I refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave to him in writing on 17 January, which said that both the catering service and the Parliamentary Estates Directorate were considering options for apprenticeship schemes. In addition, discussions with a number of major contractors, such as Royal Mail, suggest that they operate apprenticeship schemes within their larger businesses. The Department of Facilities is aware of three apprentices employed by a large contractor working on the parliamentary estate and the director general of facilities would be happy to discuss this further with the hon. Gentleman.
Will my hon. Friend make sure that the House of Commons does everything possible to employ more apprentices, and will he link up with the parliamentary apprentice school, which I have set up with the charity New Deal of the Mind that helps provide apprentices for MPs’ offices so that we can perhaps supply apprentices for the House of Commons Administration and around the House of Commons?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion, and I am sure that we will want to act on it. I pay tribute to Mr Speaker’s scheme for internships and the other schemes of this order, all of which help to get young people into employment from diverse backgrounds throughout the House.
May I push the hon. Gentleman? I do not want to be rude to him, but that was a bit of a pathetic response. The House employs a lot of people. We should demand of the supply chain to this House not only good pure food but that our suppliers employ a fair number of apprentices. I have often criticised the management of the House. It is not sharp enough. More apprentices, and let us have them now please.
The hon. Gentleman makes an extremely good point. However, there are difficulties, namely, that most of the procurement that takes place in the House is subject to regulations, particularly European contracting regulations, which mean that one may express desires, but one is not always able to impose. I assure the hon. Gentleman that the House authorities are committed to providing apprenticeships, paid internships, and encouragement for young people from all backgrounds into good employment wherever they can.