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Apprenticeships (Alternative English Completion Conditions and Miscellaneous Provisions) (Amendment) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020

Volume 806: debated on Monday 12 October 2020

Motion to Approve

Moved by

That the draft Regulations laid before the House on 10 September be approved.

Relevant document: 27th Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, apprenticeships have an important role to play in creating employment opportunities post pandemic and support employers to meet their skills needs to maintain their businesses. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme was launched in March to protect jobs and businesses from the worst of the pandemic, and it enabled workers who were still employed to be furloughed. The Government have made financial support available to employers and targeted relief at the hardest-hit sectors. To enable apprenticeships to continue during the pandemic, we introduced a number of measures and flexibilities to enable apprentices to undertake remote learning and complete their end-point assessment.

We all know that, sadly, young people starting their careers have been severely affected by this pandemic. As we build back stronger, we will need to ensure that apprenticeships play a key role in creating jobs and boosting the skills that employers need. To ensure this, the Government are already taking action. For example, our plan for jobs set out new payments for employers who hire a new apprentice between 1 August and the end of January next year. Where that apprentice is under 25, the employer will receive £2,000, and they will receive £1,500 where the apprentice is aged 25 or older. This is a strong encouragement for employers to create new apprenticeship opportunities in their businesses. Additionally, for young people seeking the skills to enter the labour market, we are tripling the number of traineeships we make available and rewarding employers for offering work placements. For those at risk of long-term unemployment, we are subsidising employers to create new short-term roles as part of the Kickstart Scheme.

However, the scale of the economic impact of the pandemic means that apprentices are not immune from redundancy. While employers are doing their best to protect and retain existing apprentices, sadly, many have cut their workforce and made the difficult decision to make them redundant. To help apprentices through this difficult time, we launched in August a new support service for redundant apprentices. This provides individuals who have been made redundant, or who are at risk of redundancy, with advice and guidance on the impact of redundancy on their apprenticeship. It also enables them to access wider support services, such as careers and financial advice and well-being support. More importantly, it helps them to find new apprenticeship opportunities with employers as part of our vacancy sharing service. We must remember that apprentices have valuable skills, often transferable to different industries and sectors.

It is wonderful and encouraging to see that more than 700 employers have come forward to support those apprentices who have been made redundant by providing them with the chance to apply for the range of opportunities available across all sectors and regions. We have received positive feedback from a number of employers who have shared their vacancies and successfully recruited redundant apprentices via this service.

We hope that any apprentice who is made redundant will be able to secure new employment and continue their apprenticeship. Sadly, we know that this will not always be possible. We now require training providers to produce a record of part-completion where an apprentice has to stop their apprenticeship as a result of redundancy. This sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that the apprentice has acquired prior to redundancy, helping the apprentice to secure future employment. It is important that, where individuals have made a commitment to their training and where the end goal is in sight, they are not prevented from completing their training due to redundancy. However, we want to go further by giving more apprentices who suffer redundancy the opportunity to complete their apprenticeship should they not find new employment immediately. That is the key reason why these regulations are being debated today.

There have been significant changes to apprenticeships. We have introduced higher and degree apprenticeships, which are of a longer duration. As a result of this, the average duration of an apprenticeship has increased: more apprentices are starting longer programmes. Apprentices on longer programmes who are made redundant do not always benefit from the current policy, where they can continue to be funded if they are six months or less from completion. We now propose to go further. We want those who have completed 75% or more of their apprenticeship to be funded as well. This could mean that an additional 8,000 apprentices can complete their programmes in the event of redundancy. I think we all recognise that apprenticeships are not just training programmes. The unique benefit of an apprenticeship is that it is a real job, and the training consists of a mixture of on-the-job and off-the-job training to achieve occupational competence.

To conclude, having taken steps to encourage employers to offer new apprenticeship opportunities, we are now taking further steps to extend support to existing apprentices seeking to complete their apprenticeship in the face of redundancy. We believe that these regulations strike the right balance between supporting these apprentices and protecting the quality of the apprenticeship experience they receive and the endorsement it provides to employers of their knowledge, skills and behaviours. I beg to move.

