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Mr. Allen McKay (Barnsley, West and Penistone) : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Paice : No, because I know that another Labour Member wishes to speak in the debate.

We must recognise that people still think of training identification and appraisal of a form of criticism of standards. They are not. It is interesting that, despite the furore a few years ago in the teaching profession about the suggestion of appraisal, the few authorities that carry out teacher appraisal have met a wonderful response from the teachers who have been through it. They now recognise that it is a constructive approach to human development, rather than a form of back-door criticism of what they are doing. If we are to move towards a greater emphasis on training from business, we must first ensure that business from the top understands its involvement. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Thompson) mentioned the need for management to become more involved. I remember that 10 years ago, when I was first appointed as training officer to my then company, we embarked on a programme of staff training. The first person who went on a training course was the managing director, and he was followed by the divisional managers. We went down the structure from there. The managers set the example to the rest of the staff that training should go right through the organisation.

One aspect that still causes great concern is the poaching by one employer of another's employee in whose training the original employer has invested. We must consider ways to address that problem, because it is the one obstacle that discourages business from investing in

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training. The answer is clear : we must look at property rights and consider whether employees could be asked to sign a contract of commitment of service.

It is commonplace in the United States that employees undergoing a programme of training agree to a period of service as an employee of the company making that investment. That is not wholly unknown in this country. The armed services sponsor people through university and require a certain service afterwards. In football, we hear of massive sums being paid to buy off contracts made for a certain period of employment. There must be fallbacks, of course, so that people can extricate themselves from such contracts for valid reasons, but we must consider ways of dealing with the problem.

There have been a few cases in this country in which people have tried to deal with the problem. In a major court case, Strathclyde regional council- -which is not exactly a hotbed of macho Tory management--brought a case against Neil and the court decided that a contract specifying that training costs could be repaid if the employee resigned before completing a minimum period of service was enforceable. That sets the scene, and I wish that we could do far more. It may mean that we must do more to clarify the law in that respect.

The Government have clearly set out a policy throughout the economy over the years of setting business free from Government involvement. That policy has demonstrated its success clearly in consistent massive growth rates and in reductions in unemployment. The evidence is that business is now rightly turning its attention to training. The Government's responsibility is to nurture, stimulate and encourage industry to claw back the lost ground, rather than to interpose themselves between industry and training and to damage what is already happening. We must recognise that the Government's role is to work behind the scenes, rather than to intervene.

That is the fundamental difference between the policies, which I support, of the Conservative party and this Government, and the policies of the Labour party. Business should make decisions about training ; it is not a matter for Government. The Government should supplement what business does, and not supplant it, as is proposed by the Opposition.

6.35 pm

Mr. John P. Smith (Vale of Glamorgan) : I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) on his superb maiden speech, which he delivered authoritatively. He replaces me as the newest Member of the House of Commons.

There is one aspect of training that has not been covered adequately this afternoon, although it was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) and the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham). My concern is about the deplorable record of accidents, serious injuries and deaths which has increased dramatically during the reign of the present Government and the previous two. The House should recognise that there is an inextricable link between the quality of training and the industry's safety record. Training is the key not only to our economic future, but to ensuring that we can bring down the tragic incidence of death and destruction in industry, which is to the shame of the Government and which continues to be appalling, especially in the construction industry, to which the hon.

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Member for Norfolk, North-West referred. We must tackle that problem and we can do so only through training.

The Government have a lamentable record on training. I do not know how they can turn round now and draw attention to skills shortages and the so-called "revolution" in training to deal with them. The "revolution" is a continuation of the Government's 10-year-old free market philosophy, which is essentially for them to wash their hands of responsibility and to pass it on to local organisations dominated by employers. Yet employers themselves recognise that they need state assistance and state guidance, which employers enjoy in every other major competitor country, to provide first-class training. I received first-class training myself as a building craftsman two decades ago, but such training is now sadly lacking.

In the past few years, I have had considerable direct experience of YTS training and have been involved with many thousands of YTS trainees. The quality of training for the majority of them is unacceptable. They simply gain work experience, and not training as such. The fact that our safety record is so bad shows the appalling level of training. Nowhere is that more noticeable and more significant than in the record of accidents among YTS trainees. That is a direct result of the absence of quality training. When the Labour party forms a Government, we will put an end to that. I ask the Minister to draw the attention of his colleagues to the close link between safety and training.

I conclude by relating an appalling example that I encountered as a trainer in this area. A young YTS trainee set out in the winter month of November on a decorating job and began by painting the outside of a building with a highly inflammable substance by which he became covered during the course of his work. When it came to the morning tea-break at 10 o'clock, before going in to the cabin with all the others for his cup of tea and for something to eat, he stopped by the glowing brazier to warm himself. That move was fatal.

