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Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Column 1120Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Macfarlane, Sir Neil
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Porter, David (Waveney)
Powell, William (Corby)
Sackville, Hon Tom
Shaw, David (Dover)
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Twinn, Dr Ian
Waddington, Rt Hon David
Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Winterton, Mrs Ann
Tellers for the Ayes :
Mr. Stephen Dorrell and
Mr. Alan Howarth.
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Pike, Peter L.
Tellers for the Noes :
Mr. Harry Cohen and
Mr. Jeremy Corbyn
Question accordingly agreed to.
That the draft London Regional Transport (Levy) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 19th December, be approved.
Motion made, and Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 101(5) (Standing Committees on Statutory Instruments &c.).
That the draft Laganside Development (Northern Ireland) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 25th October 1988, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.
That the draft Nature Conservation and Amenity Lands (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1988, which was laid before this House on 14th November 1988, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.
That the draft Industrial Training Levy (Engineering Board) Order 1989, which was laid before this House on 30th January, be approved.-- [Mr. John M. Taylor.]
Question agreed to.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. John M. Taylor].
Mr. Ernie Ross (Dundee, West) : Mr. James O'Donoghue is a small business man trading as J. K. Allan, which is a company involved in plumbing and electrical work. His son Brian O'Donoghue left school in 1985 and started at Kingsway technical college in Dundee on a plumbing and technical course for a City and Guilds certificate. Mr. O'Donoghue then approached the local MSC area office in Dundee for advice on assistance with training of apprentices. That was in response to an approach made by the Construction Industry Training Board, which had requested that Mr. O'Donoghue take on an apprentice electrician. He advised the board that there was not enough electrical work to justify that and to ensure that proper training would be given to an apprentice electrician, but he offered to start an apprentice plumber. That is the job that he created, and the vacancy was filled by his son.
Mr. O'Donoghue then tried to register his son as a YTS apprentice and was advised that that was not allowed as he was in employment. However, the CITB said that grants were available if Mr. O'Donoghue's son attended technical college on the appropriate courses recognised by the CITB, which lead to a qualification as a time-served, certified plumber. Mr. O'Donoghue agreed, and his son attended college on block release. When Mr. O'Donoghue applied for the grant from the CITB he was informed that, as his son had not started his career as a YTS trainee, no grant was available apart from a single payment of £200, the grant payable to English and Welsh employers who elect not to send their apprentices on block release but to send them on day release instead.
As no day release is available in Scotland, Mr. O'Donoghue naturally felt that this was grossly unfair. When he complained to the CITB management he was told that a special payment of £550 would be made if he continued to send his son to college.
Mr. O'Donoghue was given two reasons for the non-YTS rule. First, on YTS the numbers of apprentices can be controlled. However, inquiries revealed that in 1985, of the 158 YTS places allocated to the Tayside region, only 101 were filled. The number of apprentice plumbers on YTS attending Kingsley college in 1985 was only six. If those figures are projected into the future, there will be a serious shortage of skilled plumbers by 1995. Indeed, the CITB chairman, Derek Gaulter, openly states that there is an acute shortage of trainees now. In his words, their numbers are
"insufficient to meet natural wastage let alone to provide the skilful work force needed to sustain growth."
Despite this assertion, the CITB picked out plumbing apprentices who were not on YTS in 1985 to disqualify them from grant payment from 1987 onwards. Other apprentices, such as joiners, bricklayers and plasterers, who are also covered by the CITB, are not affected. The second reason given was that the rule was introduced as a cost-cutting measure by the CITB. Every adult employed in the building industry is levied by the CITB. The levy is paid by the employer annually and is in the region of £70 to £95 a year per class of employee. This
Column 1122money is used to pay for all aspects of training within the industry. The board under the Industrial Training Act 1982 collects this money by Acts of Parliament.
The recent history of the plumbing industry is that many plumbers have started their own businesses, but not paid a levy to the CITB, either because they are unaware of the levy, or their payroll is less than £15,000 a year. To counteract the loss of revenue the CITB made a decision in 1985 not to support non-YTS apprentices.
However, due to the decline of the industry, many firms have few apprentices or trainees, but continue to pay large levies to the board. In the financial year 1987-88, the board showed a surplus of £13,548,000. The CITB has also used money that was to have been used for training purposes to buy Government stocks and bonds to the value of £60 million. In other words, the CITB introduced the non-YTS rule simply to save money, while at the same time running a surplus of millions of pounds. My constituent and his son see the actions of the CITB over the past few years in that light.
As the Minister knows, I raised this matter on Mr. O'Donohue's behalf as early as January 1988. The Under-Secretary, who has responsibility for the CITB, said at first that there was nothing wrong, and he would not interefere. There was persistent letter-writing and telephoning--much of it, I admit and the Minister will confirm, done by my constituent, who has taken an extraordinary interest in his son's affairs. It is only fair to compliment Mr. O'Donohue on his determination to ensure that his son receives the support training that one would hope that one's children would receive when they go into employment.
At first, the Minister said that there was nothing wrong, and he would not interfere, but after this series of exchanges he told me that he was not entirely satisfied with the situation, and he confirmed, in his letter of 14 June 1988, that he would be calling on the board to
"simplify its grant system and adopt a more flexible policy for grant aid, moving the emphasis away from the particular pattern of training being followed and placing it instead upon the achievement of vocational qualifications, based upon standards of competence established by industry. In this way I hope to encourage the Board to free the training market in the industry from unnecessary complaints."
In a further letter to Mr. O'Donoghue, the Under-Secretary confirmed his earlier decision and restated that he would not intervene but expected that conditions would change in 1990, and Mr. O'Donoghue's son would then qualify. He will then be too old. It appears that the Minister has identified a serious fault in the grants procedure, but, due to his earlier decisions, has taken no immediate action to assist my constituent, whose persistent and determined campaign on behalf of his employee highlighted the anomaly in the first instance.
It is clear from its annual accounts that the CITB has no shortage of money, and that it discriminates not only between YTS and non-YTS young people but between England and Wales, and Scotland, as there is no day release in Scotland. Although the board is determined not to fund non-YTS youths, it will expect to be paid on those same youths when they are older, have completed their training and are working in the industry.
When this matter was first raised, my constituent was the only employer in Scotland affected by the rule. When it was introduced, it affected another two companies and apprentices, but they quickly dropped out of employment, so until quite recently my constituent was the only