HC Deb 10 March 1964 vol 691 cc383-91

Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 21, at end insert new Clause "A":

"A.—(1) If the Minister so requests, an industrial training board may exercise such functions in connection with the training for employment in any activity of industry or commerce carried on outside Great Britain of persons temporarily in Great Britain as are exercisable by it under subsections (1) and (4) of section 2 of this Act in connection with the training of persons employed or intending to be employed in the industry for which the board is established.

(2) An industrial training board may delegate any power exercisable by it by virtue of this section to a committee (which need not include members of the board) appointed for that purpose or to any committee appointed under section 3 of this Act.

(3) An industrial training board shall keep separate accounts—

  1. (a) with respect to its functions under this section; and
  2. (b) with respect to its other functions under this Act;
and no money raised by a levy imposed under this Act shall be carried to an account kept in pursuance of paragraph (a) of this subsection, and any expenses and liabilities incurred by the Board under this section shall be disregarded for the purposes of sections 4(1) and 9(3) of this Act."

Mr. Godber

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This is an entirely new Clause. I apologise that we did not bring it forward earlier. The point was raised in our discussions and the Clause is designed to meet the desires particularly of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for Technical Co-operation and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development both of whom are especially interested in the need to ensure that students from overseas will be able to obtain training in this country in ways which would not necessarily be connected with employment. The point was that students or trainees coining to this country should be able to be assisted under the provisions of this Bill. This Clause has been designed to make provision for that.

The powers proposed under this new Clause are to be exercised only at the request of the Minister. A board will not be required as a matter of course to make special provision for these overseas trainees; nor will it be able, on its own initiative, to propose a scheme of training for them. It seemed right to us that this provision should place the responsibility for initiating action on the Minister, at the request, no doubt, of the Secretary for Technical Co-operation. The initiative would be taken by asking a board to make special arrangements. This is in contrast to other provisions in the Bill which require a board to secure provision for training and then to submit proposals to the Minister.

When a board secures training facilities under the Clause for overseas persons to be trained in industry, or makes grants for training such persons, the expenses incurred will not be met by the levy. They will be accounted for separately and met by the Minister who in turn will be reimbursed by the Department for Technical Co-operation or the Board of Trade, whichever is appropriate. We do not feel it fair to impose the cost in the form of a levy, so accounts will be kept separately for this purpose. This is a convenient vehicle for providing for assisted training of overseas students. I feel confident that this will commend itself to the House.

Mr. Prentice

I very warmly welcome this new Clause. It is one which should command general support. There should be close links between the industrial training programme in this country and the countries in the programme of technical assistance.

One hopes to see growing a practice by which trainees from Britain spend a year or so in developing countries as a few do under the programmes of Voluntary Service Overseas. That is a good thing from any point of view, including that of the firms which help it to be done. Secondly, there is an organisation in this country for trainees coming here. Of the training and education carried out in Britain at the moment for people from overseas perhaps too great a proportion is in university training for professions. I am not saying that that should be reduced—it probably should be increased—but probably there should be a larger proportional increase of training in skills for work relevant to developing countries. I hope this power will be used extensively and that the Ministry of Labour and industrial training boards will co-operate in a growing, plan of this kind.

Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)

I wish to support this new Clause, which is of very great importance. I hope that the function of the Ministry of Labour in this regard will be no more than a "post office" in this matter and that requests by the Secretary for Technical Cooperation will receive immediate assent to carry out these functions.

I support my hon. Friend the Member for East Ham, North (Mr. Prentice) on the need to increase the use of industrial training for those countries which we are helping. In the past we have felt, and those countries are beginning to realise it, that there has been too much emphasis on professional training at university level and that there is a need for craft training and apprenticeship training, with which the Bill is mainly concerned. This will be an increasingly difficult job, because it is becoming increasingly difficult to find training places for our own people in industry. The Secretary for Technical Co-operation will have to be energetic and forceful in getting industry to accept schemes for apprentices for those places.

The Ministry of Labour and the Secretary for Technical Co-operation will have to look at the question of training for industry very seriously. It is becoming very necessary at all levels. We hope that the Bill will be helpful, but it is certainly the case that, inasmuch as we can find some means of increasing the number of places available for training in industry, this Clause by itself will not be of much use because, a fortiori, it will be likely that there will be fewer places for those from overseas.

On the question of payment, I suppose that under this Clause it will be possible for the Secretary for Technical Cooperation to support a training board directly by making annual contributions towards its income without having to consider every individual case on its merits. A proportion of the funds of the boards could be supplied by the Department of Technical Co-operation on the basis of the amount of work that will have to be done in finding places, supervising students and so on. I hope that the machinery for carrying out the functions of the new Clause will be adequate, will be made as simple as possible and that the interest of the Department in this matter will be brought home to the boards.

Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)

I am glad that the new Clause has been added, even as an afterthought, although I regret that it was not before us in Committee so that we could have had a longer discussion on the matter, for this is an extremely important subject. I have written to the right hon. Gentleman about representation on the boards so that overseas training can be properly considered. The right hon. Gentleman gave me only a partially satisfactory answer; that the Department of Technical Co-operation would be in attendance on occasions when this sort of thing is being discussed.

Subsection (2) refers to the delegating of power by industrial training boards to committees. I hope that on those committees will be represented people from the High Commission Offices and, if they cannot be permanently represented, that they will be called in from time to time when problems affecting their areas are being discussed. It might also be desirable to have a representative from the Commonwealth Education Liaison Unit who is in close touch with the problems.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) pointed out, the placing of overseas students for industrial training is a difficult task. I have with me a letter which I received today from the Honorary Secretary of the Council for Education in the Commonwealth. It concerns Kenya students and states: The other point we should wish to make in connection with degree courses at new universities concerns the promoted C.A.T.'s who now become Technological Universities". The next sentence is particularly important, for it states: As a general rule sandwich courses are of no use to us here at all, as we simply cannot arrange the industrial training. I am well aware that one cannot just create places for these students, but I hope that the Bill will give impetus to the provision of places and that every effort will be made to provide them.

