HC Deb 23 May 1973 vol 857 cc600-25
Mr. Booth

I beg to move Amendment No. 53, in page 23, line 2, leave out 'paragraph' and insert 'paragraphs'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 61, in page 23, line 4, at end insert: '(i) may inspect the place of employment of any person being trained in the industry if the employer of that person is subject to, or exempted from the levy specified in section 4 below'.

Mr. Booth

The amendment is necessary in the present construction of the Bill to make way for Amendment No. 61, which, if accepted by the House, would give any industrial training board the right to inspect places of employment of people in the industry with which the board is concerned. That is to say, it would give the engineering training board the right to examine and inspect engineering factories, and the shipbuilding training board the right to examine shipyards, and so on.

It may seem surprising that such a right was not included in the Industrial Training Act 1964. However, it must be accepted that the reason may be that industrial training boards as they were envisaged in 1964 were regarded by firms as having a substantial power to determine levy to be paid for industrial training.

It being Ten o'clock, further consideration of the Bill, as amended, stood adjourned.

Ordered, That the Employment and Training Bill may be proceeded with at this day's Sitting, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Jopling.]

Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), further considered.

Mr. Booth

It was expected that any employer seeking to persuade a training board of the quality of his training schemes, with a view to his being exempted from levy, would be willing to allow the board or its officers to examine his premises, even though he might not positively welcome the board's doing so.

However, the Bill, which makes substantial amendments to the 1964 Act, has cast considerable doubt upon the extent to which training boards will in future exercise a right to determine levy. The Bill amends Section 4 of the 1964 Act by adding subsection (2A): Nothing in this Act shall be construed as requiring the Minister to make a levy order in a case in which he considers it inexpedient to make one; and the Minister shall not make a levy order in pursuance of any proposals under the said section 7 unless''. The Bill then lays down strict qualifications, ending with a suggestion that the levy may be either severely limited or subject to an almost unlimited discretion in the Minister.

The position now is not what it was in 1964. Whereas in 1964 one could not conceive of a case in which an employer would not allow an industrial training board to examine his premises if the board was responsible for training in the industry, the same presumption cannot necessarily be made now.

The position is unclear, in that the determination of the levy in the Bill is left almost entirely at the Minister's discretion, on the one hand. On the other hand, there is provision in the 1964 Act for a tribunal to determine questions of the appropriate level of levy and the question whether a levy should be paid.

We should consider the position of an industrial training board operating in present circumstances without a statutory right to examine the premises of a firm, if the board had to go before the tribunal. The levy board representative might say "We take the view that this firm should pay such-and-such a levy." If he were asked "Have you seen the training scheme in the works? "he could answer" No, I have not been allowed to do so." That might be taken to indicate a certain measure of bloody-mindedness on the firm's part. The training board representative would not be able to claim any expertise from having examined the scheme, whereas the employer's representative, from his access to the premises, could make that claim.

It seems to me that it is necessary for the normal operation of an industrial training board for it to be able to examine the industry for which it is responsible with a view to setting up training schemes and the furtherance of training. There is this additional consideration now brought about by the change in the levy position and the doubt hovering over the position of the tribunal. However, I do not wish these other considerations to influence or to be set against the major consideration of the industrial training boards doing their job properly. That is why I have framed the amendment so as to make the power to inspect relate to Section 2(1) of the 1964 Industrial Training Act.

If the House accepts the amendment, a board will have the right to inspect the industry with which it is concerned for the purpose of encouraging the adequate training of persons employed or intending to be employed in that industry. The other benefits that it may have will be incidental, and I hope that any fears existing on the other scores to which I have referred will not be realised.

It is almost self-evident that there is a very serious responsibility resting upon industrial training boards to know fully the premises and service areas in which those for whose training the board is responsible have to undergo that training, and that it should be the statutory responsibility of that board to inspect those premises.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I cannot advise the House to accept the amendment. It would be a mistake. It is both undesirable and unnecessary.

We should be extremely cautious before starting to create a fairly wide-ranging right of entry into private or commercial premises. I quite see that there is nothing sinister in the hon. Gentleman's objective, which is, I suppose, that he wants firms inspected. Incidentally, even if I were to accept the amendment I should prefer to see the word "visited" rather than "inspected" because it is less offensive to many people.

The object of such visits presumably would be to see whether firms were worthy of exemption under the new system. I do not believe that that would be necessary in any event. If a firm refuses to allow the board's representatives to visit it—which in itself would be very unlikely if it applied voluntarily for exemption—assuming that the board cannot find other means of satisfying itself about the training arrangements there, it will not issue an exemption certificate or make a grant. It is better that the board should not have the power to inspect but that it should have power to refuse to make grant or, subject to appeal, to refuse to issue a certificate.

