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Welsh frameworks can be, and are, different. I shall quote a couple of examples. Welsh frameworks include key skills instead of functional skills. These are some examples of the frameworks: they do not contain any personal learning and thinking skills and they may contain that wonderful new educational qualification—I

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was going to say “animal” but that is not quite the right word—the Welsh baccalaureate. Those are some of the potential differences.

I do not think I have been given information on the average age. I was not aware of that interesting piece of information about the average age for apprenticeships. Yes, we have removed the age barrier and, therefore, we have had a significant increase in adult apprenticeships. They have played a very important part in reskilling adults. In England, I think we had about 27,000 adult apprenticeships last year. We have a bit of a problem in the 16 to 18 age range, and that is where the National Apprenticeship Service is focusing a lot of its attention. We are also trying to ensure that, with regard to the requirement on government departments to create more apprenticeships—they have pledged a further 21,000—they, too, will have to focus on the 16 to 18 age range.

My noble friend Lord Rowlands referred to raising the learning age. What we have actually raised—this is a minor but important correction—is the participation age. There is an important difference. I have endeavoured to address the principal concerns. If there are any other points that I have not answered, I will do so in writing.

Lord Elton: I gather that the Welsh interest is satisfied. At some stage, it would be very interesting to hear from the noble Lord the process by which the views of the Welsh Assembly, and of Welsh Ministers in particular, have been ascertained. At this stage, I address merely the modest amendment—as I thought it was when I tabled it—and go back to where I began. If the word had been “in” rather than “by”, I would not have thought immediately that what followed was a process. I know how keen the noble Lord will be to support his draftsmen on this matter, and how difficult it will be to find an objection at the next stage to a modest amendment substituting “in” for “by”. I give formal notice that that is what I intend to do. Having done so, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 21 withdrawn.

Amendment 22 not moved.

Clause 12 agreed.

Clause 13 : Recognised English frameworks: notification and publication requirements

Amendment 23 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Amendments 24 and 25 not moved.

Amendment 26 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.

Clause 13 agreed.

Clause 14 : Submission of draft apprenticeship framework for issue: England

Amendment 27

Moved by Lord De Mauley

27: Clause 14, page 7, line 21, at end insert “within two weeks of the making of the decision”

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Lord De Mauley: The Bill allows the Secretary of State to designate a person to issue apprenticeship frameworks, which will have to meet the requirements specified by the apprenticeship frameworks for England. Clause 14 expands this premise, so that a person may submit a draft of an apprenticeship framework to the English issuing authority, or request that the authority issue a draft. The provisions seem very sensible. They will allow for ease and transparency in the creation of an apprenticeship framework and greater co-operation between bodies such as sector skills councils and standards-setting bodies, which we hope will be at the forefront of the process of constructing apprenticeship frameworks.

Amendment 27 affects subsection (3) of the clause, which allows the issuing authority to exercise its judgment and decide not to issue the framework in the form of a draft, as long as the person who requested the draft is given reasons for the refusal. There are occasions where this discretionary power may be useful. It may be that there are very similar frameworks already extant, or about to be issued, and the bureaucracy and work involved in producing a draft framework is not considered worth while. It may be that the final version of the document is due to be published very shortly, and it is simply not practicable also to produce a draft.

Our amendment seeks only to ensure that the authority must inform the person who requested the draft within two weeks of making its decision. While it seems sensible for the issuing authority to reserve the right not to publish a draft apprenticeship framework, this must be balanced by the right of the person who requests the draft to be informed quickly and efficiently of the reasons why no draft will be forthcoming. The Bill requires that the person be informed of these reasons, but does not include a specific time limit. Does the Minister not accept that this might lead to uncertainty? The person who requested the draft framework could be left in the dark about whether he is waiting to receive a draft or a rejection notice.

