Business minister criticised over 'shambolic' interview on new apprentice scheme

1 June 2021, 09:05 | Updated: 1 June 2021, 15:17

By Fiona Jones

Business minister Paul Scully's interview with Nick Ferrari on LBC has been criticised as a "car crash" as he admitted he had no information about the apprentice scheme he was announcing.

The Conservative MP for Sutton and Cheam came on to talk about the Government's new scheme to give businesses £3,000 for each apprentice they take on - however could not answer how much funding will be dedicated to this.

"The funding is not open ended but we want to make sure we can get as many employers to take this up as possible," Mr Scully said, adding, "I don't have the overall funding package details for it."

Nick asked why Mr Scully did not have the details, pushing him to answer whether the announced scheme would have an "endless pot of cash."

Mr Scully responded, "Businesses have been paying in to this, we want to make sure it gets used as well as possible...especially for the smaller businesses who don't come in to the levy area."

Labour criticised Mr Scully's responses as "symptomatic" of the government's "shambolic and unambitious" approach to apprenticeships.

Nick pursued: "What is the total cost to taxpayers of this scheme?"

Mr Scully could not answer, and Nick said, "You're the Small Businesses Minister, your job today is to tell everybody what your Government believes in this and you have no idea what this is going to cost. You've no idea whether this is going to cost £1 million, £10 million, £100 million, £500 million, £1 billion.

"You're handing out £3,000 of my listeners' money per apprentice...but you've no idea the total cost, I find that extraordinary minister, do you?"

The MP conceded, "It's a shame that I haven't got it for you, Nick, and I will find it for you.

"This is something of value to the taxpayers because having apprentices in work, in training, is good for the economy, is good for those people and it allows us to grow back better."

Toby Perkins MP, Shadow Minister for further education and skills, said: “This interview is symptomatic of the government's entire approach to apprenticeships which has been shambolic and unambitious.

“No business could get away without knowing what their bottom line is, but the Government is throwing taxpayers’ money at an incentive which is already failing, without knowing the end cost.

“10 months in this incentive has created less than half of the apprenticeships promised. After a decade of Conservative failures which have seen 188,000 apprenticeships disappear it is clear this Government has run out of ideas.

“Ministers should scrap this failing approach and instead urgently look at Labour's call to use the underspend from the apprenticeships levy to fund a wage subsidy which could have subsidise the wages of 85,000 16-24 year old apprentices last year.”