There could be difficulties here. It is possible, for example, to imagine circumstances in which a firm has commercial secrets where, clearly, the right to privacy ought to be respected. In that sort of case the employer will have to accept that his refusal may lead to a loss of exemption if the board cannot satisfy itself in any other way that his training arrangements are adequate. But it will be possible to write into the exemption criteria the right to pay visits to premises in order to look round them.

In all the circumstances, the amendment is both undesirable and unnecessary.

Mr. Bishop

I do not wish to detain the House long in supporting my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) on Amendments Nos. 53 and 61.

The Minister's reply is completely unsatisfactory. I think that the amendments commend themselves to the House.

The Minister said that there is power to refuse a certificate. I presume that if the employer does not allow his premises to be inspected, so that the board may be satisfied about the conditions, there would be refusal of a certificate. But, even so, there still must be power to inspect the premises where training is taking place.

I am not clear whether the Bill gives power to inspect. For the board to be satisfied on this matter inspection will have to take place, and refusal to allow inspection would apparently mean refusal of a certificate.

The proposed paragraph (h) to Section 2(1) of the Act refers to the provision of advice about training connected with the industry". This is essential. So is the requirement that the amendment seeks to put into the Bill that, apart from the training, the premises, equipment and other facilities essential to training should be open to inspection. Surely on these grounds alone the amendment is justified.

Many of us felt that the Minister would get up and say that he could accept the amendment. We all know from our experience and knowledge of industrial training and training boards that standards vary considerably from place to place. If the Minister has not got the powers that we seek to give him, surely those who are providing the industrial training, which is essential to younger people, and retraining, which is necessary because of technological changes, will not be able to provide the standard of industrial training and retraining which is so desirable. I think it would help to raise the standards of training to have the right to inspect premises and thereby gain some idea of the equipment and facilities being provided. It would make bigger demands on those who in the past have been lagging behind with industrial training and apprenticeship schemes. It is essential to make greater demands on those who provide the training so that the standards of education and training in future are higher than in the past. I hope that the Minister can still see his way clear to reconsider his reply.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I do not want to do an injustice to the hon. Member for Newark (Mr. Bishop). I think he may have come into the Chamber after I had begun to reply, because he appears to have missed the burden of a good deal of what I said.

One of the objects of a levy exemption scheme is to cause firms to move towards better training.

The hon. Gentleman asked whether the right to inspect is written into the Bill. No, it is not. However, the Bill specifically provides, in Schedule 2, in a new Section 4B(2)(a), that the board can make it a condition of issue of the certificate that it should be able to inspect the training arrangements if it wishes to do so. I do not think that the board will wish to do so in every case. If a firm refuses to allow the board to visit its premises, the board is free, subject to appeal, to revoke the certificate. However, it does not, and should not, have an enforceable right of inspection as such.

I think that I have now answered the hon. Gentleman's point. I think, in fairness to him, that he missed what I said earlier.

Mr. Bishop

I heard the Minister say that, but I thought it was a one-sided way of putting it.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. It is not in order for the hon. Member to make a second speech on the amendment. If he intends to make a short intervention, that will be all right.

Amendment negatived.

10.15 p.m.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I beg to move Amendment No. 21, in page 24, line 25, at end insert: '(1A) In section 4(2) of the Act, after the words "to proposals" there shall be inserted the words "In respect of a levy which have been".'

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

With this we are to take Amendment No. 36, in page 37 line 29, after 'proposals', insert: 'in respect of a levy which have been'.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

The amendment is a technical one which makes it clear that a levy order gives effect to levy proposals and not to any other proposals. The second amendment makes a consequential change to the keeling Schedule.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Robert Taylor

I beg to move Amendment No. 22, in page 24, line 27, leave out 'subsection' and insert 'subsections'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we are to take Amendment No. 25, in page 25, line 15, at end insert:

'(2B) The Minister may, in making a levy order in pursuance of any proposals under the said section 7, make it with such exemptions or further exemptions for any employers or class of employers as he may, after consultation with the Commission, consider appropriate'.

Mr. Taylor

Most hon. Members will be aware of individual companies which claim to train with exceeding efficiency and still finish up as net losers on the levy grant system. My hon. Friend will, I believe, recall that over the last few years I have sent to him and to his predecessor numerous examples of companies which fall within that category. Indeed, on at least two occasions the industrial training board concerned has admitted that the courses are of no use to the firms in question, but it has pleaded as an excuse for demanding the levy the fact that it is statutorily obliged to do so.

