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My Lords, first, I congratulate the Minister on giving a comprehensive reply. He might not have completely covered the waterfront but I am sure that he will respond with written answers where he has not.
I take this opportunity to thank everybody who has participated in the debate. The contributions were fascinating. They were eclectic and constructively critical, and a lot of good ideas were put forward. I am conscious that I am the only thing stopping the House adjourning, so I will not attempt to cover every aspect of every contribution, but they certainly gave me food for thought in a number of ways that I had not considered concerning our approach to apprenticeships and how the levy should be used.
I do not want us to have an either/or debate on whether it is vocational training, an apprenticeship or the university route. When I talk to young people as part of the Lords outreach programme—to 16 and 17 year-olds and sometimes younger—I say, “Look, it’s not an either/or choice”. Some will start on apprenticeships and then go on to take a degree. I stress that they are making a pretty key choice and that they should choose wisely. If they are going down the university route, it is quite an expensive one. As other noble Lords have said, a benefit of apprenticeships is that apprentices can earn while they learn; for some young people, this is crucial.
I will pick out one issue that was raised a number of times, by the right reverend Prelate and others. I am not sure that the Minister covered it, and I come across it again and again: travel costs. As I looked in my pocket, I was just thinking, “I have this thing called a Freedom Pass. It is a nice little perk that I do not really need—I can afford to travel—but young people should have the benefit of one while travelling for an apprenticeship”. If you go into further education colleges and speak to students about the issues they face, travel costs come almost top of the agenda. I do not want to end on this point, but it was not quite addressed.
Once again, I thank everybody for their contributions and the way they made them. They have given the Minister a lot to think about.
House adjourned at 5.35 pm.