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Volume 541: debated on Monday 27 February 2012

Final data for the 2010-11 academic year show that there were 131,700 apprenticeship starts in England by young people aged under 19—the greatest number in modern history. That is an increase of 12.8% in a year and of 32.6% in two years. The whole House will acknowledge that achievement. We are feeding social mobility and nourishing social justice.

I thank the Minister for his huge personal commitment to making the Government’s apprenticeships policy a success—my constituency had more than 900 apprenticeship starts last year. What is his Department doing to make eligible businesses aware that up to 40,000 incentive payments of £1,500 each are available to employers if they take on young apprentices as part of the youth contract?

With the modesty for which my hon. Friend is known, he understated his own involvement in national apprenticeship week, when I understand he shadowed an apprentice working in a pre-school. He is right that we need to get more small and medium-sized enterprises involved, and to that end I am delighted that the Prime Minister announced during national apprenticeship week the extra support that we are providing. Every small business that takes on a young apprentice will get £1,500—something that the previous Government never attempted.