A NORTH-East Labour MP who has championed young people in the past has defended his plan to pay an apprentice just £3.37 an hour.
Alex Cunningham, 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 per cent higher than the legal minimum for an apprentice, and he said the wage will increase as the young person develops.
The Teesside 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 wouldnt 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 per cent 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."