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Apprenticeship Levy — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Richard Graham Richard Graham Conservative, Gloucester 2:30 pm, 11th February 2020

The hon. Gentleman kindly glossed over that. Some of the points he made about the flexibility of the apprenticeship levy are important, and I promise that I will come on to them.

In that debate—I have reviewed what I said then—all of us recognised that some work on apprenticeships had been done under the Government in which the hon. Gentleman served. There was no doubt about that, but we needed to put a rocket-boost into the system, and I think the figures confirm that we did, with 2 million apprenticeships being created between 2010 and 2015. Businesses and Government organisations, together with what the Government introduced by way of funding, made a huge difference. However, let us not go over that too much, because I want to see where we are today.

I will start with what the aims of the apprenticeship levy were. It is fair to say that the Government wanted to double the investment in apprenticeships, from roughly £1.2 billion to £2.5 billion, and at the same time deliver on their commitment in the 2010 manifesto to take the number of apprenticeships from 2 million to 3 million by 2020. Right at the beginning, there was also a quality expectation—an ambition to raise the level of the apprenticeships that were being studied for and to have more higher apprentices, who in turn would contribute to some sectors where we had and still have key competitive advantages—cyber and aerospace are obvious examples. In addition, there was certainly the implication of reducing the costs to the taxpayer by getting a greater contribution from the larger employers in particular.