Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Arrangement of Business


3.17 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, with the leave of the House, my noble friend the Leader of the House will repeat a Statement entitled "October European Council" at a convenient point after 3.40 pm.

I am also pleased to be able to inform the House that we intend to prorogue at the conclusion of business in both Houses on Thursday 12 November. As ever, the timing of Prorogation will depend on the progress of business.

Scottish and Northern Ireland Banknote Regulations 2009

Ministry of Defence Police (Conduct) Regulations 2009

Ministry of Defence Police Appeals Tribunals Regulations 2009

Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (Amendment) Order 2009

Rail Vehicle Accessibility (Networks) Exemption Order 2009

Motion to Refer to Grand Committee

3.18 pm

Moved By Baroness Royall of Blaisdon

Motion agreed.

2 Nov 2009 : Column 15

Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Bill

Bill Main Page
Copy of the Bill
Explanatory Notes

Report (1st Day)

3.18 pm

Amendment 1

Moved by Lord Young of Norwood Green

1: Before Clause 1, insert the following new Clause-

"Meaning of "completing an English apprenticeship"

(1) This section applies for the purposes of this Chapter.

(2) A person completes an English apprenticeship in relation to an apprenticeship framework if-

(a) the standard English completion conditions are met, or

(b) the alternative English completion conditions are met.

(3) The standard English completion conditions are-

(a) that the person has entered into an apprenticeship agreement in connection with the apprenticeship framework,

(b) that at the date of that agreement the framework was a recognised English framework,

(c) that the person has completed a course of training for the principal qualification identified in the framework,

(d) that, throughout the duration of the course, the person was working under the apprenticeship agreement, and

(e) that the person meets the requirements specified in the framework for the purpose of the issue of an apprenticeship certificate.

(4) In subsection (3)(d)-

(a) the reference to the apprenticeship agreement mentioned in subsection (3)(a) includes a reference to any apprenticeship agreement which the person subsequently entered into in connection with the same apprenticeship framework;

(b) the reference to the course of training for the principal qualification is to be read, in a case where the person has followed two or more courses of training for the principal qualification, as a reference to both or all of them.

(5) The alternative English completion conditions are conditions which-

(a) apply in cases where a person works otherwise than under an apprenticeship agreement, and

(b) are specified in regulations.

(6) The kinds of working in relation to which provision may be made under subsection (5) include-

(a) working as a self-employed person;

(b) working otherwise than for reward."

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, I shall speak also to the other amendments in this group. Before I turn to them, I should thank noble Lords in all parts of the House for their co-operation in Committee and in the run-up to this Report stage. I hope it is clear from the amendments tabled in my name and that of my noble friend Lady Morgan that we have listened carefully and responded positively to the concerns that noble Lords raised in Committee. We believe that this exemplifies how the Committee, and this House as a whole, is working as it should.

I will first address Amendments 1 to 13, 15 to 19 and 20 to 23, which are intended to ensure that we have a clear definition of what it means to complete an

2 Nov 2009 : Column 16

apprenticeship. Noble Lords made clear at the outset in Committee their appetite for a definition. Amendment 1 is intended to address the issues raised by the amendment that the House accepted on 16 June.

The new clauses reflect the fact that the provisions in Part 1 focus on completing the requirements of an apprenticeship framework, with the completion recognised through the issue of a certificate by the issuing authority. The standard English or Welsh completion conditions include the need to complete the apprenticeship training while working under an apprenticeship agreement covered by an apprenticeship framework in England and Wales. Amendments 18 to 25 incorporate the core elements of Clause 1. In particular, there is an explicit reference in Clauses 26 and 30, which set out the contents of the specification of apprenticeship standards for England and Wales, to a requirement for an apprenticeship framework to include both on-the-job and off-the-job training.

We have also taken the opportunity through the amendments to address the concerns raised by my noble friends Lord Layard, Lady Blackstone and Lady Morris of Yardley that there should be a requirement in the Bill that apprenticeship frameworks must specify relevant occupational competencies and relevant technical knowledge. This, too, has been incorporated into Clauses 26 and 30. Therefore, I hope that my noble friends will not press Amendment 17 in their name.

