HC Deb 22 July 1963 vol 681 cc1034-6
13. Mr. Prentice

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to encourage more recruits to agriculture to undertake training in the National Apprenticeship Scheme.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

The Agricultural Apprenticeship Scheme in England and Wales is the industry's own scheme, but it has the Government's full active support. All Ministry officers, particularly those whose duties bring them into contact with farmers, are instructed to take every opportunity to spreading knowledge of this scheme among suitable farmers and farm workers. In addition, secretarial and other help, such as the selection of candidates and farmers, is given to the committees who are responsible under the central Apprenticeship Council for the operation and furtherance of the scheme in the counties. Since the revision of the scheme in 1961, the industry has been showing an increasing appreciation of its value.

Mr. Prentice

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that, although this increasing appreciation is to be welcomed, it is still unsatisfactory that only about 3 per cent. of recruits to agriculture go through this scheme whereas in industry generally about 40 per cent. of the recruits undergo some form of apprenticeship or organised training? Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the way in which it is being applied is very uneven throughout the country? For example, in Bedfordshire 25 per cent. of the recruits are going into it and in other counties none at all. Could the hon. Gentleman's officials pay particular attention to those counties which have not made a start this year?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

I agree that this is slow in starting, but there are special difficulties in agriculture. The National Farmers' Union and the National Union of Agricultural Workers are paying particular attention to and showing a keen interest in this new scheme, and the Government's proposals in the White Paper on Industrial Training have particular relevance to this. However, in some areas where there are many small farms, it is difficult to get going, to find suitable farmers and to release farm workers to participate in these schemes.

Mr. Hilton

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that in Norfolk and other agricultural counties of importance very few youngsters are in the National Apprenticeship Scheme? In these areas there is little other employment for youngsters. The reason that young people are not prepared to tie themselves to the agricultural industry is that they can see no future in it. Since the hon. Gentleman reminds us that this scheme has the Government's support—and I agree that it is a good scheme; I wish that more youngsters would participate in it—may I ask what practical steps the Government propose to take to make agriculture more attractive in order to get youngsters into it?

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

As I have indicated, I am as anxious as the hon. Gentleman to see more apprentices coming into the scheme. It is up to the industry itself to help and to enthuse young people going into it to take this course. I think that the Government's proposals in the White Paper will help in this respect.