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It has been a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies, and to engage in this important debate. I am particularly thankful to my hon. Friend Mr Mahmood. My experience running an SME pales into insignificance compared with his considerable experience, not only as an apprentice, but in the engineering industry. Therefore, the Minister and the Department should listen to his points, which he made with great passion, to inform effective changes accordingly.
I also thank the Scottish National party spokesman. He passionately explained the long-term future for apprentices and highlighted the problem of a competitive gap appearing, not only between us and our European and global partners, but between England and Scotland, because of the different routes we have taken.
I thank the shadow Minister. I know she is passionate about this subject and has been since long before she came to this place, given her background in education. She spoke about the need to ring-fence the sizeable £1.5 billion budget and the request to host the WorldSkills championship. The Minister did not respond to that last point, but I hope we can give the shadow Minister some good news soon.
I thank the Minister for her kind words and compliments about not only my Slough constituency, but the work of Resource Productions and my good friend Dominique Unsworth, whom I know is an excellent ambassador. The Minister also highlighted the plethora of apprentices in Slough. As I explained earlier, the explanation is that Slough is a huge business hub. It is the most productive town or city per capita in the entire country. I could wax lyrical about my constituency all day, but I can see you are yawning, Mr Davies, so I shall move swiftly on. I look forward to joining the Minister on
Overall, I am disappointed that, despite the disastrous figures we face, the Government are not looking to make a sea change in their approach to apprenticeships. I hope the Minister, with due consultation with others, will remove those restrictions infringing upon SMEs’ operations and introduce the necessary flexibility and funding. If we do not do that, we shall fail to address not only social mobility, but the huge productivity gap, and we shall let down that broad coalition of voices from industry, business, apprentices and political parties. It is important for the Minister to consider that; not to do so would be to let down not only those businesses but, more importantly, those young people, and thereby our country.
I thank you, again, Mr Davies, for chairing this debate, and I thank all hon. Members for their incredible contributions.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House
has considered apprenticeships in small and medium-sized enterprises.