After the enactment of the Bill, the position for a number of these firms will, as I understand it, be the same because, as the Bill stands, there are two grounds for exclusion from levies. The first is on the ground that the pay roll of the firm does not reach the minimum laid down by the industrial training board, and we are to a certain extent legislating in a vacuum because we do not know what those minimum payrolls will be. Certain industrial training boards—notably the Engineering Industry Training Board—are moving in a progressive way to a high cut-off figure, but other boards—notably the Construction Industry Training Board —persist with a low cut-off figure and demand a levy from very small firms.

The other criterion which the Bill lays down for exemption will be rules approved by the industrial training boards. Here again we are legislating in a vacuum, because we do not know what those rules will be. It is true that my hon. Friends will have the opportunity to approve those rules, or to withhold his approval of them, but the point that I want to emphasise is that there will be no flexibility once those rules have been approved. In other words, any firm with a payroll above the minimum and which does not meet the specific rules of a relevant training board will still be forced to pay the levy irrespective of whether it is generally agreed that its training reaches a high standard. It may be a firm which is unique in its manufacturing processes or has some other individual characteristic which is not catered for by its industrial training board.

The two amendments will have the effect of giving the Minister some flexibility, and I suggest that that is of the greatest importance in the context of the speeches that we have heard tonight about the £35 million to be made available to the training boards and for the training services. Without the amendment, there will undoubtedly be many appeals involving legal expense and the training boards will have to defend their demands for levies. This will eat into the £35 million which is to be made available.

I am not dogmatic in my request that firms should automatically be excluded. All I ask is that my hon. Friend should take unto himself the opportunity to say that a particular firm is trading in a satisfactory fashion, although it does not meet the set of rules laid down by the industrial training board, and that it should be excluded from the levy.

I hope that my hon. Friend will not say that he already has that power, because I have read the Bill carefully on this point. Although he has the power to amend regulations, once those regulations are firm I do not believe that the Bill allows particular specialised firms to be excluded from levy payment, although such exclusion is well justified by the enthusiasm that those firms put into their training.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I entirely accept the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor) about the number of times that he has pressed me about his fears regarding certain firms. But his fears are groundless. He is right when he says that we do not know at this moment what the minimum payrolls will be. This matter is still under discussion. Equally, he is right to say that we do not know what the rules for exemption will be. We do not know what the criteria will be for every board at this stage: they may vary.

What we do know is that there will have to be published criteria; that may, of course, be of considerable help to him and to the firms whose interests he is always so ready to defend. In Committee I gave some idea of the sort of suggestions, which might form acceptable criteria, that the Department had sent to the boards. Our suggestions included questions like Are there appropriate means for identifying a firm's training needs? Is there a plan for providing training to meet identified needs? Is training carried out in accordance with the plan? I think that the House will agree that, given criteria like those, it should be possible for almost any firm which provides proper training to secure exemption.

I accept that it is possible that a firm may have no training needs at all and that such firms should not be barred from gaining exemption from levy.

My hon. Friend was also right to point out that, if a firm is dissatisfied with a board's refusal to grant exemption, the Bill provides for a right of appeal, first to the board concerned, and then, if the firm wants to take it further, to an independent body. So there are some safeguards.

There is one aspect of my hon. Friend's amendment about which I should be unhappy. He has written to me about this. I acknowledge his motives in suggesting it, which are of the purest. However, I certainly could not accept an amendment which would enable the Secretary of State, after consulting the commission, to include in the levy order the exemption of particular firms or classes of firms independent of any proposals made by the board concerned and without having to consult the board. That is not the direction in which we should move. It is all very well to send the proposals back, but it would be quite wrong for a Secretary of State of any party, to be in a position to exempt particular firms as well as classes of firms from levy. I think that the House would feel that a Secretary of State, of any party, ought not to have almost completely unfettered power to exempt a particular firm as he considered appropriate. The suggestion for exemption ought to go through the usual channels. I should not like to go along with my hon. Friend on that point.

I hope that I have been able to give my hon. Friend some sort of reassurance and that he will be willing to withdraw the amendment.

Mr. Robert Taylor

My hon. Friend knows my enthusiasm on this subject. Although his explanation meets my case in some way, I should still prefer, if there were any support, to press the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I beg to move. Amendment No. 23, in page 24, line 36, leave out 'that section' and insert 'the said section 7'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment it will be convenient for the House to take Amendment No. 37, in page 37, line 41, leave out 'that section' and insert 'the said section 7'.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

These are simply minor drafting amendments to put right a reference in the text to Section 4 of the 1964 Act. The reference there should be to Section 7.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Harold Walker

I beg to move Amendment No. 24, in page 25, line 5, leave out 'one' and insert 'one and a half'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment we are to take Amendment No. 26, in page 25, line 22, leave out sub-paragraph (4).

