When my right hon. Friend next meets the chairman will he emphasise the importance of the new industrial training package announced yesterday for ensuring that the training will be for the skills that will be needed in the future, so that when the upturn in the economy take; place it will not be held back by the constraint of lack of skilled labour, as has so often happened in the past?
I think that my hon. Friend is correct. We are trying to improve the youth opportunities programme so that it contains a greater element of training and more off-the-job training. The purpose of the new training initiative is to ensure that we have the skilled labour available as and when it is required.
Does the Secretary of State accept that there is now a dire need for young people to be trained effectively, particularly in engineering, where the heavy engineering skills are being lost in cities such as Birmingham, if we are to have the promised industrial recovery? Is the Secretary of State aware that that will not be achieved unless young people have adequate training? Will he ask the MSC to do everything possible to increase its programmes?
Yes. The MSC is doing everything possible. Recently, it asked the Government for an additional £20 million to aid apprenticeships over the next two years. That is in addition to the £30 million a year that we are already providing, making a total of £40 million for each of the next two years. The youth opportunities programme and what will flow from the new training initiatives are of vital importance.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that once he has received the sectoral review of the Manpower Services Commission on the future of the industrial training boards, it will be important for the morale of those employed by the boards and for industry generally that he announces his decision as soon as possible?
No, I do not accept that. The skills have not suddenly disappeard from this country in the past two years. We are training enormous numbers of people. The Manpower Services Commission's report and consultations on the future of industrial training boards will be published on Thursday.
In the discussions with Sir Richard O'Brien will my right hon. Friend try to find ways of encouraging a greater number of acceptances of apprenticeships in industry and how to remove some of the restrictive practices that unions still operate towards apprenticeships? Will he explain the amount of money that can be paid to an employee under the new scheme to encourage employers to take on apprentices?
The Government are aiding a great number of first-year apprenticeships. The importance that my hon. Friend attaches to moving away from apprenticeships based on years to apprenticeships based on reaching a standard is coming through strongly in the new training initiative. It is supported by both employers and trade unions at national level. We require a little support from the House to ensure that it is also supported at local level.
Will the right hon. Gentleman guarantee that the decisions that he proposes to take on the MSC sectoral review will not be taken during the recess and that he will make a statement to the House before he takes action? May we assume that after yesterday's speech by the Prime Minister the funding difficulties connected with the initiatives for training are now ended?
I have already said that the MSC report will be published on Thursday. Further consultations will take place in the summer. I shall make a statement to the House in the new Session of Parliament about the Government 's decisions on the issue.
There will always be shortages of resources available for training. All I can say is that the Government are playing their part and that they hope that industry, which must take the major role, will play its part.