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House of Commons

Tuesday 15 February 1994

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[ Madam Speaker-- -- in the Chair ]

Oral Answers to Questions


Training --

1. Mrs. Gillan : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what assessment he has made of spending by industry on training in each of the last five years.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Hunt) : We estimate that British employers spend about £20,000 million a year on training. The last recorded figure in 1987 was £18,000 million.

Mrs. Gillan : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that one of the major contributing factors to our rapid recovery from recession in advance of all the other European Community countries is that British industry has continued to maintain its investment in training ?

Mr. Hunt : I agree with my hon. Friend. One of the many satisfactory features of the CBI survey last week was that 84 per cent. of firms in the United Kingdom intend to increase or maintain their spending on training. My hon. Friend is absolutely right--those firms will benefit most from that investment in training as we continue through recovery into growth in the longer term.

Mr. Barry Jones : The right hon. Gentleman will know that there are no large apprenticeship schools in aerospace, steel and textiles, although, in his ministerial capacity, he may remember the existence of such schools. What action is he taking specifically to ensure the provision of apprenticeship schools ? We have too many press releases from the right hon. Gentleman and not enough action.

Mr. Hunt : All that I will say is that the hon. Gentleman will have noted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer used his Budget statement on 30 November 1992 to announce that we shall be introducing a modern apprenticeship scheme, which will be available for school leavers next year. In the Department of Employment budget, the Chancellor has allocated more than £1 billion for training credits and the new modern apprenticeship scheme. I hope that industry will respond by coming forward, especially this year, with trail-blazing apprenticeship schemes that will ensure that we have the most relevant structures in place for those modern apprenticeships next year.

Mr. Heald : Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the work of the training and enterprise councils in helping women who want to get back to work by providing child

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care facilities ? Can he comment on the Threshold scheme in Northampton, which he visited last week, which is an example of partnership between the public sector, the private sector and training and enterprise councils to promote this sort of work ?

Mr. Hunt : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Indeed, I pay tribute to more than 1,200 top business and community leaders who serve on 82 training and enterprise councils and who do a tremendous amount of work on equal opportunities. My hon. Friend is right to earmark them. The child care initiative, launched by my predecessor and involving expenditure of more than £40 million over the period, gives training and enterprise councils the opportunity to come forward with some imaginative and innovative schemes. The scheme that I saw in Northampton is extremely impressive and is founded, as my hon. Friend said, on positive partnership.

Mr. Tony Lloyd : What will shift the Secretary of State from his mood of complacency ? Between 1990 and 1992, more than 1 million skilled workers were put out of work, nearly 500,000 semi-skilled workers lost their jobs, the number of people trained in industry dropped by 300,000 and the Secretary of State tells us that is a success. This is not the Opposition talking the country down--it is the Government doing the country down.

Mr. Hunt : I am sorry that the Opposition are continuing to talk the country down. We have an impressive record on competitiveness. In manufacturing, where there has been a decline in employment since the 1960s, 4 million workers now produce more than 7 million produced 15 years ago. That is a tribute to the British work force. The hon. Gentleman must not forget that we have 1.4 million more people in work in the United Kingdom than we had 10 years ago. Let him start talking up our achievements, rather than pointing to an agenda to which the Labour party has already signed up. That agenda would destroy millions of jobs through statutory works councils, a statutory minimum wage and a statutory compulsory working week. That is a recipe for disaster.

Labour Statistics --

2. Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what are the levels of employment in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) Germany and (c) France.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Michael Forsyth) : The UK has 69 per cent. of the working age population in work and rising ; Germany has 65 per cent. and falling ; and France 60 per cent. and now also falling.

Mr. Pawsey : I thank my hon. Friend for that helpful reply and for the encouraging figures that he has given to the House. They clearly underline the fact that the UK economy is in much better shape when compared with the economies of our principal European competitors. Does my hon. Friend agree that one reason why we have come out of recession so well is the fact that we do not have a social contract ? Does he agree that the absence of a social contract certainly has not damaged rates of take-home pay ?

