Does my hon. Friend agree that to supply a good, well-trained engineering profession for the future we need to raise the status of that profession perhaps to the same level as it is on the continent?
Yes, I do. My hon. Friend has raised a serious and important issue, not least because engineers are tending to move out of that profession into other occupations. Having read the 1989 survey by the Engineering Council, I am glad to say that I see considerable grounds for optimism, partly in terms of increased remuneration for engineers, partly because of satisfaction with the profession and because of the increasing number of chief executives who are qualified engineers.
Can the Minister confirm that, under this Government, the status and image of engineering, notably in the west midlands, has become associated with building rubble and empty sites where there were previously thriving engineering concerns? Can the Minister give the latest Government estimate of when the number of engineering apprenticeships will reach the level that it was when the Government came to office?
I am able to give the hon. Gentleman good news. Comparing 1986–87 with 1978–79 he will find that students with first degrees in engineering and technology have increased by 26 per cent.