HC Deb 09 February 1981 vol 998 cc592-3
13. Mr. Waller

asked the Secretary of State for Industry when the Government will announce further decisions on the implementation of the Finniston report.

5. Mr. Douglas

asked the Secretary of State for Industry if he will make a statement on discussions he has had with engineering institutions regarding a Royal Charter for the proposed Engineering Council.

Mr. Michael Marshall

As explained by my hon. Friend in Committee on the Industry Bill on 15 January, we are at present discussing with those concerned the draft Royal Charter which has been placed in the Library. We hope to make rapid progress on the broad basis set out in the charter.

Mr. Waller

Does my hon. Friend agree that a vital objective indentified by Finniston was the need to attract more well-qualified young people into the engineering industry? What discussions are taking place between his Department and the Department of Education and Science, particularly since the conference held to discuss that subject in the autumn, with a view to attracting more young people of the right calibre to undertake engineering education?

Mr. Marshall

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to that important aspect of Finniston. My Department and the Department of Education and Science are in touch on these matters. We are awaiting the report of the conference and I expect that further consideration must depend on what comes from that report.

Mr. Edwin Wainwright

Does the Minister realise that it is reported throughout Europe that the United Kingdom educates the smallest number of young people between 16 and 19 years of age? Does he not agree that unless those young people have a good basic education they cannot take advantage of any training programme that the Government might inaugurate? Will he look at that problem to see what the Government can do to help those young people?

Mr. Marshall

I understand and appreciate the problems. One of the prime tasks for the new engineering body when it is created must be to look at those problems. However, the Government also have a role to play and I shall take an interest in the questions the hon. Gentleman posed.

Mr. Dover

Will the Minister confirm that the presidents of all the major engineering institutions reject the charter? Is he aware that the presidents are afraid that the engineering profession will become nationalised? Will he do everything possible to seek their co-operation in any future measures?

Mr. Marshall

Yes, but my hon Friend will appreciate that when my right hon. Friend made his statement on 7 August there was a general welcome for that statement by the institutions. We have reached a substantial measure of agreement about the voluntary form that is proposed. That is the view of the vast majority of people with whom we have consulted, despite what my hon. Friend implies. We are discussing the fine print of the charter at this stage. It is not unusual to have some difficulty in reaching final agreement on the form of words. I hope and believe that it will be possible to reach agreement.

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