FOR all the televised proceedings of Parliament that make the headlines – the news coverage, weekly round-ups and the cheering and jeering of PMQs – the majority of Parliamentary debates are very different.

This week I was delighted to speak, in a debate about improving literacy and numeracy in adults.

Like most debates, there were well-reasoned, informed and interesting contributions from both sides of the House, with a great deal of agreement shared between parties.

One in six UK adults are financially illiterate. That means that one in six adults have literacy levels below that expected for an 11-year-old – a disgraceful figure.

The system has failed these people, robbing them of opportunities in life and potentially confining many people to a lifetime of unemployment, under-employment and deprivation.

We are a modern, prosperous and advanced society and we must do all we can to help people get to grips with these skills so that they no longer face economic and social exclusion.

Ultimately this is why I chose to champion the cause of Financial Education for Young People in Parliament, chairing the largest current campaign group of Parliamentarians and leading the only campaign successful in getting inclusion in the new National Curriculum.

It is why I am supportive of our school reforms, giving schools the freedom to teach these skills and ensuring they are rewarded in the exam system.

Spelling and grammar never used to count outside of English GSCE. Now it will count in all exams, with good spelling and grammar rewarded. Mental arithmetic and maths has been rightly upgraded.

And we are also right to pursue performance-related pay, incentivising the very best teachers to make a real difference to children from all backgrounds.

We also need to look at further utilising our community facilities, whether it it our libraries or schools. If volunteers or organisations wish to offer support and training, then we should be opening the doors without the hassle of expensive rental charges.

We have seen the huge success of the Summer Reading challenge for children in local libraries. Why not extend this principle to adults through reading clubs and learning sessions?

We have a duty to reach out to those isolated by illiteracy or innumeracy and to ensure they have the opportunity to take part in whatever job or activity they choose.

In an increasingly competitive world economy, Britain cannot afford to leave its own behind.

There can be no delay in school reforms, restoring rigour and greater freedoms to make sure we equip all young people to take advantage of their own opportunities. Anything less is simply unacceptable and is exactly why this was perhaps my most passionate, even angry speech that I have made in Parliament, determined to express the urgency required.