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Column 230November that the majority of the remaining industry training boards would move towards independent status as soon as possible. This process is proceeding satisfactorily.
Mr. Nicholls : The council's task of rationalising and reforming our vocational qualification system is well under way. Over 165 qualifications have now been accredited within the first four levels of the new national vocational qualifications framework.
In discussion with relevant professional bodies, the council has also begun to prepare the ground for extending its work to higher level qualifications.
Details of the council's work are contained in its annual report, a copy of which is in the Library.
Mr. Nicholls : I have had discussions on child care with representatives of the CBI at my advisory committee on women's employment. This committee also includes the EOC chair, my hon. Friend the Member for Broxbourne (Mrs. Roe), the hon. Member for Barking (Ms. Richardson), representatives of the TUC and the Women's National Commission.
I also attended the CBI conference, "Tomorrow's Workforce : practical employment policies in a changing labour market", where child care was one of the major topics. I am also a member of the ministerial group on women's issues which has been looking at the whole question of child care.
36. Miss Emma Nicholson : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what further measures he will introduce to encourage employers to recruit people over 50 years of age ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : My Department is taking a range of steps to encourage employers to recruit people over 50 years of age, including publicising the implications of the declining numbers of young people, questioning upper age limits on vacancies notified to jobcentres, and making all adult employment and training programmes available to people over 50. There are no current plans to introduce further measures, but the position will be kept under review.
Column 231If employers in the 1990s are to deal with the consequences of demographic changes, it will be essential for them to utilise fully the talents of people over 50.
37. Mr. Harris : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received about the code of practice for trade union ballots for industrial action ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : Over 50 responses were received on this draft code of practice during the public consultation period which followed its publication in November 1988. A modified draft was laid before Parliament last year, and the next stage is to seek approval by resolution of each House.
Mr. Nicholls : It is estimated that in 1986-87, 48 per cent. of employees received some job-related training from their employer. More recent figures from the labour force survey show that in the spring of 1988, 12 per cent. of all economically-active adults were taking part in job-related training in the four weeks prior to the survey--an increase from 8 per cent. in 1984. It is vital for our international competitiveness that this upward trend continues. The primary responsibility lies with employers and with the new training and enterprise councils to take the lead in promoting training locally.
Mr. Nicholls: The national training task force was established to advise my right hon. and learned Friend in carrying out his training responsibilities throughout Great Britain and he very much values its contribution.
It is the best team ever put together on training and my right hon. and learned Friend is pleased that it has been further strengthened recently with the appointment of Andrew Collier, chief education officer for Lancashire county council.
60. Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received about the Confederation of British Industry's vocational education and training task force ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : A number of representations have been received concerning the CBI's vocational education and training task force and the publication of its report "Towards a Skills Revolution--a Youth Charter".
Column 232The report makes a number of timely and important recommendations. New arrangements have been announced for youth training to take effect later this year (Official Report, 5 December 1989 column 196.) Youth training incorporates a number of the recommendations, including demanding targets for the achievement of qualifications by young people and a key role for training and enterprise councils. The Government are giving close attention to other recommendations in the report.
72. Mr. Jacques Arnold : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what measures he intends to implement to ensure that all young people in employment under the age of 18 years should receive some form of training ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Nicholls : It is primarily for employers to ensure that young people receive quality training in order to meet the challenges of technological change and the need to achieve greater international competitiveness at a time when the number of school leavers is falling sharply. The Government will continue to help employers to respond effectively to these challenges through the training and enterprise councils (TECs), the introduction of the new youth training arrangements and the compacts initiative. Our aim is to move to a position where every young person under 18 years of age in this country is in full-time education, or a job with training, or training leading to a job.
Mr. Eggar : The working of the employment service's disablement advisory service is being considered as part of the internal review of services for people with disabilities which my Department is currently undertaking. A consultative document covering the conclusions of the review will be published soon.
Mr. Nicholls : The Government are already taking many steps to facilitate the re-entry of women to the labour market, and will continue to do so. We also recognise that women who choose not to take paid work are doing an equally valuable job in looking after the family at home.
The Government are encouraging employers to adapt traditional working practices to accommodate the needs of women. This means more flexibility in hours of work and in holidays, job sharing, career breaks, part-time working and, where possible, help with child care costs.
