It is a pleasure to speak in support of this very important Bill, which is one of the measures we need to move us to the high pay, low tax, low welfare economy that the Secretary of State wants.
I will start with the measures relating to work. From having served on the Work and Pensions Committee, I know that getting people into work is the area of the Department that gets the least scrutiny. The reporting obligations on full employment and apprenticeships are a really important step forward. We all want the 3 million apprenticeships to be created by the end of the Parliament.
I hope that the power the Government are taking to report on the number of apprenticeships will cover the details on the quality of those apprenticeships. I would like the annual report to include the number of higher apprenticeships, because we want apprenticeships that give people real skills and real future careers, not just to be tick-box training schemes that add little value. As we occasionally see in our constituencies, some employees get sold such schemes, and we ought to look at whether they provide any real advantages. The reports will be extremely useful.
Another important thing to strengthen work is to have a welfare system that encourages rather than disincentivises it. Our measures to increase the minimum wage, which will start later this year, and to increase the amount of childcare, as well as the welfare reforms, are the right package to ensure that all people and all families are very clear that work will always pay and, at least in the medium and longer term, is the best way of securing a better financial situation.
Whoever won the election, we knew from the campaign that the welfare reform measures would be the most contentious issue at the start of this Parliament. We all knew that we had to find several billions.