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Point of Order

Volume 628: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2017

I was anticipating a point of order from the hon. Gentleman, but I had not spotted him, so I feared he had beetled out of the Chamber. I am delighted to see that he has not done so.

Thank you, Mr Speaker.

Yesterday in Education questions, I asked Ministers if they were comfortable about handing over £45 million of public money to a training provider, learndirect, which has been deemed “inadequate” by Ofsted regarding outcomes for learners. In reply, the Minister of State, Department for Education, the right hon. Member for Guildford (Anne Milton), told the House:

“In this case, the provision judged to be inadequate by Ofsted—apprenticeships—is no longer offered by learndirect.”—[Official Report, 11 September 2017; Vol. 628, c. 434.]

This is not the case. Not only is Learndirect Ltd continuing to receive public money to complete existing apprenticeships until July 2018, but Learndirect Apprenticeships Ltd, a company with the same directors and the same website, will still be funded to provide new apprenticeships on an ongoing basis. I am sure that the Minister did not intend to mislead the House, so I hope she might come to the Dispatch Box to correct the record, to explain why public money continues to be given to a provider that is delivering inadequate outcomes for learners, and perhaps to understand why the perception exists that Ministers do not have a grip on the learndirect scandal.

I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman both for his point of order and for his courtesy in giving me advance notice of its thrust. I have to say to him that it is not unusual for an hon. Member to find a Minister’s answer at the Dispatch Box less than totally satisfying. Moreover, the content of Ministers’ answers to questions, as colleagues will know, is the responsibility of the Minister concerned. The hon. Gentleman has been operating as a kind of self-employed sleuth in analysing the evidence and concluding, at least to his own satisfaction, that there is a disconnect between what the Minister said and the factual position. He has clearly been keeping his beady eye on websites and attending to his duties in an extremely assiduous manner.

I have to take care not to act as referee or umpire on the matter of whether a Minister has misled the House, but if a Minister were to accept that she had unintentionally misled the House—because she thought what she said was true—I am sure that she would take swift steps to put the matter right. If she takes a different view and does not accept the hon. Gentleman’s interpretation and conclusion, however, I doubt that she will be volunteering to come to the Chamber.

The thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s comments will have been communicated to the Secretary of State by now —if it has not been, it will be within a matter of minutes. Meanwhile, he has succeeded in putting his dissatisfaction and clear view of the facts on the record. The safest thing I can say in conclusion is that we await events.

We come now to a notable parliamentary delight. I call Mr Peter Bone to move his ten-minute rule motion.