HC Deb 22 February 1966 vol 725 cc362-80

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr, Grey.]

9.35 p.m.

Sir Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)

By the good fortune of the day's business having been concluded so quickly, it may well be that more hon. Members will be able to contribute to this short debate than would normally have been the case. I shall welcome that. I am very pleased indeed that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour is to reply to the debate, because I have found him keen, courteous and helpful. I know that, if any points are made to which effect should be given, he the one to pass them on.

The hon. Gentleman will have recognised that my Questions in December on apprenticeship and the industrial training boards were a preview to this debate. I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that those Questions, as indeed this debate, were prompted by my deep concern about the country's shortage of skilled manpower at this important time in our history. I believe that this worrying situation can only deteriorate still further, unless drastic and urgent steps are taken at national level. These words are not too strong, because the National Plan itself estimates that by 1970 we shall be short of about 200,000 men. We have all got to make our contribution by pooling our thought, experience and knowledge if by 1970 we are to minimise the problems which will arise from that.

I believe that the formation of the Engineering Industrial Training Board was a step in the right direction. I believe that the methods of arranging the financial incentive for industry to extend its training facilities are absolutely right. The base from which they are working seems to be sensible. I also think that the means and mechanics of condensing training into the shortest possible period should be treated as a matter of national urgency.

The whole purpose of the debate from my point of view is to call upon the Government to give an unambiguous directive to the training boards to reduce engineering apprenticeships from five years to three years, if by using modern training methods it can be shown that the necessary "know-how" and skill can be acquired in that period. The experience that I shall bring to the notice of the House will show that it can be done.

The initiative for speeding up training must come from the Government. If industry is to meet the serious manpower requirements which it will be faced with in the years ahead, industry on all sides will welcome any prodding the Government may think fit to give. We all know that over the centuries industry has evolved a method of passing down manual skills through the institution of apprenticeship. This is a very well thought of and accepted institution. Twenty-five years ago, when I was first aware of it, all apprenticeships were of seven years' duration. More recently the period has been reduced to five years, but on the Continent it has been much less than that for many years. If Britain is to maintain her true position in the industrial world, it must do better than some Continental countries, and do so as soon as it possibly can.

I believe that it can be done without interfering with the standard required from this highly technical engineering country. The reduction in the period of apprenticeship can be brought about if a modern scientific approach is made in the training period. The old-fashioned time-wasting shuffle from teaboy to craftsman taking five years can, by what I call programming, be reduced, and I suggest that we ought to aim to reduce it to three years.

Some of our larger industrial companies have already tackled this problem and they are providing training facilities and methods to meet their needs within their own industries. But my complaint is that companies which do this are too few and far between, and a real lead to bring more people in to work in this way must be given at the highest level if we are to overcome the shortage which, as I said at the beginning, is such a worrying problem for the nation.

I wish to draw attention to the work already being undertaken in this direction by several companies in my constituency, with special reference to what is being done by one company in particular. Peterborough is now one of the leading engineering centres in the country. It has moved from being a marketing town to become a centre of precision engineering at its highest level, and I am proud to know that in Peterborough we have some of the leaders along the road which I am now urging others should follow. I have in mind Perkins Diesel, Hotpoint, Newall Engineering, Mitchell Construction. All of these have good training schemes, and I pay tribute to them, but I shall concentrate tonight upon the special scheme operated by Baker Perkins Limited, a company which, in conjunction with Sheffield University, has given a great deal of thought to this question, has achieved some notable success and has set a pattern which other industries would do well to follow.

With full union backing, Baker Perkins has been able to reduce the period of apprenticeship from five years to four in certain crafts. All hon. Members—I see several in their places tonight—who understand industrial dealings of this sort will know that to have got the period reduced from five to four years was a major breakthrough in training methods and in industrial co-operation. They will know also that to secure the agreement of the union would have been impossible if the arrangements for the four-year period had not satisfied the people with practical knowledge of these matters and ensured that the quality of the training was in no way interfered with.

It is well known that Baker Perkins of Peterborough has long been in the forefront of industrial training. Over the years, this company has built up an apprenticeship training scheme second to none. As early as 1954, it built its own apprentice school with a capacity for over 90 apprentices to be trained at one time. The school was fully equipped with the complete range of machine and hand tools which any future craftsman would be likely to meet. It was staffed by ex-craftsmen trained as instructors, men who knew the job from a practical standpoint and who had a deep interest in teaching young men the fundamentals of industrial practice. All this has shown itself in the results which have been achieved.

