The education secretary has refused to say whether the Conservative Party will deliver on its manifesto commitment to offer travel discounts for hard-up apprentices.
Robert Halfon, the former skills minister and current chair of the Commons Education Select Committee (pictured, left), asked Damian Hinds (right) at education questions on Monday if the apprentice travel discounts policy was still a commitment for the government.
The manifesto pledged to introduce "significantly discounted bus and train travel for apprentices to ensure that no young person is deterred from an apprenticeship due to travel costs”.
However, the education secretary failed to address the query, and simply responded: “My right honourable friend rightly identifies the importance of making sure that apprenticeships are fully inclusive and we do continue to look at making sure that such facilitation is available.”
Last month, leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn announced that a future Labour government would provide local authorities with funds to offer free travel for under-25s, through a ring-fenced pot of car tax revenue. The NUS students’ union said this would remove one of the major barriers stopping people going to college or starting an apprenticeship.
Levy 'not fit for purpose'
Earlier in the session, Mr Hinds was forced to defend the apprenticeship levy after Labour MP Judith Cummins asked him if he “agreed with the British Chamber of Commerce that the apprenticeship levy is unfit for purpose.”
On the anniversary of the introduction of the apprenticeship levy last month, Jane Gratton, head of skills at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said the “restrictions and inflexibility of the system” made the levy “unfit for purpose”.
In response to the question, Mr Hinds said: “The apprenticeship levy is a really important structural reform to the way we do training provision in this country to make sure all sizable firms are contributing to upskilling the nation.
“Now we are in a period of change at the present time and some employers are taking longer to bed down what they are going to do with their apprenticeship levy money – bearing in mind, of course, they have two years to do that with each month’s money. But we are seeing a shift to longer, higher-quality apprenticeships and I think that trend is something to be welcomed.”