Clause 3

– in a Public Bill Committee at 5:15 pm on 10th March 2009.

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Issue of certificates by the English certifying authority: supplementary

Amendment made: 151, in clause 3, page 3, line 10, leave out from ‘authorising’ to end of line 11 and insert

‘the English certifying authority to charge a fee for supplying a copy of an apprenticeship certificate.’.—(Mr. Simon.)

This amendment is consequent on amendment 152.

Question proposed, That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Education) 5:30 pm, 10th March 2009

Our earlier remarks showed that we have some doubts about clause 3. Although there was some discussion about the matter, will the Minister set the clause in context so that we can explore those doubts more fully?

Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I am not sure whether I can add much to what we said earlier. The clause allows the authority designated to issue apprenticeship certificates to charge a fee for doing so, if authorised by regulations. It also contains a power to make regulations to supply, and charge for, copies of such certificates. As I said earlier, I assure the Committee that, while the clause includes a power for the Secretary of State to make regulations to enable a certifying authority to charge a fee, we expect that the public funding that we make available to the National Apprenticeship Service will be sufficient to cover the costs of issuing certificates. However, we want to ensure that we have the ability to make regulations that will allow fees to be charged in the future to meet, for example, the administrative costs of issuing duplicate or replacement certificates.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

In that spirit—the Minister spoke about this earlier and gave important assurances that are now on the record—will he be clear about the guidance that will be offered? Enabling charges in the circumstances that he described for a duplicate certificate and facilitating charges at some unspecified future time seem qualitatively different from the issue of certificates per se. The Minister clearly stated that that is not the intention, but it would  be helpful if he gave some assurance that the guidance and regulations will make the purpose in this part of the Bill clear.

Photo of Siôn Simon Siôn Simon Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills

I am not sure whether I understand what kind of guidance the hon. Gentleman means. It is pretty straightforward that the Bill provides a power for the Secretary of State to issue a regulation giving the certifying authority the ability to make a charge at some point in future. We have no intention to make such a charge at present. Sector skills councils currently charge £30 per apprenticeship certificate and any future charge for duplicates would be at cost and not-for-profit; I unequivocally state that that is the current situation. The Bill allows the Secretary of State a power to make a regulation in future, and I have been quite clear on the circumstances in which such a power could be used. I do not see how we could give any more guidance.

Photo of John Hayes John Hayes Shadow Minister (Education)

I do not want to do this matter to death. The Minister has been clear and I take him at his word. Our amendments, including one to delete this whole part of the Bill—it was not selected—were stimulated by worries about charging per se. However, the Minister has made it sufficiently clear that that is not the intention. On the face of it, the Bill could be used to trigger such a regime, but I am confident that he has no intention of bringing it into being. As Ministers, we certainly would not do so. On that basis, I am happy to say no more.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 3, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.