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A Westminster debate about colleges descended into a “party political” row about apprenticeships before an almost empty room this afternoon.

Only five MPs spoke at a debate to mark this year’s Colleges Week in Westminster Hall on Thursday, leaving its proposer Peter Aldous feeling a “shade disappointed” about attendance.

However, a clash flared up between the government’s schools minister Damian Hinds and Labour’s shadow skills minister Seema Malhotra over the opposition party’s proposals on apprenticeships.

Both said they wanted to avoid “party political debate” before engaging in a tetchy back-and-forth on the future of the apprenticeship levy.

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