3. What recent estimate he has made of the number of apprentices working in the supply chains of central Government departments and their agencies. 
I am conscious of the enormous work that my hon. Friend has done to promote apprenticeships. I believe that he recently launched the apprentice card, which is a huge innovation, and I think that he is the first ever Member of Parliament to have a parliamentary apprentice. The whole House owes him gratitude for that. We do not hold figures for the total number of apprenticeships across the supply chain of Government, which is obviously vast, but we have taken action to boost apprenticeships across British business as a whole, with 500,000 additional apprentices this year.
Since 2011, the Department for Work and Pensions has gently encouraged, through procurement, its private suppliers to hire apprentices. As a result, 2,000 apprentices have been hired. Is there anything the Cabinet Office can do to roll that out across Whitehall?
My hon. Friend is right that the DWP has managed to get almost 2,000 apprentices into its supply chain through its procurement practices. The Cabinet Office fully supports such schemes where they are appropriate and consistent with providing value for money. We encourage Departments to take forward proposals that are consistent with providing value for money.
Does the Minister share the views of the chairman of his party, who stated that prioritising apprenticeships and linking them to public sector contracts is “ridiculous” and “counter-productive”?
We are totally in favour of apprenticeships and of promoting them. My right hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Grant Shapps) was saying —my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General has repeated this—that we need to ensure that we get value for taxpayers’ money and do not create a set of rules that militate against that. Within that, we encourage and support those Departments that promote apprenticeships that are consistent with the provision of value for money. That is why in my response to my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Robert Halfon) I pointed out that we support and encourage schemes such as that promoted by the DWP.