Business Secretary Vince Cable has claimed that government officials suggested “killing off FE” by cutting sector funding, it has been reported.

Dr Cable told a fringe event at the Liberal Democrats’ conference in Glasgow that civil servants in his department said in 2010 that “nobody will really notice”.

The BBC website reports that he claimed to have blocked the move, suggesting the money saved could have gone towards keeping his party’s pledge to axe student tuition fees.

“We took a big political hit for that decision,” said Dr Cable, but he added that it was worthwhile to safeguard “post-school” training, which doesn’t enjoy the safety of ring-fenced funding.

“I have a so-called unprotected department. We were going to have our budget cut by 25 per cent. The biggest items were universities and students, and FE,” he said.

“And I could have taken the advice we had from the civil servants, who said ‘well, why don’t you just effectively kill off FE. Nobody will really notice.”

He added: “The easy way out would have been to have taken all the money out of the FE sector and out of training and I said ‘we are not doing that’.

“It is absolutely critical for the future skills base of the country that we have strong post-school training and education.

“So although the FE sector has been cut — I won’t pretend they have had an easy life — we have , to a significant extent, protected them.”