Mr. Forsyth : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. The absence of the social chapter in Britain accounts, in part,

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for the higher levels of employment and they have also been helped by the reforms that we carried out in the 1980s. The figures speak for themselves, as do the people who speak for industry. For example, Black and Decker announced its intention to bring its operations fully into Britain out of Germany. A company spokesman said : "Anyone familiar with the situation in Germany will grasp that, because of the costs, it has become very difficult to do business there."

If Opposition Members had their way, it would be very difficult to do business here.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : Will the Minister answer a question about something that concerns business men in the county of Cumbria ? The tax increases in this year's Budget will be introduced on 1 April. Does the Minister believe that the increases have implications for the United Kingdom economy ? Will the increases lead to further unemployment and will they increase unemployment in my part of the UK ?

Mr. Forsyth : I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor's proposals to reduce the burden of national insurance contributions will have a beneficial effect on employment and on businesses. The hon. Gentleman clearly says what he thinks, but if Opposition Members are arguing that higher public expenditure and higher taxation will have an impact on employment, they are right. That is why the Government resist the proposals that come from Opposition Members to add to public expenditure every day of the week.

Mr. Brazier : Does my hon. Friend agree that jobs are built in an economy through having successful businesses, such as Chartham Papermill, where one of our hon. Friends will be opening a new plant shortly ? That firm has won national and regional awards for quality, training and exports during the past three years. Is not that the way to build jobs, and not through bureaucratic regulations ?

Mr. Forsyth : I agree entirely with my hon. Friend. Regulation and bureaucracy are the enemies of employment and that is why the Prime Minister has ensured that every Government Department is looking to reduce the burden of regulations and bureaucracy. At the forthcoming European elections, the Government will be arguing for less bureaucracy and regulation and not more, which destroys jobs.

US-UK Summit --

4. Mr. Connarty : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what matters he intends to raise at the summit with the United States Government which might assist employment prospects in Britain.

Mr. David Hunt : This is a job summit and I intend to talk about jobs.

Mr. Connarty : I am grateful to the Minister for being brief, although he passed on no information of any worth. There are 543,000 fewer people in employment in Britain than there were a year ago and 451,000 fewer people in employment than in 1979. Surely it is time to talk to the United States about how it succeeds by having a minimum wage in most states and giving people trade union rights which we deny to employees of the same firms in this country.

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Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman said that I gave no information, but I said that I intended to talk about jobs at the forthcoming summit. In Britain we believe that three things are important : first, a stable economic framework ; secondly, a flexible labour market ; and, thirdly, the removal of barriers to enterprise. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we have a great deal to learn from the United States, but not in the way that he suggests. It is a fact that over the economic cycle of OECD between 1979 and 1989, the United States saw growth of 26 per cent., which created 18.5 million jobs in that free enterprise economy. The European Community saw growth of output of 23.7 per cent., but that gave rise not to 18 million but only to 6 million additional jobs. The lesson for Europe is to go further down the route that I have suggested of deregulation, reducing bureaucracy and creating a stable economic framework, rather than going down the route that the hon. Gentleman advocated in his question. The way ahead lies with more free enterprise.

Sir Peter Hordern : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that in the United States, which has the most rapid growth of technology and productivity, there are no government training schemes of any kind ? Does not that make nonsense of the Opposition's repeated claims that Government training schemes are the way forward ?

Mr. Hunt : What I will say to my right hon. Friend is that when I recently visited the United States I found that the private industry councils, on which our training and enterprise councils were based, had provided the valuable lesson, to which he referred, that we must ensure that the private sector is fully involved in decisions on training. The figure that I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), combined with the more than £2 billion that my Department spends on training, forms an effective public-private sector partnership.

Mr. Prescott : Will the Secretary of State make it clear to the summit that in 14 years of this Government we have seen unemployment treble to 3 million, that 3 million full-time employees have been replaced by 3 million part-time and self-employed workers, and that we have the worst trained and educated labour force of any country that will attend the summit ? Will he also ask the Americans how they have created 18 million jobs--as he claimed--with a minimum wage provision ? Will he make clear how much Britain is paying in family credit support to maintain low pay--wages subsidised by the taxpayer ?

