Parliamentary debate approved on ‘totally unacceptable’ apprenticeship cuts

A parliamentary debate on the drastic funding cuts to apprenticeships proposed by the government and exposed by FE Week has been approved by the Backbench Business Committee.

David Lammy MP put his case for the debate to the committee on October 11, in a move that gives a significant boost to FE Week’s #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign against the cuts.

He called for a discussion based on the findings of FE Week’s exclusive analysis, which showed that apprenticeship funding for 16- to 18-year-olds in some of the most deprived areas of the country could be slashed by up to 50 per cent.

On hearing that his application had been approved today for a 90 minute debate in Westminster Hall from 9:30-11:00am on November 1, Mr Lammy commented: “It is totally unacceptable that the government published these new funding rates – amounting to cuts of up to 50 per cent – during the summer recess without parliamentary scrutiny or even proper announcement.

“I am pleased that parliament will now have an opportunity to debate apprenticeships funding, and the fact that 55 MPs from across six political parties supported my call for this debate demonstrates the strength of feeling across the house on this issue.”

He added: “I will be calling on the minister to think again before pushing forward with these cuts that will do so much damage to the life chances of young people in this country, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds”.

When asked by MPs at the committee hearing last week why he thought a debate was needed, Mr Lammy said: “I think right across the house there’s a universal desire to support apprenticeships and to increase apprenticeships

“I’ve heard on the grapevine that there has been a bit of confusion frankly between the government and the Skills Funding Agency, but I do think it’s something that has to be flushed out and I’d hope to be able to do that as soon as possible.”

Other members who have put themselves forward to speak at the debate include Neil Carmichael, chair of the Education Select Committee, Meg Hillier, chair of the Public Accounts Committee, and former shadow education minister Nic Dakin.

The motion for the debate noted “the vital role that apprenticeships play in equipping young people with the skills they need”, and welcomed “the government’s commitment to social mobility”.

However, it expressed regret that “the Skills Funding Agency’s proposed funding rates for apprenticeships from May 1, 2017, equate to cuts of around 30 per cent on average” and “that these cuts rise to around 50 per cent for those apprentices living in the most deprived areas”.

It called for a reversal of the cuts because they “directly contradict the government’s commitment to social mobility and will jeopardise the government’s plan to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020”.

The application for the debate followed a letter written by Mr Lammy to apprenticeships and skills minister Robert Halfon in early September, calling on the government to reverse the funding cuts.

The letter, which was motivated by FE Week’s research, was co-signed by 50 members of parliament.

Then, on September 14, FE Week launched the #SaveOurApprenticeships campaign against the cuts, at the Houses of Parliament to a packed gathering of sector leaders and senior politicians.

The campaign has gathered widespread support, including from Mr Lammy, shadow skills minister Gordon Marsden, and shadow education secretary Angela Rayner.

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