Mr. Walker

I shall seek to be as brief as possible, but I hope that the House will not assume that the brevity of my remarks somehow detracts from the very great importance and significance that we attach to the amendments.

The Minister will be familiar with the fundamental arguments because in Committee we had a similar duo of amendments. But in Committee we sought to raise the ceiling of 1 per cent. which the Minister is now imposing on the levy to 2 per cent. We hope that what we are now advancing, 1½ per cent., is a reasonable compromise between what we sought and the position to which the Government have dogmatically adhered. This accords with the desire that has been represented to the Government by the TUC.

Obviously we cannot talk of the levy level without referring to what we discussed earlier, the £35 million which the Government are allocating for administrative training board costs, key training activities and several other activities. The imposition of this 1 per cent. ceiling on levy inevitably diminishes the income of the boards. I am not falling into the trap to which the Minister drew attention and assuming, that a certain percentage reduction in levy means a corresponding reduction in income to the board which is available for training purposes. It does not. But the Minister will equally accept that the imposition of a 1 per cent. ceiling diminishes the income to the boards and the amount of money available, broadly, for training purposes, and that amount is not offset by the £35 million. I hope that the Minister will not quarrel with that, not-withstanding his earlier remarks.

Added to this, however, we have the very dramatic extension of scope for exemption that the Minister is now providing. They are, perhaps, not new principles, but nevertheless it is a very substantial increase in degree in the scope for exemption, both for those whose training needs may be considered adequate in the view of the board and the employer and because of the extension of exemption for small firms. Therefore, we see a very dramatic reduction, for all these reasons, of the income of boards for training purposes if the proposals in the Bill remain unaltered. We seek to offset that by advocating 1½ per cent. instead of 1 per cent.

But there is also another reason. The levy/grant system has been repeatedly referred to as the carrot and stick concept. It is a positive and a negative incentive. There has been universal acceptance since the Industrial Training Act came into full operation that the permanent shift in attitudes of industry to training to which the Government have referred has been brought about much more by the stick than by the carrot. The stick has been much more influen- tial in bringing about that shift in attitudes and we think that the size of the stick should be maintained. The Government, however, are deliberately diminishing its size and it is for that reason amongst others that we should keep in the word "permanent". Only time will tell how permanent it is or will be, and I have strong reservations.

Perhaps I might now turn to our proposed exemption under subsection (4). Its purpose is that the Minister has power in certain special circumstances to breach the 1 per cent. ceiling, yet those circumstances require that there should be an affirmative resolution of both Houses rather than use of the negative resolution procedure as is written into the 1964 Act. Hon. Members know what a formidable hurdle that is. It will be only in the most extreme cases and exceptional circumstances that the Minister is likely to come to Parliament, knowing as he does that he must argue his case through both Houses particularly in the teeth of the reactionary opposition of the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Robert Taylor) and hon. Members who tend to share his views on industrial training. The Government should think again about this. I hope that in reply the Minister will be more sympathetic than he was in Standing Committee.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I am sorry I cannot be sympathetic as the hon. Member for Doncaster (Mr. Harold Walker) wishes but I must be consistent. We have covered most of this ground before. As he said we have cantered over a good deal of it in Standing Committee and most of the objections which I raised to his amendment on that occasion seeking 2 per cent. still stand in respect of his present proposal of 1½ per cent. I cannot change my mind.

His suggestion is that the imposition of this as a normal levy limit taken with the new levy exemption arrangements will result in a diminution of the boards' activities. There are three points I must make. Only a small number of boards have a levy above 1 per cent., and the trend has been to move down to 1 per cent. and then below. Certainly the indications which we have so far suggest that more and more boards are reducing the size of their levy still further. When the new arrangements come into force on 1st April 1975 the £35 million will be available to the commission to take care of the boards' administrative costs, key training grants and to cover the groups which are not covered by boards now. That will be there and it is additional. It is not our policy that the boards should exempt firms whose training is not adequate. We should certainly look askance at a situation where Exchequer funds were set aside in order to support training which could reasonably be secured through the criteria for exemption. The general principle on exemption should be that the boards grant exemption to employers if they are satisfied that a firm is carrying out training adequate to its needs.

10.30 p.m.

After very extensive consultation we accepted last year that the correct approach was to provide that levy exemption should enable boards to fulfil their responsibilities for securing and improving standards of training in industry and to do so in a way which enabled firms with sufficient training to avoid the administrative complexities which have become associated with the levy/grant system.

We believe that pressure for good training will be maintained by the criteria which the boards will set for exemption. These will relate to what a firm can be expected to be doing in order to carry out training adequate to its needs. The criteria ought to reflect the good training standards which the boards will have worked out with their industries, and the process can be expected to start at any time.

