HC Deb 11 November 1971 vol 825 cc1212-3
16. Mr. Hornby

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what improvements he is planning in his Department's Occupational Guidance Service.

Mr. Dudley Smith:

The future development of the Occupational Guidance Service is being currently examined as part of a general review of my Department's employment services. My right hon. Friend is to make a statement on the results of this review before the end of the year.

Mr. Hornby

I welcome that statement, but would not my hon. Friend agree that at a time when skills are changing fast and when, under any Government, employment problems are likely to be obstinate and serious for some time to come, this is a subject which needs very careful examination? Will he bring forward at the earliest possible date the information which he is collecting on the subject with a view to making the services which may be available known to as wide a public as possible?

Mr. Smith

Yes, Sir. The importance of this is fully accepted by my Department. Since the service was introduced in 1966, it has been steadily expanded from the original 12 experimental units and now has 44 centres available in large urban areas. The latest one is being opened tomorrow. Advice has so far been given to 140,000 people and the service is running at the annual rate of 40,000 cases.

Mrs. Castle

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that if, as he claims, the importance of improving the employment services is fully realised by his Department, he and his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State are adopting a very curious way of showing it, since proposals for a fundamental transformation and modernisation of the employment services were well advanced before I left his Department over 16 months ago? What is the reason for the delay, and may we at last have some action as a priority over attacking the trade unions?

Mr. Smith

The right hon. Lady's words were not the last on this subject. We want to get it absolutely right, and that is why we have taken quite a while in studying the proposals. But, as we have said today, they will be announced before the end of the year.

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