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Part of Opposition Day — [19th Allotted Day] — Tax Fairness – in the House of Commons at 4:26 pm on 12th March 2013.

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Photo of Gordon Marsden Gordon Marsden Shadow Minister (Business, Innovation and Skills) 4:26 pm, 12th March 2013

My hon. Friend is quite right. When different places choose different champions in different sectors, the secret is getting them to co-operate with each other.

Last year we laid out all the measures I have set out in this debate, but the centrepiece is something that the Government could move to tomorrow if they wanted to: using the tens or even hundreds of billions of pounds of public procurement that come from Government contracts to create apprenticeships. That is the core of today’s motion. As far back as August 2011, we set out our stall, when the then shadow Business Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen, announced that we would require all companies bidding for Government contracts above £1 million to put in place a scheme to create apprenticeships before they could get them. That is an initiative to do much of the heavy lifting that we need to provide the step change, the exponential shift, in the sheer volume of apprenticeship numbers. Since then, his successor, my hon. Friend Mr Umunna, has taken that proposal forward on every possible occasion, not only on the ground of the economic necessity for growth but as an ethical imperative. That is why, last week at the EEF, he outlined our position, which is that it is simply unacceptable that two thirds of larger employers are still not offering apprenticeships.

It was my right hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen who laid out the direction of travel for this initiative when we were in government. Along with my hon. Friend Ms Eagle, he launched the official Office of Government Commerce guidance encouraging this approach. That Labour Government then proceeded with major projects such as the Kickstart housing scheme, launched by my right hon. Friend John Healey, and Building Schools for the Future, as well as working with the contractors on the Olympic park, which resulted in the creation of thousands of new apprenticeship opportunities.