Dec 212011
 

On that very point, I hope the shadow Minister will join me in congratulating the Mayor of London, who has indeed incentivised major contractors bidding for public projects by insisting that apprenticeships are part of the mix in their bid?

Dec 212011
 

It is that time of the evening when we are almost reduced to “name, rank and serial number”. I shall say “Battersea 109%”, and get it out of the way.

I want to make two points in the short time available to me. I have already referred to the picture in London, in an intervention, but I want to say more about that, and also to say something about the gender breakdown in apprenticeships.

I strongly support the Government’s agenda for rebalancing the economy throughout the United Kingdom, but London is going great guns on apprenticeships, which are an incredibly important part of the UK’s economy. The number of apprenticeships in London increased by 99% between 2009-10 and 2010-11, which reflects the Mayor’s enthusiastic championing of them, and he has set the ambitious target of 100,000 apprenticeship starts by the end of 2012.

Members on both sides of the debate have talked about the way in which public procurement projects can be used. There is no doubt that the Mayor has used big public projects such as Crossrail and Thameslink to drive forward the apprenticeship agenda in London. I know that the Skills Minister has had conversations with the Mayor’s officials on the subject, and I shall be interested to hear his and other Ministers’ responses. I know that they are considering the matter. Given the large number of exciting public projects that were given the green light in the Chancellor’s autumn statement, this seems an appropriate time for them to comment.

I welcome what has been said about the gender rebalancing of the overall number of apprenticeships, but if we dig down into the 12 key sectors which represent about 60% of apprenticeship starts in 2009-10, we see that, as well as the problem of snobbery that some of my hon. Friends have mentioned, there is a problem of gender stereotyping.

Dec 212011
 

I will not, but only for the sake of others who wish to speak. I do not wish to be discourteous.

To take a couple of extreme examples, in children’s care, learning and development, the breakdown is 4% men and 96% women, while in plumbing it is 98% men and 2% women. I chose plumbing as an example because in London plumbers can make a fortune at present, and I want women to have the opportunity to be in the high-wage jobs. I chose children’s care, learning and development because we in this House regularly debate the need for more male role models in children’s early years. That sort of gender imbalance in that important area of employment is clearly not right, just as it is also not right that we have a similar gender imbalance in primary school teaching.

While celebrating the overall gender balance across apprenticeship starts, we must use every opportunity—through the new National Careers Service, through visits to schools and firms, and through talking to young people—to encourage young people to look at the widest possible range of professions. It was very heartening to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Caroline Dinenage) talk about the young apprentice she described. There are not enough similar

examples. As we approach 2012, we must challenge the obvious stereotypes that still exist, and the apprenticeship programme provides us with a chance to challenge and tackle them.

Dec 102011
 

I recently took part in a conference, organised by Wandsworth Friends of the Earth and a number of local churches, which was focused on climate change and energy saving. One of the speakers, an architect, illustrated the enormous savings she had been able to make in a Victorian-era house through careful use of insulation and other methods. Does the Secretary of State share the encouragement this gave me that the green deal has much to offer constituents living in older houses?

Dec 022011
 

The move to basing pensions on a career average is good news for very many women. Does my right hon. Friend share my frustration that Labour Members seem so determined constantly to portray women as victims rather than take pride in this important move?

Dec 022011
 

I recently took part in a conference, organised by Wandsworth Friends of the Earth and a number of local churches, which was focused on climate change and energy saving. One of the speakers, an architect, illustrated the enormous savings she had been able to make in a Victorian-era house through careful use of insulation and other methods. Does the Secretary of State share the encouragement this gave me that the green deal has much to offer constituents living in older houses?

Dec 012011
 

The move to basing pensions on a career average is good news for very many women. Does my right hon. Friend share my frustration that Labour Members seem so determined constantly to portray women as victims rather than take pride in this important move?

Nov 292011
 

I warmly welcome the Chancellor’s announcements on infrastructure. In particular, there is a hugely warm welcome for the announcement of Government backing for the Northern line extension to Battersea, which is key to unlocking many new jobs and homes in the Nine Elms/Vauxhall/Battersea development area. Does he agree that it is also important for the existing communities in that area, many of which are among the most disadvantaged in my constituency? It is good news for them, too.

Nov 242011
 

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this debate. I wonder whether it is helpful to intervene on behalf of the Backbench Business Committee. As there is such enormous interest in this debate and in the issue of Babar Ahmad, we are more than happy to take further representations from other Back-Bench Members for time in the Chamber to return to this subject in the event that all Members do not get the chance fully to explore the issue today.

Nov 242011
 

Further to that reply, one of the consequences of the dangerous dogs debate has been the stigmatisation of an entire breed, the Staffordshire bull terrier, which makes up a huge percentage of the abandoned dogs that Battersea Dogs and Cats Home takes in and a vast bulk of those that are hard to rehome. Yesterday, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home launched a campaign in Parliament to reclaim the good name of the Staffordshire bull terrier. May I invite the Minister to endorse that campaign?