My Lords, in speaking on this bit of the Bill and this amendment, I feel like the reserve coming in to fill in for somebody else as my noble friend Lord Storey initially had his name down. When I see that the other co-signatories are here, I am reasonably sure that the team will do the job.
The apprenticeship levy sounds right. It is the idea that if you have a turnover of, I believe, more than £3 million, you will pay into a training levy—apprenticeships through a training levy might have been better in the first place—then you will get something out of it. However, it has never really taken off. We do not really know what it is for or what it is getting in. Of late, we have had a decline in the number of apprenticeships, yet you are still having to pay in. There have been lots of other issues here, such as— although the loophole has been filled—the fact that MBAs have been studied on the money from the apprenticeship levy. Can we have a look at what this is really for? Does it need redefining? Does it need a new level of focus? That is what is behind this amendment. How can we make sure that it is functional and does what we think it was supposed to do? If we actually know that, we will get more encouragement for it and will keep it going forward.
Before I go any further, I want to point out that the Treasury gets money that is not spent at the time. If it is training money, we should make sure that it goes somewhere that trains. Hopefully we will examine questions here, such as would level 1 and 2 activity be taken on here? Should it be for the under-25s if it is supposed to be about youth training? Can we get these things out? Can the Minister, in her reply, let us know exactly what the Government think the future of this institution is? At the moment, it is danger of becoming something faintly ridiculous that is not quite achieving what we think it should. The people are having to look for a way to get the best out of it and get a focus. We could actually use this money to support colleges and institutions in delivering the right type of structure, especially locally, under the course of this Bill.
I hope that, by the end of this discussion, we will have started to find out a little more about the Government’s direction and the use of this very useful pot of money, because if you really want to make this a tax on businesses with turnovers of more than £3 million, let us just call it a tax. Let us take the money back and put it into colleges in the normal way. There really is not any point in having this label on this institution if it does not function. If we are going to have an effective training levy, taking out apprenticeships might be the best start for it, so that you are not actually tied to that, and doing something else with it. I hope that, by the end of this debate, we will have a clearer idea of the future direction of this because this really is starting to damage the idea of apprenticeships more than it actually helps. I beg to move.