Standards of good training rise over a period, so the exemption system can be used to exert pressure for improved standards. It is right that standards for firms qualifying for exemption should be raised. The exemption is a new tool which the boards will use to renew pressure for good training.

The system we are adopting was given full thought and consideration and will get rid of much of the detailed paper work which was proving a positive hindrance to training itself, not to say the firms. It will enable the boards' advisers who go visiting firms to use their time in talking about training and not about money, as they so often have had to do in the past, and that is as it should be.

As we have said over and over again, I do not believe that it is necessary to provide in normal circumstances for levies above one per cent. Having said that, however, I stick to the position I maintained in Committee—that in exceptional circumstances the Secretary of State should have the power to impose a levy of over one per cent. As I have said, I do not think that it would be right to attempt to forecast what those exceptional circumstances might be, but one example could be where there was a widespread falling-off in an industry's training effort. Because such levies would be exceptional, it is right that they should be subject to consideration by Parliament under the affirmative resolution procedure.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I beg to move Amendment No. 29, in page 25, line 39, leave out 'employed' and insert 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

Mr. Speaker

With this we are to take Government Amendments Nos. 30, 31, 38, 39 and 40.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

These amendments put right a flaw in the provision concerning exemptions which have come to light since the Committee stage. The purpose is to ensure that exemption proposals and exemption certificates themselves must take into account the number of trained people an employer is expected to need at a particular establishment. Thus, he would be entitled to a certificate in respect of an establishment if he were training enough people to meet his needs, and in accordance with the criteria he could be refused one if he were not—in other words, if he was relying excessively on recruiting already-trained men. This is an anti-poaching measure.

We all agree that it would be absurd if a board found itself obliged to give exemption to a firm which was giving adequate training to existing employees but no training to meet its future needs for skilled people, relying instead on poaching other people's trained men.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 30 in page 26, line 31, leave out 'employed' and insert 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

No. 31, in page 26, line 48, leave out 'employed' and insert 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

No. 32, in page 27, line 14, leave out 'of its issue' and insert 'on which it comes into force'.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]

Mr. Moyle

I beg to move Amendment No. 33, in page 27, line 22, at end insert: '(3) The Commission shall not approve proposals for the issue of certificates where it is not satisfied that representatives of the categories of employees affected have been consulted before the application was submitted'. This amendment is founded on the principle that the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and those who eat mostly of the pudding of training are the employees. If training is skimped, their expectations, jobs, careers and prospects will suffer. We also found the amendment on the idea that training is probably as good as one pays for and that good training is founded on the financial provision. Therefore, employees are vitally affected by proposals for the withdrawal of the levy from their firm. With that end in view, employees should be entitled to have a say in the exemption or otherwise of their firm from the levy.

My right hon. and hon. Friends are astounded by their moderation. There is a spirit of workers' participation abroad which is even lapping around the foundations of the present Government. But we are not asking for workers' control or workers' participation. We are not asking for their consent and for the withdrawal of the levy. All we are asking for is that employees in a firm from which the levy will be withdrawn should be entitled to be consulted.

Just as in the first debate today we had occasion to refer to The Times, as we near the end of our debate this evening we can refer to The Times, again. We are promised on the front page of The Times today that we shall have a Green Paper on workers' participation by no less a person than the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. I gather that the right hon. Gentleman is travelling to Europe and back to seek inspiration. Why he could not get the same sort of inspiration from his fellow-countryman in the TUC I cannot imagine.

That is not all. We are told that the message of particpation has even been received by the Secretary of State for Employment. Apparently he is now beavering away in the background with an enthusiasm which is terrible in its own wonderful way to behold. We are told that he has been exploring the options, whatever that might mean. We hope that he finds them. He has suggested that there should be three lines of advance in participation—namely, in control, in management going beyond the trade unions' tactical rôle and in ownership. I hope that he takes all lines of advance simultaneously if necessary. It may be thought by some that it will be a considerable improvement to have the right hon. Gentleman going in only three ways at once instead of his normal state of mind.

We are not asking for exploration of the options or for suggested lines of advance. We want the Government to signalise their impending conversion to workers' participation by accepting the amendment. In that way workers will be consulted when it is proposed that the levy shall be withdrawn from their firm.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I had not realised that we were going to get into a sort of competition as to who could be keenest about workers' participation. It is fair to say that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment, who the hon. Member for Lewisham. North (Mr. Moyle) seemed to infer had some form of reluctance, is a pioneer of such participation. He has probably been advocating share-ownership longer than any hon. Member. He has done so with some success. I must rebut any suggestion that he is not taking a keen interest in this matter.

