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Volume 633: debated on Monday 11 December 2017

We have put in place key reforms to drive investment in apprenticeships: employer-designed apprenticeship standards to meet their needs and drive up quality; and the apprenticeship levy to encourage sustained employer investment. By 2019-20, spending on apprenticeships in England will reach £2.4 billion, which is double what it was in 2010 in cash terms.

I recently visited Stubbing Court Training, a local training provider in my constituency that specialises in the equestrian area. Given the Government’s recent changes to apprenticeships, will the Minister meet me to talk about how we can ensure that we continue to provide the support that the Government are offering for smaller and more rural employers and training providers?

I would be extremely happy to meet my hon. Friend. In fact, I recently met my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) to discuss this issue. We need to ensure that apprenticeships work for every community, wherever they are and in whatever sector.

What are the Government doing to address the reported 61% fall in apprenticeship starts since the introduction of the apprenticeship levy?

I am a bit disappointed that the right hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir Vince Cable) is not in the Chamber to listen to the rest of this question. If the hon. Member for Oldham West and Royton (Jim McMahon) looks at the figures more closely, he will see that there was a sharp spike of 46% between February and April this year compared with the situation in 2016. This year’s starts are therefore down just 2.8% overall. This was entirely as we anticipated. We have brought in new systems, and it is right that employers that are now paying the levy are taking the time to plan. I suggest that Opposition Members need to talk up apprenticeships and apprentices.