East Lancashire Training and Enterprise Council

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:16 pm on 16th January 1991.

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Photo of Mr Kenneth Hargreaves Mr Kenneth Hargreaves , Hyndburn 10:16 pm, 16th January 1991

Yes, I agree with that and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for being here to make that point. We must ensure that nothing prevents ELTEC from achieving its aims.

In creating the TECs the Government clearly recognised that the traditional programmes were not producing the results required. I hope that the Minister will tell us whether he believes that that was in some way due to the programmes themselves. If so, will he give an assurance that the Government are prepared to listen to what TECs, which are close to the problems, see as necessary? If TECs are to be successful, it is important that the views of those with responsibility for making them so are not only listened to, but acted on. Equally, it is vital that TECs consult widely local interests and local expertise in education and training, and act upon that information.

I welcome the fact that employers' investment in training has risen to record levels. I hope that that will encourage the Minister to ensure that TECs do not fail to do the job that they have been given to do through a lack of resources. It is a matter of some concern that in real terms the budget for 1991–92 is about 30 per cent. below expenditure incurred in 1989–90 when TECs were first created—£16 million last year compared with £13·4 million in 1991–92. It would be a tragedy if underfunding meant that ELTEC could not succeed as effectively as it might otherwise do.

All of us would want the Minister to assure us that the reduction in expenditure has taken full account of the skills gap between ourselves and our international and European competitors. Have we taken account of recent developments in training in other countries·for example, in Italy, France and Germany? Bearing in mind the effect of those developments by our competitors, will our training budget, not least that of TECs, be kept under constant review? We must not give TECs too many tasks and too few resources. The main task is to put the money available to good use.

In the past four years the Government, to their credit, have increased spending on training by 60 per cent. at a time when unemployment fell by half. It does not seem unreasonable, therefore, to expect more resources for training now that unemployment is, unfortunately, increasing.

TECs were created to deal with local circumstances. I believe that they will succeed, but the chances of success will be greatly increased if TECs are allowed to get on with the task that they have been given and if bureaucracy or interference is kept to an absolute minimum, once the Government are satisfied that TECs are consulting locally and, therefore, can act in the best interests of the area which they serve.

It is vital for the future of our country that we succeed in changing attitudes to training, so that the skills of our people compare favourably with those of our competitors. Yesterday someone talking on a completely different subject said to me that if something is worth exhortation, it is worth legislation. I hope that attitudes can be changed by education and exhortation, but the issue is so important that neither legislation nor fiscal steps should be ruled out if education and exhortation fail.