Mr. Prentice

Follow his example.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

But the amendment is not about share-ownership, nor is it a correctly worked out and considered plan such as that which my right hon. Friend advances on share-ownership. Of course, we are all being out-bidden by the Liberal Party. The right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) has suddenly discovered the Code of Practice, which some of us have seen before. The right hon. Gentleman has put down a Ten Minutes Rule Bill. If ever there was an example of stealing your clothes while you are wearing them. that must be it.

While I naturally appreciate what the hon. Member for Lewisham, North has said—this is a matter which was discussed in Committee in perhaps a rather oblique way—it would be wrong to rush into this proposition in a Bill of this kind. I accept the spirit of what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is a wide matter. The proposition that an employer must consult representatives of his employees before he submits an application for exemption is an idea with which I have some sympathy. I do not think that it can be written into the Bill. However, it is certainly true that employers should consult their employees about training.

10.45 p.m.

The point is made specifically in the Code of Industrial Relations Practice, which says managements should initiate and accept primary responsibility for these policies"— employment policies, which include training. But they should be developed in consultation or negotiation, as appropriate, with employee representatives. The Code of Practice and I are both in sympathy with what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do. But when it comes to including it in legislation why should we pick out the employer who wants to apply for exemption and require him to consult without requiring other employers to consult about their training arrangements? The need for consultation about training may well be greatest in the very firm whose training arrangements are not good enough to enable it to apply for exemption.

I have great sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's intention, as I am sure every hon. Member has, but the question is far too wide. Before we have concluded our diligent studies on worker participation, which are proceeding, it would be wrong to try to apply the only half- or quarter-ripe fruits of those studies to a Bill of this kind, so I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment.

Mr. Moyle

There is a wide gap between worker participation and share ownership. I hope that that will be borne in mind in the preparation of the Green Paper.

I am sorry to have embarrassed the hon. Gentleman by moving the amendment and showing the great gap between precept and practice in the Government's attitude. We await the Green Paper with bated breath, fairly confident that before the General Election there will be proposals for action afterwards that will never be carried out.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I beg to move Amendment No. 34, in page 27, line 27, at end insert: ';but for the purposes of the preceding provisions of this subsection a notice given in pursuance of this subsection shall be disregarded if the board subsequently informs the person to whom it was given that the notice is withdrawn'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment we are to discuss Amendment No. 42, in page 40, line 29, at end insert: ';but for the purposes of the preceding provisions of this subsection a notice given in pursuance of this subsection shall be disregarded if the board subsequently informs the person to whom it was given that the notice is withdrawn'. This is merely a question of tidying up loose ends. Under the Bill as drafted it would be possible for a training board to issue a notice revoking a firm's exemption certificate if in the board's opinion the firm had not complied with conditions that the board has specified in the certificate. For example, an exemption certificate may be issued with the condition that the firm concerned sends certain of its employees on a particular training course. The board may then decide to issue a notice revoking the certificate if the firm fails to do so. However, at a later date the board may conclude that the circumstances of the firm have changed in one way or another so that attendance at that course is no longer appropriate.

The amendments would permit the board to withdraw the revocation notice in those circumstances, and thus in effect restore the exemption certificate. It is desirable that there should be this flexibility.

Amendment agreed to.

Mr. Booth

I beg to move Amendment No. 60, in page 32, line 29, after 'Act', insert 'in subsection (2) the words "ought not to have been assessed to the levy or" and "rescind, or as the case may be" shall be omitted, and'. In Section 12(1) and (2) of the Industrial Training Act 1964 there is a requirement placed upon the Minister by regulations to establish a tribunal or tribunals to determine appeals by persons assessed to any levy imposed under this Act". There is also a provision under the section giving to those tribunals the right either to reduce or rescind the assessment of levy.

In the circumstances of the 1964 Act that may or may not have been a reasonable provision. I do not wish to argue that. I do want to argue that it is not a reasonable provision in the circumstances of this Bill. The Bill will require industrial training boards to pass some severe tests to obtain a minimal levy provision. If, having undergone all those tests and jumped all those hurdles, the board secures the right to a small levy within the industry in which it operates a person assessed to pay levy can go to the tribunal which has the right to wipe out that assessment for levy. The board will then receive nothing at all in respect of that firm.

The amendment would limit the power of the tribunal to reduce the assessment and would remove from it the power to wipe out the assessment. Without knowing the criteria which the tribunal will take into account it is difficult to make any prophecy about how far the work of the tribunal could place a limitation upon the effectiveness of the board.

