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Government quizzed on apprenticeships

Quizzed: Nick Boles meets ministers from devolved governments
Quizzed: Nick Boles meets ministers from devolved governments

EMPLOYMENT and skills ministers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have called for greater clarity around the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy from April 2017.

Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training Roseanna Cunningham hosted Welsh Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology Julie James, Northern Ireland Minister for Employment and Learning Dr Stephen Farry and UK Minister for Skills and Equalities Nick Boles in Edinburgh on Thursday, February 4. The devolved ministers also issued a joint letter to Mr Boles.

Ahead of the meeting, Ms Cunningham said: “The introduction of the Levy remains a matter of fundamental concern for us. It encroaches on our devolved responsibilities and is causing concern for employers. The UK Government has no control over how our administrations provide apprenticeships and to imply otherwise by collecting what amounts to an employment tax is misleading for any employer with operations outside England.

“We call upon the UK government to offer urgent clarity on the Levy at today’s meeting, and to consider the wider implications of its introduction.”

Julie James AM, Welsh Government Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology added: “We have been very clear from the outset that the Welsh Government has serious concerns about the Apprenticeship Levy and the impact it will have on the apprenticeship system here in Wales.

“The levy is an unwelcome new tax burden for Welsh employers, and means Welsh public services will have to pay money back to the Exchequer when they are already under pressure.

“I welcome the opportunity to discuss our shared concerns with the UK’s other Skills Ministers. As our administrations develop their own distinct skills policies continued discussion is essential in order to address UK-wide issues that impact upon learners, employers and communities.”

NI Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry also said: “Along with my Ministerial colleagues from Scotland and Wales I am concerned that the imposition of the Apprenticeship Levy could have unintended consequences for the Devolved Administrations. This Levy will be a further tax burden on large businesses and this could impact negatively on the UK’s and Northern Ireland’s ability to compete globally and to attract new business.

“The Northern Ireland System of Apprenticeships is very much based on a quality model which forms a key element of the wider programme of implementation in line with employer expectations. There is no intention to change the model that exists in Northern Ireland.”