Mr. Hunt : Still the hon. Gentleman talks down Britain. He must think seriously before he starts to decry the achievements of this nation. I have given one. We have almost 1.4 million more people in work now than we had 10 years ago. That is a signal achievement. The lesson that we learn from the United States is not to go down the route that the hon. Gentleman and his party advocate in signing up to a socialist manifesto for the European elections. He proposes statutory works councils, a statutory minimum wage and a compulsory working week. Those are the last things that one would find in the United States. It is about time that the hon. Gentleman dropped those proposals, which would cost millions of jobs.

Mr. Alan Howarth : At the summit, will my right hon. Friend inquire about the progress in the employment of disabled people and the advantages to the American

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economy in consequence of the Americans with Disabilities Act ? Does he accept that in the United States of America--the land of free enterprise--it was concluded that voluntary arrangements would never sufficiently overcome discrimination against disabled people in respect of employment ? Will he respond positively to the view of the Employers Forum on Disability and the Law Society, as well as the 311 hon. Members who have signed early-day motion 2, that the time has come for legislation to ban discrimination against disabled people in respect of employment in Britain ?

Mr. Hunt : I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this subject. I hope that Britain can achieve more through greater opportunities for disabled people to gain access into work. As my hon. Friend knows, we have suggested proposals. We are presently considering the position following the representations that were made to us after the new access to work scheme was announced. I hope to make an announcement on that shortly. I do not think that compulsion is the route which we should follow. I believe that we must give increasing opportunities to disabled people to get into work.

Unemployment --

5. Mr. Enright : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what steps are being taken to co-ordinate the variety of initiatives to combat unemployment in areas of industrial decline.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : Examples include the introduction of new integrated regional offices and the creation of a single regeneration budget from 1 April this year.

Mr. Enright : I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Does he agree that where local authorities, local chambers of commerce, trades councils and his own Department are already working well with good small initiatives, imposing on them English Estates, TECs and British Coal Enterprise Ltd. will do precisely what he does not advocate--make bureaucracy mushroom ? Will he undertake to evaluate those initiatives to see whether they really work, or whether they are just providing jobs for the boys ?

Mr. Forsyth : I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is extremely important that the various agencies work together to ensure effective action with minimum bureaucracy. I know that the hon. Gentleman has been anxious to ensure that happens in his constituency, where he is dealing with the problems of high unemployment and the fallout from the closure of pits. If he has any specific measures that he would like us to look at, I should be happy to consider them.

Mr. Oppenheim : Is my hon. Friend aware that although employment prospects in Amber Valley were devastated by pit closures, mainly in the 1970s, the area now has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe-- certainly lower than Germany ? The reason for that is mainly due to the success of new manufacturing businesses. Does not that illustrate that the best way to create sustainable jobs in the long term is not by subsidising unsustainable old industries, but by allowing better conditions for enterprise and better labour relations, which in themselves attract new jobs to the area ?

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Mr. Forsyth : I agree entirely. The way to secure future prosperity is by embracing change, not resisting it, and doing that, as my hon. Friend says, by using our skills to best effect and competitively in a global marketplace. Were we to embrace the policies of the Opposition in the European Community, we would shut the door to the jobs that will come from that inward investment. Because we have opted out of the social chapter, we have the opportunity that comes from being, if I may quote President Delors,

"a paradise for inward investment".

Mr. Barron : Can I bring the Minister back to the real world in relation to regeneration ? The Government are about to announce a £3.75 million English Estates project for Templeborough in Rotherham, which I support. It is estimated that the project will create 175 jobs. Last year, 2,939 coal, engineering and steel jobs were lost in Rotherham and, in November, 260 jobs were lost at Templeborough steel plant. Only last week, 75 jobs were lost at Brinsworth strip mill. The loss of 400 jobs is being negotiated in United Engineering Steels in Sheffield and Rotherham. The regeneration project is a flea on a dog's back compared with the number of jobs that are being lost in that area. When will the Government meet those job needs, instead of proposing these developments, where less than 20 per cent. of jobs are replaced through regeneration ?