Lectures, physical education, film shows and an intensive course of practical work were instigated and integrated with the respective academic courses run at the local technical college. This is the sort of partnership which is right today. This is the base of the pattern which everyone must follow—the practical man who has gone through his own apprenticeship and who has a special capacity for passing on his knowledge to others working in with the local authority schemes upon which we are spending so much money and from which so much value can be obtained if we work them properly.

Throughout the Baker Perkins group, over 1,000 young men are in apprenticeship at any one time. In Peterborough alone this figure is about 350, with an annual intake of up to 80 craft apprentices. Baker Perkins, needing as it does a very high percentage of skilled craftsmen, has properly given a lot of thought to this. But the company has never been satisfied with what I call the traditional method. It says that every time we get new knowledge and new ideas we ought to move forward and the only way in which new ideas can be of any general use is if the benefits that flow from them are passed on to everyone involved.

With this as its outlook, it has explored many new avenues of approach in the critical problem of getting people through the apprenticeship period up to the stage where they really are craftsmen, and the techniques that the firm has worked out and applied, and which are proving so successful, are techniques which I suggest must be followed at a national level.

The Baker Perkins background of enjoying an excellent relationship with the A.E.U. has proved of immense value in breaking through the traditions and introducing the four-year apprenticeship period, but it has done it by using what I would call, in the certainty that it is true, a revolutionary teaching technique.

The scheme that comes under that description was prepared over a number of years and, after careful consideration, agreement was reached in July, 1964, covering the major engineering crafts of fitting, turning, milling, mill wrighting and toolmaking. The craft apprentices of this company, for the first time ever in this country are given the chance to become fully qualified craftsmen at the age of 20 as opposed to the conventional age of 21. I am glad that this has happened.

I have never believed that there is any logic in assuming that a novice becomes competent and skilled just because he reaches the age of 21. The knowledge that the years have been put in and that a person has reached the age of 21 is no proof that he has reached the required level and if one has apprentices who are more skilled and above the average, let them get the benefit of coming out and being craftsmen at an earlier age.

In the scheme, emphasis has quite properly been placed upon being skilled in certain work and not on the assumption that one qualifies merely by learning the subject for a given length of time. To ensure that competence is achieved to everyone's approval, the apprentices have to complete a test to satisfy both management and the A.E.U. representative and I believe that if both management and union can be satisfied—the management because it wants skilled people using the title of "skilled men" and the union because it wants a high level—that is all that should be wanted.

I am sure that hon. Members will agree that this arrangement is a marked advance on any previous arrangements that have operated up to now. How did the company achieve it? It did so by what I call "programming". We know about programming of computers, in which one feeds in the right sort of information in the right way and generally, I understand, gets the right sort of answer. Certainly, programming has been the answer for the Baker Perkins scheme.

The firm instituted a four month pre-apprenticeship period which all apprentices have to go through. The E.I.T.B. has also concluded that a pre-apprenticeship training is an essential prerequisite to formal apprenticeship. There again, great minds think alike. Then the firm looked forward at the work that craftsmen are required to do now and estimated what will be required in future. From these estimates and this knowledge, it prepared training manuals, which break down into easy and progressive steps. There is the learning of basic and theoretical study and the firm also introduced instruction for workshop practice. The firm also includes the operating of machine tools.

It found out all the teaching and guidance which would have to be given over a longer period of apprenticeship and broke it down into easily understood programmes which could be put in manual form, or in a card index, or on a screen for visual instruction, so that a progression could be arranged to provide for the apprentice thoroughly to understand the first step before moving on to the second.

The training manuals provided by this company have all been closely studied by the officers of the Engineering Industry Training Board who have praised them highly. They are set out in clear and progressive steps showing the fundamentals of craft practice which all apprentices have to know in their chosen craft. The firm has written 29 different programme tests covering four craft groups—fitting, turning, milling and sheet metal work. These programmes are in book or card index form and others are on teaching machines. Each apprentice progresses entirely at his own speed. If there are 20 apprentices and one has a capacity for learning quickly, the card indexes and the manuals are available and he can absorb information at his own speed, while the slower thinker who wants more time is allowed to proceed at his own speed. The fast learner is not held up by the slow thinker, which is often the case when people are taught in groups or classes.

