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Volume 618: debated on Monday 12 December 2016

The armed forces are Britain’s biggest provider of apprenticeships. We have around 20,000 apprentices on programmes at any one time, ranging from engineering and IT to construction and driving. Defence has pledged to start 50,000 apprenticeships during this Parliament and will seize the new Treasury co-investment opportunity to work with the Department for Education, expanding and improving the current range of apprenticeships we offer.

That is indeed impressive. I was expecting a good reply but not to find out that the armed forces were the largest provider in the country. What assurance can the Minister give those residents of mine who might want to take up an apprenticeship with the Ministry of Defence that they offer quality as well as quantity?

My hon. Friend is right to focus on quality, and I am delighted to say that following the last Ofsted inspections both the Army and the naval service were graded as “good”, with some individual programmes being graded as “outstanding”, while the RAF’s programme was graded as “outstanding”.

The Minister mentioned the Department for Education, and the Government website refers to England, so will he assure me that apprenticeships are available throughout the UK for people in the devolved regions where apprenticeships are a devolved matter to the Scottish Parliament, the Northern Ireland Assembly or the Welsh Assembly?

Of course, we are always happy to work with devolved Assemblies, and I can absolutely reassure the right hon. Gentleman that apprenticeships are available to all our armed forces personnel.

I thank the Secretary of State for coming to my constituency on Friday to open the Type 26 facility at David Brown Santasalo, the gear manufacturer, where he met and spoke to some of its many young apprentices. Will he and his Ministers continue to make sure that quality apprenticeships are a key part of the defence supply chain?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. Indeed, I understand that the visit was a great success. Absolutely, as we look to the future, this is not just about apprenticeships in the armed forces, but about the transition for service personnel when they leave. We have a duty to prepare them for work potentially in the supply chain after their service. After all, this is a partnership with industry.

This time last week, the SNP’s defence team visited BAE Systems on the Clyde and talked to apprentices about their future. What reassurances can the Government give to these skilled young men and women who are waiting to hear if the promised Type 31s will be built entirely on the Clyde?

It is worth remembering that the apprentice who will work on the last Type 26 is yet to be born, but we continue to work closely with industry. As the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, my hon. Friend the Member for West Worcestershire (Harriett Baldwin), said just a few moments ago, the investment made in Scotland for many years to come should be celebrated.