HC Deb 03 February 1972 vol 830 cc661-5
18. Mr. Selwyn Gummer

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what proposals he has for increasing cooperation between industry, industrial training boards and the employment and education services at national and local level.

Mr. Bryan

The Government's plans for the future of industrial training—"Training for the Future—A Plan for Discussion"—were published on 1st February. The booklet includes positive proposals to strengthen co-operation between industry, the training boards and the employment and education services through the establishment of a National Training Agency.

Mr. Gummer

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Will he make special efforts to see that in the extra year at school every effort is made to give school-leavers an intimation of the sort of life they will lead, so that there is less unemployment among school-leavers?

Mr. Bryan

I am not sure that that is exactly what my hon. Friend asked his Question about. I think that the National Training Agency which we are establishing is about the best answer we can have on the question of co-operation.

Mr. Prentice

The hon. Gentleman referred to the consultative document. Is he aware that the proposal in it to phase out the training levies and grants has been greeted with dismay by many people who follow these matters closely? Is the proposal regarded as a firm Government decision or as something that may be withdrawn in the light of discussions the Government will hold with interested parties?

Mr. Bryan

My right hon. Friend made it clear the other day that that is part of the consultative part of the document and is open for consultation. But he also made it clear that the proposal is not viewed with dismay by many of the training boards, because several of the more experienced boards were already going in that direction. When the right hon. Gentleman studies the matter, he will find that to be so.

Mr. Dell

What is it about the employment service that makes it impossible to hive it off and join with the proposed National Training Agency in a national labour market board?

Mr. Bryan

That may happen in years to come but we are not in a position to do it yet. Before such a step could be taken, we should have to separate the payment of benefits from the employment services, and we are nowhere near doing that yet. Therefore, we are talking about quite a long time ahead.

Mr. Raison

Are the Government likely shortly to announce details of improved financial incentives for workers seeking retraining?

Mr. Bryan

That was announced last August. A person being retrained receives about £5 more than unemployment benefit.

21. Mr. Molloy

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what further effects rising unemployment has had on industrial training; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. R. Carr

Applications under my Department's Vocational Training Scheme have doubled during the last six months due to an increased demand from unemployed workers. There is evidence that training provided by employers decreased in 1971 as compared with 1970.

Mr. Molloy

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that reply must be very disheartening? Is he aware, further, that because of his Government's policy of deliberately creating mass unemployment there is a deleterious effect on all those involved in industrial training, since they believe that it is producing not technicians craftsmen and scientific workers but more and more young men and women to go on the dole?

Mr. Carr

The hon. Gentleman has indulged in a pack of rubbish. It is a travesty of everything that has happened to suggest that the change in unemployment is due to the deliberate policy of this Government. The hard fact is that we are getting slightly more output with 400,000 fewer people. That is the great difficulty. Unlike the hon. Gentleman, I find it very satisfactory that, in these circumstances, the number of applications for Government training schemes has doubled. Many people ask me what is the good of having training because no one will want it, but twice as many people appear to want it.

Mr. Tom King

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on resisting the ritual tirade from the benches opposite and on recognising that this matter is very much more complex than the Opposition ever care to admit. I congratulate my right hon. Friend, further, on his decision to visit Germany. Recognising the woefully inadequate manpower planning policies that my right hon. Friend inherited from his predecessor, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he accepts that in Germany he will be able to study the German Government's plan for creating 19 million new jobs in the next 10 years with which to combat what they recognise to be the problem of technological change?

Mr. Carr

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. I want to assure him that we regard the need to improve our employment services in every way as being extremely important if we are to maintain full employment in the future—[HON. MEMBERS: "Maintain?"] It is an area of policy in which we in this country have fallen behind, and we must now catch up.

Mr. James Hamilton

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, I have always been a great advocate of industrial training and have said so in this House many times. Is he aware that in Lanarkshire we have 9ç8 of the insurable population unemployed? Will he ensure the House that to assist Lanarkshire and Scotland there will be another training centre in the area? Can he assure us, further, that when men are trained there will be jobs for them? This is vitally important.

Mr. Carr

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not wish to commit me to saying precisely where new training centres are to be. However, I can assure him that Scotland will not get any less than its proper share of the big expansion that we have in mind.

Mr. Prentice

Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that we are becoming more and more sick of the complacent nature of his replies on our employment troubles? Is not the Government's failure to deal with the unemployment problem underlined by the appalling forecast by the C.B.I. today that manufacturing industry is not likely to increase its labour force between now and May and that, within that period, many large firms may reduce their labour forces even further? Does not that indicate that the inadequacy of the Government's policies is even worse than we have assumed?

Mr. Carr

It indicates that the measures to expand and boost economic growth should have been started long before June, 1970.

Mr. John Page

Can my right hon. Friend indicate what proportion of those who receive training at Government training centres get jobs soon after they leave the centres?

Mr. Carr

Last year about 80 per cent. got jobs within the first month. That was a little lower than the year before but it was still satisfactorily high. It is worth bringing out the point that, even today, well-trained people have much better employment opportunities than others.

Mr. McBride

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the provision of more training facilities in Wales will be looked at with interest? Is he aware, further, that what would receive a warmer welcome is more employment? Knowing that the flow of industry has been reduced to a mere trickle, will the right hon. Gentleman see to it that the Principality has a better share of employment opportunities? The time for platitudes is long past. What the 56,000 jobless in Wales want is a policy which gives them work.

Mr. Carr

The amount of money that we have pumped into the economy to boost demand in the past year is not a platitude. It is a hard reality. The growth is coming. What has happened, though, is that for various reasons industry has suddenly increased productivity enormously to the point where we are producing the same amount with many fewer people.