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Stephen Williams: I do not think that the Minister has dealt with my point about training vehicles. He might have a case for saying that he may not want several employers and training providers to be listed on the certificate. None the less, having that information together in a training record is important.
Mr. Simon: There are two issues. On what training the apprentice has done, the assumption is that that will be covered by the apprenticeship framework, which comprises the syllabus that the apprentice studied. On what evidence of completion will be sought and who will seek it, the NAS will seek evidence covering all elements of the framework, including knowledge and competence in occupational and functional skills. A training record, such as the one described by the hon. Gentleman, will be held at the Skills Funding Agency as part of the individual learner record, although I am not sure whether it will contain the detail that he may have envisaged in his question. On that basis, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Hayes: Again, I take at face value the Minister’s assurance that he has some sympathy with my amendment and those of the Liberal Democrats. Furthermore, he has at least hinted that the Government might return to the issue in guidance.
Mr. Simon: I did not really intend to hint that we had a plan to return to the issue; I do not think that we do. We have concluded that the best way to proceed is as we have described. We recognise that arguments such as those made by hon. Members are valid and reasonable; we considered them ourselves. We have included a power in the Bill, so that if an overwhelming case emerges in future, we will be able to include additional information further on. However, that is not quite the same as saying that we have a plan to return to it.
Mr. Hayes: How clever of the Minister to recognise that that is not the same thing. However, that does at least provide the scope for a change of view at some later juncture, as he suggested. I share the view of the hon. Member for Bristol, West that, on balance, there are pros and cons. He is right that one of the cons is that there could be a gradation or differentiation between apprenticeships on the basis that some might be deemed to be taught at a better place and supervised by a bigger employer with a more famous name. However, I am not sure whether that is a bigger argument in the end than the one that says that clarity about apprenticeships brings value. If people are clear that someone has trained under an employer and been to a recognised college, such additional clarity about the process brings additional value.
I am particularly anxious that the details should be put on the certificate, so that there is absolute certainty about the work-based element, because in that respect there indeed needs to be a degree of gradation or differentiation. I am worried that what are known as employers for the purposes of apprenticeships may actually be training providers whose sole or at least principal job is to offer apprenticeships. That is not the same as doing an apprenticeship with a large degree of work-based, mentored instruction in a large company or an SME. In those terms, what we put on the apprenticeship certificate has value of a different kind that involves the certainty that real work-based learning has taken place. That would be made clear by what the certificate said.
For that reason and because of my determination that apprenticeships should be as rigorous as possible and that that rigour should be as clear as crystal, I am not inclined to withdraw my amendment but inclined to press it to a vote. If the Liberal Democrats wish to press their amendments, they will have the support of the official Opposition. It is not that we do not respect the Minister’s remarks, but we feel strongly about the definition of what an apprenticeship is and should be.
Question put, That the amendment be made.
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 10.
Division No. 2]
Brooke, Annette
Gibb, Mr. Nick
Hayes, Mr. John
Stuart, Mr. Graham
Walker, Mr. Charles
Wiggin, Bill
Williams, Stephen
Blackman, Liz
Butler, Ms Dawn
Ennis, Jeff
Hodgson, Mrs. Sharon
Knight, rh Jim
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
Seabeck, Alison
Sharma, Mr. Virendra
Simon, Mr. Siôn
Thornberry, Emily
Question accordingly negatived.
Stephen Williams: On a point of order, Mrs. Humble. I am still an apprentice in Committee procedure. Presumably that vote was on the first Conservative amendment in the group. Am I allowed to call for a vote on subsequent amendments? The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings implied that I could.
The Chairman: The hon. Gentleman should have indicated that he wished to press for a vote during the debate when he spoke to his amendment. He also had an opportunity to do so before the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings sat down. Sadly, it is now too late.
Clause 9 ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Clause 10

Apprenticeship frameworks: interpretation
Annette Brooke (Mid-Dorset and North Poole) (LD): I beg to move amendment 227, in clause 10, page 6, line 2, at end insert—
‘(aa) meet the requirements of the disability accessibility standard, and’.
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 228, in clause 10, page 6, line 4, at end insert—
‘(2A) In this Chapter “disability accessibility standard” means specified criteria to ensure the inclusive design of framework and assessment processes to meet the needs of apprentices with learning difficulties.’.
Annette Brooke: The two amendments apply to framework specifications. Amendment 227 states that specifications must meet the requirements of the disability accessibility standard. Amendment 228 defines the disability accessibility standard. These are probing amendments so I will not press for a vote.
We want reassurances from the Government on the record that frameworks and assessments will be accessible for disabled apprentices. The Bill provides some wonderful potential opportunities for people with disabilities, but it is obviously important that wherever possible, assessment and examination procedures are fully inclusive of disabled apprentices. Reasonable adjustments such as certificate indications or enhancements should be considered only as a last resort.
The amendment was suggested by the Royal National Institute of Blind People. It is particularly anxious that there is recognition of how serous this issue is and of how inequalities for disabled people could be intensified for those who wished to become apprentices, if the framework and assessment procedures are not inclusively designed.
