Every adult in the UK would get six years of free education to help bring vocational study in line with university degrees, Labour is pledging today.
Undergraduate and foundation degrees, as well as diplomas in areas such as engineering and nursing, will all be offered as part of the promise to be announced officially by leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.
The pair will give a speech in Blackpool on Tuesday, as the general election campaign enters its seventh day.
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Elsewhere, the Conservatives have sparked a new row over how much Labour’s election plans will cost.
And the Liberal Democrats are calling for a £5bn flood prevention fund to protect vulnerable communities from the sort of torrential that struck northern England last week.
Boris Johnson is convening a meeting of the government’s emergency committee COBRA to decide a response to the severe flooding later in the afternoon, following a call by Mr Corbyn and despite saying over the weekend it was “not looking like something we need to escalate to the level of a national emergency”.
Campaigning will begin in earnest after a brief moment of unity by party leaders on Remembrance Sunday, with Labour trying to shift focus on to its plan to form a national education service.
It is announcing a move to give low-income adults grants through educational courses, if the party wins a majority when voters head to the polls on Thursday 12 December.
Ms Rayner and Mr Corbyn are due to pledge those without an A-level or equivalent qualification would be able to attend college and study them for free.
They will also promise to give adults skills to tackle climate change and stop being shut out of work by automation, aiding their bid for a “green industrial revolution”.
The proposals are estimated by Labour to cost £2.6bn on education entitlement, and a further £573m on maintenance grants from 2023/24.
It said funding for the pledge will be set out in the party’s manifesto, which will be released in a few weeks. But higher taxes on top earners and reversals to giveaways to big businesses have been hinted at.
Conservative Education Secretary Gavin Williamson hit back, bringing the debate back to Brexit.
He said Labour was “making promises that it simply won’t be able to fulfil” because its plan to hold another EU referendum means the party “won’t be able to focus on domestic priorities like education”.
“Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives will get Brexit done and keep our economy strong which means we can focus on the people’s priorities like education and the NHS,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Tories sparked a fresh spending row, by claiming Labour’s plans would cost taxpayers £2,400 a year.
Shadow Treasury minister Jonathan Renolds called it “fake news”, as the party has not yet published its manifesto.
The Conservatives are also facing criticism for not placing a cost on their own policies; when asked to, business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sophy Ridge On Sunday he wouldn’t “bandy around figures”.
Sam Coates, Sky News’ deputy political editor, said: “The latest Tory analysis relies on the results of its work on the economic consequences of Labour economic plans released on Sunday.
“The original research was criticised for costing policies that will not be appearing in Labour’s manifesto, such as the financial implications of the abolition of all private schools, and relying on heavily disputed research such as the cost of the four day working week.
“This analysis hinges on a tweet from shadow chancellor John McDonnell from January which says Labour has ruled out borrowing to fund for Labour’s day-to-day spending plans. They use this to suggest there is a black hole in their spending plans that must be filled with big tax rises.
“Labour is likely to contest what the Tories say constitutes ‘day to day spending’, and will spell out more on their fiscal rules and tax plans next week.”
Lib Dem shadow chancellor Ed Davey has called for both the other two major parties to submit their manifestos to the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to be independently costed, raising the need for “proper scrutiny”.
Their leader, Jo Swinson, has called for a flood defence fund ahead of a trip to Doncaster to meet a charity handling donations for those affected by the water.
“Leaving the EU will mean that we lose access to the EU solidarity fund for flood relief and the EU structural investment funds that help maintain and strengthen flood defences and improve flood resilience,” she said.
“The Liberal Democrats are committed to investing in our flood defences and protecting communities from the devastation we have seen in the last week.”