HC Deb 29 January 1970 vol 794 cc1694-5
3. Mr. Arthur Davidson

asked the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity if she will make a statement about her meeting with the authorities involved in North-East Lancashire to discuss employment problems in the area.

Mrs. Castle

The purpose of the conference at Clayton-le-Moors was to examine what can be done to secure the most effective use of manpower in the area, to match the demand for and supply of labour so that production is not held back, and to make full use of Government assistance to intermediate areas.

It provided an opportunity for a valuable exchange of views on a wide range of manpower problems between Members of Parliament for the area, trade unions and employers, local authorities, technical colleges, planning bodies, local employment committees and Government Departments. As chairman of the conference, I found many useful points raised in the discussions, and these are now being considered.

Mr. Davidson

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this conference, which was quite rightly held in my constituency, was a most successful innovation? Can she say whether she has borne in mind one of the points constantly made; namely, that the Government should consider whether they could increase retraining grants in respect of men over the age of 40?

Mrs. Castle

This was a very interesting point which came out during the discussions. There is a shortage of labour in the area, and it is obviously absurd for anyone to be considered too old at 50 in that situation. The suggestion was made that special grants should be made for the training of the over-40s. We are discussing this with the industrial training board.