HC Deb 27 January 1981 vol 997 cc760-1
6. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a further statement regarding his plans for the future of the industrial training boards.

7. Mr. Adley

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a further statement on his plans for the industrial training boards.

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

My right hon. Friend has asked the Manpower Services Commission to undertake as a matter of urgency a review of the institutional arrangements for promoting training in each sector of industry, and hopes to be in a position to take decisions on the future of particular boards this summer.

The review will take careful note of the views expressed by industry. Both the Government and the Manpower Services Commission would welcome views on this matter from as wide a range of organisations as possible.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on assuming his richly-deserved eminence. In the course of this review, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that while some of the training boards perform a useful service, others are as much use as a sick headache? Is he aware that some of the most useless, such as the Road Transport Industry training board, have given themselves the most fantastic salary structures for their staff? Will he take great care to ensure that if the cost of paying for the staff is transferred to the private sector it will not be required to pick up chat sort of tab?

Mr. Morrison

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. We shall take into account the points that he makes. That is the aim of the review. We shall listen closely to and learn from all those involved. If my hon. Friend has a further point of view to put forward, I shall take it into account seriously.

Mr. Adley

Is my hon. Friend aware that while many of the boards may be held in ill-repute, that is not true of them all? Is he further aware that the Hotel and Catering Industry training board is held in fairly high repute within the industry? Is it the view of the Government that the need for training remains as important, if not more important, than it was in 1964? Will my hon. Friend please be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water?

Mr. Morrison

I am aware that there are conflicting views about training boards. I receive a number of letters giving both sides of the argument. It is the view of the Government that the training is as important as ever, but it is also our view that the time has come to review the situation to see how we can improve it.

Miss Boothroyd

Why does the Minister expect the House to accept the assurance of the Secretary of State that he will do everything that he can to increase employment measures, when he is destroying future employment by his proposals to disband the industrial training boards?

Mr. Morrison

I do not think that the hon. Lady quite understood what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said. He said that he intends to review the existing training boards, and that he will wait to hear the views of the Manpower Services Commission and both sides of industry before making proposals to the House.

Dr. Hampson

Does my hon. Friend accept that if we are to improve the supply side of the economy and meet the rapidly changing needs of industry for more highly skilled people, a statutory provision on training is required? Does he agree that we should not go back to the old days of relying on individual companies to do that?

Mr. Morrison

No. I do not entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In some instances voluntary organisations are better at doing things than are statutory organisations. I am not so prejudiced as to go all the way down that route. We shall have to come to a decision when the proposals come forward.

Mr. Harold Walker

Is the Minister aware that the Manpower Services Commission has recently published a report entitled "Outlook for Training", and that the Bill that has been put before the House by the Secretary of State defies the most important of the recommendations included in the report? Will the hon. Gentleman confirm the assumption, which now seems to be widespread throughout industrial training, that the Government are intent on abolishing 20 of the 24 boards? It is incredible that at a time when nearly 2½ million people are unemployed the Government should worsen the prospects of employment and add to the problem by stitching £50 million out of training, thereby dealing the most devastating blow to industrial training since the 1964 Act.

Mr. Morrison

I am aware that the MSC has already published a report. I am aware also of what is set out in the report. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, as a prominent member of the Opposition, wants a flexible and perhaps radical approach to training, and that is exactly what we have. However, it is right that we should carry out a review.