Election 2015

Tories 'to fund apprenticeships with bank fines'

David Cameron speaking in north London
Image caption Mr Cameron said the economic recovery was "precious" and could not be risked

A Conservative government would use fines imposed on Deutsche Bank for its involvement in rigging interest rates to fund 50,000 apprenticeships, David Cameron has announced.

The Conservative leader said the scheme would "train young people and get them off the dole and in to work".

It comes on top of three million apprenticeships the party has pledged over the next Parliament if re-elected.

Labour said the number of young people starting apprenticeships had fallen.

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, meanwhile, has identified a plan for economic recovery as a "red line" issue in any coalition talks. He called for a "Stability Budget" within the first 50 days of the next Parliament.

Elsewhere in the election campaign:

  • Ed Miliband will focus on immigration, pledging a Labour government would set out the action it intends to take on the issue within 100 days of taking office
  • Growth in the UK economy slowed in the first three months of 2015, with GDP falling to 0.3% from 0.6% in the previous quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics
  • Average incomes are set to fall over the next five years regardless of who leads the new government, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said
  • Ed Miliband has been 'interviewed' by Russell Brand but David Cameron said the election is "no joke"
  • UKIP leader Nigel Farage described Labour support in the north of England as a "rotten window frame" about to "cave in" as he criticised "racist slurs" directed against his party
  • Plaid Cymru pledges to end the postcode lottery it says patients in Wales can face in getting new medicines on the NHS

The Conservatives' latest apprenticeship pledge will target people aged between 22 and 24 who have been unemployed for more than six months.

The £200m cost of the scheme will be paid for out of the £227m fine that Deutsche Bank received earlier this week for trying to manipulate Libor and Euribor inter-bank lending rates.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The economy is "far from fixed", Ed Miliband told Labour supporters in south Wales
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nick Clegg said a Budget should be held within 50 days of the election, as in 2010

Mr Cameron said: "We're going to take the fines from the banks who tried to rig markets - and we're going to use it to train young people and get them off the dole and into work."

During a campaign visit in north London, the prime minister again promised to give everything to get his party re-elected, urging people to "let rip" with any concerns they had between now and polling day to ensure a "lively and vigorous" debate on the future of the country.

Commenting on the slowdown in growth, Mr Cameron said the GDP figures were "less exciting" than the previous quarter and showed the UK was not immune from the effects of economic weakness in Europe and a slowdown in other parts of the world.

'Pat on back'

While the economy was still growing, the figures were "a timely reminder that you cannot take recovery for granted".

His "simple" message was that the Conservatives would offer stability, "securing a better future for you, your family and for Britain, and from now until polling day I'm going to fight for that future with every ounce of energy in my body."

Analysis by economics editor Robert Peston

So hip hooray that the recovery continues.

But what the figures show is that there remains a massive job for the next government to reconstruct our economy so that prosperity can be generated in a more sustainable long-term way.

No government can magic away boom and bust. But governments do have the ability to flatten the business cycle so that busts become less pronounced - and that goal has not yet been achieved.

Read Robert's full blog

But Labour leader Ed Miliband said the GDP figures showed there were still "big problems" in the economy.

"What we see is, while this government has been trying to run a victory lap, they have been leaving the British people behind," he said.

The opposition has also questioned the quantity and quality of apprenticeships for young people since 2010.

"One in five apprentices is receiving no formal training, while almost four in ten firms are unaware the in-work training they provide is branded as an apprenticeship by the government," shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna said.

"The Tories have failed to match Labour's plans to guarantee an apprenticeship place for every school leaver who gets the grades and use government procurement to create thousands of new apprenticeship opportunities."

'Cards on table'

The Lib Dems have said they would double the number of employers offering apprenticeships to young people, with 360,000 firms offering on-the-job training.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Nigel Farage has been talking up UKIP's prospects in the north of England

Mr Clegg said he would not allow the Conservatives or Labour to put the recovery at risk in any coalition and that, as was the case in 2010, a Budget must be held within weeks of a new government being formed.

This Budget, he said, should set a clear timetable for deficit reduction and give more details of future spending cuts. He also said he would not "accept" Conservative plans for a further £12bn reduction in the welfare bill.

Mr Clegg said it was an "insult" to the public that their coalition partners had not spelled out their welfare plans in detail.

"Why on earth do the Conservatives think it is fair to single out working-age poor as the only people in their plans to make further sacrifices to balance the books?" he said.

The Lib Dems have also said education funding guarantees would be a "deal breaker" in any negotiations with their political rivals.

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