HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1200-1
11. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will direct Government training centres to give priority to the retraining of unemployed persons, especially in areas of high unemployment; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Harold Walker

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that about two-thirds of applicants for TOPS courses are unemployed. Of the balance, a number are likely to be in relatively insecure employment, while the few who leave secure employment to be trained do of course create employment opportunities for others. I doubt whether there is a sufficient case at present for altering these arrangements, but they are kept under continual review.

Mr. Dempsey

Will my hon. Friend say why persons who are employed in skills that are not disappearing should get preference over large numbers of unemployed persons who have lost their skills because of the changing techniques in production and distribution? Is that policy not completely contrary to the spirit of the retraining Act?

Mr. Walker

In times of high unemployment it is not easy to draw a distinction between the applicant who is unemployed and the person who applies for training because his future is insecure. I think that the best solution is to increase overall the number of training places, and this is being done.

Mr. Wigley

Is the Minister aware of the great need for a Government training centre in the Caernarvon and Bangor area, where there is unemployment ranging between 10 per cent. and 15 per cent.? Is he further aware that persistent efforts have been made to press on his Department the need to establish such a centre? Will he now give some indication of progress in that direction?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman must realise that these are matters primarily for the Manpower Services Commission and the Training Services Agency, and that it is for the commission to determine its priority programme for the future building of skillcentres. I shall draw the hon. Gentleman's remarks to the attention of the Chairman of the Manpower Services Commission, but the future programme has been drawn up on the basis of a very careful assessment of the needs of different areas.