Let us suppose that a programme deals with the hacksaw. The trainee studies diagrams of the hacksaw and reads about its uses and its limitations. He must be able to answer written questions on that tool and about its use before he can go to the next stage, which may be going into the workshop actually to use it. In this way, the trainee receives individual instruction and is not dominated, which would mean sometimes being penalised, by the average speed which a group would have to follow. It means that the quick thinker and the able chap can get to the standard of competence required in three years when the slower thinker might take four or even five years.

The system also enables much better use to be made of the instructors. They are no longer expected to spend endless hours repeating the same lecture and using the old diagrams on the blackboard. The instructor is free to give individual instruction to the individual apprentices who want it. If one man does not need to have extra tuition from the instructor because he is following the card index, the instructor is left free and able to look after those who really need his help. If the instructor is not immediately available to assist an apprentice, the apprentice can tackle another programme by himself until the instructor is ready. In this way programmed instruction is a most efficient and useful time saver.

Having said that, I stress very strongly that other facilities still have to be provided. Quiet rooms are needed in which the trainee can follow the programme through. Machine hand tools on which to practise are still needed, and certainly fully qualified instructors are essential. I repeat that we must have the co-operation of the local technical college in order to see that academic and practical work are properly integrated.

Because the firm which I am citing as an example is a large firm, it may be thought that the scheme can be used only by large companies, but nothing could be further from the truth. The technique of programmed instruction as I have described it is invaluable for small companies and perhaps even better for small companies I believe that the brochures and manuals which have been prepared by Baker Perkins, and which are available for smaller companies to use would be of greater advantage to such companies than they would be to the large companies. The correctness of the material contained in the manuals is beyond question. The programmes were written by a supervisor, himself a young man and an ex-apprentice. He was assisted at every stage by a research member of the Department of Psvchology of the University of Sheffield. A balanced emphasis on the different needs of industry and the correct psychological approach has been effectively achieved.

So far the results have been good, and I believe that the Minister, through the training boards, should take urgent steps to apply this lesson to industry. It is in the hope that he will do this that I have initiated this debate. I am only too well aware that to attempt to convey the whole scheme through words alone can, at the very best, be most inadequate. I am happy, therefore, to invite the Minister, members of the training boards and any of my colleagues in the House to come to Peterborough and see the scheme working. It would present a picture which my words cannot hope to paint. If they could come and see these manuals and teaching machines, and the scheme working, they would be as enthusiastic about it as I am. I hope that without any further delay, even without seeing the scheme, the Minister will agree to give the necessary directive to the training boards to see if, by this or some other method, the apprenticeship period cannot be reduced to a level more in keeping with modern times.

9.57 p.m.

Mr. James Hamilton (Bothwell)

I welcome the opportunity of taking part in this debate and congratulate the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) on bringing forward this subject. My experience has been entirely different from that of the hon. Gentleman. He has mentioned the firm of Newall. I am very pleased to know that there is one forward-looking firm which is taking cognisance of the fact that we need craftsmen in industry and will need more by 1970. We must realise that there are in industry many industrialists who are not prepared to play their full part in the provision of craftsmen. We find that some of them, even in 1966, are not prepared to allow apprentices to attend day-release classes.

It has also been my experience that many of the lads who are able, by the efforts of the trade unions, to attend day-release courses, are not prepared to measure up to their responsibilities. They do not apply their minds to their work at the technical colleges and, because of the shortage of craftsmen, firms are saddled with boys who, in many instances, do not want to enter the engineering industry.

A further criticism that I want to make is that many American industrial firms which are establishing themselves in this country are not prepared to employ apprentices. They require craftsmen, but what they are doing is permitting British firms to train apprentices and then taking them when they have qualified as craftsmen. They are not prepared to make a contribution to industry. Many of the trade unions have for a long time put forward the same views as have been put forward by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peter borough. At the same time, the employers are not prepared to accept that view. In the engineering industry the unions have been trying to reach agreement with the employers to give them the right to negotiate for apprentices only. Up to now, this has never been agreed to, and—

It being Ten o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Grey.]

Mr. Hamilton

—that, in my opinion, is a contributory factor to the state of affairs which exists.

I will not go as far as the hon. Member for Peterborough went on the question of the first year of apprenticeship. He knows that in the engineering industry if a boy continues at school until 17 years of age that year counts towards his apprenticeship training, which is acceptable to all of us. But many lads going into industry, during the first year of apprenticeship, run errands and make tea and do not serve any useful purpose in their apprenticeship training. Most of us deplore this, and we must do something about it if we are to get the craftsmen who are so urgently required.

