This morning I attended an excellent debate in Westminster Hall about apprenticeships proposed by Richard Graham, a new Conservative MP who is on the Work and Pensions Select Committee with me. He set out a strong case for the Government’s policy of expanding the number of apprenticeships by 50,000. During the debate I made the point that we need more girls to do engineering apprenticeships. Just 2 per cent of engineering apprenticeships go to girls, although those who are taken on do well. When I first started as a lawyer there were not many women lawyers, but now women outnumber men. Engineering needs a similar turn round. Despite great efforts to encourage girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects more clearly needs to be done. I do not underestimate the impact of the media in fostering role models and there have certainly been a number of campaigning women lawyers in dramas on the TV. It’s time for some successful women engineers to feature.
Last week I attended a breakfast meeting with local businessmen and women and was interested at their reaction to the Budget, which they thought to be fair and decisive. There was a feeling that British business will rise to the challenge if given the opportunity, with lower taxes and less regulation. There was a recognition that we could not go on with a deficit which was higher than Greece’s without running the risk that interest rates would rise to unacceptable levels.
Earlier last week, I renewed my call in Parliament for action to improve river quality, particularly in our chalk streams, tabled Questions about the review of public sector pensions and took part in the debate on global poverty. I was particularly delighted to see Stephen McPartland, MP for Stevenage, make his Maiden Speech. He was witty, described his Constituency well and made some important points about the role of GlaxoSmithKline as a major employer in his Constituency.
On Friday afternoon, I went to see the sports at Icknield Walk School in Royston, and presented the Cup to the winning team for School Sport Week, sponsored by Lloyd’s TSB. I always enjoy school events. It is good to see how enthusiastic and well-behaved our youngsters are.