My Lords, in the 1960s, I became an apprentice. I began my articles to a solicitor in Newcastle upon Tyne to ensure that I would learn the profession which has served me so well throughout my adult life in a comprehensive way. My articles of clerkship were a legal document signed by me, my principal and also my father, conveying responsibilities on all of us to ensure the success of my training. I might add that that training was not just good from a legal perspective but also, as an indirect benefit, allowed me to become an expert in the operation of a corded switchboard when the telephonist took her lunch breaks. I am afraid that I have lost that skill, because of the ongoing pursuit of technology. My father had signed a similar document himself some 30 years before, when he joined a large industrial firm on Tyneside as an engineering apprentice. The training he received set him up for his own successful career.

I was pleased that, after many years of falling into abeyance, apprenticeships came back into prominence in 1994 when the then Government introduced what were called modern apprenticeships, based on the frameworks of the sector skills councils. They were brought up to date in 2009 with the establishment of the National Apprenticeship Service, which co-ordinated apprenticeships in England and required certain elements to be applied, including both knowledge and competence with employment rights and responsibilities. Different levels were instituted, which put them on a par with other educational achievements or demonstrated that learning a skill or profession in this way was most definitely not a lesser means of career progression. Even so, while we in the UK had a general policy to enable as many young people as possible to pursue university training, our main European competitors, especially our German friends, were reinvigorating their apprentice schemes, to encourage more to pursue non-academic training in engineering and technical fields. This was, arguably, a sensible approach in equipping their economies for future challenges.

We lost much flexibility in further education and training at that time, but I am pleased that, late in the day, we have reverted to a more balanced approach. Nowadays, there are several ways in which apprenticeships are provided: through the government apprenticeship service, by an employer provider, and/or by a supporting provider. There are many stories of success for those who have participated in apprenticeship schemes but, as in so many other cases, the Covid virus is threatening training schemes as some businesses can either no longer offer to take on apprentices or are under financial pressures which force them to make staff, including apprentices, redundant. This is very tough for those who are well on with their training schemes, so these provisions are a welcome gesture to enable a trainee to complete his or her course.

It is particularly important to remember that these courses are made up of several elements, both on-site and off-site, and include theoretical learning. These provisions take away some of the time limits for those who have already passed through a substantial part of their training. Can my noble friend confirm how the different elements of an apprenticeship can be co-ordinated if the trainee has to complete the apprenticeship with an alternative employer? How will apprentices who meet the new criteria of 75% completion be helped to find a new employer who will offer the completion of the programme? If the economic conditions continue to be problematic, it might well be much more difficult, whatever the extension of time might be, for the continuation and completion to be achieved.

I know there is a view that it is not possible to extend these provisions to those who have more than a quarter of their term left. This has been clearly expressed by the DfE, after consulting the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education. It is therefore no doubt correct in most cases, but possibly still leaves too many out in the cold. Not all apprenticeship courses are the same. Can my noble friend offer any further comfort to those affected?

I appreciate the announcement of the new Kickstart programme, launched in September, which aims to help young people currently on universal credit to get a job. The placements are to be made through a jobcentre. That programme cannot be a replacement for any existing role, so in those circumstances can my noble friend explain whether if applicants for this scheme show the interest and aptitude to take on an apprenticeship they can and will be steered in the right direction?

I assume that the basic support and government incentive payments for employers who hire new apprentices between 1 August 2020 and 31 January 2021, to which my noble friend has already referred, will be available to those wishing to pursue this course. If an alternative employer is to take over an apprentice made redundant in the circumstances set out in this measure, will they benefit not only from the money payable in all cases but from the new incentive payment?

In general, I am sure that we all welcome these provisions. I wish they could go further, but I hope they will be kept under review. This country, with the major economic and trading challenges that lie ahead, needs more than ever the skills and the skill training that apprenticeships provide.

My Lords, I applaud the many interventions that the Government have made to support young people to get jobs. I want to raise just one concern about these regulations. They seek to ameliorate the effects of the Covid-19 epidemic on young apprentices. This is certainly a laudable objective. Inevitably, many will be made redundant while undertaking their apprenticeships but, under the regulations, as others have mentioned, if they have completed 75% of their apprenticeship, they will be enabled to complete it without any specified time for doing so. The Minister explained that apprentices made redundant before achieving the 75% bar will receive a statement setting out the skills that they have obtained up to that point, but can it be justified to help those who have completed 75% of their apprenticeship to complete it but to provide no help for those who have done a little less than 75% to complete theirs? I understood from the Minister that they will get a document saying that they have achieved certain skills, but that is nothing like an ability to carry on with the work that they have started on that apprenticeship to gain a qualification and real opportunities to work.