When a boy reaches the fourth year of apprenticeship he is, in many industries, a craftsman, to all intents and purposes. He does the work of a craftsman. He is capable of doing the piecework which craftsmen are doing in certain industries. But the rate which he receives is only 90 per cent. of the rate paid to the craftsman. Employers must measure up to their responsibilities. They must pay attention to the point of view which the trade union movement has been expressing for a considerable time. If the American firms play their part and allow apprentices to work in their establishment, and if the employers play their part concerning wages, I am sure that the craftsmen who are so vitally essential will come into industry and that by 1970 we will have solved this very serious problem.

Scotland is denuded of craftsmen for a reason which is well known to every hon. Member. When we had craftsmen, we did not have jobs for them to do. In 1962, under the previous Administration, there were 136,000 unemployed in Scotland. Boys were not going into industry because craftsmen were not working in the industries to give boys the opportunity of learning the work. Therefore, to get the necessary apprentices, there must be full employment to ensure that they get the opportunity to serve their full apprenticeship training.

One firm has been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. I do not want the House to think that we do not have forward-looking firms in Lanarkshire. There is an American firm in my constituency which is the opposite of the view which I have already expressed, Honeywell Controls Ltd., which, to its eternal credit, gives boys ample opportunity. It has its own training centre. I have visited the centre and seen the sort of training which boys are given. I have also seen the incentives which are given to the boys. Most important of all, the boys are working under first-class conditions.

These boys are giving the necessary good performance at technical colleges. They are also showing the necessary adaptability in the various factories. Because of the method of selection, however, we find that boys who have the requisite ability stay only at shop-floor level. The opportunity is not afforded to them to get to their proper status and reach the drawing office. This is in many circumstances a case of "jobs for the boys".

Some of my hon. Friends may be dismayed to hear this point of view expressed, but I can prove it 100 per cent. Before I became a Member of Parliament, when the opportunities were afforded to me on some of the boards and also as a trade union official, I expressed this very point which I am expressing tonight.

Unless all three parties in industry—not only the industrialist, but the trade unions and, probably most important of all at this serious stage in industry, the Government—work together, I am convinced that we shall not make the progress that we should. I believe, however, that these young men could easily become expert craftsmen in a period of four years. If we take this sort of approach and if we get the expected leadership from the Government, I am sure that by 1970 we can solve this serious problem.

10.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Ernest Thornton)

I hope to leave a little time available for one or two others of my hon. Friends who have great practical experience in this subject. I thank the hon. Baronet the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) for his kindly reference and also for his courtesy in giving me a detailed indication of the line he intended to take, which enables me to give a more considered and intelligible reply to his case.

The hon. Baronet has argued persuasively that it is high time that industry took a long, hard look at the five-year apprenticeship. He also argued that it is high time that industry faced the fact that that period no longer reflects the time it takes to acquire most craft skills. The point was made also by my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton).

The hon. Baronet has suggested that modern training methods, particularly programmed instruction, enable skill and knowledge to be acquired more rapidly and he has well demonstrated this by giving the experience of a firm in his constituency. The hon. Member has also pointed out that unless the training period is reduced there is little incentive to firms to apply these new methods. He has also argued that by reducing the period of apprenticeship, industry will be forced to train more effectively and that more trainees could then be taken on.

I listened with particular interest to the hon. Gentleman's account of training activities in the firm to which he referred. I shall have something to say later in my remarks about the use of programmed instruction, which he dealt with in some detail. But I should like to say now that the advantages and disadvantages of this method of instruction are well known to our Department. Indeed, we are experimenting in the use of these very techniques for the training of some of our Employment Exchange staff. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be pleased and perhaps a little surprised to learn that.

Having said that, I should sound a note of caution. Programmed instruction has its uses, but let us not regard it as the universal panacea for our training shortcomings. I am not suggesting for a moment that the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is a universal panacea. There are other solutions, as I hope to show in a few minutes.

I now turn to the main part of what I have to say. I want to make it clear at the outset that I agree with almost everything that the hon. Member said. In the time available, I hope to show that a good deal of progress is being made in the direction so strongly urged by him. However, before I do that, perhaps I may be permitted one or two observations about the nature of the problem.

