Industrial Training

Oral Answers to Questions — Employment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th July 1981.

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Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek 12:00 am, 28th July 1981

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when next he expects to have discussions with the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission about industrial training.

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

I have no immediate plans to do so, but I regularly meet the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission to discuss issues of mutual concern, including industrial training.

Photo of Mr David Knox Mr David Knox , Leek

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?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

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.

Photo of Mr John Sever Mr John Sever , Birmingham, Ladywood

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?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

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.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Scott Mr Nicholas Scott , Kensington and Chelsea Chelsea

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?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

Yes. We need to get on with that and to remove uncertainty as soon as we can. I hope to be able to make a statement to Parliament soon after our return in the new Session.

Photo of Mr David Penhaligon Mr David Penhaligon , Truro

Does the Secretary of State agree that if there is an upturn in the economy and the current amount of training in engineering and similar industries is maintained, the recovery is bound to be strangled virtually at birth by an overwhelming lack of skilled personnel?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

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.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Honiton

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?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

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.

Photo of Mr Barry Jones Mr Barry Jones , Flint East

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?

Photo of Mr James Prior Mr James Prior , Lowestoft

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.