The reason why youngsters die and are seriously injured and maimed in industry is that they are not given adequate training. If that boy had been trained properly, the accident would never have happened. It would never have happened to me, because of the training that I received.

6.40 pm

Mr. Tony Lloyd (Stretford) : This has been an interesting debate. With the possible exception of the Secretary of State, like us all being against sin, we are all very much in favour of training. However, that is where the similarity ends, because Conservative Members have risen only to say how much they are in favour of the Government's approach and of the private sector which, according to them, has achieved such miracles.

Although that is what the Secretary of State told the House, the reality is that the right hon. Gentleman is at odds with the head of his own training agency. When Mr. Roger Dawe, the director general of the Training Agency, addressed a conference on the issue of training, he stated that at every level we were towards the bottom of the training league table, whether in education, youth training, higher level skills training or management. He then pointed out that on the evidence of the statistics on

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training in this country, far from catching up with our competitors in western Europe, Japan and the United States, we are falling further and further behind.

Indeed, a Government survey which has yet to be properly published-- although its author has managed to get his results on the public record-- shows that the level of training in this country is frightening in its lack of intensity. Only one third of private manufacturing companies actively train their employees ; less than half the organisations in the private service sector train their employees ; yet the much-derided public sector trains at least 60 per cent. of its workers. Incredible though it may seem, 14 per cent. of those who are officially designated as "apprentices" or "long-term trainees" receive no training whatsoever. I repeat that, under this Government's training programme, 14 per cent. of trainees receive no training.

I could go on and on about this country's failure in training matters. Conservative Members have tried to say that the Government's present record compares favourably with that of the last Labour Government. However, let us look at the reality in industry--not back in 1979, but as recently as 1982, when skills shortages were reported as a major constraint on output by as few as 2.5 per cent. of our companies. The CBI recently reported that 20 per cent. of companies now experience severe skills shortages that are sufficiently bad as to prevent output developing, and the Association of British Chambers of Commerce has reported that 49 per cent. of manufacturing companies now experience skills shortages.

I welcomed the speech of the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West, who spoke about the construction industry. At the moment the much-derided construction industry training board is training 30,000 people per year. However, the CITB recognises that it needs to raise that level considerably to 88,000 people a year. It is now predicted that at present rates there will be a shortfall of 1 million construction workers in the next 10 years. That deficit cannot be made up by the private sector, whether through the training and enterprise councils system or any other system. Because we have the CITB and the levy system, we have some chance, but not enough, to make up the skills shortages in that industry.

As Conservative Members know, the Federation of Master Builders is hardly one of the Labour party's traditional supporters. The federation has made it clear that it considers that

"there is nothing in recent history to warrant the view that the end of the statutory based CITB would lead to the creation of a voluntary training organisation which could yield better or more cost effective training."

The Secretary of State must take that message on board. The right hon. Gentleman has told us about the TEC system--the ideological attempt to remove the Government from all responsibility for what goes on--but it is a blind move towards the so-called "market system". Indeed, the head of the Training Agency has referred to the present system of training as a "mixed pattern".

The Opposition know that the private sector is failing the country. We know that the Secretary of State said that there are now over 25 million people in work, but when one looks at the real rate of investment in training, one sees that it is not the £18 billion that the Secretary of State has claimed : it is about £3.25 billion when wage costs and

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income support are removed. That represents about £100 per year for every person at a place of work. That is a pathetic indictment of the Government, of what they have done in the past 10 years and of what they are doing now.

The Secretary of State also said that the TEC system was popular with the private sector, but it is not. I refer him to the views of the Builders Merchants Federation--a small part of the private sector--which is deeply suspicious of the TEC system because it feels that it is being frozen out of that system and that its needs for national training are being ignored by the pursuit of long-distance remote-controlled training and by the Government's avoidance of responsibility.

The Secretary of State recently attended a conference organised by the Institute of Personnel Management and the British Association of Commercial and Industrial Education. The head of the Training Agency was also present. Having been severely criticised for the inadequacies of the TEC system, the head of the Training Agency lamely remarked :

"You are saying : don't trust the employers--don't trust TECs, please will the Government make it compulsory to train and make it compulsory for employers not to take anyone on until they are 18 : that's a surprising message from an employer gathering."

The Secretary of State must recognise that the employers are saying that the TEC system does not work ; that it will not work and that it cannot provide the training. The private sector will fail us once again, as it has in thepast--

Mr. Tracey rose --

Mr. Lloyd : No, I shall not give way, because I do not have the time.

I turn now to the employment training system, which the Secretary of State describes as a success. However, the right hon. Gentleman did not go on to say that 60 per cent. of those who are recommended to go on employment training refuse to do so. They refuse to have anything to do with employment training. The Secretary of State may deny that, but those are the Government's own figures. Those are the figures in an "in confidence" Department of Employment document that I am holding now. Indeed, those figures were given in confidence because the Secretary of State does not want them known by the public.