Mr. Forsyth : We shall start making progress when Opposition Members realise that jobs come from companies being competitive and from private enterprise being able to sell goods and services competitively. Opposition Members believe that the state can provide employment. Conservative Members believe that Government agencies can assist the market to operate effectively. Real jobs will come from free enterprise, which Opposition Members stand against.

Mr. Steen : Is the Minister aware that in the economically declining fishing port of Brixham, in south Devon--the second-largest fishing port in the west country--the Employment Service agency wants to construct a new building on a prime site in the centre of the town to house both the paying out and job creation offices ? It is prepared to pay over the odds, with Government money, and to push out private enterprise which wants to build on that site. Is not job creation and training a better use of public money than buying a prime site ?

Mr. Forsyth : I am very much aware of the case that my hon. Friend mentioned because he has written to me about it and I have looked into the circumstances. I understand that the Employment Service has made no final decision on the site. I shall be happy to respond to my hon. Friend, once I have had a chance to discuss the matter further with the chief executive of the Employment Service, who is responsible for the decision.

The principle of integrating the work of the jobcentre and the payment of benefits on one site is a good one, which is for the convenience of people who use job centres and which--as the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is indicating from a sedentary position--was supported by the Public Accounts Committee. It makes sense to proceed on a value-for- money basis with that policy, but I shall consider with interest the example in my hon. Friend's constituency.

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South East London TEC --

7. Ms Hoey : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans he has to increase the level of support to the South East London training and enterprise council.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Miss Ann Widdecombe) : There is no such training and enterprise council as thSouth East London TEC. If the hon. Member is referring to her TEC--South Thames--the Department's regional director is negotiating the level of resources for 1994-95 with that and other London TECs.

Ms Hoey : I thank the Minister for her reply. Some of us in south London will still call it the South East London TEC, no matter what the Minister wants to call it.

The Minister will be aware that South Thames TEC is the first to become involved in kids club networks and that the setting up of the first after- school club for kids in Vauxhall is one of the useful things that have happened in my constituency. Will she welcome that initiative and ensure that South Thames TEC can put money into that scheme to enable the club to continue and will she allow the increase in after-school child care to continue, so that the many unemployed women in my constituency and in south London have an opportunity to get back to training and to work ?

Miss Widdecombe : Yes, of course, I welcome the initiative and I have visited that club, as I think the hon. Lady will know. I am pleased to congratulate all those concerned in setting it up. We have made it clear that those TECs that were piloting the out-of-school child care initiative will continue to be funded, as will all other TECs, from 1994-95. Although I cannot pre-empt the TECs' judgment and take a view on that scheme, I can say that funding to TECs for that purpose will continue.

Mr. Ian Taylor : Does my hon. Friend recognise that Surrey TEC is just up the river from South Thames TEC and that it is doing an excellent job with local industry in reskilling people, especially younger people ? That partnership with industry depends not merely on what the Government do, but on what industry does to help people to get back to work, given the new challenges presented by the need for people of a higher calibre-- especially school leavers. Does she welcome Surrey TEC's initiative ?

Miss Widdecombe : Yes, I have pleasure in welcoming Surrey TEC's initiative and similar initiatives at other TECs. I am delighted to welcome the various initiatives that result from partnerships between industry and Government and, in particular, "Investors in People", which encourages training and skilling on a lifelong basis. I have pleasure in confirming that is not confined to the private sector and that the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service today became the first nationwide civil service body to receive the full award of Investors in People.


8. Mr. Winnick : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he intends to meet representatives of trade unions to discuss the position of the ban on union membership at GCHQ.

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Mr. David Hunt : The Prime Minister and I had such a meeting on 20 December.

