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Mr. Fowler : Yes, Sir. My hon. Friend makes a good point. Compact arrangements, which were introduced only last year, have been targeted at inner-city areas. That is where the priority is, but I believe that such arrangements can be extended elsewhere.
Mr. Morley : I welcome compact agreements, but does the Minister agree that they come nowhere near meeting the increasing skills shortage? Is he aware that more and more industries are saying that the Government are not doing enough to provide support in tackling skills shortages? In particular, employment training does not offer the specialised and relevant training that we need in a modern society.
Mr. Fowler : The question has nothing to do with employment training for the long-term unemployed. We are talking about young people. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support compact arrangements, which have taken off dramatically and provide good training and, above all, opportunities for young people in inner-city areas.
Column 164have now received development funding, and the first TECs will become operational early next year. When we launched TECs in March, we expected that it would take three to four years to complete the network. We are now far ahead of that schedule--the applications received so far already cover half the working population of England and Wales and the network will be in place by September 1990.
Mr. Couchman : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his answer. Will he give every consideration to an application, which I believe is currently before him, for a TEC to be set up in my constituency--or, at least, in the area that covers it? Will he ensure that the scheme places every possible emphasis on long-term retraining for the future and does not become merely a "make-work" scheme? I understand that there is a felicitous partnership between the local authority, the Department and leading employers in the area.
Mr. Fowler : Yes, I think that there is a unity among employers, local authorities and all the other groups involved, and I hope that that unity can be maintained. TECs are there to help with training for both the unemployed and those in employment.
The Kent application to which my hon. Friend has referred was received at the end of October. Our initial reaction is that the proposal is of very high quality, demonstrating a real partnership in the county between leading employers, the local authority and the Training Agency.
Mr. Cran : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that senior industrialists are contributing time to make the concept of TECs a success? I note that although there are four TECs in Yorkshire, there are none in Humberside. Can my right hon. Friend give me some comfort by telling me that Humberside may have one in the future?
My hon. Friend is entirely right--TECs are composed of senior industrialists and there is no question about the quality and commitment that those industrialists are showing.
Mr. Madden : Can the Secretary of State tell us whether the TECs, or any other such arrangements, are available to help a group of apprenticies in Bradford facing redundancy with a year or more of their apprenticeships to go? They are anxious to complete their training and find themselves in very difficult circumstances. Can the Secretary of State do anything to help those young people?
Mr. Fowler : I shall look into that. Certainly, in principle, there is everything that a TEC can do in such circumstances. That is one of their advantages--they deal essentially with the local labour market. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to study the specific circumstances and come back to him.
Mr. McAllion : The Secretary of State will be aware that the success of bodies such as the Dundee project in turning around the economy of our city in the 1980s has been based on the granting of representation to local authorities, trade unions, central Government and the
Column 165business community. Why has the hon. Gentleman departed from that successful formula in the establishment of the new training bodies throughout the country?
Mr. Fowler : The Scottish arrangements are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and separate legislation will be needed for that country. I have been describing the position in England and Wales. Overall, however, we want a partnership between all interests at local level.
Mr. Jack : My right hon. Friend is to be congratulated on the training and enterprise initiative. Will he ensure that all the other Government employment services such as jobcentres and training schemes are put fully at the disposal of 200 of my constituents employed at Quality Parts at Fylde who, sadly, have been made redundant and could well benefit from the many services available to enable them to become employed again?
Ms. Short : Has the Secretary of State seen the CBI report, published this morning, which says that Britain's training is way behind that of the rest of Europe and holding back the progress of the economy? Will he review all the rotten training initiatives that the Government have launched and then give us a proper structure of training so that British people can develop proper skills and the economy can flourish?
Mr. Fowler : It for exactly that kind of reason that the TEC initiative has been launched. I realise that the hon. Lady has been critical of a number of other proposals, but I hope that she will recognise that the TECs involve cross-party agreement and agreement by most people at literally local level. I hope that she will not undertake the kind of activities that she undertook in regard to employment training, which do no service to training or to the unemployed.
Mr. Hind : Does my right hon. Friend agree that the employers, who are in partnership in the training and enterprise councils, are investing about £15 billion in training? Does he agree that the Government's agreement to implement the social contract, the acceptance of minimum wages and no restriction on strikes would result in a loss of jobs and a cut in the budgets which those employers put into training, to the detriment of British industry and British jobs?
8. Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what research his Department has carried out regarding the impact of the lack of creche and similar facilities for children aged under five years on female unemployment ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 166female unemployment. We are currently sponsoring research into the many issues that surround women's decisions to return to work after childbirth.
Mr. Wray : Does the Minister agree that this country has an appalling record and that of the 12 European Community countries we have the lowest level of provision apart from Portugal? Is he aware that a survey of 100 industrial companies carried out last month by The Daily Telegraph , showed that only six provided child care facilities? By 1992, when the Single European Act comes into force, we shall be unable to meet the target.
Mr. Eggar : I certainly do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. We have the second highest level of female participation in the work force throughout the European Community and 85 per cent. of all children under five have some kind of pre-school provision such as creches, play schools or nursery schools. That is a record of which we can and should be proud.
Mr. Rowe : Does my hon. Friend accept that I believe, as do many other hon. Members, that it was entirely wise for the Department to wait and see what private sector initiatives would be called into being to provide creche and other facilities for women wishing to enter the employment market? Does he also accept that in view of the wide range of perks and tax-deductible expenses which operate for a large number of other purposes the Department should look closely at the tax position of facilities which make it possible for women to return to the labour market?
Mr. Eggar : I understand my hon. Friend's concern, but he should not underestimate the considerable amount of child care provision of one kind or another that is already available. I will refer his comments to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Ms. Primarolo : When will the Minister accept that we have the worst child care provision for under-fives in the European Community? Why do the Government persist in pretending that they wish women to return to the paid labour market when the biggest barrier to their return is the lack of provision for the under-fives? When will the Minister stop thinking about it and start providing those facilities?
Mr. Eggar : The hon. Lady obviously was not listening. We have the second highest level of female participation in the work force in the European Community. Almost one in three women with children under five have jobs because they want to have jobs. Other women decide that they do not want to work when they have children under five. They should be free to make that choice.
Mrs. Peacock : Will my hon. Friend congratulate companies which already provide creche facilities and those which are embarking on the provision of even further creche facilities to welcome back women who wish to return to work, especially the big banks which are very active in this area?
Mr. Eggar : I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. There have been a number of important initiatives. The Civil Service is also seeking to lead the way with a number of imaginative schemes. It is important that employers should provide facilities for child care for their women employees.
Mr. Michael : Does the Minister accept that increasing numbers of people are now unprotected and working for a pittance? Does he not accept that the work of wages councils is supported by responsible employers and responsible employers' organisations? Will he not extend the work of wages councils to deal with irresponsible employers, including those who seem to have the ear of the Government?
Mr. Nicholls : No. Obviously that is one of the views that has been put to the Government in the review of the wages councils. There is also a substantial body of evidence that the effect of organisations such as the wages councils is to destroy jobs. At the end of the day, the hon. Gentleman has to consider whether low pay is better than no job.
Mr. Marlow : What effect would the social charter, aptly named in one of today's newspapers as the strikers' charter, have on the bureaucratic interventions which my hon. Friend has done so much to do away with?
Mr. Nicholls : My Department is active in encouraging mobility of labour. We are working at improving the supply of information about job vacancies in other areas, for instance with the initiative announced the week before last to publish vacancies on ITV's teletext service. In addition, the travel-to-interview scheme provides assistance to unemployed people who apply for jobs outside their home area.
Mr. French : What initiatives is my hon. Friend's Department taking to seek to synchronise employment opportunity with housing availability? Is he aware that job applicants from other parts of the country for vacancies in Gloucester are unable to fill those vacancies because of the lack of housing at a price that they can afford?
Mr. Nicholls : My hon. Friend draws attention to a very real concern. I certainly would not undervalue the travel-to-interview scheme. However, my hon. Friend is right that housing plays a very important part in the disincentive to mobility. My hon. Friend may be aware of the national mobility scheme and the tenants exchange scheme which are operated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment. Furthermore, the business expansion scheme introduced in the last Budget was used as a vehicle to encourage people to provide more rented accommodation. There are a number of initiatives and my hon. Friend was entirely right to draw attention to the fact that there is no single solution.
Mr. Beggs : I notice that the Minister accepts no responsibility for encouraging the 45,000 to 50,000 citizens of the Irish Republic who move to Great Britain and elsewhere annually to come over here. Can he tell us what analysis is being carried out of such large numbers of citizens of the Irish Republic moving to the mainland, and their impact, if any, on the unemployment registers?
Mr. Nicholls : The mobility to which the hon. Gentleman draws attention has been going on for many years. The question concerns the initiatives being taken by the Government to encourage mobility, and that is what we have addressed.