The reassurance in the Bill that reasons will be provided is weakened by the fact that there is no timeframe in which to call the issuing authority to account. We argue that two weeks is sufficient time for the authority to give the reasons for its decision on whether a framework can be delivered. It is hard to think of an occasion when the issuing authority would be so busy that it would not be able to do so within this time. However, I await the Minister’s response with interest. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I strongly support this amendment. A lot of work goes into the preparation of a framework of this kind. Sector skills councils will have done their research, consulted a lot of people and put a great deal of time and effort into the framework. There may well be young people who have already been alerted to the possibility and who are waiting to hear. A long delay is unreasonable. Some of the young people may well go off in other directions or disappear entirely if they are not given a prompt response. I hope that the Minister will take on board the fact that the Bill would be strengthened by containing a time span in which a response is to be received.

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Lord Elton: I feel almost more strongly because the requirement in the amendment is simply to make a decision known within a fortnight of it being made. I do not know why it should be necessary to wait for a fortnight after it has been made. It is the making of the decision that takes the time. I would rather see an amendment by my noble friend a little earlier in the process. There should be a time limit within which to make the decision. However, as that is not there, I will support this amendment in substitution.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: I, too, support the amendment and have some sympathy with the amendment suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Elton. How long will the process of approving such a framework normally take? I gather that there is likely to be quite a number coming in at the same time, so too short a period will be difficult and two weeks may be a bit tight. It would be helpful to know what the Minister thinks would be a reasonable time in which to make a decision so that all the processes for getting these apprenticeships schemes under way can be got on with.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I read the Bill to assume that the reasons would be given at the time the decision was given. I can see no reason for giving two extra weeks to do so.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: This amendment would require English framework issuing authorities to inform persons submitting a draft apprenticeship framework of the reasons for their decision not to accept the framework in the form of the draft submitted within two weeks of making the decision. We sympathise with the sentiment behind this amendment and reiterate our commitment to ensuring that the sector skills councils, which will be the issuing authorities for apprenticeship frameworks, respond in a timely fashion to those submitting frameworks.

I endorse the points made by the noble Baroness, Lady Perry, about the importance of getting the process proceeding as speedily as possible. We want quality as well as speed. We have grown the apprenticeship frameworks to 180 frameworks, which is a huge improvement on the past, but getting this process right is important for the reasons that the noble Baroness outlined.

We are streamlining the processes for the development and consideration of frameworks and expect to see the development of supportive and collaborative relationships between sector skills councils and organisations developing frameworks. This should reduce the overall time needed to develop and issue frameworks. The process will be a light-touch one focused on ensuring that the draft framework has sufficient rigour in meeting the requirements of the SASE.

As the sector skills councils—the issuing authorities—will be working closely with those who are developing frameworks, there should be no delay in informing them when the draft framework does not meet the SASE or if there are concerns about a proliferation of similar frameworks, which is a possibility. We intend to issue statutory guidance alongside the technical aspects of the SASE, which will stress the importance of prompt decision-making and of alerting framework

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developers of any concerns about their draft frameworks. In the light of the points made in today’s debate, I am happy to confirm that we will include in the statutory guidance a requirement for the issuing authority to give reasons within two weeks if it decides not to issue a framework. Including that requirement in guidance rather than in the Bill will allow for greater flexibility to adjust the period in future in the light of experience; for example, we may be able to address the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, about why it should take two weeks.

We believe that the statutory guidance is the right place for this. We are at one with the Committee. It would be nonsense that, once a decision has been reached, this should take an unnecessary length of time. I cannot predict at this point whether two weeks is too long. My feeling is to ask the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, of why it should take two weeks, but that reinforces the point that we are trying to make. We are at one with the points made by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley; we want to speed up the process and remove any unnecessary delay. We believe that the right place to do that is within statutory guidance so that we can alter it in the light of experience.

We agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, about the need to ensure that, as I said, the whole approval process for frameworks is speeded up. These are not new situations that we are encountering; at least, it may be a new situation, but we have been through the process many times before. Until recently, apprenticeship frameworks were submitted to an apprenticeship approval group, which met every two to three months. The new framework issuing system will streamline the process and applicants will develop their framework using clear guidance and templates with the support of the sector skills council. We should obtain a high standard of frameworks submitted, which should speed up the whole process. We will look to the UK Commission for Employment and Skills and the Alliance of Sector Skills Councils to ensure that a system of approving and issuing frameworks is working in terms of timeliness and effectiveness. I hope that, on the basis of these assurances and on the clear understanding that we share the same commitment, the noble Lord will be persuaded to withdraw the amendment.