Regulation 3, by amending Regulation 6 of the 2017 regulations, also applies the high 75% bar to apprentices who have more than six months of their practice period left to run and who need an alternative English apprenticeship when their approved English apprenticeship is terminated early by reason of redundancy. Again, why in these cases does the provision apply only to those who have completed 75% of their apprenticeship? The same Covid impact applies equally to those made redundant at an earlier stage. I presume that this is driven by cost—though I may of course be wrong—but is saving money really the right priority when the Government have rightly suggested that helping young people to obtain work is a high priority? Indeed, the Minister mentioned that apprenticeships will play an important role in meeting that objective for young people.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, who I saw introducing the noble Lord, Lord Field, last week. I thought I would mention it because the noble Lord, Lord Field, is a very old family friend of the Vaizeys. But I digress.

I too welcome these regulations, and having heard the noble Baroness and my noble friend Lord Kirkhope, I will not add to the complicated response the Minister has to make to some of these very wise, technical points. As far as I am concerned, while the regulations may not be perfect, they are welcome. When I read the debates in the other place, the main criticism seemed to be that they had not been brought in soon enough. I hope that if and when the pandemic passes, it will have focused the Government’s mind on how to support apprentices in the future should they be made redundant, even when everything else is going well. Partly as employees, they suffer the risk of being made redundant depending on who they are working with.

As noble Lords can probably tell, I am currently serving my apprenticeship in this place, but I remember when I was in the other place visiting apprentices in my constituency of Wantage, where a huge number of science and technical companies were based. I remember meeting apprentices and thinking they had won the lottery. I met young men and women who had worked from the age of 16, earned a salary, and at the age of 20, were coming out with a qualification and no debt, having earned their living. Even more importantly, they were in demand for their specialist skills in certain technical areas. I thought then, as I think now, that apprenticeships are extremely important for our economy, yet bizarrely remain an unloved part of our education system as far as the establishment is concerned.

In the last year before Covid, we managed to achieve 800,000 apprenticeships in this country, but that is still well below the target set by the Government; I think the Government set themselves a target of 3 million apprenticeships by 2015. The apprenticeship levy has raised £4 billion, I think, to contribute to the funding of apprenticeships. I am afraid that I used to be an apprenticeship levy sceptic, because when I was in the other place, I met lots of employers who said the apprenticeship levy was far too inflexible and was ruining perfectly good schemes. But having educated myself when I was studying these regulations, I now understand that despite its teething problems, the apprenticeship levy is a good thing. It has weeded out some of the weaker programmes and forced numerous employers to focus on whether they want to have apprentices and what kind of apprenticeship programme they want in place.

I also commend the Government on the range of initiatives, building on the previous Labour Government and other Governments, such as the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, the apprenticeship delivery board and apprenticeship ambassadors. When I was a Minister at the DCMS, I worked with a man called David Mellor, who was absolutely passionate about apprenticeships. He had been, I think, a non-executive director at the Department for Education. I am sad he is not still there with his energy and passion to promote the importance of apprenticeships.

I want to make one fundamental point about why these regulations are so important and why we have to support apprenticeships. My noble friend Lord Kirkhope, for example, mentioned German apprenticeships and how the Germans have updated them and focused them on manufacturing. But, as I said, when I made my maiden speech, I want to concentrate on culture and technology. It may interest noble Lords—I am sure they know this already—to know that more and more tech companies and start-ups are also employing apprentices. If you go to Facebook, Google, Salesforce or Amazon, you will find apprenticeships. There is a consultancy called WhiteHat which specialises in these apprenticeships, and it tells me that digital and technology apprentices are the fastest growing cohort alongside healthcare.

When we consider that in this country we have 100,000 vacancies for data analysts and that last year business spent something like £6.5 billion trying to plug the skills gap in digital, we can see why apprentices are so sorely needed. So while I see great schemes like HS2 as a fantastic opportunity for apprentices, and while I welcome my noble friend Lord Kirkhope, talking about manufacturing apprentices, I hope that the Minister has spent less time at BAE Systems and more time at Facebook, because those are the forward-looking apprenticeships.

While we traditionally tend to think of Germany as the home of apprenticeships, a lot of people doing thinking in this area believe that Germany is slightly old-fashioned and inflexible. In the United States, where they are thinking very hard about apprenticeships and modernising them, they are looking to Britain as the role model for what an apprenticeship should look like as we approach the middle of the 21st century.

