asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether the large number of vacancies remaining unfilled in the construction industry in different parts of the country is due to the lack of requisite skills among men registered as unemployed; and whether he is satisfied that there is adequate provision and publicity for re-training for this industry.
There is some "mismatch"—both geographically and of skills—between available registrants and unfilled vacancies. To minimise geographical mismatch, my right hon. Friend has decided to extend the Employment Transfer Scheme to assist the household removal expenses of unemployed construction workers who move home to take a job in areas where there are good prospects of continuing employment—not necessarily with one employer. To meet the mismatch of skills and the general shortage of certain craftsmen, my Department is rapidly expanding and publicising training facilities available for these trades. The main responsibility for training must lie with the industry however.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but may I ask how he explains that 133,000 construction workers are registered as unemployed? Will he say what steps he is taking to confirm that none of these people are actually working?
One of the problems of the industry is in securing notification of all vacancies. Experiments have been tried in various places, and in one area it was shown that only about one-third of the vacancies were registered with us and in another area only about one-half. There is within the category of the construction industry a large number of other categories of a less broad nature which are registered, and that is the real problem.
I appreciate the great value of retraining particularly in conjunction with the announcement made this afternoon. Is my hon. Friend satisfied that enough is being done to halt the serious decline of recruitment of apprentices into the industry?
The extension of the scheme to assist with removal and other matters is to be welcomed. Will the Minister ensure that there is the greatest possible publicity of the scheme in areas such as Merseyside and the North West where there is heavy unemployment among construction workers? Will he accept at the same time that this should not be used as an alternative for providing work for construction workers in these localities?
I thought there would be a sting in the tail, but I am grateful for the hon. Member's first comment. Every possible form of publicity will be given to the scheme. I am sure that the hon. Member will help in this.