Mr. Winnick : Is the Secretary of State aware that the campaign against the ban on union membership at GCHQ is as strong as ever and that it will continue until victory is secured ? There was no justification for it in the first place. Is the Secretary of State not bothered by the fact that the International Labour Organisation has expressed much concern about the continuing ban and that, as the Government are unwilling to compromise in any way, the ILO may well decide to issue a formal rebuke or reprimand ? If that happens, it will be the first ever case of a western Government being so reprimanded.

Mr. Hunt : There are a number of points in the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question. Let me say, first, that we did exactly what the ILO requested us to do : we had discussions with the civil service unions to see whether a solution could be found. No one ever imagined for a moment that it would be easy to secure a solution capable of satisfying both sides. So far as the Government are concerned, the dialogue remains open. I am confident that we have nothing to fear from an examination by the ILO of our industrial relations policies. We believe that we can demonstrate that those policies comply with all the ILO conventions that we have ratified.

Mr. Allason : Will my right hon. Friend confirm that the former director of GCHQ, Sir Brian Tovey, has stated that during the imposition of martial law in Warsaw and during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan about 10,000 working days cover was lost at GCHQ ? Will he confirm that is a perfectly good reason for the ban on external interference by trade unions in the activities of GCHQ ? Can he assure the House that the existing staff association works perfectly well and that there is no reason whatever for interference by an external trade union ?

Mr. Hunt : I can confirm what my hon. Friend has said--that, between 1979 and 1981, 10,000 working days were lost at GCHQ. We just cannot run the risk that anything like that will ever happen again. My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, we suggested that the staff federation should be affiliated to the Council of Civil Service Unions to enable people who belong to the federation to have access to the facilities that are available to unions affiliated to CCSU. Sadly, the civil service unions did not feel able to accept that proposal.

Mrs. Clwyd : Is it not true that, according to reports in the Financial Times , the Government are currently planning to withdraw the United Kingdom from the ILO, precisely because the ILO has censured this country--a sanction which is normally applied to countries like Haiti and North Korea ? Are not the British Government becoming isolated, not only in Europe but throughout the world, for their anti-worker and anti-union policies ?

Mr. Hunt : There is no truth in the assertion that Ministers intend to withdraw from the ILO or to seek an opportunity to do so. Despite criticism from the Trades Union Congress, we believe that our policies comply with all the ILO conventions that we have ratified. As my hon. Friends have pointed out, our overriding objective is to ensure the maintenance of continuous operations at GCHQ, which is vital to the protection of national security. However, the Prime Minister has made it clear that the

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Government are ready to discuss any further proposals that the unions may wish to put forward, provided that they are consistent with our overriding objective of safeguarding national security.

Mr. Riddick : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, because of their irresponsible behaviour in disrupting the vital work of GCHQ in the 1980s, the trade unions have only themselves to blame for the ban ?

Mr. Hunt : I could not agree more. It is important to ensure that GCHQ staff are not subject to potential conflicts of interest. As I said earlier, the Prime Minister and I listened for some considerable time to the points put forward by the trade unions to see whether or not that overriding national objective could be maintained, but we were not convinced that the trade unions could overcome those potential conflicts of interest. It ill behoves the Opposition to try and put a different gloss on the fact that, thanks to our legislation, we have put harmony in place of strife. We are not prepared to allow the Opposition to put that major achievement at risk.

Banking and Financial Services --

9. Mr. Raynsford : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will estimate the number of jobs which have been lost in banking and financial services in London over the past four years.

Miss Widdecombe : Figures from the labour force survey show that in the banking, finance and insurance business services in greater London the number in employment has risen by 7,000 since 1989.

Mr. Raynsford : What message has the Minister for the 505 employees of Barclays bank in London whose new year began with a redundancy notice at the very moment when the bank's new chief executive was having his pay doubled to £737,000 a year ? What comment has the Minister about that example of corporate ethics or does she believe, like the Prime Minister, that it is no matter for her ?