It is crucial that employed status remains a key element of an apprenticeship. Apprenticeships are paid jobs. However, we recognise that there must be a degree of flexibility to allow for special, clearly defined circumstances. These include cases where an apprentice has been made redundant and needs to complete part of their apprenticeship on an unpaid basis; self-employed apprentices in some sectors; and Olympic athletes on the Advanced Apprenticeship in Sporting Excellence framework.

We have also listened carefully to representations received about the valuable work-based training provided by Barnardo's and Rathbone. The regulation-making power in Clause 2(5), which is incorporated in the new clause inserted by Amendment 1, is intended to allow for these special cases and enable us to make provision for alternative completion conditions. In the case of Rathbone and Barnardo's, we propose to allow for a period of up to six months' work experience or up-front training prior to entering an apprenticeship agreement. This pre-apprenticeship contract period of work-based training is not in itself an apprenticeship. It would count towards the completion of an apprenticeship framework and the award of an apprenticeship certificate only if the young person is employed as an apprentice in the six-month period. I make clear that the apprenticeship would start, and count towards official apprenticeship statistics, only when the learner is employed.

The detail of what this six-month period would look like will need to be agreed when regulations are being drafted. We are committed to working with Rathbone, Barnardo's and other interested parties on the regulations. We believe that introducing the six-month period will give employers sufficient time to determine the capability and employability of the learner, and act as an incentive to employers to take on the learners as employees more rapidly than is current practice. This

2 Nov 2009 : Column 17

is a special case. Our desire to support the young people with chaotic backgrounds that Rathbone and Barnardo's seek to assist should not be interpreted in any way as diluting our commitment to the employment requirement, which remains fundamental to an apprenticeship. In view of the importance that we attach to this principle, we are minded to propose that the regulations that permit alternative completion conditions should be subject to affirmative resolution requiring a debate in both Houses. We will return to this at Third Reading.

We have also taken the opportunity in the new clauses to address the concerns of the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, about the requirement for a person to work either wholly or mainly in England or wholly or mainly in Wales, and whether they would be eligible for an apprenticeship certificate. Under the new clauses, together with Amendments 4 and 7, we have removed the provision for "English" and "Welsh" apprenticeship agreements. This means that if a person enters into an apprenticeship agreement in connection with either an English or Welsh framework, regardless of where they work, they will be issued with a certificate, provided they meet the requirements.

On Amendments 9 and 12, in Committee I gave a commitment to the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, that I would review the need in Clause 12(1)(a) and Clause 17(1)(a) to designate a person to issue frameworks generally. Since we have given a commitment to this House and the other place that framework-issuing authorities will be sector skills councils and other sectoral bodies which issue apprenticeship frameworks, I have concluded that these powers are not necessary and should be removed.

Since Amendments 34, 88 to 89, 111 to 113, 126 to 127 and 228 are consequential to the proposed new clauses and restructuring in Part 1 and are mainly technical in nature, I do not intend to detain noble Lords any longer and, without further ado, I beg to move.

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, we acknowledge the enormous efforts of the noble Lord, Lord Young, the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, and their Bill team in taking on board the concerns and arguments which came from all parts of the Chamber in Committee. It is a testament to the hard work of all concerned that we now see so many government amendments in the final stages of the Bill. Most of the government amendments in this group are designed to adapt the Bill to the amendment tabled in Committee by myself and my noble friends Lord Hunt of Wirral and Lady Verma, which was then voted into the Bill. The purpose of this amendment was to provide a statutory definition of an apprenticeship, and a definition still seems sensible and necessary.

The Government trumpeted the arrival of this Bill, saying that it would bring in a statutory entitlement to an apprenticeship for 16 to 18 year-olds. A definition of that entitlement therefore seemed, to us and many others, crucial. Apprentices, employers, employees and the wider public need absolute clarity about what this entails and what the qualification means. As the noble Lord, Lord Young, said in Committee in June, the Bill is not just about creating more apprenticeships but

2 Nov 2009 : Column 18

about ensuring that they remain a respected brand, with people feeling that they are being given a real career opportunity and delivered a quality experience.