I hope that the Government remember that they set themselves a target of 3 million apprenticeships, and I hope that they will fulfil their own target of 2.3% of employees in every government department being apprentices, even if that is a slightly odd figure. While of course we look at manufacturing and technical companies for apprenticeships, we should remember that digital—and, indeed, my other passion, the arts—are just as good places in which to be an apprentice. Some noble Lords may have seen that terrible advert which brought together my two worlds: there is a picture of a ballerina, suggesting that she could, if only she knew it, retrain as a cyber specialist. It is far easier for a ballerina to retrain as a cyber specialist, but I do not think you will ever be able to show me a cyber specialist who could retrain as a ballerina.

I can imagine nothing worse than a young person who has managed to obtain an apprenticeship and is absolutely thrilled—the family are delighted—when, suddenly, along comes a terrible pandemic that completely destroys his or her opportunity. The noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, is absolutely right that we need to realise how important a vocational education is and how important a role further education colleges play in vocational education, if we are to create the skills that we need. I am glad to say that government is now listening to this and, for the first time in a long time, action is being taken.

The people who will suffer most during this pandemic, other than those who sadly contract the illness, will be young people. The numbers of young people who do not have a job is increasing at an alarming rate. Of course we support this statutory instrument. As has been said, it will enable apprentices who, through no fault of their own have lost their apprenticeship, still to get that all-important piece of paper provided they have done 75% of the training. We know from the figures that the average duration of apprenticeships has increased from around 16 months in 2015-16 to around 20 months in 2018-19. A growing number of apprentices have completed most of their apprenticeship and, if they are made redundant, will still have more than six months or so before completion.

As we heard from the Government, and as we know, the Government have introduced the Kickstart programme, which offers subsidised six-month work placements for 16 to 24 year-olds. It is a very good programme, and I commend the Government on it. However, I have written to the Minister about eligibility for that scheme, which is for those in receipt of universal credit. Only a Jobcentre Plus can refer people to those opportunities.

My concern, which is shared by many youth organisations, is that 16 and 17 year-olds in particular, and to some extent those who have just turned 18, are unlikely to be on universal credit, even though they are NEETs, and do not engage directly with Jobcentre Plus. Kickstart would be a great opportunity for this age group, but they do not qualify. What is the solution? It is to remove the universal credit requirement for 16 and 17 year-olds and to enable local councils—which, by the way, have a statutory duty regarding NEETs—and other voluntary bodies to refer 16 and 17 year-olds to the programme.

It is also worth noting that the number of young people starting an apprenticeship has fallen to its lowest level in a decade, despite government cash incentives to encourage more businesses to take up the scheme. Of course, the decline reflects the hammering the job market has taken from the pandemic, with employers having to cancel or postpone apprenticeships since March.

In June, the Prime Minister promised an apprenticeship for every young person. This was followed by the introduction of a new payment of £2,000 to employers for each new apprentice they had under the age of 25. But, as Verity Davidge, director of central policy at Make UK, which represents engineering and manufacturing companies, said, the incentive was a “drop in the ocean” compared with the costs involved in taking on an apprentice. She also said that only 45% of manufacturers planned to offer apprenticeships in the next 12 months. The figure is normally 75%.

Finally, when we emerge from this pandemic we will have to take bold financial measures to ensure the skill shortage can be speedily addressed. This must include greater flexibility to use the apprenticeship levy on wider costs.

My Lords, Labour very much welcomes these measures, but I must ask why it has taken the Government some six months since the start of the crisis to introduce them. We agree with the Minister that apprentices who are 75% of the way through their programme should be allowed to complete it, but for those who have already experienced redundancy or seen their employment end in the past six months, the support comes far too late. The Minister must surely accept that they do not deserve to miss out on the support that has been given.

I live in a part of the world where the hospitality industry is a major employer and quality apprenticeships are at a premium. Given all the problems the hospitality sector is being hit with, what sectoral support will be made available for apprentices in this industry, and for others in a similar position who have already been made redundant and now face an uphill struggle to find an alternative employer to finish an apprenticeship in sectors where new opportunities are scarce?

Local FE colleges tell me that apprenticeship starts are down by 50% on this time last year. They anticipate a tidal wave of redundancies among apprenticeships at the end of the current furlough scheme. Providers will need to know what support those apprentices will get if they are less than 75% through an apprenticeship. How will they be supported to find another job in sectors facing a dramatic contraction? This is particularly acute where areas come and go from special measures and where Covid containment ratchets up and down.

