HC Deb 25 February 1971 vol 812 cc822-5
5. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects to have completed his departmental review of the operation of industrial training boards; and if he will now make a statement both as to its publication and how he intends the consultative process to operate.

42. Mr. Adam Butler

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will now make a definitive statement of his policy on the future of the industrial training boards, in particular the Construction Industry Training Board.

55. Mr. John Page

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he has now decided to issue interim guidance to industrial training boards pending the outcome of his review.

61. Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

asked the Secretary of State for Employment when he expects to have completed his review of industrial training boards.

The Secretary of Slate for Employment (Mr. Robert Carr)

My answer on 23rd February to my hon. Friend the Member for Leek (Mr. Knox) explained why I now anticipate that it will be some months before a consultative document on my review of industrial training will be published and set out the interim guidance I am giving to industrial training boards.—[Vol. 812, c. 117.]

Mr. Finsberg

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, but is he aware that during the interim period many of the justified complaints which have been sent to him will continue to be unsatisfied? What steps will he take to make sure that the Distributive Industries Training Board and the Hotel and Catering Training Board bring themselves into line with current thought?

Mr. Carr

The guidance which I shall be giving will go a long way to tackle the greater exemption of small firms in the justifiable complaints, particularly some industries, netting levy payments against grants, more selectivity in priorities of training projects, and so forth.

Mr. Butler

When does my right hon. Friend expect the Construction Industry Training Board to become financially viable and to be able to repay the Government loan, and what increase in percentage levy does he expect to be necessary to bring about viability?

Mr. Carr

The problem of the C.I.T.B. represents in extreme form one of the matters on which I am giving guidance, namely, the need for boards to control the cost of grant schemes, the lack of which led to trouble in this board. It will be some time, measured in years rather than months, before the board becomes solvent. The money has been lent on strict repayment terms. A representative of Cooper Brothers will continue to advise the board on its financial matters, and regular reports will be made to me.

Mr. Page

Is my right hon. Friend aware how grateful many smaller firms will be to know that attention is being given to their possible exemption from levy?

Mr. Carr

While this must not go too far, in some industries there has been an undue amount of effort and expenditure in relation to the possible return, and I think this could be improved.

Mr. Boyd-Carpenter

Does not my right hon. Friend's answer to the last supplementary question suggest that it might be wise to make permanent provision in respect of such boards that remain for the right of smaller firms to contract out?

Mr. Carr

This problem ought to remain for my final review. I hope that the guidance I am giving will go some way in the interim period to meet justifiable complaints.

Mr. Rose

Although I recognise that operational details may need to be changed, will the right hon. Gentleman emphasise to the House that he fully supports his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who, in a speech at Ayr three days before the General Election, called for a massive increase in industrial training? Will he resist pressure from his less enlightened back-benchers who wish not to alter but to dismantle the boards altogether?

Mr. Carr

I certainly confirm my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister's repeated pledge on the need for increasing training facilities. We must take into account here, and my right hon. Friend had this particularly in mind, the need for adult as well as initial training.

Mr. Dell

Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to close down any other industrial training boards?

Mr. Carr

That is a hypothetical question. I have no intention so to do at the moment. I simply must look at each board as it puts forward its proposals and judge it on its merits. The training board system is doing a great deal of good which must not be thrown away, but we should be foolish not to recognise that in some areas it is not being as successful as we hoped it might be. We must keep a questioning mind as to whether methods which are appropriate in some industries are equally appropriate in others.

16. Mr. Rost

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether his current review of industrial training boards will include a special examination of the Shipbuilding Industry Training Board in so far as it affects the smaller firms of small boat builders.

Mr. Bryan

The review covers the activities of all training boards, and particular attention is being given to the position of small firms. The present levy of the Shipbuilding Industry Training Board is not applied to the first £3,000 of any establishment's payroll, and this effectively exempts about 240 small firms (a fifth of all establishments) from the levy.

Mr. Rost

May I ask the Minister to refer to the Prime Minster, whose interest in small boats for leisure facilities is very much shared by constituents of mine in South-East Derbyshire? Can we be assured that this important industry will be encouraged by allowing more of these small firms to opt out of the levy, which is harming their profitability and expansion?

Mr. Bryan

This point, dealing with small firms, was covered by the statement of my right hon. Friend earlier.