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Mrs. Mahon : Does my hon. Friend agree that some of the excellent schemes in new technology for groups such as women who want to get back into the work force have come from that very source of funding? That is very important.
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Mr. Blair : My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is one danger of saying that training should simply be left to market forces in the private sector. There will be perfectly legitimate schemes and interests which will not be met simply by the operation of market forces. I and a lot of other people fear that if there is a move to the voluntary sector it will not be in the employers' commercial interests to maintain some schemes which perform a valuable function now. Therefore, we must be sure of the proposed move's consequences before we make it.
A separate submission, dated May of this year, was made to the Department of Employment, in which the engineering industry training board listed nine key elements which they believed were at risk in the transfer to the voluntary sector. Those nine items, which I shall not list because they are fairly well known, add up to the requirement for a strong, politically supported national organisation which has a clear sense of direction and is adequately funded to provide the training needs in the engineering sector. When we consider that, and the paucity of guarantees and assurances which the Secretary of State gave tonight, we see that there is a pretty compelling case for the retention of an industrial training board in the public sector.
Many non-statutory training organisations operate in the voluntary sector. Some of them replaced earlier training boards which were abolished. I have looked a little bit at the evidence of how well these voluntary organisations work. An Institute of Manpower Studies report by Carol Varlaam which was published in December 1987 and done for the Manpower Services Commission found that more than one third of the voluntary organisations were ineffective when judged against the criteria applied. In July 1987 Mr. Alan Anderson carried out work for Manpower Research. He based his study on 42 of the non-statutory training organisations and found that the average number of staff at each one was slightly more than three and many of the organisations had serious funding problems.
At best, the evidence of the performance of these voluntary organisations is mixed. Therefore, against the background of the fact that they unquestionably do good work and have the ability to obtain funding from Europe and that transfer into the voluntary sector must, at the very least, as a result of the experiences which we have had, have uncertain consequences, it is highly irresponsible to propose the board's abolition without strong and satisfactory assurances that training will still be done adequately.
We know that the deficit on our manufacturing trade is about as serious as that in any modern industrial country, and the deficit in the engineering sector is £8 billion and covers virtually every sector, including new and old technology. It cannot be right at this time and with this trade deficit in engineering to abolish a critical element of our industrial training. If the Secretary of State is not serious about training in this country, he is not serious about our deficit ; if he is not serious about our deficit, he fails in his responsibility to carry this country through into the 1990s. Therefore, without the proper assurances, we oppose the amendments.
Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West) : I, too, welcome the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) to his new position. I should like to concentrate on the construction industry training board because it has a profound effect on my constituents. I welcome what the Secretary of State has said tonight, but it is rather bizarre that we are discussing these important issues at this stage of the evening. It would surely have been better to make a statement earlier this afternoon. In that event, those of my constituents who have travelled down from Norfolk could have heard what the Secretary of State had to say 12 hours earlier, instead of having had to wait all day. It is strange that we have heard such an important announcement at this juncture.
Nevertheless, I welcome the Secretary of State's remarks about the CITB. The uncertainty that has characterised the events of the past few months has been unsettling at the headquarters of the CITB at Bircham Newton. The morale of the staff has suffered and people have not known where they stand. Rumours have circulated and many feared that the future of the CITB was at stake.
If the statutory levy had not been kept, there is little doubt but that the CITC would have found it difficult to continue in the medium term. It is all very well firms saying, with the best will in the world, that they will pay a voluntary levy, but we all know that in construction, which the Secretary of State rightly said is different from other types of industry, when recessions come along firms cut back. They would cut back on the levy, the whole infrastructure of training would collapse and safety in the industry would suffer as a consequence.
I am slightly concerned about the proviso that the Secretary of State entered--that he will carefully examine how effective the new arrangements are and then review them in three years' time. That may well lead to continuing uncertainty. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look at the new arrangements after a year and a half. I hope that he will examine the new board's structure, the new revenue-raising arrangements and the new management structure. I hope that management will be given more scope to get on with the job with less bureaucracy. I hope that at the end of a year and a half my right hon. Friend will say that the statutory levy is to continue, not just for another year and a half but for a good deal longer. A large number of highly qualified people work in a major complex in my constituency which has a profound effect on the local economy. Beyond that- -we must look beyond constituency interests--the future of safety in the construction industry is at stake. The industry's safety record in this country is far from perfect. A large number of people are seriously injured or killed on sites and if we do anything other than build on the CITB's excellent record in training, that record will go downhill. If we build on its record of expertise, commitment and enterprise, we can go forward and create a safer construction industry.