Mr. Andrew Mitchell : Has not the Government's extremely successful right-to-buy policy been very helpful in assisting mobility of labour? Was not that policy specifically resisted, root and branch, by the Opposition who were converted only very late in the day?
Mr. Nicholls : Of course my hon. Friend is right, but obviously any sensible initiative on these matters will be opposed by the Opposition. I do not think that my hon. Friend should be too surprised about that.
Mr. Cryer : Is not the Minister presented with a credibility gap when he tries to claim that the Government are increasing mobility of labour when they cancelled the grant aid system some three years ago so that poor families who want to get off the dole and get a job outside their areas have to depend on money from charity, as a constituent of mine did to cover the costs of removal? When will the Government do something about that?
Mr. Nicholls : As I have already said to the House, the travel-to- interview scheme provides assistance for those people who need help with interview expenses, including overnight accommodation if that is what they need to take up a particular job possibility. If the hon. Gentleman has a specific case where he feels that the scheme is not working, obviously he can contact me and I shall be more than happy to look into it.
Mr. Fowler : I have received a number of representations. At the European Council in Madrid, it was agreed unanimously that the top priority of the Community in the social area should be job creation and development. In addition, any proposals should take full account of different national practice. Action should be taken at national level unless there are demonstrable benefits to be gained from action at Community level. The Government do not believe that the present draft charter takes sufficient account of those agreements.
Mr. Colvin : Has my right hon. Friend seen the headlines in today's newspapers which say that Britain is isolated over the social charter? Does he agree that that is hardly surprising given that we are so far ahead of our European partners-- [Interruption.]-- in creating new jobs and reducing unemployment? Should not our European
Column 169partners be following our lead in not increasing but reducing burdens on employers who want to expand and create new jobs?
Mr. Fowler : My hon. Friend is correct. At the meeting of the Social Affairs Council yesterday, there was no doubt that a range of countries had reservations about the social charter. There is no question but that unemployment has fallen faster in Britain than in any other European country. It currently stands below the European average, and below that in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Ireland, Greece and Italy. We believe that the social dimension should be about jobs and that the social charter simply does not live up to that. [Interruption.]
Mr. Campbell-Savours : Is there not a strange inconsistency in the position of Cabinet Ministers, who parade their Euro-virility and credentials around the country while they stand aside and watch the Secretary of State sabotage and undermine the perfectly excellent principles behind the social charter? Is it not about time that some of them developed a little backbone and vision?
Mr. Fowler : For good reason, the social charter is opposed by the entire Government on the ground that it simply does not live up to the aspirations that it puts forward. The Government are certainly in favour of a social dimension, by which we mean new jobs and the reduction of unemployment. The social charter will not achieve either of those objectives.
Mr. Bill Walker : Does my right hon. Friend agree that since the end of the second world war we have had enough of this nonsense about signing pieces of paper and charters, most of which came from the last Labour Government but produced little? They resulted in inflation, unemployment and ghastly problems. We do not want such problems from Europe. More people are in work now than under the regime of the last Labour Government.
Mr. Fowler : The charter covers a range of subjects, such as minimum wages, holiday periods and the unqualified right to strike, all of which will have detrimental effects on employment in Britain. That has not been denied by the European Commissioner in Brussels. The only question is how many jobs it will cost, not whether it will cost jobs.
Mr. Wallace : Although the social charter may not be entirely perfect, why does not the Secretary of State try to build on its many good aspects and make constructive criticism rather than being negative? He recently made points about provision for young people, so will he explain what is wrong with the prohibition of full-time work for people under 15, the special health and safety regulations for people in work under the age of 18 and the establishing of quotas for employing people with handicaps?
Mr. Fowler : There are a range of measures, of which health and safety is one, with which we agree. The hon. Gentleman is wrong to say that we have not played a constructive role in the debate. We have played a constructive role, and talks will continue. I should not wish to deceive the House because I believe that there are a number of fundamental defects in the charter, which I hope can be solved.
Mr. Fowler : The regulations set out in the charter will not achieve what all hon. Members want. The House deceives itself if it believes that the social charter will be good for employment or will reduce unemployment in Britain. [Interruption.]