First of all, our main concern should be with the effectiveness and the relevance of training. We should not start out by saying that training should last five years, four years or three years. We should ask first, what training is necessary, how can it best be given, and what education course is appropriate. In the light of the answers to those questions, we can then say how long the training period should be. As I think the hon. Gentleman would admit, the answer will be different for different trades and for different occupations. That is why I believe that we should be cautious about simply substituting four years or three years instead of five years. Some trades still need five years. Others may not need even as much as three years.

Secondly, we should remember that the length of an apprenticeship reflects not only the time required to learn a skill but also the time that it takes to gain the speed, maturity and experience which are expected of the skilled craftsman. It also reflects the age at which it is thought reasonable to pay the full adult rate, and that was a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bothwell.

The age at which it is thought reasonable to pay the full adult rate is one of the terms and conditions of employment which should not logically influence the period of training. I am afraid that in the past it has tended to do so, since it has been difficult to dissociate the length of training from the period during which the trainee received less than the full skilled rate. It is the appropriate training period with which the Training Boards will be concerned, and not the age at which a young person becomes entitled to a man's wage.

Thirdly, it does not necessarily follow—and I emphasise the word "necessarily"—that by reducing the period of training that an apprentice receives we shall increase automatically the total number of apprentices. If, for example, a firm needs to replace a dozen skilled tradesmen each year, it will take on, say, 14 apprentices each year, whether the training period is four years or five years. That will mean no increase in the number of apprenticeships available to school leavers. It will mean simply a shorter time before they become qualified.

In my view, the most important reason for adjusting the period of apprenticeship is the stimulus that it will give employers to review and improve their training arrangements. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree with that—to make training more purposeful and systematic, to make it better supervised and directed, and less wasteful of talent. All this would be pure gain, but let us not fall into the error of reducing the period of apprenticeship just for its own sake, without ensuring a corresponding improvement in the quality of training. I think that this is of prime importance.

This will be the responsibility largely of the training boards set up under the Industrial Training Act. Ten boards have now been established, covering over 7 million of the country's labour force—and a majority of the annual intake of apprentices. These boards have already made a considerable impact, and at least two of them—the Engineering and Iron and Steel Boards—have made a great deal of progress in a thorough review of training for craft apprentices.

I am quite sure that these and similar efforts by other Boards will bring about important reforms in the way these young people are trained—reforms which will take account of the advantages of more intensive methods of instruction and which will embody a more flexible and adaptable approach to craft training.

On the question of length of training, the boards have received clear guidance from the Central Training Council. In its first Report to the Minister of Labour, the Council stated its view that The length of the period of training should be related realistically to the content of the course; and the Minister will expect proposals under this heading to demonstrate that this principle has been followed. We endorse these views, and we shall expect the boards to heed them.

It is fair to say that there has been some move in recent years towards a shorter period of apprenticeship—moves which the previous and present Governments have consistently advocated and encouraged. This movement has taken two forms: first, where a boy has remained at school after his 16th birthday, the period so spent has been regarded as counting in full towards the apprenticeship; and, secondly, there has been a reduction in the period of apprenticeship for all apprentices.

For example, in the building industry all regions have, from the last year, operated a four-year apprenticeship scheme. In the engineering industry a boy who remains at school for full-time education after his 16th birthday can count the time spent at school up to the 17th birthday towards his apprenticeship, and boys starting after their 17th birthday serve four years apprenticeship. Other industries which have reduced the length of apprenticeship schemes are electricity supply and hotel and catering.

I admit that we have some way to go before the length of apprenticeship is clearly and specifically based on, and derived from, a close analysis of the training and educational requirements of the job. But now that we have industrial boards with substantial powers and clearly defined responsibilities, I am confident that progress will be much more rapid.

The hon. Member spoke of the advantages of programmed instruction in apprenticeship training. He will be interested to know that the Central Training Council has in the last year given a lot of time to an examination of various forms of programmed instruction, and to the benefits which can be secured from them. The Council is convinced that programmed instruction can be an invaluable aid to the instructor and to the trainee, and that it can encourage a systematic approach to training on the part of firms.

In the hope of encouraging wider experiment with programmed instruction, the council has today published a memorandum on the subject. It is a coincidence that it should have done so today, and when the debate ends I shall be pleased to hand a copy of the memorandum to the hon. Member. The Ministry will be commending the memorandum to the attention of all training boards, several of whom have already shown considerable interest in ways of using this form of instruction.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he has said tonight and for giving me the opportunity of indicating our interest and our actions in this important field.