All sorts of difficulties can arise when placing overseas students, and in some firms and industries there are security factors which make the task even more difficult. Some firms are disinclined to accept overseas students. This difficulty is overcome in the Royal Naval colleges and military colleges by having special courses. I hope that the same degree of application which is made in those courses will be provided by the industrial training boards. I also hope that the right hon. Gentleman will, as a normal course, give a direction to the boards to consider this aspect.

Another difficulty arises over the question of liaison, particularly the speaking of the English language for overseas students. Many of them have insufficient English to carry forward their technical studies. They get what is known as "language dryness". I hope that this aspect will be dealt with jointly by the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour through the industrial training boards.

The boards will need to do more than make provision for places. They will have to provide information abroad as to the ways they will deal with overseas students, either through the British Council, the Department of Technical Co-operation or in some other way. It is vital that information should be put out in the developing countries concerned, either through the High Commission Offices there, the British Council or in some other way.

When the Bill was in Committee we many times expressed the importance of explaining its purposes to the general public, to industry, to employers, apprentices, and all concerned, so it is absolutely vital that there should be the maximum amount of information and cooperation in the application of the Clause. I support the Clause, but I think it a pity that it has not had greater discussion at a more convenient hour.

10.30 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Lewis (Rutland and Stamford)

I have great pleasure in supporting this Clause. The hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden) has called it an afterthought from another place, but that only shows that afterthoughts from another place occasionally have a certain forward look about them. We ourselves did not think of this point in Committee.

It is generally recognised in the House, and in the country, that it is very important that we should give a certain amount of our resources to the education of people from overseas. This climate of opinion has developed rather slowly, but that opinion is now gathering force. It is also recognised that if we do not play our part, other countries, such as America and Russia, have every intention at doing so, and will certainly gain influence where we will fail to do so if we neglect our duty in this regard.

Training in industry is quite as important as other forms of education, and there is a great deal of advantage in linking it with the education these overseas students are receiving in our technical colleges and universities. Education and industrial training are both right and have a certain amount of self-interest in them. When people trained here go back to their undeveloped countries—whether those countries have been in the Commonwealth and are now independent or have never been part of the Commonwealth—they take with them not only their skill and training but a certain feeling for the British way of life. I know that a great many firms find it to the advantage of their export trade to train these people from overseas. When the men return to their own countries the firm knows that it has contacts with people who have had their technical training on the machinery that the firm makes, or knowledge of its other products.

It is also satisfactory that in the Bill we have so far recognised the essential co-operation there will be between the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour, but I understand that we now have a ministerial threesome in the business; I see on the Government Front Bench the Secretary for Technical Cooperation. There is everything to be said in favour of having all three Ministers working together in this sphere.

It has been said that it may be difficult to fit overseas students in the establishments that will be set up by the boards, so I hope that—perhaps not at first, but in due course—my right hon. Friend will find it possible to reserve a certain number of places for overseas students. That is not an immediate matter but, as the programme gathers momentum, I think that it will be worth considering.

Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)

I compliment the Minister on introducing the new Clause. I had a Question down on 25th February to the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, who has kindly enlarged on his Answer to me by sending me some figures show- ing the number of students who have been trained in this country. It is an excellent experience to see on the Government Front Bench both the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, who we all know is deeply concerned in technical training, and the Minister of Labour.

I hope that the Secretary for Technical Co-operation will not mind if I say that the figures are not as good as we should like to sec. They are not bad under the conditions of severe competition for training which exist throughout the world, but we want to see better. We are training people through the universities and technical colleges, and if we set up training centres on the craft side and can increase the flow of students—some increases are shown—then we may be able to help meet the shortage of teachers. We may be able to recruit teachers for three years from students passing through the universities to train in some of the training centres before they return to their own countries.

In their own countries, although they have university degrees and high qualifications, they must feel frustration and meet difficulties because they have not the broad artisan base which they found when undergoing their university training here.

What we have here is excellent. I hope that co-operation between the two Departments will continue and that, whichever Government is in power, the Ministers in those positions will expand the work which we wish to see started.

Mr. Godber

I am most grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for their warm reception of the Clause.

One should always give credit where it is due. Here the credit should go to my right hon. and technical Friend, if I may so describe him, the Secretary for Technical Co-operation, who has always taken such a keen interest in matters of training. He suggested this new Clause, which wilt be of help to many and which we warmly accepted.

I had a good deal of sympathy when listening to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) about the need for training at different levels. We certainly do not want to cut down on degree or graduate training, but I recall very well when, in a previous incarnation, representing this country at U.N.E.S.C.O. at a biennial conference, I discussed these matters with people from developing countries. Of course they want higher training, but they also want this broad base about which the hon. Member spoke. We must not paint too rosy a picture of what we shall be able to do under this Clause but we are laying a foundation on which we can build.

I was interested in what was said by the hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Boyden). We have to work closely together in the best way possible to produce the results which he and I want to achieve. The Central Training Council and the individual boards will be able to give advice. I assure hon. Members that I very much welcome the way in which they have received this Clause. We shall work closely with the Department for Technical Co-operation in seeking to bring about what both sides of the House want to achieve.

Question put and agreed to. [Special Entry.]