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33. Mr. Gerald Howarth : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any plans to meet the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress to discuss the current wave of strikes ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : Recent industrial action in certain public sector services has been irresponsible and unnecessary. The Government are considering what needs to be done to protect the public interest, and we will not hesitate to come forward with appropriate proposals for legislation if that proves necessary.
48. Mr. Franks : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are employed in (a) the public sector and (b) the private sector ; and how many working days were lost through strikes in each of 1988-89.
Mr. Nicholls : An article in "Economic Trends", December, page 119, set out the Central Statistical Office's estimates of the breakdown of employment in the public and private sectors in the United Kingdom at mid- 1988 as 6,327,000 and 19,077,000 respectively. Revisions to employment data since the compilation of the article will be reflected in the next annual publication.
Working days lost through stoppages of work due to industrial disputes in the 12 months ending March 1989 were 1,561,000 in the public sector and 1,296,000 in the private sector.
A copy of "Economic Trends" is available in the Library.
82. Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many working days were lost through strikes in the public sector and the private sector of the economy in 1988-89 ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : In the 12 months to March 1989, working days lost through stoppages of work due to industrial disputes totalled 1,561, 000 in the public sector and 1,296,000 in the private sector. The public sector figure includes 1,163,000 working days lost in the postal disputes in August and September last year and the private sector figure includes 754,000 working days lost in a shipyard dispute. Expressed in terms of days lost per thousand employees, the public sector figure is 247, the corresponding private sector figure 68.
Column 157corresponding period 10 years ago, the 12 months to May 1979, a total of 2,453 stoppages were recorded as in progress. These statistics exclude stoppages involving fewer than 10 workers or lasting less than one day unless the total number of working days lost is greater than 100.
88. Mr. Fearn : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the causes of the rise in working days lost through industrial disputes in April compared to March of the current year.
Mr. Nicholls : The latest estimates of working days lost through stoppages of work caused by industrial disputes for March and April of this year are 74,000 and 89,000 respectively. There is normally a significant fluctuation from month to month in the number of working days lost and the March to April increase is smaller than the median of other monthly increases over the past 36 months. The April 1989 figure is, apart from the April 1988 figure, the lowest for any April since 1954.
93. Mr. Andrew MacKay : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many days have been lost by industrial action in the first six months of the current year ; and what was the comparable figure for each of the previous 10 years.
Mr. Nicholls : The estimate for June 1989 of working days lost through stoppages of work due to industrial disputes is not yet available ; but for the first five months of 1989 it is provisionally recorded that 435,000 working days were lost. The comparable figures for the first five months in each of the previous 10 years are as follows :
Working days lost through stoppages of work due to industrial disputes in first five months of each year Year |Number ------------------------------ 1979 |8,076,000 1980 |2,341,000 1981 |2,341,000 1982 |2,510,000 1983 |2,125,000 1984 |8,669,000 1985 |5,012,000 1986 |1,082,000 1987 |2,626,000 1988 |1,226,000
98. Mr. Cash : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he has any plans to meet representatives of the Trades Union Congress to discuss strikes on London transport, British Rail and in the docks ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : A total of 2,911,000 working days were lost through stoppages of work due to industrial disputes in the most recent 12-month period ending in May 1989. In 1978, a total of 9,405,000 working days were lost.
23. Mr. Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he has recently met the chairman of the National Training Task Force to discuss the establishment of new small businesses ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Cope : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met Brian Wolfson, chairman of the National Training Task Force, on Wednesday 12 July when development funding for the first training and enterprise councils was announced. These new, local, employer-led organisations will help establish a coherent network of support for new and small businesses by, among other things, building upon help provided by local enterprise agencies and others.
83. Dr. Twinn : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he plans to meet the chairman of British Venture Capital Association to discuss the development of small businesses ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Cope : The Government's overall policy towards small businesses is to create a climate in which they can flourish and to tackle their unmet needs for professional advice and access to finance. The principal Government measures of particular help for small businesses include :
The small firms service, which provides information and business counselling to new and established small firms and to those wishing to start a business. The SFS gives support to local enterprise agencies which also receive grants from the Government ;
The Rural Development Commission, which provides similar advice and technical services to small firms in rural areas ;
The enterprise initiative, launched by the DTI in January 1988, which offers access to specialised consultancy in a number of key business areas. particular emphasis is being given to single European market issues ;
The recently extended loan guarantee scheme, under which small firms can secure bank loans with the backing of substantial underwriting from the Department ;
The business expansion scheme which encourages equity investment in small firms by allowing tax relief on eligible investment ; The enterprise allowance scheme which provides an allowance of £40 per week to previously unemployed people to make up for loss of benefit in their first year of self-employment ; and
A range of training programmes operated by the Training Agency which take account of new and established small firms' business training needs.
The success of these measures is reflected in continued steady healthy growth of the small firms sector.
25. Mr. William Powell : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what role the training and enterprise councils will have in setting up and advising small business ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Cope : Training and enterprise councils will be contractually responsible to the government within their areas for three programmes currently run by the Training Agency area offices--the enterprise allowance scheme, business growth training and small firms counselling--and they will work with local enterprise agencies and others to ensure a coherent network of support for small firms.
Mr. Nicholls : The National Training Task Force has now received 32 applications for training and enterprise council development funding. This is an excellent response. On 12 July my right hon. Friend announced the 19 applications which have so far been approved. These are listed as follows.
List of training and enterprise council areas that have been approved for development funding as at 12 July
South East :
Isle of Wight
South West :
Devon and Cornwall
West Midlands :
North West Midlands
Yorkshire and Humberside :
Calderdale and Kirklees
North West :
South and East Cheshire
Mr. Nicholls : No estimates are made of the proportion of workers paid on the wages council minimum in individual trades. Recent estimates for the wages council system as a whole suggest that a substantial proportion of workers--probably as many as two thirds are paid more than minimum.
67. Mr. Lofthouse : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of the impact that the proposed abolition of wages councils will have on pay rates in Yorkshire and Humberside.
Mr. Nicholls : No such assessment has been made. However, the removal of wages councils minima would enable employers to offer, and workers to accept, jobs at rates which would previously have been unlawful. It is not possible to measure this greater flexibility on pay levels, but it is unlikely that there would be any general reduction in the earnings of workers in wages council trades.
29. Dr. Goodson-Wickes : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received about the need for a code of practice on industrial action balloting ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : Various representations on the draft statutory code of practice were received and are now being considered. My right hon. Friend will, in due course, decide whether to proceed with the draft, and if so whether to modify it in the light of these representations.
31. Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will discuss with the chairman of the British Tourist Authority the provision of training facilities for employees and employers in the tourist industry ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lee : I am keen to encourage improvements in training in the tourism industry, and the education and training unit, run jointly by the English tourist board and the British Tourist Authority, has made a most valuable contribution to that.
Mr. Lee : I expect the English tourist board to devolve many of its activities and direct substantially more of its funding to the regional tourist boards. This will enable the RTBs to increase their marketing activities and their direct involvement in encouraging the development of tourism locally.