Nick Clegg visits City of Bath College
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg was given a tour of the City of Bath College during his visit to Bath today to talk about apprenticeships.
The Liberal Democrat leader was given the chance to meet catering students and even gave one of them a helping hand with some cake decoration.
He spoke to the young people about their education at the college and asked them about their hopes and fears for the future.
Mr Clegg said he believed the work the college was doing was a shining example for others across the country.
He said: “I think it is brilliant. I go and visit a lot of colleges and I really do believe this is a very strong college. It has a great new building and it is offering the most fantastic opportunities for its students.
“I have always been a massive fan of apprenticeships. Just speaking to these young people and hearing their optimism and confidence. So many people talk young people down, but when you see these people, working in the college and the experience they are getting, it is just so uplifting.”
He said he felt that apprenticeships were the ideal way to prepare young people for the world of work and that the links they could form with businesses would set them up well for the future.
He also appealed for more local firms to contact the college about setting up apprentice schemes.
“I think the biggest thing we need to do here in Bath and elsewhere is really encourage employers to take on more apprentices where they can.
“Many companies still worry that these young people will not be of use to them, so we, as a Government, need to show how good it can be for them.”
Bath MP Don Foster joined Mr Clegg on a tour of the college, which was led by principal Matt Atkinson.
The group met with local businesspeople, before visiting the Shrubbery restaurant kitchens and speaking to students from a variety of different courses.
Speaking to the Chronicle about a whole range of issues, Mr Clegg denied that Liberal Democrat voters who elected Mr Foster to keep out a Tory government had a right to be disappointed with the coalition.
He said: “Firstly, people voted for Don not least because he is Don. He has been the absolute model of a Lib Dem MP who is committed to his local community. That is what you get anywhere when you elect a Lib Dem, we are dedicated to our local communities.
“Secondly, do you really think apprenticeships would have been expanded like this if we didn’t have a Lib Dem secretary of state? Do you really think we would be introducing a complete reform of our banking system? Tax reforms? Pensions?
“All of these things are happening because of the Lib Dems.”
He also rejected the suggestion that the Lib Dems were offering a “watered down” version of a true Conservative government.
He said: “This government is not a Tory government, it is a coalition government. If what you want is a pure, tribal politics, then coalition government is not for you.
“The fact is, no-one won the general election. I would love to be Prime Minister by the way. Then I wouldn’t have to make all these painful compromises. It didn’t happen.
“If people want that then they will have to vote for the Lib Dems in larger numbers.”
Mr Clegg is currently facing criticism from certain sectors of his own party over the government’s controversial NHS reforms.
But he said much of the public’s reservation about the plans were down to a muddled message being put out by the Labour party.
He said: “I am like any Liberal Democrat, I care passionately about the NHS. If I thought this NHS bill was going to do what the critics say then I would have dropped it months ago. If I thought it was going to privatise the NHS, I would have blocked it.
“There is a huge amount of misleading stuff out there. It is very simple. The people who know you and I, Bath and north east Somerset residents - the doctors, nurses and consultants, should be given more say about how the NHS should be run.
“It is not about privatisation, or turning the NHS upside down, it is about answering the questions ‘who is in charge?’. We think it should be the people who know the patients best.”
On the subject of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is 82 per cent owned by the state, paying out £785 million in staff bonuses despite recording a loss of £2 billion last year, Mr Clegg said the situation under the coalition was not as bad as it had been previously.
He said the new banking reforms were a step in the right direction.