second best and it just will not do. The expectation of this White Paper has held up people's thinking and planning for access to adult education for months and months."

A range of promises which would have meant extra cash for further and adult education have now been pushed down the political agenda. The White Paper - which was to have been published next Tuesday - will be replaced by a series of consultation documents, concentrating on the Government's flagship proposals affecting industry.

A commitment to the White Paper has also blocked efforts by ministers to win European cash for the University for Industry (UFI).

A DFEE spokeswoman insisted the Government was not demoting lifelong learning. Since there are "no significant legislation proposals involved" ministers felt a White Paper was unnecessary, she said. "We will be promising significant consultations on lifelong learning for some time."

Kim Howells, education and employment minister, said a consultation paper would be published together with responses to the Dearing and Kennedy reports on February 25.

A series of monthly consultation papers will include information on the Government's education helpline this month, a paper on the UFI in March and one on individual learning accounts in April.

FE Focus, page 31

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