Tonight's announcement has put aside a great deal of uncertainty. I hope now that we can put recent unsettling events behind us, that we can look to the future and, above all, to a safer industry. I hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind what I have said and that in a year and a half he will declare himself happy with the new arrangements and give a guarantee for a period much longer than three years, because so much is at stake.
Mr. Wallace : I join those who have congratulated the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) on his maiden employment speech and I look forward to many more debates with him on this and related issues. Much of the debate has centred around the Government's training strategy. It has been rightly pointed out that until now the private sector has had a poor record on providing adequate training. That was one of the principal reasons for the setting up of industrial training boards with compulsory levies. That took account of the fact that the private sector, left to its own devices, had signally failed. That is frankly admitted by the authors of the equivalent of the White Paper on Scottish training and enterprise. They say that the performance of the private sector has been a source of considerable disappointment.
We have moved to training and enterprise councils and in Scotland to local enterprise councils and to the different structures promoted by the Scottish Development Agency and Highland Enterprise. We must hope that they will succeed. We may express considerable reservations and concern, but if that is the only structure for training on offer for the time being, it is in the country's interest that it should succeed.
Many of us who represent rural areas have doubts about the availability of people who have the time, commitment and expertise to take an interest in training. In many respects such people are the local managers and deliverers of Government training schemes. Many of us have constituencies with many small businesses run by self-employed people. Most of the successful entrepreneurs in that field devote a great deal of time, including leisure time, to running businesses. One wonders whether they would have time to engage in promoting training schemes.
If the TECs are to be successful there must be a change in the whole culture. The Secretary of State has expressed optimism about that. However, it is not simply a question of that change applying to employers, important though that is, because training, while it is clearly in the interests of employers, must involve educators, trade unions, local authorities and other authorities. As my noble Friend Lord Rochester said in another place, it must also involve trainers. I hope that the Secretary of State and his Ministers will recognise that, and that consultation with the many other bodies will not just be lip service. Those bodies have an important role to play in the whole area of training and without them it would be impossible to initiate and continue adequate training schemes. I hope that their views will be properly taken into account, not least when setting up successors to the training boards to which the amendments relate. Some hon. Members have already spoken about the weakness of the levy system. I accept that in industries such as construction and engineering it has been necessary to ensure a degree of fairness. We must ensure that the burden of training does not fall on those who are self-employed or who run small businesses and who have the good will to see the need for proper training. They must not be left to provide all the skilled people for industry.
People in the CITB who have found loopholes to avoid paying the levy have been a source of considerable irritation to those who are honest and pay up. One of my constituents, the first to attend my surgery in 1983 after I was elected, complained that he had been billed for a substantial amount as his levy to the CITB. He was in a
Column 1128remote area of Orkney and did not see any benefit accruing because the CITB did not provide any training in the area. He was aware that many people, some of whom he had trained, had set up in business and, no doubt, were using the expertise that he had passed on, and who were exempt from the levy. That constituent feels a sense of unfairness and injustice. That must be addressed when we look to a continuation of the construction industry training board. The Secretary of State mentioned the offshore petroleum board, which I understand does not impose a levy. Surely in the aftermath of Piper Alpha and other accidents and tragedies offshore it is important to have a board charged with responsibility for training, not least for safety training. The offshore liaison committee has been arguing since 1985 that the low paid or the unemployed should not have to subsidise the oil industry by paying for their own survival training. A recent survey of Shell's Tern field catering staff showed that 87 out of 93 had paid for their own survival training. With offshore safety so much in the forefront of our minds, one cannot leave it to the employers to get together and organise training because experience has shown that they have not been subsidising or providing safety training courses. There must be a Government role in ensuring that there is adequate safety training for offshore workers.
The hon. Member for Sedgefield dealt with the employment industry training board. I endorse his remarks, and I shall not go over them again. He made a powerful case for the valuable work that the EITB has done. Its important contribution in a vital skill centre should be continued, not least because of what it has done in maintaining the standards of training in the important engineering sector. The Secretary of State said that during the transitional period he intends to ensure that the key activities of the board are continued. In this respect, I should like him to confirm that some of the important work being undertaken by the EITB will continue. For example, it does work on women in industry, something that is not seen as commercial in the short term but, given our earlier debates, will be important in the long term. It provides a comprehensive careers advice service, which should also be maintained.