Unless the Minister can give some fairly clear indication that he will, by regulation, tell tribunals the circumstances in which they should reduce or eliminate the assessment, I believe that the House would do well to accept the amendment and be wary about continuing the power of the 1964 Act. It would help if the Minister can give us this information and also tell us something about the manning of the tribunals in these new circumstances. Without some assurance the House would do well to impose this limit on the tribunals.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I am afraid that I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendment. The industrial tribunals will not have anything to do with appeals against refusals to grant exemption certificates.

Mr. Booth

I think the Minister must have misheard me. I was talking about assessment to levy.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I accept that the hon. Member did not mention exemption certificates. I wanted to get that on the record. But appeals on the straightforward factual questions of whether the amount of levy has been correctly calculated, or whether the firm is in the industry covered by the levy order, or whether the firm is not liable to levy because the levy order for example exempts employers whose employees' emoluments are less than a specified amount—appeals on these matters will continue to go to the industrial tribunals.

If a levy assessment should never have been made for a particular firm, it is quite correct that the industrial tribunal should be able to rescind the levy assessment.

There are two cases in which the need to do this is likely to arise. The first is where the board considers that a firm falls within its industry as defined in the industrial training order but the firm disputes this. To take a hypothetical example—and I stress this is a purely hypothetical example—the Air Transport and Travel Board might consider that a ticket agency fell within its scope because it was partly involved in travel agency work, and issue it a levy assessment. However, if the travel agency part of its work was only the minor function, the firm would not legally come within the scope of the board. If the ticket agency appealed to the tribunal and the tribunal felt that the travel agency work was only a minor function, it is right that it should be able to quash the levy assessment.

Another example is where the levy order provides that small firms should be exempted from levy. It could happen that a firm is small enough to be exempted but the board wrongly issues it with a levy assessment, possibly because the firm failed to supply the board with the right information about its payroll and the board had to make an estimate in the absence of better information. If the firm cannot persuade the board to withdraw the assessment, it is right that the firm should be able to appeal to the tribunal which could establish the facts and, if it transpired that the firm was small enough to justify exemption, could quash the assessment.

The effect of the amendment would not be that the employer who was wrongly assessed for levy would be unable to obtain justice. He would not be able to obtain justice from the industrial tribunal, which would be the simplest and best way of doing so, but would be able to seek a remedy in the courts.

I cannot advise acceptance of the amendment.

Amendment negatived.

Mr. Booth

I beg to move Amendment No. 55, in page 33, line 20, after '(e)', insert: 'In paragraph 10, after "may" there shall be inserted "giving preference to persons with experience in the industry chiefly concerned"'. The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that in the recruitment of staff industrial training boards should give preference to people with experience of the industry with which the board is concerned. The philosophy behind the amendment—to use an industrial analogy—is that of an engineering firm which instead of employing a computer programmer and teaching him its brand of engineering so that he can write a computer programme for it sends one of its engineers to be taught how to programme computers.

The argument can be made both ways, but on balance it is better that people with knowledge of a particular industry should be trained in the administration and mechanics of the board's work than that people who are experienced in management and administration should be taught the attitudes, practices and working ways of the industry.

Some of the industrial training boards have been in existence long enough to have started to build their own equivalent of the Civil Service. I am the last to deprecate the Civil Service, which is effective and efficient, but by its nature it can be divorced from a knowledge of industry. I should like to see far greater interchange.

In the work of industrial training boards, in their development and ability to adapt to changes within industry, it would be of considerable value if in recruiting staff preference were given to people with practical experience in the industry concerned.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

There is nothing to which I take exception in what the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Booth) says. It is good common sense, but it is unnecessary to write it into the Bill. The boards will realise this for themselves, and I am sure that in the main they will recruit people of the kind the hon. Gentleman has in mind. It would be unnecessary and undesirable to place any restriction on the boards' discretion to appoint staff in their own way.

11.0 p.m.

In the last year I have had a good deal of experience of boards and I am convinced of their calibre, common sense, and ability to choose the people they want. I can take no exception to anything the hon. Gentleman said, but it would be unnecessary and rather fettering to the boards to write this provision into the Bill.

Amendment negatived.

Amendments made: No 36, in page 37, line 29, after 'proposals', insert: 'in respect of a levy which have been'.

No. 37, in page 37, line 41, leave out 'that section' and insert 'the said section 7'.

No. 38, in page 38, line 48, leave out 'employed' and insert: 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

No. 39, in page 39, line 37, leave out 'employed' and insert: 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

No. 40, in page 40, line 4, leave out 'employed' and insert: 'needed to carry on the activities which are or are expected to be carried on'.

No. 41, in page 40, line 17, leave out- 'of its issue' and insert: 'on which it comes into force'.

