LABOUR'S candidate in this week's parliamentary by-election has been visiting a bio manufacturing plant to talk about jobs and apprenticeships.

Paul Williams, who was joined on the campaign trail by shadow minister Rachel Reeves, visited Hart Biologicals, in Hartlepool, on Tuesday.

Dr Williams said he spoke to apprentices at the firm and renewed his commitment to trying to boost schemes if he wins on Thursday, including holding an annual jobs fair to bring together young people and businesses. He said: "I've been talking to apprentices and I wanted to see what can be done to boost that. I've been talking to the leadership of Hart Biologicals as well. They are trying to do procurement locally. There's something really important about keeping money in the local economy to keep the Hartlepool pound in Hartlepool."

Ms Reeves said: "What Paul wants to ensure is there are more good jobs and more opportunities for people in Hartlepool. When we are knocking on doors one of the biggest concerns is what opportunities there will be for their kids and grandkids."

Saying apprenticeships had declined in Hartlepool over the last decade, she added: "Many people are worried they will have to move away. People in Hartlepool are fiercely proud of the town and they want to stay here."

A new survey of voting intention in Hartlepool has put the Conservatives 17 points ahead, with 50 per cent of the 517 people asked saying they would vote for the party's Jill Mortimer on Thursday and 33 per cent saying they would vote for Dr Williams.

Ms Reeves said: "It's fair to say Labour are still recovering from the worst election defeat we have faced since 1935. It's going to take a while to turn it around. It's like an oil tanker.

"The anger people felt towards Labour has very much dissipated. People are interested in what we have to say."

She added: "Labour knows it has to earn every vote it gets. That's why we have had a massive ground operation going out and talking to people."