All Government schemes to help the unemployed, to help inner cities and to help people set up their own businesses are open equally to women and men. Women returning to the labour market and certain single parents on order books can enter employment training, full or
Column 233part-time, without fulfilling the usual six- month unemployment eligibility condition. All lone parents on employment training can qualify for a child care allowance.
My Department's employment service has produced a special leaflet to tell women interested in returning to work about available opportunities and schemes.
My Department is also jointly undertaking a major project with BBC radio's "Woman's Hour" aimed at providing information and practical assistance to women returners. The project, which will be called "Back to the Future", will consist of eight conferences, each attended by 120 women on the following subjects : Being Personally Effective ; Selling Yourself ; Retraining ; Working for Yourself ; Getting that Job ; Managing Money ; Flexible Working and Childcare ; Planning Your Life. The conferences, the first of which takes place in London on 22 January, will be run in tandem with "Woman's Hour" programmes, publicity material, visits by the Employment Department action bus and a national telephone helpline.
Mr. Howard : In England, all but four of the 57 urban programme authority (UPA) areas have applied for development funding for compacts. My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales have received eight and seven applications respectively.
These applications have led to 29 compacts becoming operational, and a further 11 are currently in their development phase. This is an excellent start and the response of employers, young people, parents and the schools has been very enthusiastic. I am therefore announcing today additional funding of £12 million to support the introduction of further compacts. This brings total Government support for the initiative to £28 million, and means that by next year all urban programme authority (UPA) areas currently without a compact will be able to set one up.
Seven inner city areas are to be offered immediate funding to set up compacts. They are Barnsley, Burnley, Lambeth, Nottingham, Rotherham, Wandsworth and Wigan.
Column 234The remaining inner city areas eligible to receive compact funding are being encouraged to develop proposals. Funding will be made available to them from April 1990.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many staff at his Department's offices in (a) Doncaster and (b) Mexborough, speak (i) Urdu, (ii) Punjabi, (iii) Bengali, including the Sylheti dialect, (iv) Chinese, (v) Farsi, (vi) Hindi, and (vii) Gujerati.
Column 235Mr. Nicholls : Information is not available in the detail requested.
Mr. Eggar : [holding answer 15 January 1990] : In 1989 the Government continued their efforts to create and foster a climate in which small businesses can flourish and to provide incentives for enterprise by minimising the burdens of taxation, regulation and red tape.
Last year's Budget raised the small companies' profit limit for corporation tax, the limit for marginal relief and the VAT registration threshold. The Companies Act 1989 enabled private companies to opt out of certain provisions of the Act which are of concern only to shareholders, by means of unanimous written resolutions and the agreement of shareholders.
In November 1989 improvements were announced in the conditions of the VAT cash accounting scheme, widening eligibility for small businesses.
Two booklets promoting good purchasing practice and equal opportunities in Government procurement for small firms were launched--"Think Big, Buy Small", aimed at Government purchasing officers, and "Tendering for Government Contracts".
There was a high level of demand for the Government's services to small firms, showing that they meet a real need.
Column 236The services generally are described in the new report "Small Firms in Great Britain" issued by my Department last December. In 1989 the main developments were :
The launch of Business Growth Training, a major new package of training available for small business managers and their staff ; Improvements to the Enterprise Initiative, including greater flexibility under the Consultancy Initiatives, the relaunch of the Export Initiative, the introduction of the Managing into the 90s programme, and a second Small Firms Merit Award for Research and Technology (SMART). A special Action Guide to the Single Market for the smaller firm was also introduced ; and
An increase in the limit for loans under the Loan Guarantee Scheme.
In addition the 1989 Employment Act has prepared the ground for the introduction of training and enterprise councils. They will be responsible for the delivery and development of training and other support services for small businesses and will be able to ensure that these meet the needs of local business communities.
Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what arrangements he is making in the establishment of training and enterprise councils to ensure that disabled people do not experience undue delays in receiving training.
Mr. Nicholls [holding answer 10 January 1990] : Training and enterprise councils will set out their training proposals in their business plan. My Department will need to be satisfied that these proposals meet the training needs of the local community and that all clients including people with disabilities have ready access to training.