HC Deb 15 December 1981 vol 15 cc140-1
7. Mr. Ron Brown

asked the Secretary of State for Employment how many engineering apprentices have lost their jobs during the past 12 months.

The Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Peter Morrison)

Complete figures are not available, but between 22 November 1980 and 13 November 1981 the Engineering Industry Training Board received reports of 2,648 engineering apprentices being made redundant.

Mr. Brown

Does the Under-Secretary appreciate that the engineering industry is facing a crisis? Is he aware that it has been reported that each month about 200 apprentices are losing their jobs? Those are the ones we know about. Does he appreciate that many employers are using the so-called training schemes—the cheap labour schemes—in preference to giving youngsters real jobs as apprentices? Is it not time that the Government laid down a quota and insisted that employers should take on the recognised number of apprentices? Is that not essential, or is it a matter for the trade union movement to take up and force the Government to adopt, because—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman has taken enough time for two supplementary questions.

Mr. Morrison

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the Government have earmarked a substantial amount of money—more than £20 million—to help the engineering industry to recruit apprentices. He may also be aware that this year 4,000 people are being trained in addition to those being trained by employers.

Mr. John Townend

Does my hon. Friend agree that if employers and the trade unions could agree to reduce the starting rates for apprentices to below £40, so that employers can take advantage of the Government's £15 a week subsidy, there would be more apprenticeship opportunities for young people?

Mr. Morrison

I agree with my hon. Friend that one reason why there are not so many opportunities is that wages for school leavers are disproportionately high.

Mr. Foster

Will the Under-Secretary now unreservedly condemn the sacking of apprentices and pledge to bring forward a scheme and sufficient money for them to continue their training until they have finished their apprenticeships?

Mr. Morrison

As I said earlier, the Government have earmarked a substantial sum of money to help apprentices who are made redundant, of whom there were 2,800 this year, with more money to be made available, if necessary.

Mr. Barry Jones

Notwithstanding the appalling shortfall, what is the Under-Secretary doing directly to help ethnic minorities to obtain engineering apprenticeships?

Mr. Morrison

Opportunities are open to every member of the community. I wish to ensure that that continues to be so.