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Apprenticeship Levy — [Caroline Nokes in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:54 pm on 11th February 2020.

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Photo of Gerald Jones Gerald Jones Shadow Minister (Defence) 2:54 pm, 11th February 2020

I thank the right hon. Lady for that intervention. That is a wider issue, one that is probably too large for this debate, but it should certainly be considered going forward.

In England, the money that police forces have contributed to the levy fund has been reimbursed—they have had their fair share of the funding back—but that is not the case in Wales. This is another example of the Government dodging responsibility on funding and trying to shift the blame, based on a technicality of devolved and reserved powers. The Government must devolve the money required to go alongside their policies, including the apprenticeship levy, not just devolve the policies themselves. At a time of rising crime levels, when we need to be investing heavily in our police and providing them with the support they need to keep our communities safe, the Government should provide the money that Welsh police forces need and deserve so that they can fund those critical apprenticeships.

Jeff Cuthbert and Alun Michael, respectively the police and crime commissioners for Gwent police and for South Wales police, have repeatedly called on the UK Government to provide the funds for those apprenticeships. The Home Office previously advised Welsh forces that from 2019 onwards they would be provided with their fair share of the levy. It is now 2020, more than a year on, and that has still not happened. Welsh police forces have still not received a penny of that funding. With apprenticeships providing an established way for police recruits in Wales to enter the force without a degree, it is crucial that police forces in Wales receive their fair share of the funding as soon as possible.

We know that once the Government’s planned police recruitment drive is complete, whenever that might be, overall police numbers will still be lower than those inherited from the last Labour Government in 2010, as will police numbers in both of the police areas in my constituency. If the Government will not commit to providing the funding for apprenticeships lost through the apprenticeship levy, there will be even fewer police officers on the streets of Wales. This issue has gone on for a very long time and that funding is needed to support police forces across Wales, so I hope the Minister can provide clarity and reassurance.