Mr. R. W. Brown (Shoreditch and Finsbury)

Will my hon. Friend take up with the boards the necessity to ensure, when they are considering reducing the amount of time spent in training, the use of any spare time that is available to turn out whole men, in the sense that they are given training outside the craft side, and learn how to live in industry? If this is done it will pay off at the end of their training, when they become skilled men.

Mr. Thornton

I shall certainly consider that important point.

10.21 p.m.

Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) for giving the Parliamentary Secretary the opportunity of making such an interesting and forward-looking speech. I am convinced that the apprentices who are coming into industry today will not, as in the past, stick to one last throughout their working lives. What we need is a shorter period of broad industrial training, to give them flexibility in the use of their abilities over the period of their working lives.

I was disappointed by the references made by the hon. Member for Bothwell (Mr. James Hamilton) to American companies. I happen to know personally of three American companies which take a special interest in the training of apprentices. I am sure that when the benefits of the Industrial Training Act filter through to a wider section of our industry, in Scotland and elsewhere, the hon. Member will not feel it necessary to make these criticisms of American companies.

10.22 p.m.

Mr. Ted Leadbitter (The Hartlepools)

At this time of night, having listened to the excellent reply by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the questions raised by the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), brevity is the best approach, especially as it may allow one of my hon. Friends, who has waited for an hour or so, to make a few remarks during the last minutes of this debate.

We ought to place on record, for special mention, the kind of work that is done by the various bodies which are concerned with training young people. The House has a tendency to concern itself with the crux of a problem and to confine its attention to the need to do something which has not been done before, forgetting for a while what has been done well in the past, and what, because it has been done well, has had a lasting influence within industry.

Special mention should be made of local education authorities' technical and further training colleges. We should also mention individual employer training schemes, and to complete the picture some reference should be made to the widening influence of training centres, especially in the special and designated areas. Nevertheless, we must admit that in dealing with apprenticeships we are dealing with an anachronism. Our apprenticeship schemes are out of date. At best, they are inadequate. At their worst, they still represent the exploitation of young labour. Therefore, I am glad to learn from the Parliamentary Secretary of the changes which are taking place.

However, when we look at the question of training as a whole and the high place of broad streams of effort for the training of our people, we must admit that not enough is being done. It does not mean that the right type of training is achieved, that it is being applied in the right places, enjoyed by the right people for the right reasons, that we are getting the best value for money, or that enough research is directed towards our proper manpower needs in a scientific age.

The hon. Member for Peterborough has done the House a service by bringing this very important subject to our notice. The country should take note of some of the lessons which have already been brought before the House. I conclude with some of these lessons.

First, our apprenticeship schemes must change in form as well as in pace. Second, the employer-employee tie should be modified and the base for training provision should be broadened to an industrial level. Third, the restrictions between journeymen and apprenticeship ratios which are reminiscent of an insecure past should be removed or modified or there should be an agreed transitional period to seek that modification. This is a serious deterrent.

Fourth, the number of years for any apprenticeship should be reduced. Fifth, a person should not be debarred from apprenticeship because of age. Lastly, apprenticeship schemes and all other schemes should be co-ordinated and our-sued in an overall plan for national industrial training.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Stanley Orme (Salford, West)

I also congratulate the hon. Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) on the way in which he introduced the debate and the moderate way in which he put forward his views. I feel, however, that the emphasis has been laid on reducing the present apprenticeship period as though that in itself was the main objective, and the way to achieve more skilled labour in Britain. I do not think that this is necessarily the right way to approach it. As we move more and more into a technological age and need more skill, the emphasis should be on turning out the skilled man. If it takes four or five years, the country will be well served in future.

The hon. Member knows and the Parliamentary Secretary knows—as does any hon. Member with experience of these matters—that while there are many excellent firms, far too many still have insufficient apprenticeships. Men are not turned out fully skilled but, in many cases, under-trained. We know now that, with technical school training, the methods have changed. Particularly in more modern and advanced firms, boys are finishing apprenticeships far more highly skilled than in the past.

It is ironical to me as an engineer that engineering apprenticeships should be debated on the floor of the House in such a constructive way, because this industry is vital to the nation's economy. Without the manufacturing industries, of which engineering is the base, we will not solve the many economic problems which face us. Engineering and engineering apprentices are not rated correctly in this country. We still do not have our values right as to their importance—

The Question having been proposed at Ten o'clock and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at Ten o'clock.