Which services will provide the advice and guidance and how many apprentices are they equipped to deal with? Will the Minister give us more detail on the signposting service, which, as I understand it, will act as a sort of triage system, directing redundant apprentices to local and national services? What will the service look like on the ground and how will the Minister ensure that provision is available right across the country? Can we have any confidence that the services involved in providing support will have sufficient resources to undertake this important role? Can we be certain that they can handle the number of former apprentices who will need their assistance?

In the past few months we have seen many announcements from the Government. For example, in July, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced 30,000 new traineeships, but almost three months on the tender for procuring these has not even been issued. Last week, sadly, the Chancellor ignored calls to introduce a national retraining strategy.

However, if the Government will not listen to Labour on this, perhaps the Minister will listen to businesses. We support the creation of a national skills task force to redeploy skilled workers and provide retraining and upskilling opportunities for both young and older workers. Will the Minister consider this proposal, which businesses back? It includes skills-matching, which we know Ministers generally favour and which could support redundant apprentices and workers alike.

I am sure that the Minister will be aware, and have received a copy, of the letter on the formation of a skills task force. Its signatories include the chief executives and general secretaries of many different bodies including, among others, Make UK, the TUC, Cogent, UK Steel, the British Plastics Federation, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Food and Drink Federation. It is difficult to imagine an issue that could bring together such a wide-ranging and diverse group of bodies, but they are united in their call for the Government to act decisively and quickly in setting up a task force to address the urgent skills crisis that we undoubtedly face. We support the call for a cross-party, pan-industry task force. We commit to working with the Government, unions and employer organisations to ensure that such a task force can assist the Government in making decisions more holistically and strategically. Will the Minister take that suggestion on board and set up a task force, as those industry bodies have proposed?

I have a number of specific questions for the Minister and I would appreciate a response to them, if not today then perhaps through the benefit of a letter. How many apprentices does the DfE expect to be made redundant as a result of the pandemic? How many have been made redundant so far this year? Will the Government reach their target of 3 million apprentices by the end of this year—a point to which the noble Lord, Lord Vaizey, helpfully drew our attention? Can the Minister confirm that apprentices who are made redundant before the 75% threshold is reached can get on to the Kickstart programme? It is worth observing that the DfE says that it has

“launched a support service to make sure that apprentices who have lost their jobs can get the help they need to access financial, legal, health and wellbeing support, as well as careers advice.”

I wonder whether the Minister can advise how many have used this support service so far during the pandemic.

Labour will support the statutory instrument today, but these measures alone will not be sufficient. I urge the Minister to be bolder and act now to help redundant apprentices and those in a state of limbo, so that they can use their much-needed skills to rebuild our economy—something that, I am sure, the good Minister and all noble Lords will want to achieve.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for their contributions to the debate. I am delighted that the valuable contribution that apprenticeships can make to individuals’ careers and businesses’ productivity was so clearly recognised.

In July, the Chancellor recognised the value of apprenticeships when setting out the Plan for Jobs. The payments we have introduced for employers hiring a new apprentice will help to promote many more apprenticeship starts before the end of January next year. Now, we are going further in supporting redundant apprentices. I welcome noble Lords’ support for the steps that we will introduce to protect apprentices from further redundancies.

It was wonderful to hear about the family history of the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope, in apprenticeships and to see that he has transferred his skills from his telephone days. It was also wonderful to hear him agree that the Government are correct to make this earn-while-you-learn approach a priority.

The apprenticeship levy for this year is £2.5 billion. In answer to a query raised by many noble Lords, if an apprentice is made redundant, they have a 12-week period in which to find new employment where their training is paid for anyway. Obviously, we hope that they will receive a new apprenticeship in that period.

We consulted on the 75% figure that many noble Lords mentioned. There is no precise science to it, but a balance had to be struck. The point of an apprenticeship is that you have occupational competency, so on balance, someone on, say, a three-year apprenticeship probably has the competences after 75% of it to go on and be employed in that sector. Anything less than that will affect employers’ confidence in apprenticeships. The whole point of this provision is that once 75% of the apprenticeship is completed, it will complete without the need for an employer. The training carries on even if the apprentice cannot find a suitable employer to transfer to. It is about that balance—the training carries on but without that valuable part of being on the job. As I say, it is not a precise science, but it was felt that for the longer apprenticeships, 75% was the appropriate point from which the person could go on and gain employment, while the employer could be confident that the apprentice had the skills and knowledge that they should. As for whether it should happen at an earlier stage, it was not to do with cost but was rather—as the noble Baroness properly asked the Government—to do with this balance of ensuring that an apprentice is a competent employee in that sector and field.