We are delighted, therefore, to welcome the government amendments, which have taken on board our key concerns that a statutory definition of an apprenticeship should include a requirement for: both on-the-job and off-the-job training; training in the relevant occupational competencies and technical knowledge, which will require using the practices, equipment and personnel of the job; and training which will lead to the relevant and recognised level of proficiency in a specific trade or occupation. Ideally, we would have liked to see a clear definition at the start of the Bill, as in the amendment we voted in at Committee. Nevertheless we accept the Government's word that, given the structure of the rest of the Bill, our definition might have created difficulties in legal terms. We therefore accept the Government's amendments, which we feel help to define the brand more fully as a starting point.

As the Minister will have heard time and again, we have been worried about the potential damage to the apprenticeship brand. In 2006, the Adult Learning Inspectorate warned:

"Some apprentices can potentially achieve the full requirements of the apprenticeship framework without having to set foot in a workplace".

Furthermore, in 2008 Ofsted confirmed in its report entitled The Impact of Programme-Led Apprenticeships that many of the apprenticeships created by the Government were, in fact, virtual without much contact or training with an employer at all. We are therefore pleased that the Government have conceded that further clarification was necessary. We welcome also the Government's intentions regarding a pre-apprenticeship contract, which would make it possible for work-based training to remain a useful and important part of the preparation for the workplace but separate from the more specific apprenticeship brand. We welcome it because we have long called for more emphasis on pre-apprenticeship training and we have appreciated its importance to people, particularly in a time of economic difficulty when training and reskilling become even more important.

3.30 pm

We are most concerned that there should be a firm and resolute reassurance that the pre-apprenticeship contract will not form part of the apprenticeship. I think I heard the Minister say that the apprenticeship would start only when the apprentice was employed. Perhaps, in due course, he would confirm that for me. I also gather from his words that the period for this pre-apprenticeship will be only up to six months. Again, perhaps he could inform us what would happen if an apprentice were unable to find an employment contract after that six-month period. What risk is there that it might creep into a longer-term pre-apprenticeship? Would the young person be made redundant, or would they continue under the term "training contract" rather than "apprenticeship"? There are many options and we must be absolutely clear what the results will be.

In conclusion, does the Minister wish to expand on the impact that he feels the Bill will have on the apprenticeships market? Given that the number of

2 Nov 2009 : Column 19

new apprenticeships has dramatically fallen this year, do the Government hope that this Bill will provide the answer?

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I, too, thank the Government very much for the lengthy discussions that we have had on these issues. I also congratulate them on the outcome, which is extremely satisfactory. We now have incorporated into the Bill a very clear definition of the concept of apprenticeship which applies equally in England and in Wales. We spent a lot of time on that interesting issue, thanks to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles. Before debating the matter I had not fully realised the problems that could be posed by having an apprenticeship that applied to England only.

A number of other important aspects of apprenticeships are now also incorporated in the legislation, such as on-the-job and off-the-job training. Thanks to the work of the noble Lord, Lord Layard, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Blackstone and Lady Morris, we also have the distinction that the completion of an apprenticeship shows both occupational competence-defined as the competence required to perform a skill, trade or occupation, to which the framework applies-and the relevant technical knowledge required to back up that skill, trade or occupation. Left untouched were Clauses 31 and 93, which make it clear that the apprenticeship agreement normally involves a contract of employment. Last but not least, it does away with the concept of a general framework introduced in Clause 12(1)(a), which is now to be deleted, and about which none of us was very clear, though we asked many questions about it, leaving only frameworks accredited by the relevant sector skills councils or appropriate bodies. We applaud and are very grateful to the Minister for making that clear.

It also introduces the concept of two routes to an apprenticeship: the standard route, which applies to the vast majority of apprenticeships, and the alternative completion conditions which are to be specified by regulations. In their notes to us about these clauses the Bill team and the Minister spelt out that the alternative completion conditions would apply where a person is not working under an apprenticeship agreement and does not have an employer. That would include, for example, self-employed apprentices; apprentices carrying out voluntary work in order to complete their apprenticeships when they have been made redundant; and apprentices doing advanced apprenticeships in sporting excellence, who may well be Olympic athletes who are not working at all.

