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25 February 2014, 17:08
Alex Cunningham, who has championed young people in the past, has defended his plan to pay an apprentice just £3.37 an hour.
The MP, who represents Stockton North, has been criticised after it emerged he was proposing to pay £125 for a 37-hour week to the successful applicant for his Intermediate Apprenticeship in Business Administration post.
His website has a Youth Manifesto section in which he states:
"It is wrong for two people of different ages, who sit alongside each other doing the same job, to receive different wages.''
Mr Cunningham said the rate is 25% higher than the legal minimum for an apprentice, and he said the wage will increase as the young person develops.
The MP said:
"I have spent a large part of my life championing the cause of young people and every time I visit an employer I challenge them to take on apprentices so believe I ought to lead by example.
I created the 12 month post alongside my team to provide a young person with a genuine opportunity to learn and achieve qualifications through a reputable college - a post that wouldn't otherwise exist.
If it didn't exist my current staff team would absorb any tasks undertaken by the young person.
The apprentice starting wage is 25% above the minimum wage and will be increased to reflect the tasks undertaken by the young person as they develop.
I only hope that the publicity created about the matter results in more young people applying for the post - but more importantly, highlight the importance of apprenticeships and encourage other employers to recruit young people and give them a chance to succeed.''
When he asked on Twitter if he should not offer the post because he cannot pay the apprentice £7 an hour, one person replied:
"No you should make savings elsewhere to afford it or do the honourable thing & step down & become a coalition MP as that's why people voted for you.''