§ Mr. Hilary Benn
To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what plans he has for the future funding of North-west Bargaining for Skills by the Learning and Skills Council; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Wicks
For the current year, Training and Enterprise Councils in the North-west have been able to meet only half the cost of the Bargaining for Skills projects, due to other pressing financial commitments. My Department will ensure that the balance is found to sustain the programme for the rest of this year.
Trade Unions have a unique and pivotal role to play in encouraging and facilitating learning opportunities at work. Nowhere has this been more effectively demonstrated than through the success of the Union Learning Fund and Bargaining for Skills Projects. Workforce development will be at the heart of the remit of the Learning and Skills Council, and we are currently discussing with the TUC the role that unions can play in supporting this.