I can confirm to the noble Baroness, Lady Meacher, and other noble Lords that if an apprentice has part completed and transfers to a new employer, that new employer is indeed entitled to the new payments, whether £2,000 or £1,500, depending on the apprentice’s age. That creates the incentive for other employers to take on a part-completed apprentice. We are doing as much as we can to address the situation in which someone experiences, as the noble Lord, Lord Storey, said, the excitement of getting an apprenticeship and then finds that they lose it due to the pandemic.

As many noble Lords mentioned, this is the time when, thankfully, the Government, the Secretary of State for Education and the Prime Minister have been talking about FE and skills and want to level up the parity of esteem, so that an apprenticeship is seen as a valuable way to earn and learn. This year there will be an investment of £200 million in our FE colleges.

As I say, we consulted on apprenticeships with the employment ambassadors, the AOC, the AELP and the provider reference group.

It is wonderful to hear my first speech from my noble friend Lord Vaizey. Other help has been given to apprentices through remote training and the apprenticeship service, and this support is being brought in now because, as many noble Lords will be aware, there will be a transition from the furlough scheme into the new support for jobs. At this point, we expect that employers will make those decisions about any apprentices they have furloughed, so it is important that we introduce this support now.

I was pleased to hear my noble friend Lord Vaizey talk about the technical skills that apprentices can have and develop, and I assure him that that passion is shared in the department by the honourable Member Gillian Keegan, the Minister for this area. I believe she is the only Member of Parliament with a degree apprenticeship, so she is passionate about this area.

On the levy, we have been doing more to enable levy payers to transfer their levy down their supply chain. I am grateful that my noble friend, despite being a levy sceptic, has appreciated that it has been a success. But it is not perfect and we know that we need to do more to make it even more flexible for levy payments to be sent to small and medium-sized employers. It has been vital to the whole scheme that employers are there, developing the standards, so that when people complete their apprenticeship, they know that they have the necessary skills to be an employee in that sector.

Of course, the future is with tech apprenticeships, as the noble Lord outlined in relation to Facebook, but we are also looking at flexibilities in relation to culture, the other sector he mentioned. We recognise that in culture and media there is often not a traditional single employer for which someone will work; we are looking at flexibility so that an apprentice could have a number of employers, as is the nature of the sector. We are trying to develop this so that we can meet the needs of all the different sectors.

On the Whitehall apprenticeship scheme the noble Lord mentioned, I am pleased to note that I have a meeting tomorrow with a DfE data apprentice who is sorting out some data in the school sector for me. So, yes, we are looking at meeting the commitments we made, and the levy has enabled us to invest more in apprenticeships.

On the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Storey, about the Kickstart scheme, we are all working hard to try to ameliorate as many of the effects of the pandemic as we can on the career prospects of young people, whom we know are more affected during this pandemic. I have received his inquiry on the Kickstart Scheme. We must have some kind of criteria for entry to the scheme. I will write with further clarification but, as I understand it, only the DWP holds the necessary data on young people to know whether they will be vulnerable to being NEET and whether they are in employment. That is why that scheme is being run out of the DWP, with which we are working closely. As I say, I will refer any further details on that.

I can say to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, only that the apprenticeship service is being used by hundreds of employers and redundant apprentices. It is aimed at all sectors and has been made available hopefully in advance of the decisions that have been made on furlough. There have also been other announcements such as the free level three entitlement to qualification.

Skills are an enormous focus. The Government have launched a skills toolkit, and we now have a national productivity board so we can know at a national level what skills employers will need.

In supporting these regulations, we hope we can increase the number of apprentices who can complete their apprenticeships in the event of redundancy, recognising the sustained commitment that these individuals have made to their training over a period of months or years. It will make a huge difference to those individuals and ensure that they can make a full contribution to our businesses and help the country to recover and thrive in future. I commend the regulations to the House.

Motion agreed.

Sitting suspended.

House adjourned at 7.15 pm.