HC Deb 04 July 1978 vol 953 cc213-5
7. Mr. Hooley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what special measures are being taken to fill the 1,000 places in skillcentres currently vacant.

Mr. Harold Walker

I am informed by the Manpower Services Commission that local publicity of training opportunities is being intensified. In addition, a national campaign is planned to recruit instructors.

Mr. Hooley

I welcome the efforts which have been made, but is my hon. Friend aware that part of the problem lies in the less-than-inspiring salaries paid to instructors and the difficulty of recruiting instructors on those salaries? Will he examine that aspect of the problem?

Mr. Walker

That is part of the problem, and it is why the Manpower Services Commission is introducing a national recruiting campaign. I hope that the recent pay increase in the Civil Service, which will benefit the instructors, will help to alleviate the difficulty which my hon. Friend has identified.

Mr. Stokes

Is not the lack of young men wishing to become skilled due to the failure to pay skilled men a higher wage than that paid to ordinary unskilled workers, because of the effects of successive incomes policies?

Mr. Walker

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there should not be a pay policy. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman, in common with everybody else, would see the great benefits which the pay policy has brought in the past three years.

Mr. Litterick

Is the Minister aware that the DHSS has apparently stopped collecting statistics on the employment and unemployment of registered blind school leavers? Will he give the House an assurance that his Department knows how many blind school leavers there are, where they are and, therefore, the extent of their training requirements?

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend will not expect me to know what has happened in the DHSS in this connection. I shall draw the point he has made to the attention of the Department, and I shall examine it myself. I should have thought that we have the necessary statistical information about blind school leavers through the disablement resettlement officers and similiar people. Nevertheless, I shall examine the matter and write to my hon. Friend in order to put the matter beyond doubt.

Mr. Madel

Do not vacancies exist not only because of shortages of instructors but because of the siting of skillcentres? Should not the Government examine the possibility of putting on similar courses in existing educational establishments so that these courses can be taken up?

Mr. Walker

Probably more than half of all trainees who underwent training through the training opportunities scheme received their training in colleges of further and higher education and not in skillcentres. The skillcentres are sited with considerable regard to the market in mind, but some have now been established for 30 years or so. Some of them may need to be examined to see whether they are serving the needs of the market. I shall draw the point to the attention of the chairman of the Manpower Services Commission.