6.15 pm
Mr. Hayes: These Liberal Democrat amendments are designed, as the hon. Lady said, to ensure that the appropriate frameworks meet the disability accessibility standard. You will not be surprised to learn, Mrs. Humble, that I am particularly concerned about that, given my interest in disability issues. It is right to ensure that students with learning difficulties are not excluded from apprenticeships and that frameworks are fully inclusive. The Liberal Democrats have done the Committee an important service by drawing this to the Minister’s attention and giving him an opportunity to comment on it.
Organisations representing the needs of disabled students support the argument. They make the case that a prescriptive stance on qualifications may disadvantage some disabled learners and that eligibility should be broadened beyond qualifications. However, Skill has also critiqued the lack of statutory guidance in the implementation of assessments in sections 139A and 140 of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. That critique could prove pertinent to these amendments. Skill argued that there was little to no guidance on how local education authorities would identify and assess all learners who needed a learning difficulty assessment, which professional should carry out the assessment and how to identify those with hidden or progressively worsening learning difficulties. The amendments will suffer a similar fate, but having said that, I still think that they serve a purpose in highlighting these matters and by giving the Minister a chance to respond.
The reason for the critique is that it is easy to assume that disability is static; we think, for example, of someone with a spinal injury permanently confined to a wheelchair or someone with a permanent sight problem. However, many disabilities are dynamic in nature and their changing condition changes people’s learning needs and capabilities. Legislation must always be sufficiently flexible to take account of those changes. That would be a reasonable rationale for amending the Bill; nevertheless, the fundamental argument behind the amendments—that we need an inclusive programme of vocational learning and apprenticeship frameworks for disabled learners—is well made and deserves amplification and explanation in the Committee.
Mr. Simon: I am extremely sympathetic to the point made by both the hon. Members. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole for giving me the opportunity to say a few words on this issue. As I said in the oral evidence session this morning, under clause 101, the chief executive of skills funding may provide or secure a range of services to assist “effective participation” of learners undertaking apprenticeships. We interpret that to include such services as would assist learners with disabilities to access apprenticeships. Therefore, funding for any apprenticeships is designed to support the whole scheme, including any necessary and appropriate support for people with learning difficulties.
As the hon. Lady said, amendment 227 would require all apprenticeship frameworks to meet the disability accessibility standards as defined in amendment 228. Those employing apprentices are already required to comply with the existing Disability Discrimination Act 2005 and will be covered by the provisions in the single equality Bill when it is enacted.
Mr. Hayes: For the benefit of the Committee, will the Minister let us know the approximate number of apprentices who are disabled? If he does not have that information to hand, could he bring it to the Committee? Is that number growing or falling and how does it break down in terms of type of disability? Those are highly important questions for disabled people and their champions.
Mr. Simon: I will look into that. I understand why he wants to know. I cannot tell him with certainty that that information necessarily exists in a collected and distributable form. I will look for it and if we can find it I will write to the Committee.
“The Specification of Apprenticeship Standards for England”—the overarching standard document which we issued for consultation last month, copies of which are here and have been sent to Members by letter—sets out the standards for apprenticeship frameworks. We think that the details of these issues are more appropriately covered under SASE and in that consultation rather than in the Bill. We have invited all those with any interest in the apprenticeship programme, including everybody with an interest in disability and accessibility, to respond to the consultation, currently ongoing and due to report in May. Similar arrangements will apply in Wales, where Welsh Ministers will be consulting on the specification of apprenticeship standards for Wales. Once the respective specifications for England and Wales are in place, under the new arrangements we will also expect the sector skills councils to have regard to particular groups, including but not exclusively those with learning difficulties and disabilities, in preparing and issuing apprenticeship frameworks. We share the commitment of hon. Members to ensuring that apprenticeships are accessible to all members of the community and hope that on the basis of these assurances—
Stephen Williams rose—
Mr. Hayes rose—
Mr. Simon: I give way to the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings.
Mr. Hayes: I was going to defer to the hon. Member for Bristol, West but the Minister has given way to me. While I appreciate that the Minister does not have the numbers to hand, what he will be able to bring to our attention are the steps currently taken to facilitate the kind of outcomes that the hon. Member for Mid-Dorset and North Poole and I want to see. He has mentioned sector skills councils. He will be able to collate and make available to the Committee information about good practice, where best practice currently exists and how it might be exported. That would be the least we might expect in order to support the assurances he has given about his commitment to the subjects raised by these amendments.
Mr. Simon: I will do my best to find the kind of information and examples the hon. Gentleman is looking for and bring those to the Committee. My point remains that we are committed to do what these amendments seek. There is the power in that phrase in clause 101 which puts a duty on the—
Mr. Simon: Unless I have my numbers wrong, the phrase that we interpret to confer funding of disabled people and those with learning difficulties is “effective participation”. We interpret that to mean any extra support that any learner might need for any reasons beyond the average or the norm. I have the number wrong, apparently. It is clause 111. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman wants to intervene again now that I have given him the right number. The phrase is “effective participation”. We take that to mean a duty on the chief executive to fund learners and to support learners with learning difficulties and disabilities. They are already covered by the DDA and will be covered by the single equality Bill. We share all the aims and ambitions for them of Opposition Members.
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