HC Deb 06 November 1969 vol 790 cc1170-1
21. Mr. Hastings

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity whether she is satisfied with the present operation of the Industrial Training Act ; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Castle

In general, the Act is working well. The annual reports of the training boards show that substantial progress is being made. The Central Training Council has given guidance to the boards on important policy issues and continues to study certain outstanding problems.

Mr. Hastings

Does the right hon. Lady realise that the system as it is operating at present frequently puts a worthless burden on particularly the small companies, whose needs seldom correspond to the whims and fancies of the Government?

Mrs. Castle

I would not accept that at all. The legislation, which was initiated by a Conservative Administration, has proved a great boon across industry and, of course, we have built extensively on the basis of the Act. The boards are aware of the problems of small firms, and for this reason the number of group training schemes has been increased. The Council has had a special look at the problems of smaller firms.

Mr. Raphael Tuck

Is it not a fact that there has been a vast and highly beneficial increase in industrial training since Labour took office in 1964? What is my right hon. Friend's forecast for the future in this context?

Mrs. Castle

My hon. Friend is certainly correct. There has been a massive increase in the numbers under training and I am only too glad to give some information, not only for the benefit of the House but for the enlightenment of the Leader of the Opposition, who only the other day said in Scotland:

I can foresee that something like 100,000 men and women will need to be trained every year—trained by industry, by Government and through the educational system. He added:

That is why I have pledged the next Conservative Government to an unprecedented programme of training…. The right hon. Gentleman seems unaware of the fact that there are not 100,000 but 500,000 men and women now under training.

Mr. R. Carr

Is not the right hon. Lady well aware that my right hon. Friend was referring to a totally different problem, one which has been made abundantly clear in the House? Is she aware that my right hon. Friend was referring to what has been popularly called "adult retraining "—I do not like this difference that appears to be put on training and retraining—and, in referring to what is an entirely different problem, spoke of the urgent need for action and pledged that the next Conservative Government would do far more than the right hon. Lady has done?

Mrs. Castle

Having read the text of the speech made by the Leader of the Opposition on that occasion, I cannot accept the specialised interpretation which the right hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) endeavours to put on it. It was a totally misleading statement and, once again, the Leader of the Opposition used statistics selectively and inaccurately.