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Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — Tax Fairness – in the House of Commons at 6:47 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of Matthew Hancock Matthew Hancock The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Skills 6:47 pm, 12th March 2013

The phrase “public procurement” could easily be interpreted as including procurement in local government, national Government and agencies. The motion was tabled only late last night and it would not be advisable for the House of Commons to vote for something that might not be legal. I am afraid that we must resist the motion, but I hope that, given our reassurances, we can all agree on the need for procurement where possible and for it to represent good value for money. I hope there will not be a vote.

Finally, many Members, including Chris Evans, mentioned the importance of increased quality and employer focus. Members discussed the cross-party desire for parity of esteem among vocational routes, apprenticeships and universities. It is my passionate belief that parity of esteem will come from parity of quality. We need to increase quality throughout the apprenticeship system so that all apprentices can be as good as the very best at MBDA, Morrisons and Rolls-Royce, which have been mentioned by many Members.

We have taken steps to increase quality: we have insisted that people need to continue with English and maths if they do not have a C grade at GCSE, and have said that there needs to be a minimum of a year in almost all circumstances and a job as part of an apprenticeship. The removal of programme-led apprenticeships has taken out 18,000 apprenticeship places, which is a far higher number than that for the decrease in apprenticeships for 16 to 19-year-olds over the past year. Under the previous Government some apprenticeships did not involve a job, so apprentices were training with no prospect of a job, and astonishingly, some apprenticeships involved jobs without training. At their heart, apprenticeships are about earning and learning at the same time. Increasing quality is vital and I will not apologise for that.

We will respond to the Richard review and are in favour of rigorous apprenticeships that are responsive to employers’ needs. We want to ensure a new norm that gives everyone a good opportunity to reach their potential. We should not use a target to push people into university when it may be best for them to go into an apprenticeship. Instead, let us provide the best possible opportunities for young people, through university and apprenticeships, and a ladder of progression from level 2 to levels 3, 4 and beyond to new areas of the economy, including legal services and accountancy, as well as the more traditional areas of engineering and construction. In that way, we can ensure that there is the potential for everybody to succeed.