HC Deb 01 February 1977 vol 925 cc204-5
1. Mr. Forman

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what action his Department intends to take in the light of the document "Towards a Comprehensive Manpower Policy" put out by the Manpower Services Commission.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Albert Booth)

My Department will continue to collaborate closely with the Manpower Services Commission in developing longer-term manpower policies which support our economic and industrial strategies and which provide workers with the opportunities and services they need in order to lead a satisfying working life.

Mr. Forman

As it is estimated in the document itself that 1 million new jobs will need to be created between now and 1980, and as there are at present, on the most favourable estimate, only about 80,000 official training places, how can the right hon. Gentleman possibly be satisfied with the Government's efforts to date? Will he also kindly look at the experience of some of the other countries to which Labour Members are often pointing, such as Sweden and West Germany, to see how they do better, and whether there are some lessons for us?

Mr. Booth

There is no question of the Government being satisfied while we have the present appalling level of unemployment. We are studying not only the suggestions put forward in the report by the Manpower Services Commission—which, incidentally, supports the industrial strategy as a way of dealing effectively with unemployment—but also measures which have been effective in other countries. During the last recess I visited Norway, and I shall be making other visits to talk with Secretaries of State responsible for employment in other countries to see whether we have anything to learn from them, although our recent studies have shown that they may have something to learn from us as well.

Mr. Hooley

Is my right hon. Friend paying particular attention to the problem of the training and employment of girls and women in industry? Is he aware that the decision of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science to slash teacher training will, every year, block the way for about 40,000 girls aged 18 or 19 who might reasonably have expected on past experience to go into teacher training courses and will now have to look elsewhere?

Mr. Booth

I very much agree with the import of my hon. Friend's question, which suggests that this is a very serious training problem. The Training Services Agency has identified this as a high priority area, and through the agency we shall be working on ways of ensuring an increase of training facilities for girls.

Mr. Hayhoe

Is it not true that the Manpower Services Commission, which is seeking to persuade others to join in the work experience scheme, is prevented, as was reported in The Times yesterday, by the action of Civil Service unions from participating in the scheme itself?

Mr. Booth

No. My understanding of the situation is that the Manpower Services Commission would like to see a much faster take-up of the work experience opportunities, but it is very satisfied with the quality of the schemes that have now been introduced. If I have any evidence whatsoever of any action on the part of Civil Service unions or any civil servants that would hinder the development of the work experience scheme, which I should like to see going ahead faster, I shall act on it right away.

Mr. Bulmer

What research is being done within the right hon. Gentleman's Department on the longer-term problems of finding jobs for school leavers? Will he confirm that some such work is being done in his Department?

Mr. Booth

Work is being done both in the Department and in the Manpower Services Commission to identify long-term problems of school leavers, in terms of both the demographic factor, which is operating against school leavers at present, and the underlying structural problems.