Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Cameron urges faith in capitalism

David Cameron
Mr Cameron criticised Labour for using too many top-down targets

Conservative leader David Cameron has said people's "faith in capitalism and free enterprise" must be restored despite the global downturn.

The foundations of the economy have been "shaken", creating a need for more emphasis on re-training amid "mass unemployment", he added.

Mr Cameron promised his party would restore Job Clubs and encourage family-friendly working.

Labour accused the Tories of setting out a "direct copy" of its policies.

'Top-down targets'

Speaking at the Social Enterprise Coalition conference in Birmingham, Mr Cameron accused the government of stifling the training system based on out-of-date assumptions of a growing economy in which only a hardcore of unskilled people could not find work.

He called for greater flexibility for people looking for new skills and to attract new providers into the system to deliver training courses.

Mr Cameron confirmed Tory plans to abolish the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), create a 100m fund to help young people who are "not in employment, education or training" and establish a 100 million Adult and Community Learning Fund to provide advice on qualifications and courses.

He said a Tory administration would revive the Job Clubs which helped bring people seeking work together in the last recession and would help employers create 100,000 new apprenticeships a year.

'Shrinking'

Mr Cameron said: "Today, our training system is based on the assumption of a growing economy, the need to focus on a hardcore of people who lack skills and getting companies to increase the skills of those who are already in work.

"And this system is delivered by big bureaucracy and top-down targets.

"But the whole scene has changed. Our economy is now shrinking. And there isn't just a hardcore of people not in work, education or training - we're in an era of mass unemployment.

"We must do all that we can to help those who have been laid off to get back into work as soon as possible."

He also said: "These are times of great anxiety. The foundations of our economy have been shaken - and with it our faith in capitalism and free enterprise.

"The foundations of our society have been fractured and with that has come crime, anti-social behaviour, and family breakdown, poverty, and alienation, and mistrust - in fact, all the things about our society we want to change."

Mr Cameron added: "Change won't be easy - it never is. But it's absolutely necessary - particularly at this time."

But a spokeswoman for Skills Secretary John Denham said of Mr Cameron: "Having failed to own up to his own policies, he is now repeating his own announcements.

"These policies, first set out in July last year, are a direct copy of existing government policy.

"For example, he says he will abolish the LSC when a bill to do just that is already going through Parliament. And a clearing house for apprenticeships and a new careers service for adults are already being set up."

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