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That is an important point, and the hon. Lady anticipates what I was coming on to. I have had my own apprentice now for nine years; they do a level 3 business administration course, and there will be other Members here who employ their own apprentices. There is a question mark about whether those at the starting levels of apprenticeships have been supported as well as they could be through the apprenticeship levy.
Interestingly, when I arranged an interview between Business West, which effectively took over the running of apprenticeships from the chamber of commerce in Gloucestershire, with the previous Minister with responsibility for apprenticeships, she said very clearly that in terms of small and medium-sized enterprises
“it has been difficult for the non-levy payers, but we are now transferring them over to a new system which we do want to be simpler for them.”
The Minister who is here in Westminster Hall—the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Michelle Donelan—is not formally the Minister with responsibility for apprenticeships. Indeed, I believe it is true to say that there is still a gap in the Department for Education in terms of an actual apprenticeships Minister, which I hope will be filled soon through an appointment by our new Prime Minister. Nevertheless, I hope the Minister here today will be able to say a little about the speed of transferring the non-levy payers to the new system and how that has progressed. The previous Minister with responsibility for apprenticeships made her comments in July last year, so I hope there has been some progress in that regard.
However, just to respond to the point made by Stephanie Peacock, it is quite true that the numbers of level 2 and level 3 apprentices have come down sharply since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy, just as it is true that the numbers of levels 4 to 7 higher apprentices have risen sharply.