Employment training is failing six out of 10 people and they are not prepared-- [Interruption.] Well, I shall quote the figures to the Secretary of State. Referrals from the employment service to the Training Agency, cumulative to April this year, numbered 685,100. However, only 274,900 began as trainees. Therefore, less than 40 per cent. of those who were referred by the employment service made it on to an ET scheme, because those who realise what employment training is all about are simply rejecting it.

I shall give the Secretary of State some other figures. The Building Manufacturers Federation, which is not untypical of many of the would-be providers of ET, established what is regarded as a high-quality employment training scheme. We could debate the merits of employment training at greater length if we had more time, but in this case the employers claimed that they had a high-quality scheme, yet they attracted only one trainee for the 400 places that were available. That federation has told me that there are two reasons why it has only one trainee. The first is the derisory pay available to trainees on

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employment training schemes. The second reason is that even on this high-quality scheme, the lousy image of employment training across the nation is such that any self-respecting unemployed person does not want to know about it.

In its magazine "Personnel Management", the Institute of Personnel Management has commented :

"The problem, where there is one, is that ET was born of a curious compromise between training and make-work".

That is the reality of employment training.

I turn now to one particular scheme, to the disastrous failure of the Council for Social Aid in Greater Manchester, which affected my constituents. The scheme left debts of £1 million. I hope that the Minister will reply to my points later, but the House should know that that scheme was failing well before Christmas. In November of last year that scheme was falsifying names on one of its projects in Openshaw and I am led to believe that the Training Agency was aware of it. If the Minister was not aware of it, his departmental officials, through the Training Agency, were. The Minister has a direct responsibility for the fact that there were totally bogus names on the list of trainees. Even the numbers on ET are open to fiddle in that scheme and, I suggest, more generally.

Representatives of the Training Agency were well aware in the early part of this year that in some parts of the CSA scheme in Manchester, there were no typewriter ribbons for people taking typing courses and there were no toilet rolls for the trainees or the staff. The Training Agency knew about that. Even if the Minister did not know about it, his staff and departmental officials were aware of it. At that level, he has responsibility for what happened.

There was a cosy little conspiracy at quite a high level in the Training Agency--and perhaps in the Department--to cover up what was happening. The ET scheme was not allowed to fail at such an early stage, particularly when it was set up for 2,500 would-be trainees, but never achieved more than 1,000. The scheme failed because, trainees would not make themselves available. It failed because ET is grossly underfunded and it failed because although it was trying in some parts to provide decent quality training, the trainees did not want to know. The scheme failed and left debts of £1 million, of which £400,000 is owed to the Training Agency. There was a cosy little cover-up which amounts to a corrupt conspiracy to protect the Government's propaganda about ET. The scheme could have been rescued at an early stage in the interests of trainees and the staff. However, the Government were not prepared to allow it to fail at such an early stage.

When the scheme failed and the Training Agency pulled the plug, the decision was not taken by the Training Agency : it was referred to Whitehall. The decision was taken in Whitehall because the Training Agency knew that it had something on its hands which was too big for it to take a decision on its own.

The ET scheme is failing the nation. However much the Secretary of State huffs and puffs, ET is failing the nation and the unemployed. Like YTS, ET is failing our young people in many areas. The Government have no comprehensive view on training. Until they recognise that the private sector unaided will fail in training, until we have a tripartite relationship between Government, industry and the trade unions, we will not have the training

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which will give a future to this country-- the type of future which our people expect and should expect. Our people will get that future only when there is a change of Government.

6.52 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. John Cope) : My first and pleasant duty is to congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) on his maiden speech. Many hon. Members will share his sentiments about our late colleague Bob McTaggart, whose death saddened us all. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central made it clear that he takes on a great political heritage on Clydeside and he gave the House a clear sign that he will live up to that.

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central on choosing to make his maiden speech in this debate, because it has been an interesting debate on a very important subject. This country lives, in Europe and in the rest of the world, by its skills, and that has long been so. However, the skills required to compete these days change very quickly. It is no longer enough for people to pick up skills on the way and for them to work out the best way to do things. Training is essential, and so is constant retraining. That much is common ground between the Government and the Opposition. Of course there are skills shortages ; that fact reflects in part at least a vigorous and changing economy. However, it is also a challenge for us all. The Government, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment said, are in the middle of a series of radical changes. I believe that YTS has been transformed, particularly since we extended it to two years. It has taken on more young people and has enabled the quality and usefulness of the training to be improved. At present, 386,000 young people are on YTS ; historically, that is a very high figure. I can reassure the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central that we also have more than 141,000 YTS places available and we can bring more places forward if we need to do so. Sixty-three per cent. of those who complete YTS training now gain qualifications, and that percentage continues to rise. YTS is also very popular with most of the young people who participate in the scheme, and it has proved very valuable to trainees and employers. I believe that it is a vast improvement on previous schemes.

