HC Deb 18 May 1976 vol 911 cc1190-1
2. Mr. MacFarquhar

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he is satisfied with the operation of the Training Services Agency.

The Minister of State, Department of Employment (Mr. Harold Walker)

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Macfarquhar

Is the Minister aware that some of those responsible for the retraining programme believe that the alarmingly high drop-out rate reported by the Comptroller and Auditor General is in part due to the discouraging discovery that training staff earn less in wages than trainees do in benefits? Will he investigate the wages of training staff?

Mr. Walker

I have seen the reported remarks of the Comptroller and Auditor General. I agree that there are grounds for disquiet, and a number of steps have been taken to reduce the drop-out rates. I shall write to my hon. Friend on the point of the alleged disparity between trainee allowances and staff wages. Trainee allowances amount to £32.42 a week, while the staff salary range for an instructional officer Grade III is £3,137 to £4,237 a year. Therefore, that particular allegation is made on very weak grounds indeed.

Mr. Marten

One of the problems about retraining is that people do not like going away from home for long periods. They would rather wait at home for an upturn in industry to get their original jobs back. Would it not be better if local education authorities, and local business men tried to set up localised retraining schemes wherever possible?

Mr. Walker

A large amount of the TOPS retraining is locally based, in colleges of education. As the hon. Gentleman has rightly said, the problem is one of travelling distances. We are seeking to improve training allowances, which should make a contribution towards overcoming this problem.

Mr. Lipton

In deciding where skill-centres should be situated, will the Minister consider establishing one in Brixton, which has the highest unemployment figures in London?

Mr. Walker

I know my hon. Friend's interest in this subject, but there is a Question on this matter later on the Order Paper.