Examination of Witnesses (Question Numbers
KNIGHT MP AND
27 OCTOBER 2008
Q123 Chairman: Could I welcome to this,
the final evidence session of the IUSS Committee's examination
of the draft Apprenticeships Bill 2008, and indeed congratulate
him on his new appointment, Lord Young of Norwood Green? We welcome
you to the Committee and congratulate you on what is an interesting
appointment in the Lords. We also welcome Jim Knight, the Minister
of State for Schools and Learners in the Department for Children,
Schools and Families, and last but by no means least, an old friend
of the Committee, Stephen Marston. It is very nice to see you
back. Lord Young, why on earth do you need this Bill?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: We
have had that question before and it is a reasonable one. We believe
the raison d'être is that it gives legal effect to
the apprenticeship entitlement, which is contained in clause 21,
and that is a high level duty for the Learning and Skills Council
to ensure that there is a place for every suitably qualified young
person who wants one. It gives statutory effect to apprenticeships,
ensures the high quality and integrity of the apprenticeship programme,
it establishes the programme as employer-led, an important
Q124 Chairman: I know, but, with
respect, Lord Young, all that could have been done quite easily,
without a full bill. You could have tagged a couple of clauses
onto any passing piece of legislation if you had wanted simply
to put in that formal structure. Does it not now appear that every
time you want any change to the apprenticeship structure you have
to go back for primary legislation?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: There
are two things. First of all, we do not think it would have been
the right thing to tag it on to anything else. We do think that
in the light of the Leitch Report
and the importance of the skills and apprenticeships programme
it does merit a piece of primary legislation, certainly for the
first couple of reasons that I laid out for you. It emphasises
the legal nature of this in relation to apprenticeships, so we
believe it does merit it. We do not think that every time there
are any further changes we will need primary legislation. I think
we can take it that within the Bill there are enough powers for
the Secretary of State to give effect to any further change that
might be required.
Mr Marston: That is right. The
things that we think may well need revising tend to be in the
secondary legislation. What we are trying to set up here is a
long-term stable framework for ensuring the growth and quality
of the apprenticeships programme. That should not change. On the
contrary, what we are trying to do for the very first time is
give statutory force and backing to that framework in order to
position apprenticeships as a permanent part of the education
and training landscape.
Jim Knight: If you look at it
in simple terms, which helps me if nothing else, you have got
the specification of the standard. That is variable by clause
13 by order. You have then got the framework, and that is really
quite a flexible thing. Obviously, there is some legislation there,
but the framework is developed by the Sector Skills Councils and
employers, and then you have got certification. The bit that would
really burden this would be if we were specifying the standard
in detail in primary legislation that we then could not vary by
Q125 Mr Boswell: Can I ask a question
about Wales? I have a Welsh educational involvement myself to
a limited extent, which tends to be the statutory question on
this. We made some enquiries of the National Assembly and also
the Welsh Affairs Committee here, and I think it would be fair
to say on their evidence that they really want to know how the
legislation is going to work. Frankly, we had a similar problem
when the FE
legislation went through and there were some queries about that.
I am sure it can be made to work, but, given that there are these
doubts, I suspect this may reflect a failure to consult adequately
with the Welsh Assembly. Do you think you have got through that
now? Are you on track with them and are you going to produce something
which will be aligned with their interests and requirements? If
I may just say, and it may save a point later on although I think
the Chairman may want to say something about this, they have,
for example, an ability to offer a portfolio rather than a specific
set of qualifications. Is that kind of thing going to cause some
unease, although I am more concerned now with the general issue?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: It
is up to the Welsh Assembly to consider it; that is the first
point, but are we on track with them? Yes, I believe we are.
Q126 Mr Boswell: Why do you think
they did not think they were, or do you think this was just a
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
was not aware that they did not think they were, but I suppose
in any consultative process there are bound to be misunderstandings.
Jim Knight: Obviously, there is
discussion going on between us as to which aspects of the Bill
they would want to be a part of. The current state of play is
that they would want to be a part of the majority of it, but there
are aspects of it, for example, clauses relating to IAG
and to the entitlement, which they do not consider to be something
they want to pursue in Wales, and that is fine, but some of the
fundamentals about the apprenticeship programme, and, crucially,
the way apprenticeships are designed and the way they can move
across the border, across Offa's Dyke, we will be doing for England
and Wales and I think that is quite important.