The youth training scheme has introduced proper structured training into sectors where it hardly existed before and to youngsters who have had no training. We are committed to improving the scheme and to making it more flexible and relevant and to increasing the proportion of young people who obtain qualifications. We are working on that. YTS covers an enormously wide area of training. I am glad to be able to say that a YTS trainee plays football for England, and as from a few days ago--as some hon. Members will be particularly pleased to know--another YTS trainee now plays cricket for Yorkshire. I leave hon. Members to judge which is the more important sporting achievement.

The new funding structure this year provides for greater flexibility and response to particular needs and for a larger proportion of the money to help young people with special needs and those with disabilities. That is very important. I welcome yesterday's CBI report on this general subject,

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which reinforced the importance of training, particularly for young people. We will, of course, study that report very carefully. Much of the attention in this debate has been devoted to the Government's employment training programme.

Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) : Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Cope : I have only a few minutes left, so I will not give way. As far as we know, ET is the most ambitious and largest training programme for unemployed people in the world. It is a massive investment by Government in the future of unemployed people. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said, nearly 200,000 people throughout the country now take advantage of ET, and that is a very definite vote of confidence by unemployed people in the programme. It is also the best start for any adult training programme ever launched. That figure of 200,000 is more than three times the number of people who joined the community programme over the same period. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Lloyd) referred to the so-called drop-out rate. He was really talking about the number of people who say that they are interested in ET compared with those who really start on the programme. That tells us something about unemployed people, as well as something about the way in which the programme is perceived. The employment training programme has received a far better response than any previous programme run by the Government. It is far better than the community programme, JTS and the job clubs. It is producing a better response from unemployed people. That is not surprising, because the programme offers a mix of practical and directed training to participants tailored to meet their individual needs.

Some 18 per cent. of those who start the programme have an identified literacy and numeracy training need ; that is one of the special needs which ET fulfils. Particular attention is paid to providing training to meet such needs and about 35,000 people currently receive literacy and numeracy training within ET in some form or another. Twelve per cent. of the new entrants to the programme have long-term health problems or disabilities, which represents a much higher proportion than for any previous adult training programme. Eleven per cent. of people on the employment training programme are from the ethnic minorities and are a significantly higher proportion than for the community programme and higher than the share of ethnic origin groups in total unemployment. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) referred to the numbers of women in employment. Nearly 30 per cent. of all new employment training entrants are women. Again, that is in line with the proportion of unemployed women. The programme is also making a significant impact on inner cities and we are building on that at the moment. It is helping older workers. About 8,500 trainees aged over 50 have benefited from the programme, and nearly half of them were unemployed for more than two years.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State spoke about the training and enterprise councils. I will not re-emphasise their importance.

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The Government have increased their spending on training from approximately £450 million a year in 1979 to over £3,000 million this year. Part of that--about £300 million--comes from the European social fund. Our Government's spending on training as a proportion of GDP is now higher than that in France, Germany, America or Japan, but it is much less than employers spend, including the Government as an employer. About £18,000 million was spent by employers in 1986- 87, and the amount has undoubtedly gone up since then. Of course, that includes wages ; they are a legitimate part of the cost of training.

I have quoted those figures to show the absurdity of the Opposition's idea, which they did not spell out today, that the way to solve the training problem is to impose on employers a special tax of about £1,000 million. Opposition Members believe that that will somehow make a colossal difference. That is an absurd claim, and nobody can take it seriously.

It is extremely significant that neither the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher) nor his hon. Friend the hon. Member for Stretford made any but passing references to the Labour party's proposals in its recent document. They not only provide for that new tax but, to a great degree, propose to hand back control to unions. Some union leaders have proved to be strong supporters of training, including employment training and so on, but, at every turn, many others have opposed employment training and YTS. We have seen that in our Department and outside. In general, their record would not give us confidence that that is the right way to proceed.

Training is vital for the country and the individuals within it. It would be wrong to take responsibility for training from those who provide the jobs and use the skills. It is right to share the responsibility with training and enterprise councils, which can and will build on the training efforts of employers and others involved, to the great benefit of Britain. I urge the House to support the amendment.

Question put, That the original words stand part of the Question :--

The House divided : Ayes 192, Noes 275.

Division No. 280] [7.02 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Allen, Graham

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Beith, A. J.

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bermingham, Gerald

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Bradley, Keith

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)

Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Crowther, Stan

Cryer, Bob

Cunningham, Dr John

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dewar, Donald

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