4.30 pm

Lord De Mauley: I thank my noble friends Lady Perry and Lord Elton for their support, even if I have disappointed them and the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, with the length of time that I have suggested. They make a good point. I also thank the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, even if she believes that I have not allowed enough time. I am grateful to the Minister, who seems to say that the guidance will say two weeks. I need to give thought to his response and to the issue in general. However, in the light of that response, for today I am prepared to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 27 withdrawn.

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Amendment 28

Moved by Viscount Eccles

28: Clause 14, page 7, line 21, at end insert—

“( ) Nothing in this section prevents a person from carrying out training in conformity with a draft submission made under subsection (1).”

Viscount Eccles: I contemplated rising to discuss my amendment during the previous debate because the issues that I want to raise are related, although they are somewhat wider. I am always doubtful about a clause that appears to be important but is not discussed in the Explanatory Notes. Clause 14 is not mentioned and I wondered why. It seems widely drawn. It states:

“This section applies if a person .... submits a draft”.

I imagine that the person could be your Lordships’ House proposing to set up a framework for some maintenance apprenticeships. Indeed, the Houses of Parliament have, I believe, gone into a programme of apprenticeships. It could be any person, in the private or public sector. The Minister has referred once or twice to there being 180 frameworks. In Australia, there are 500 frameworks. At some point during these debates, it would be interesting to know how many frameworks the Government believe that there might eventually be.

One can imagine circumstances in which people want to get on with drafting a framework and under Clause 14(2) they have,

as is required. I have a worry that, under any statutory arrangements, the amount of time taken to consider information and evidence is likely to be a lot longer than two weeks. The determination of the decision and the amount of time that it takes to convey that decision will not be the most serious problem with Clause 14; I should think that it will be much more a question of how long the authorising body takes to consider the draft framework and such information and evidence in connection with it as it thinks appropriate.

My amendment would add a further subsection:

“Nothing in this section prevents a person from carrying out training in conformity with a draft submission made under subsection (1)”.

I would have preferred to refer to “an apprenticeship or training”, but I guessed that, because the apprenticeship system is statutory, the Government would not like that and would say, “I am terribly sorry, you cannot have an apprenticeship unless we agree that it is one”. I am completely opposed to that, but never mind; the word “training” will probably do.

I am seeking an unequivocal assurance that no one will try to prevent a person who has drafted an apprenticeship framework from getting on with putting that framework into practice, albeit that they cannot call it an apprenticeship in the formal statutory sense. I think that it is a very good idea that persons should be able to put up draft apprenticeship frameworks. First, we have only 180 such frameworks and Australia has 500. The second reason is the pace of change. As I said

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at Second Reading, I simply do not believe that the Secretary of State will ever keep up with what is happening in business, commerce and manufacturing. He will never be able to know when a framework is appropriate, nor will his authorising authority, over which he has a great measure of control under the Bill.

There is a great need, particularly at present, to rebalance our economy as rapidly as we can. In my opinion, we will find it very difficult to get back to the Treasury’s trend rate of growth of about 2 to 2.5 per cent a year. It is much more likely that when we come out of this recession—we may be edging our way out of it now—the trend rate of growth will be 1 to 1.5 per cent or something of that order. We are all agreed that we need to expand the number of skills and the number of options open to us within our economy to rebalance it so that it is not so dependent on financial services and widens its dependence in a satisfactory way.

As we have heard, this whole campaign applies very much to the public sector as well as to the private sector. As regards the power to disapprove, the question is: what follows? If there is a wish to control, what is likely to follow is an attempt to prevent people from doing what they want to do because it does not fit. It is very much a feature of the public sector system that it wishes to have this control and does not like eccentricity and difference or people doing things of which it is not itself cognisant.