Q127 Chairman: There is an issue within
the Bill that Wales is virtually never mentioned other than in
the title and yet the provisions of the Bill will apply to Wales.
There does not seem to be any recognition that Wales in many ways
has been ahead of us in terms of developing the framework for
apprenticeships. Why is that?
Jim Knight: To some extent it
is a creature of a draft bill and the timing of parliamentary
business. Obviously, you could take more time in coming up with
a firm draft where you have ironed everything out with Wales and
the Welsh Assembly Government, or you can publish the draft Bill
and have this sort of scrutiny, while we carry on our discussions
with the Welsh Assembly Government, and then once it comes into
something that is then introduced into Parliament, obviously,
we will at that point have to be clear with our friends in the
Welsh Assembly Government which bits they want and which they
Chairman: Okay, that is a very fair answer.
Q128 Mr Marsden: Lord Young, could
I warmly welcome you to your new position, both as a member of
this Committee but also as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary
Skills Group. Obviously, in that capacity I have looked quite
closely at the list of responsibilities you have, which I gather
include the Sector Skills Councils. Clause 26 of the proposed
draft Bill would require the Secretary of State to specify sectors
of skill, trade or occupation for the purposes of the legislation.
I was just wondering whether you could give us some examples of
how that might happen, but, perhaps as importantly, whether this
cuts across in any way the process of re-licensing of Sector Skills
Councils that is currently being undertaken by the UK Commission
Lord Young of Norwood Green: I
do not think it cuts across the re-licensing. I think that is
a separate activity. Can you just restate what you said about
the specification so that I am clear?
Q129 Mr Marsden: My understanding
is that clause 26 of the Bill requires the Secretary of State
to specify sectors of skill, trade or occupation for the purposes
of the legislation and I was just wondering if you could give
us some examples as to how that might happen in relation to apprenticeships.
Mr Marston: Our expectation is
that we will use the framework of the Sector Skills Councils.
We have 25 Sector Skills Councils now. They are already developing
the national occupational standards that drive the apprenticeships
frameworks. Our assumption is that they will carry on with that
primary role in defining the apprenticeships frameworks for each
sector. The reason it does not state that goes back to the Chairman's
comment that it is possible that there may be an apprenticeship
framework you want outside of the Sector Skills Councils network
and so we are expecting to use the Sector Skills Councils 25 structure
but this allows us in exceptional cases to do it a different way
if we need to. On the re-licensing, we have said that we will
consider proposals for changing Sector Skills Council footprints,
the definition of the sector that they cover, as part of re-licensing
if people want to put forward proposals for different and better
footprints. We are not assuming that that will necessarily happen.
If it does then the new licensed Sector Skills Council with its
newly defined footprint will take on the role of occupational
standards frameworks for its new sector.
Q130 Mr Marsden: Just to be clear,
you do not see the provisions of clause 26 having any implications
for either expanding or contracting the existing number of Sector
Mr Marston: No.
Chairman: One of the things as a Committee
we were very enthusiastic about was this entitlement to an apprenticeship,
Lord Young, particularly for young people, and perhaps you might
want to start with this, Jim. I will ask Tim Boswell if he would
like to follow up on how this is going to be done.
Q131 Mr Boswell: Can I just ask the
legalistic question first, which is, is this right to be offered
an apprenticeship something that is going to be enforceable in
the courts? If a young person wants to be an apprentice and is
refused that, for whatever reason (I am not seeking to canvass
that but it might happen), will he or she have legal redress and
can they sue and, if so, do they sue the LSC
or its successor or the Minister but, I presume, not the employer?
Jim Knight: Although I am not
a lawyer, the legal advice that I have been given is that the
effect of this clause is that technically the duty applies to
the Learning and Skills Council or the successor organisations
and that, yes, there would be the ability of the individual to
pursue through the court a failure of the Council to fulfil its
duty as set out in clause 21. I think in practice, like, for example,
the duty on a local authority to ensure there is proper provision
for every child and every learner to go on until 18, which is
another piece of legislation, having that as the last resort is
the driver to making sure that the authority does the job. Nobody
is expecting there to be a huge number of court cases as a result
of this. It is just that you have to have something that is the
last resort in order to change the behaviour.
