Will the Minister comment on the cut in training at offshore training centres because of the current difficulties? Will he acknowledge that although the oil price is depressed now, there is a long-term secure future for the industry, and that training should be maintained in spite of the current short-term difficulties.
I shall be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and representatives from the industry if they would care to see me in the Department. The details of why the MSC has withdrawn a part of the training are extremely complex. If the hon. Gentleman would like to take up my offer, I would be delighted to honour it.
Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the slight shadows over the improving economy that we now enjoy is the growth of skill shortages? Does he accept that it is among adults, who are presently debarred in many instances from receiving assistance towards adult training because they have been trained already in another skill, that we should be working the hardest? Will he give an assurance that in the provision of adult training the emerging skill shortages will be given paramount importance?
I would dispute that there is a growth in the number of skill shortages. One of the reasons why we have spent so much money through the MSC on local training grants for employers is to meet the shortfall in skills training, together with the development and strengthening of skills training centres. In addition, there is the new initiative that we are taking from 1 April next year in the form of a national priorities skills scheme, which I hope will meet some of the concerns expressed by my hon. Friend.
In view of the complacency of the Minister in response to this question on adult training, is it not about time that he had serious words with Geoffrey Holland, the director of the MSC? In a speech to the Institute of Personnel Management last week Geoffrey Holland talked about the need for a revolution in adult training and the inability to meet adult training needs in Britain. Are we talking about the same world as Geoffrey Holland? I remind the Minister that Geoffrey Holland is the senior civil servant in the MSC, who talked originally about shooting for 1 per cent. if we were to get on course in competing with our major industrial competitors in adult training. Is it not a fact that adult training has not even been started by the Government, and all that we have seen are schemes to get people off the dole and off the figures?
The hon. Gentleman is misquoting Mr. Geoffrey Holland, and not only about the 1 per cent. Mr. Holland has never suggested that the 1 per cent. which the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) mentioned should be levied on all firms. As my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, South (Sir W. Clark) said, it would be an increasing burden on business, tantamount to about a 20 to 25 per cent. increase in the rate of corporation tax. The hon. Gentleman suggested that industry should look on training as an investment and not as a cost, and on that there is no difference of opinion between him and me.