Miss Widdecombe : What is a matter for the hon. Gentleman is giving his constituents hope, which he appears completely unable to do. The House will note that the phraseology of the hon. Gentleman's original question was how many jobs have been lost. Jobs have risen and he did not even have the grace to welcome that. Perhaps he would like to tell his constituents that, with London's share of world trade in financial services increasing to 27 per cent. the financial services sector earned the United Kingdom £4.3 billion and that the employees to whom he refers work in an industry which, even if it is redistributing employment, is nevertheless growing. Why does he not give encouragement to Britain's performance in the financial services sector ? Why do not the whole lot of them start encouraging things ?

Dr. Spink : Is my hon. Friend aware that employment in London and the south-east has risen by more than 200 in the 10 years since March 1983 ? Will she confirm that some of the 150,000 places in the new apprenticeship scheme will be available in London ?

Miss Widdecombe : Yes, I have pleasure in confirming that. I also have pleasure in confirming that another good sign for young people, apart from the creation of modern apprenticeships, is that the number waiting more than eight

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weeks for a youth training place has declined from more than 3,000 to just over 300. There are now a large number of TECs with no young people waiting. Modern apprenticeships will help that process even further. Why are modern apprenticeships not being welcomed ? [Interruption.] I take it that hon. Members are cheering the Government. Thank you very much.

Mr. Tony Banks : Is the Minister aware that Barclays bank has declared 7,000 redundancies and National Westminster bank has announced 4,000, yet we still have to wait ages at the queue at the bank? Why is that? Miss Widdecombe : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman should do a competitiveness survey and go somewhere else for his queue. Although there have been job losses in the banking industry in the past year, there have been strongly offsetting rises in insurance and business services. It is generally good news in the financial sector. The hon. Gentleman might pass on that message to those in the queue and to the cashiers.

Labour Costs --

10. Mr. Congdon : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what evidence he has on non-wage labour costs in (a) the United Kingdom, (b) France, (c) Germany and (d) Italy.

Mr. Michael Forsyth : Non-wage costs never get into the employees' wage packets, but do make it more expensive for employers to provide a job. On average, for every £100 of wages an employer in Britain must pay £20 extra, in Germany £30 and in France and Italy £40.

Mr. Congdon : Does my hon. Friend agree that those lower non-wage labour costs are part of the reason for our success in attracting inward investment ? Does he also agree that the imposition of the social chapter-- which both Opposition parties would like to force on this country--would not only destroy our competitive advantage, but, more important, destroy jobs ?

Mr. Forsyth : I entirely agree. Lower non-wage costs are not only a reason for the attraction of inward investment to Britain but--along with our general economic policy--the reason for the fact that in real terms workers in Britain enjoy some of the best take-home pay packets in Europe.

Mr. Alex Carlile : Given the favourable non-wage labour costs to which the Minister has just referred, how does he justify the enormous discrepancy between the average wage in England and Wales and wages in areas such as south Wales and Northumberland, where average weekly earnings are up to £65 less than the overall average ? Why are the Government not tackling such huge wage differentials ?

Mr. Forsyth : I am amazed that the hon. and learned Gentleman should ask that question. If he had his way and we signed up to the social chapter, the extra costs would have to be met out of those pay packets, and there would be even less for people to take in wages. The hon. and learned Gentleman should not complain about low pay when, like the rest of his party, he wants to add to the costs of employment.

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Mr. Bates : Does my hon. Friend agree with Klaus Kratzenberg, a supervisor with Black and Decker in Limburg, Germany ? When asked why he thought that Black and Decker was closing its German plant and moving it to Spennymoor in County Durham, he replied :

"It is simple. Industry must be flexible--the social chapter isn't."

Mr. Forsyth : I entirely agree with the sentiments expressed by Black and Decker. I must tell Opposition Members that when companies such as Mercedes are starting to source outside Germany, and when Volkswagen, Peugeot and others are beginning to look outside Europe, alarm bells should be ringing in the minds of hon. Members who are genuinely concerned about jobs. There is no doubt that the social chapter is driving people out of work ; the longer that Opposition Members adhere to it, the greater will be the possibility that people in Europe will embrace policies that will make their countries less competitive and less able to provide employment.

