George Freeman outlines increased spending on apprenticeships

15th March 2016

George Freeman outlines Government commitment to double spending on apprenticeships as crucial to providing opportunity and social mobility in areas too often left behind in the past.

T3. [904077] Andrea Jenkyns (Morley and Outwood) (Con): I was a comprehensive school girl who left school at 16, so social mobility is very important to me, and I am pleased to be involved in the new inquiry by the all-party parliamentary group on social mobility into getting people from diverse backgrounds into top professions. Will my hon. Friend tell me what steps the Government are taking to ensure that more people, regardless of their background, can secure further education or employment?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Life Sciences (George Freeman): I am delighted to have the opportunity to set out the Government’s support for our apprenticeship programme. We have committed to doubling spending on it and to see the number of apprenticeships rise to 3 million this year. They are a crucial platform for providing opportunity and social mobility in areas too often left behind in the past.

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Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): Businesses in my constituency are continually telling me that their plans for expansion are hampered by excessive and over-regulation, much of which emanates from the European Commission. Will the Minister give an assurance that the Government will always fight on behalf of businesses rather than regulators?

George Freeman: My hon. Friend is a doughty campaigner for small businesses, and I am delighted that in the last Parliament we reduced the cost of regulation on small businesses by £10 billion. Furthermore, we are committed to turbo-charge our deregulation initiative: it is not just one in, one out; it is one in, three out.

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Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con): The most promising sector in the British economy at the moment is life sciences, yet historically start-ups in this sector have had difficulty attracting venture capital. Will the Minister update us on progress he is making on getting this vital resource into this vital sector?

George Freeman: That gives me a chance to congratulate my hon. Friend on his leadership as deputy Mayor of the MedCity initiative in London. The life sciences sector is growing fast. Last year, we hit a 17-year financing high, with more than £1.7 billion raised for early-stage companies. The challenge now is to make sure that those emerging businesses grow into substantial global companies, which is where my focus lies.

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Conor McGinn (St Helens North) (Lab): In this glorious week of the Cheltenham festival and St Patrick’s Day, will the Secretary of State join me in paying tribute to the Irish business community in Britain, and to all who work to promote trade between our two countries? Will he also acknowledge, and pay tribute to, the fact that the relationship has been cultivated within the European Union—and long may that continue?

George Freeman: On behalf of the Secretary of State, it is a great pleasure for me, as the son of a national hunt jockey who had a winner at Cheltenham, to join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Irish racing industry on what it does for the global economy and indeed for the UK economy.

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