What timetable does the Minister envisage for making appointments to the board? It is important, as it looks to the future, that it should know who the personnel involved will be.
Is there any chance that money from the European social fund will be lost because the levy will no longer be seen as public money? Will the Minister confirm that the CITB and the EITB, which play such important roles as managers for YTS and employment training, will continue in those managerial roles under the new scheme? We are not satisfied that the new arrangements for training are yet set out in sufficient detail for us to embrace them with enough confidence to permit the winding up of the training boards. They are not perfect, but in many other ways they are a vital part of the provision of skilled training. For that reason, if the House divides, we shall not be supporting the Lords amendments.
Column 1129responsibility for employment. My hon. Friend dealt with the Secretary of State for Employment when he was responsible for energy. I hope that the Secretary of State is not too tired to understand what I am saying. The Opposition now have a shadow Secretary of State for Employment who will give the Secretary of State a good going over. He has got it coming, as the Secretary of State for Transport, when he was responsible for Energy, got it when my hon. Friend was responsible for energy. I hope that the Secretary of State will put down his notes and take the message on board.
When I was a lad, and into my youth, the industry in which I worked had a first-class training system. [Interruption.] The Secretary of State is not listening. He is talking to his junior, and he should not be. He should be listening to what Opposition Members are saying because all day Opposition Members have been making sensible contributions, but all too often these slick Ministers will not listen to what we say. The Secretary of State is a smart-Alick when he is speaking from the Government Dispatch Box. He appears almost every other week and introduces a different training scheme. The schemes are changed time and time again. He might get things right one day. He would do so if he listened to what my right hon. and hon. Friends and I have to say. He should understand that we have a special interest in the subject.
The Secretary of State makes it clear from the Government Front Bench that he does not like trade unions. He keeps on saying so. I watch him on the "box" when he thrashes the trade unions. He should understand that the trade unions have had a massive role in training. That has been my experience, and I was 35 years in the mining industry. I know that since 1979--
Mr. Haynes : It is a long time ago, but I have a good memory. The young Minister must listen. If he does so, he will get a good training and work education. He will learn also how to represent constituents. I did not stand in court all day filling my pockets.
I know what work is. I have told the House before that there is such a thing as a No. 10 shovel. It is as big as a table top. That was my implement--an implement of torture. I know what bloomin' work is. The Minister should have listened to the contributions from the workers, and there are many workers on the Opposition Benches.
Mr. Haynes : I cannot understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow (Mr. Dixon) is sitting on the Government Benches below the Gangway. My hon. Friend is the Opposition's deputy Chief Whip. It may be that he did not want to sit behind me. If he wished to sit opposite me, he will have to be satisfied with a profile. The Secretary of State told us about his involvement in training and talked about qualifications. What qualifications does the right hon. Gentleman have for training
Column 1130people in industry? What experience has he had of training youngsters and others to undertake skilled jobs? I do not think that he has had any. That will remain my view unless he intervenes to tell me about his qualifications and experience.
I resent someone with no qualifications preaching to me about training, and especially about safety, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham). In the mining industry, which I left to come to this place, there have been many more deaths in the past few years than hitherto. That is tragic. The increase in the number of deaths is related to the Department and the Secretary of State. There are not enough inspectors to ensure that management and employees are doing the job properly under the appropriate safety regulations. Employees might not have received proper training.
When I was a lad and a youth in the mining industry, there was proper training. Managers and workers worked together in the interests of training and safety and to protect one another. I was taught to be my own safety officer, and that is the way to go about it. At the same time, however, we were also responsible for the chaps who worked on either side of us. The Secretary of State, the junior Minister and the Minister of State do not know about training and work. I have an idea that the Minister of State, who has just joined the Department from the Foreign Office, is in the same league as his right hon. and hon. Friends-- [Interruption.] We can have a joke now and again, but training and safety are serious matters and should be dealt with properly.
