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.