I have an example, although I regret to say that it is a level 3 rather than a level 2 example. In my days at Kew, we had a school and a diploma—the Kew diploma, which I am happy to say still exists. I am now getting to be a piece of history because my time at Kew was from 1983 to 1991. During that time, we were under constant pressure to join the horticultural system. People asked, “What is it about botanic gardening that is so different that you don’t have to conform to the City and Guilds type of courses?”. In fact, a senior member of the Kew teaching staff resigned because he believed that we should join the horticultural system and not stay as an exception offering a botanic gardening diploma. But we stuck it out; we said no. We were never within the official system because we kept saying no. This meant that we did not get so much support and public money as we might otherwise have got, but we retained the Kew diploma—and the Kew diploma of botanic gardening is recognised all over the world.

I am worried about the statutory apprenticeship system in the Bill because I am reasonably sure that it will not be run with what is called a light touch and will not leave people with the independence to get on with their own thing. Therefore, I would like to see it unequivocally stated in the Bill that everyone who has drawn up a draft framework can say, “I am perfectly entitled under this legislation to get on with the training, in conformity with my draft framework, even though it has not been approved”. I beg to move.

Baroness Perry of Southwark: I strongly support my noble friend’s amendment. I suspect that we are in a clash of basic philosophies. As my noble friend said, it is an issue of control. I know very well, having been

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a civil servant for a great number of years, the urge in central government to control everything that lives, moves and breathes. However, if we are genuinely in the business of looking for flexibility and growth in the economy and have a genuine wish to see creativity within the education system, where people can develop things according to the needs of both those engaged in the apprenticeship and their employers, I hope that there will be room and flexibility within the provisions of the Bill for something that is outwith central control.

There is absolutely no reason why prestigious companies should not develop their own frameworks for apprenticeships. I am morally certain that if someone came out having completed an apprenticeship with, let us say, Microsoft, they would be extremely desirable property in any other IT firm, which would have no interest whatever in whether or not the apprenticeship had been approved and accredited by the authorities in a particular country. There are international companies that will continue to offer training through apprenticeships to people of any age—and certainly to 16 to 19 year-olds—which will give those people “hot property” qualifications entirely dependent on the reputation of the company, not of some regulating authority.

We have here a basic clash of philosophies. The Bill tries to control everything, for understandable reasons. I fully understand why it is necessary to ensure that apprenticeships are of a high quality and that young people come out with a qualification that is recognised and tradeable when they go looking for jobs outwith the company where they did their apprenticeship. I have no problem with that. All I am asking for, and all my noble friend’s amendment is asking for, is some flexibility so that in some instances and in some cases it will be possible for a company or a small firm to continue offering an apprenticeship even after it has been turned down for accreditation.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: I sympathise with the general sentiments that have been expressed by both the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, and the noble Baroness, Lady Perry. At Second Reading, many noble Lords made clear the degree to which we were disturbed by what we felt was the unnecessary bureaucracy being introduced into the system.

Over the course of the past five years we have set up the sector skills councils and revamped the apprenticeship system, and we are delighted with that. However, in some senses, as I indicated in the discussion we had about the National Apprenticeship Service on the last occasion we met in Committee, the concept of pulling the sector skills councils together within the overall umbrella of the National Apprenticeship Service is fine, but the whole bureaucracy of establishing the apprenticeship system, with its necessary certificates and frameworks, seems very heavy handed. We had an interesting debate on Friday last week about the unnecessary amount of regulation within the education sector and the number of statutory instruments that have been issued by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, which is more than for any other department. I did a calculation on this Bill. Somewhere in the region of 100 statutory instruments are likely to be issued as a result of it. I do not have my

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figures with me, but there is something like 150 mentions of orders and directions. Orders and directions require no affirmative or negative resolutions; they are just passed. We have to be aware of all these things.

4.45 pm

Lord De Mauley: I, too, support my noble friend’s amendments, which are very much in line with the spirit of our Amendment 27, the purpose of which is to guard against the risk of inaction by a body in authority, causing the whole process to grind to a halt. I share my noble friend’s concern that the Bill may be too prescriptive in its regulations for apprenticeship frameworks. Amendments 28 and 33 would ensure that if a local authority failed to produce a requested apprenticeship framework the employer could still carry out the training as per the draft. It is vital that the Bill supports employers who submit a draft apprenticeship framework, as their involvement is the crucial factor in raising quality.

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