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Volume 605: debated on Tuesday 2 February 2016

We are giving employers the opportunity to design high-quality apprenticeships that meet their needs, and more than 1,300 employers are already involved. We are also establishing the employer-led Institute for Apprenticeships to improve standards and safeguard quality.

Businesses have, on the whole, welcomed the apprenticeship levy, but many are worried about how it will be implemented. Is my hon. Friend considering any sort of pilot scheme, involving a small number of businesses of all sizes, to ensure that when it is rolled out, it is rolled out smoothly and efficiently?

I thank my hon. Friend for organising one of the best attended and most interesting meetings of the all-party parliamentary group on this subject. I am doing many meetings of that kind both privately and, like that one, publicly to discuss the implementation of the levy. We will be publishing later in the spring the details of how the levy will work. There are all sorts of thorny questions, but we are talking to business about all of them.

It is timely for me to accommodate, on this question, the hon. Member for Kingston and Surbiton (James Berry).

14. Thank you, Mr Speaker. Does my hon. Friend the Minister welcome the 2,580 apprentices that have been started in my constituency since 2015, and will he join me in welcoming the “100 in 100” campaign of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi), which encourages MPs to go out to their employers in their constituencies and get them to take on apprentices? (903384)

I do welcome that; all the work of my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) is marvellous, but this is a particularly marvellous aspect of his work. I say to all Members on both sides of the House that it is a simple scheme about going out and encouraging employers in their constituencies to create 100 apprenticeships in 100 days. I urge all Members of all parties to take it up, and we will do everything we can to help.

15. Thank you, Mr Speaker. The six Cornish MPs are also leading on this and my hon. Friend the Member for Truro and Falmouth (Sarah Newton) will be launching the “100 in 100” campaign in Cornwall. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi) for establishing that, and may I ask the Minister to pledge his support to Cornish campaigning for apprenticeships? (903385)

I certainly will, and I look forward to visiting Cornwall during national apprenticeship week to celebrate that. In my hon. Friend’s constituency there were 82.5% more apprenticeship starts in 2014-15 than in 2009-10, and I am sure he will be able to go on and double that.

In my constituency I am working with UCAS to launch a “UCAS for apprenticeships” pilot. This new portal will make it easy for local small and medium-sized businesses to take on a school-leaver, and end the divide between those applying to university and those looking for an apprenticeship. Will my hon. Friend join me in supporting this exciting local initiative backing the aspirations of north Yorkshire’s young people?

Many of the best policies are designed by Back-Bench Members and piloted in their constituencies, and I want to salute my hon. Friend for creating this scheme so soon after arriving in this place. We will watch it very carefully and look to see whether we can roll it out across the country.