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Apprentice Minimum Wage

Volume 591: debated on Monday 19 January 2015

The 2014 apprenticeship pay survey found that 76% of 16 to 18-year-old apprentices were paid at or above the minimum amount. On average, they were paid a basic hourly rate of £4.34.

Non-compliance with apprenticeship minimum wage is highest in the sectors that young women traditionally go into, such as hairdressing and child care. I think that with hairdressing a third do not receive the minimum wage and with child care it is a quarter. There are obviously issues there around gender inequality as well as poverty pay, so will the Minister tell us what he is going to do about them?

The hon. Lady is quite right to say that it is perhaps especially unacceptable that this should impact on women in particular, although it is always unacceptable for an employer not to pay the national minimum wage. That is why we have increased the Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs enforcement budget from £8 million in 2013-14 to £9 million this year and to £12 million next year. In 2013, we introduced the naming and shaming of those companies found not to pay the minimum wage. We repeated that last week and have now named and shamed 92 employers. We will continue to do that and I will make sure that we look particularly at cases where young women are affected.

The card is in the post, Mr Speaker.

The number of people taking up apprenticeships in Basingstoke has doubled under this Government. Fujitsu is guaranteeing a permanent job to all apprentices who complete their training. Of course bad employers should be taken to task, but given that the Government have got this in hand, does the Minister share my concern that the Opposition risk casting apprenticeships in a bad light at a time when we should be talking them up as an option for young people in school?

I agree with my right hon. Friend, particularly about the fantastic work of Fujitsu, which is one of the best apprentice employers in the country, and I am delighted about that as it is to the benefit of her constituents. She is absolutely right to say that we should all be selling the advantages of apprenticeships to young people. Most employers of apprentices pay dramatically more than the minimum wage—and quite right, too, because they value young people and their efforts—but this Government will always bear down on those who fail in their responsibilities.

As the Minister saw for himself at Abingdon and Witney college last week, we have seen a superb 63% increase in apprenticeships in my constituency. In fact, local employers and apprentices told us that the main barrier to an even better performance going forward was the historical local bias towards university education. What work is the Minister doing with schools to ensure that apprenticeships are seen as a good career option?

I thank my hon. Friend for organising this visit, which was fascinating and very encouraging. Perhaps we all understand why there might be a bias in favour of university in the city of Oxford, but nevertheless a huge number of young people in my hon. Friend’s constituency decide, quite rightly, that they can benefit even more from an apprenticeship. We are investing in a marketing campaign to ensure that their teachers and parents have the same understanding of the value of an apprenticeship as many enlightened young people do themselves.