The issue of those working with Rathbone and Barnardo's still poses some problems. The Minister introduced this new concept, which we discussed in Committee, of pre-apprenticeship training. All noble Lords who were present at the Committee stage are very sympathetic to the work done by Rathbone and Barnardo's, and we on these Benches feel strongly that these young people-many of whom, as the Minister said, come from very chaotic backgrounds, and who are given the opportunity to enter an apprenticeship through some kind of pre-apprenticeship training-should not lose out on these opportunities. Will the Minister confirm whether, during this period, when they are in

2 Nov 2009 : Column 20

effect supported by Rathbone and Barnardo's, they will continue to be funded as apprentices, and counted as part of the data, by the National Apprenticeship Service? This is one of the issues which Rathbone and Barnardo's are concerned about.

The Minister has made it fairly clear that the apprenticeship proper would start within or at the end of six months of pre-apprenticeship training, and that they would not therefore be properly employed apprentices. We are keen that they should be employed by somebody, but this would not start until then. Will the Minister clarify whether they will continue to be funded, and whether they will count as apprentices in the national statistics? I thank the Minister and the team working on the Bill for what they have achieved. We have had a substantial reframing of the concept of the apprenticeship agreement, which is now well defined within the Bill and is explicit in its requirements. We on these Benches are extremely happy to back these amendments.

Lord Layard: My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 17. I welcome the spirit of government Amendments 18, 19 and 21, which establish the need for an apprentice to demonstrate technical knowledge as well as occupational competence. However, we need to go further than this. It is essential that technical knowledge be separately assessed and not just demonstrated in some way which could be part of on-the-job assessment. If it is not separately assessed, there is a serious danger that it will be watered down. In our amendment we propose to prevent that. Technical knowledge should be demonstrated in a separate certificate; a so-called technical certificate has been the lingo in the apprenticeship world for some years. At a very minimum, we should insist that it be separately assessed-if not in a separate certificate, then separately within a unified certificate. We urge the Government to think further on this matter, and, at a minimum, guarantee in the Bill a separate assessment. I look forward to the Minister's reply on that point.

I would like to make an observation on the nearby government Amendment 20. It seems to me a really retrograde step and I do not understand why it is in here. It states that where a framework requires a separate technical certificate, such as a BTEC, and an occupationally based certificate, such as an NVQ, the framework shall identify the NVQ as the "principal" qualification in relation to the overall framework because, the amendment states, it is,

Why is it more important to demonstrate the relevant occupational competencies than to demonstrate the technical knowledge? Why is it necessary to say which of the two is the more important? I do not understand why that has been introduced at this point when the Government have in all other respects been so helpful in raising the importance attached to technical knowledge. Why do we need that amendment? Perhaps the Minister will explain.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I congratulate all those who have prepared the amendments, because they have provoked or led the Government to think

2 Nov 2009 : Column 21

very carefully and produce some pretty good answers, which will go a long way to satisfying most people. In particular, we now have a definition of apprenticeships.

I support the points made by Barnardo's and Rathbone, because they have been doing an extremely important job in helping disadvantaged youngsters join programmes such as a workplace-led apprenticeship with employers. I do not feel entirely happy that the six months proposed will entirely meet the needs of all those young people, because many come from chaotic families and others will have different problems, such as learning difficulties. I would have been happier, as would Rathbone and Barnardo's, if a little more flexibility could have been given by referring to the first half, rather than six months, of the workplace apprenticeship.

That said, I hope, because finance will be involved in all this, that more thought will be given by the Government as to how more employers can be encouraged to go along those lines, so that more opportunities are open for the people whom we all know do not have the necessary qualifications, who will increasingly have to stay on at school because of the raising of the school leaving age, and so on. A lot more needs to be thought through about how we make it much easier to get those young people to learn the skills that this country so urgently needs.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I turn to the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, in his concern about the brand and the point about the Rathbone and Barnardo's scenario. We share exactly the same view about the importance of the apprenticeship brand. Indeed, for some time we have said that a programme for a learning apprenticeship does not count towards statistics for apprenticeships unless there is an employer connection. If there is not, it is not an apprenticeship.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page