Mr. Prescott : In view of his many visits to America, will the Minister tell us whether he agrees with the Secretary of State's earlier statement that America had no minimum wage legislation ?

Mr. Forsyth : I think that if the hon. Gentleman checks the record he will find that my right hon. Friend said that America did not have a national statutory minimum wage. However, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for reminding us of the international comparisons to be made. He will know that the European country that has embraced his policy of a statutory minimum wage is Spain--where the unemployment level is twice the European average, and twice the level in this country.

Mr. Anthony Coombs : In recognising the crucial importance of Britain's lower non-wage costs compared with the rest of Europe, is my hon. Friend aware that Lemmerz, a German wheel maker, has transferred all its heavy wheel-making operations to my constituency for precisely that reason ? Is he also aware that carpet companies in my constituency are now going to Germany to buy up its now-redundant carpet-making machinery precisely because German companies cannot compete under the regime that has been imposed on them ?

Mr. Forsyth : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving yet another example of the way in which the social chapter has exported jobs out of the Eleven into Britain. That is good news for Britain, so long as we ensure that we never ever sign up to the social chapter and its job-destroying characteristics.

Apprenticeships --

11. Mr. Clapham : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many modern apprenticeships will be available in 1994-95 ; and in which industries they will be concentrated.

Mr. David Hunt : A full range of modern apprenticeships will be offered to 16 and 17-year-olds in September 1995. Some prototypes will start later in the year.

Mr. Clapham : I note that the Minister does not give the number of apprenticeships and there is a possible reason for that. He will be aware that in the final year of the Labour Government there were 150, 000 apprenticeships in

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manufacturing alone, while in manufacturing in 1991 there were only 51,000. Clearly, the Minister's response is inefficient and inadequate and a more positive stance is required. Will the Minister give mature entrants--the people who have been thrown on the scrap heap over the past 15 years--the opportunity to join the apprenticeship scheme ? Has he had discussions with British Coal Enterprise Ltd. to allow miners who have been made redundant to join the new apprenticeship scheme so that they can learn new skills to help them get new jobs ?

Mr. Hunt : The hon. Gentleman knows that the new, modern apprenticeship scheme that the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced on 30 November is designed to encourage more young people to train up to national vocational qualification level 3 and to encourage even more young people to train to even higher levels. Of course, during the year we shall be considering prototypes which will enable those young people to reach that high level of qualification.

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that some of the national training and education targets directly relate to the points that he has raised. The important priority for the Government is to ensure not only that we have young people training to an even higher level, but that through programmes such as Investors in People we shall encourage every member of the work force, and primarily those who are currently unemployed, to train to even higher levels of qualification.


Engagements --

Q1. Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Prime Minister if he will list his official engagements for Tuesday 15 February.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Tony Newton) : I have been asked to reply

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister is in Moscow for a series of meetings, including meetings with President Yeltsin and Prime Minister Chernomyrdin.

Rev. Martin Smyth : Has the Lord President of the Council noticed the response of Mr. Reynolds in Dail Eireann when Miss Mary Harney asked what representations had been made to the United States over the Gerry Adams visit ? His response is that we do not get involved in trying to tell foreign Administrations what decisions to make. Will the Lord President press the Prime Minister to exercise the same restraint with the United Kingdom, especially Northern Ireland ?

Mr. Newton : As the hon. Gentleman will know, the issue of the visa was a decision for the United States authorities, although our own advice, as the House knows, was clear. The hon. Gentleman will know that we believe it to be right and in the interests of all people in Northern Ireland that the British and Irish Governments should work closely together. As he knows, the talks process brings together the two Governments and the main constitutional parties who will work together to find an accommodation. I believe that is right.

Mr. Day : Would my right hon. Friend agree that the appearance of Gerry Adams on "Walden" proved beyond

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