Q132 Mr Boswell: I will accept that.
Is there any differentiation in relation to the skill or competence
of the apprentice? They will have to meet certain entry conditions
for the framework. Supposing they cannot meet any of those, whether
it is because of learning or other disability. Does the duty fall?
What happens then?
Jim Knight: Yes, there are entry
requirements in respect of the entitlement and it is quite important
to understand that there is a difference there between entry to
the entitlement and entry to apprenticeships. For example, you
could go on to go into a Level 3 apprenticeship with three GCSEs
A*-C equivalence even though the entitlement would say that that
only kicks in when you have got five, so there is that difference.
In respect of those with the SEN,
Stephen might be able to help me out.
Mr Marston: I will try. It will
depend whether the nature of the SEN means that they do or do
not meet the entitlement conditions.
Q133 Mr Boswell: They have an entitlement,
Mr Marston: Yes. If they have
a particular form of SEN but still meet all the qualifications
and other requirements the entitlement is triggered and then all
of the wider legislative protections around disability will apply.
Q134 Mr Boswell: I just wanted to
ask one other question about the distribution issues. We will
do one which is double-headed to save time. Rurality or distanceit
is not going to be much use if, say, one of our children is offered
an apprenticeship in Northumberland if they are 350 miles away.
Is there an understanding that it has to be within a reasonable
Jim Knight: Yes, and we all know
as law-makers that "reasonable" is often used in law.
You will see in clause 21(2)(c) that it says within the person's
reasonable travel area. How that would be interpreted I think
depends upon the nature of the apprenticeship they are interested
in pursuing and they will be specifying two sectors that they
want to pursue apprenticeships in. For example, if they were living
in rural Northamptonshire and they wanted to pursue an apprenticeship
in marine engineering then it is different from plumbing or hairdressing,
in which case you would expect it to be within reasonable travel
distance of home.
Q135 Mr Boswell: My final question
is the other one: what about programme-led apprenticeships? British
Chambers of Commerce are very leery on this. Perhaps Lord Young
would like to oblige us. Do you think there is a case for them
continuing? Are they a second best or are you seeking to phase
Lord Young of Norwood Green: They
do not come within the meaning of what we define as apprenticeships
because there is not a contract of employment with the employer,
so we want to be absolutely clear that if it is going to be an
apprenticeship under this definition there has to be an employment
Q136 Mr Boswell: So any provider
of a programme-led apprenticeship would not be able to offer it
as an apprenticeship?
Lord Young of Norwood Green: Not
as an apprenticeship, no.
Q137 Chairman: Jim, in terms of this
subsection (2)(c) that you just mentioned, which says "within
the person's reasonable travel area", that is a massive cop-out,
is it not? Will you define "reasonable travel area"?
Jim Knight: As I say, there is
that difference between different sorts of apprenticeships. When
you are setting this out you have to do so in a way that is sufficiently
flexible to cope with not just well over 100 apprenticeship frameworks
that we have at the moment but also that we would want the National
Apprenticeship Service to be able to develop in new sectors and
new areas. You will understand that in Harrogate there will be
some that are like Dorset, where you would expect hairdressing
and plumbing and electrical, the care sector; there are some that
are pretty much universal economic activities that take place
all over, and so my definition of a person's reasonable travel
area is that they would be available locally to them.
Q138 Chairman: So if a student in
Harrogate, seeing as you mentioned it and not I,
Jim Knight: I am trying to relate
Q139 Chairman: For instance, to do
an apprenticeship in fishing, which is perfectly reasonable because
the east coast has a number of fishing ports, you would regard
that travel of roughly an hour and a half to two hours as reasonable,
each way, each day?
Jim Knight: Ultimately, technically
it would be for the court to judge and people who are commissioning
and making those decisions about reasonableness will have in mind
what would stand the test in court, if it ever got there, but
yes, you may make provision for them to be able to travel, perhaps
not on a daily commute, perhaps on a weekly commute, in order
to be able to access that apprenticeship.
1 HM Treasury, Leitch review of skills: Prosperity
for all in the global economy-world class skills Final report,
Further education Back
Information, advice and guidance Back
Learning and Skills Council Back
Special Educational Needs Back