The question of 1992 has been mentioned in the Chamber on many occasions. If the United Kingdom is not prepared for 1992 it will go down the Swanee. In our preparations for 1992 should be the proper training of management and employees. That is in the interests not only of their health and their lives, but of the economy. I am concerned about some of the Secretary of State's comments tonight about training. He has failed in the past ; he must have failed, as he keeps coming back to the House with different schemes. He has been talking about this, that and the other. My hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield mentioned the training boards, which have now gone. My experience in life is that if something is not making a profit, something has to go. More often than not, the employee has to suffer. The training scheme is run down because the Government do not put in enough money. The Secretary of State is responsible for that, and he knows it.
I remember serving on an employment Bill Standing Committee where we discussed many aspects of employment, including training and safety. The junior Minister did a first-class job on behalf of the Government. Why? It was because the Secretary of State was hardly ever there. I was Opposition Whip on that Committee and I told the right hon. Gentleman that he could have Thursdays off because of Cabinet meetings--but I told him that I expected him back in the evenings if the Committee was still sitting. We did have some late sittings, and the junior Minister was there all the time. I am not afraid to admit that I helped him from time to time. The Committee did a good job on the Bill, but I cannot say the same for the right hon. Gentleman.
The Secretary of State should stand at the Dispatch Box and say that there will be decent training schemes throughout industry. That is important for those who
Column 1131work in industry, it is important for the economy and, most of all, as the Prime Minister keeps telling us--and we know, without her telling us--we must get ready for 1992. If we are not ready, the right hon. Gentleman is going down the Swanee with us.
Mr. Fowler : It is very reassuring to know that in the reshuffle on the Opposition Benches the hon. Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) marches on and has not changed. He will be relieved to know that it is quite possible that a new employment Bill will be introduced in the next Session, and we very much look forward to him serving on that.
Mr. Fowler : I must have made a mistake. I apologise. I recognise the seriousness of what the hon. Gentleman said about training, and I agree with him about its importance, particularly in regard to Europe and 1992.
I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North-West (Mr. Bellingham) for his comments about the construction industry training board. It will be reviewed in three years' time. It is an exception to the general policy. It is sensible that there should be a review, and I hope that what I have announced today will end, as my hon. Friend suggested it would, the uncertainty that hung over it. I pay tribute to the work that it has done in an industry which stands apart from many of the other industries about which we have been talking.
In the few minutes that remain to me, I shall not be able to respond to everything that has been said, so I shall reply in the usual way. The hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) accused the Government of not being serious about training. I must remind him that his party opposed, root and branch, the introduction of employment training for long-term unemployed people for month after month. We tried honestly to introduce a scheme that provided training for such people, but the Labour party and the hon. Gentleman's predecessor, the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), opposed it at every turn. I hope that, when the hon. Gentleman puts his mind to the subject, that policy will change. It is all very well his uttering words about the importance of training, but we want some commitment from the Opposition.
In a scheme that is training more than 400,000 long-term unemployed people, 210,000 people are on the employment training programme, which has been opposed at every stage by the Labour party. I believe that that is an entirely indefensible position, and one of the first things that the hon. Member for Sedgefield should do in his new post is assess that policy and change it. There is no justification whatever for opposing a training programme which all the research shows is producing good training for
Column 1132long-term unemployed people and brings them back into employment. We all agree about the importance of training, and there is no need to labour the point. One of the troubles with the case of industrial training boards is that they have not raised skill standards. There is also a range of levy arrangements with ITBs. It is not true that they are all provided with vital resources from the levy. The offshore petroleum board imposes no levy, and the hotel and catering board levy touches only 1 per cent. of firms in the industry. The proposals have come from the different industries themselves. With the new TECs, we wish to see the local delivery of training ; with the new industry training organisations, we wish to set new and good national standards.
Mr. Blair rose--
Mr. Fowler : I cannot give way : it is not remotely possible. Employers, the public and those involved in the TECs have demonstrated a new enthusiasm for training, and I hope very much that the whole House will share that enthusiasm.
It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings, Madam Deputy Speaker,-- pursuant to the order this day, proceeded to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair. The House divided : Ayes 97, Noes 32.
Division No. 384] [1.35 am
Alison, Rt Hon Michael
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Davis, David (Boothferry)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Fairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Fowler, Rt Hon Norman
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn)
Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N)
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Knight, Greg (Derby North)
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Meyer, Sir Anthony
Miller, Sir Hal
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Mitchell, Sir David
Moynihan, Hon Colin
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Porter, David (Waveney)
Sackville, Hon Tom
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)