No. 42, in page 40, line 29, at end insert: '; but for the purposes of the preceding provisions of this subsection a notice given in pursuance of this subsection shall be disregarded if the board subsequently informs the person to whom it was given that the notice is withdrawn'.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Peggy Fenner)

I beg to move Amendment No. 43, in page 48, line 40, leave out 'section' and insert 'sections'.

Mr. Speaker

With this we are to take Amendment No. 44 and Amendment No. 46.

Mrs. Fenner

I have the full support of the agricultural industry and its training board in moving this amendment, which gives the board access to essential information about the industry it serves. We are here concerned with the board's access to information collected under Section 78 of the Agriculture Act 1947, more generally known as the Agricultural Census. We propose a limited extension to the access which the board, again with the industry's agreement, has to this information so as to ensure that it enjoys equivalent facilities to other industrial training boards as regards the availability of statistical information so necessary for planning and research.

Under paragraph 1(d) of Part III of Schedule 2 to the Bill, Sections 4 and 6 of the Industrial Training Act, which enable industrial training boards to impose levies and require returns of information from employers, are not to apply to the Agricultural Training Board. As the main reason for a statutory return—the levy—does not apply to the Agricultural Training Board, and as the kind of information which the board needs in planning and research to do its job is already available in the census, we concluded—the industry fully agreed with this—that it would be both unnecessary and undesirable to ask farmers to complete two separate returns embodying the same information. That is why the Bill seeks to remove from the Agricultural Training Board the power to issue a statutory return under Section 6 of the Industrial Training Act.

But we cannot deprive the board of access to data necessary to plan its courses and to carry out research. The effect of the amendment is to give the board access to the kind of data which it could obtain under Section 6, and it avoids the duplication of paper work for farmers to which I have already referred. To a limited extent already some census information can be disclosed to the board under Section 80(c) of the Agriculture Act 1947 which I am advised is confined in practice to the name and address of owner or occupier, the number and kind of livestock, and the area of crops and grass and of rough grazing. Information on the number of workers employed, the acreages and types of crops and above all the type of machinery could not be provided.

If the board is to carry out its task effectively, we are convinced that it must have access to data of this kind. For example, if the board proposed to provide farmworkers with a course in the safe use of a particular machine it would need to know, not only which farmers employed workers, but also which of the holdings were equipped with the particular type of machine concerned. The information to be made available under this amendment is of a non-fiscal nature and the data supplied would be disclosed to the board only on application and for planning and research purposes.

It is with the unqualified agreement of the industry that we ask the House to authorise us to disclose limited informaion in these limited circumstances and for those limited purposes.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment made: No. 44, in page 49, line 10, at end insert: 'Disclosure of information to Agricultural Training Board. 2B. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State may, for the purpose of assisting the Agricultural Training Board in planning and carrying out activities (including research) connected with the functions conferred on it by section 2(1)(a) of this Act, disclose to the Board any information about—

  1. (a) the kind of crops grown on any land and the areas of land on which crops of any kind are grown; and
  2. (b) the number and description of persons employed on any land and employed on disposing of the produce of any land; and
  3. (c) the kinds of machinery used on any land,
which has been furnished to him in pursuance of section 78 of the Agriculture Act 1947'.—[Mrs. Fenner.]

Mr. Chichester-Clark

I beg to move Amendment No. 45, in page 49, line 11, at beginning insert: '(1) In section 3(1) of the Act after the words "section 2" there shall be inserted the words "or by virtue of section 2A"'.

Mr. Speaker

With this amendment, it will be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 47.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

These are very minor amendments. As the Bill stands, the Agricultural Training Board can only delegate to committee functions which it has under Section 2 of the 1964 Act. But the board may also under new Section 2A have certain functions connected with agricultural training which it carries out on behalf of the Agricultural Ministers. These amendments empower it to delegate to a committee any such functions which it may have by virtue of new Section 2A.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 46, in page 52, line 44, at end insert: 'Disclosure of information to Agricultural Training Board. 2B. The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State may, for the purpose of assisting the Agricultural Training Board in planning and carrying out activities (including research) connected with the functions conferred on it by section 2(1)(a) of this Act, disclose to the Board any information about—

  1. (a) the kind of crops grown on any land and the areas of land on which crops of any kind are grown; and
  2. (b) the number and description of persons employed on any land and employed on disposing of the produce of any land; and
  3. (c) the kinds of machinery used on any land,
which has been furnished to him in pursuance of section 78 of the Agriculture Act 1947'.—[Mrs. Fenner.]

No. 47, in page 53, line 6, after 'section 2', insert: 'or by virtue of section 2A'.

No. 48, in page 54, line 27, leave out Schedule 3.—[Mr. Chichester-Clark.]

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