Mr. Meacher : Does the right hon. Gentleman still think, like the Prime Minister, that the Euro social charter is the product of Marxism and the class struggle? If so, why has it now been agreed by every other Right- wing Government in Europe? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under this Government British workers now have the worst industrial conditions in Europe, with no minimum wage, no protection against arbitrary dismissal and no right to participate in decisions at the workplace? After Madrid and Kuala Lumpur, is this not yet another example of the Government and the Prime Minister being completely isolated and manifestly out of touch with public opinion here and abroad?
Mr. Fowler : I must point out that only a couple of years ago the hon. Gentleman was running for office by supporting a proposal for Britain to come out of the Common Market altogether. [Interruption.] Yes, he was. If the hon. Gentleman disagrees with that, I shall give him the reference. In the Labour Herald of 24 September 1982, the hon. Gentleman said-- [Interruption.] Does the hon. Gentleman change his principles every five years? The fact-- [Interruption.]
Mr. Fowler : The hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the social charter will not create jobs. It will destroy jobs and create unemployment. The hon. Gentleman should be opposed to the charter as it stands.
Mr. Raison : Although I accept that there is much in the social charter as it stands that is questionable, are there not other elements in it that are rather good, for instance, the right not to join a trade union?
Mr. Fowler : Indeed. There is a basis of proposals which we believe could be used for a social charter. Our objection is not to a social charter in all circumstances but to this kind of social charter.
12. Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will review current employment laws as they relate to the threatened dismissal of staff without compensation in the light of the dispute at Manifold Industries, Leyton ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : There is no obligation on any party in an industrial dispute to inform the Government about the dipute, or action which may be taken in connection with it. On the basis of such information as is available about
Column 171this particular dispute, however, there appears to be no reason to change any aspect of current industrial relations law.
Mr. Cohen : Does the Minister agree that the management of Manifold Industries has treated its workers shabbily? After its initial intimidatory action, the management has avoided all negotiations, including those via the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service. The management is using Tory industrial relations law to avoid paying proper compensation, while it clears the decks to make a fortune in a future, speculative sell-out. Is not sacking workers without compensation an appalling use of Tory industrial relations law, which should be changed?
Mr. Nicholls : It is not up to me to pass judgment on any of the matters which the hon. Gentleman raises. If his allegations are true, the workers have remedies open to them for unfair dismissal, when they may go before an industrial tribunal, or for breach of contract, when they may go before a civil court.
Mr. Eggar : Training and enterprise councils in England and Wales and local enterprise companies in Scotland will ensure that private sector employers lead Britain's training effort into the 1990s. They will increase employer commitment to training and will use private and public resources. In particular, they will support employers through business growth training.
Mr. McAvoy : That answer is astounding. Given that private sector employers are spending less than £4 billion a year directly on training, is it wise for the Government to hand over the control and direction of training to the very people who have shown no interest in training?
Mr. Eggar : The hon. Gentleman is taking a blinkered and inaccurate view. Employers are spending £18 billion on training, not the amount that the hon. Gentleman quoted. The move towards TECs in England and Wales and LECs in Scotland has been widely supported by all sectors of the community.
15. Mr. Gregory : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is his estimate for the numbers employed in the Yorkshire tourism industry and the value generated for the current year ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : The information is not available in the form requested, but it is estimated that in June 1989 the number of employees in employment in the hotel and catering industry in Yorkshire and Humberside was 96,000. It is estimated that overseas and domestic visitors staying in the Yorkshire and Humberside tourist board region for one night or more spent a total of £654 million in 1988.
Column 172enhanced by Socialist smears about it being a Mickey Mouse industry? Will he hold urgent discussions with the Secretary of State for Education and Science about the possibility of having more training programmes to enable more youngsters to enter this great industry?
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today. This evening I hope to have an audience of Her Majesty the Queen.
Mr. Latham : While continuing to implement the policies which have been approved by the electorate on three occasions, will my right hon. Friend confirm that successful Governments must always be responding and listening to the real aspirations of the people?
The Prime Minister : Yes. That is why under the 10-year policies of Conservative Governments we have created more wealth than ever before, have spread it more widely than ever before, have a higher standard of living than ever before, have higher standards of social services than ever before and have a higher reputation abroad than ever before. Yes, we have indeed been listening. I believe that those are the real aspirations of the British people.
Mr. Kinnock : The Prime Minister is being less than frank with the House and the country-- [Interruption.] Does she recall that she said that she did everything possible to dissuade the Chancellor? Is not the real truth that she deliberately refused to do the one thing that would have kept him in office, which was to sack the man who, with her concurrence, was constantly undermining the Chancellor and his policy position on managing the currency?