HC Deb 23 June 1982 vol 26 cc285-6
5. Mr. Marks

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will estimate the reduction in craft apprenticeships in his own Department and in local authorities during the past three years.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Sir George Young)

The latest figures from the Local Government Training Board show that the number of craft apprentices in local authorities in England and Wales was more than 300 greater at the end of 1981 than it was three years earlier—6,897 in 1981 compared with 6,574 in 1978. Over the same period the number of craft apprentices in my Department fell from about 1,100 to 600, mainly because the Property Services Agency direct labour force was being reduced.

Mr. Marks

Is the Minister aware that only three months ago the Secretary of State said that he wanted training programmes in the construction industry to be maintained? However, as a result of the cuts, Manchester has had to cut its apprentice intake from 140 in 1979 to 39 in 1982, and there have also been cuts in other cities and in his Department. Handing over Government and local authorities work to private industry has not solved the apprenticeship problem. Will the Secretary of State begin to take his word seriously?

Sir George Young

I am aware of the situation in Manchester, and I understand that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment has offered to meet representatives of the city's direct works committee. As the PSA direct labour force is being reduced because work is being contracted out, its apprentice requirement has fallen.

Mrs. Ann Taylor

Is the Minister aware that the report of the independent training research group shows that direct labour organisations have a far better record on apprenticeships than private builders? Why does he continue to put pressure on the PSA and on direct labour organisations when it means that they must reduce training and apprenticeships? If the Minister is concerned about circular 6/82, will he meet local authorities and representatives of the building industry, such as the Union of Construction and Allied Trades and Technicians, because they are concerned that skills will not be available if there is an upturn in the economy? If the Minister wants to improve training, will he discuss that matter? However, if he does not intend to help—

Mr. Speaker

Order. Both questions and answers have been unreasonably long. That is very unfair to those who have questions on the Order Paper.

Sir George Young

The figures show that there has been an increase, not a decrease, in the number of apprentices in direct labour organisations. I have seen representatives of the trade unions. The PSA's intake may be higher in the next few years than it is at present.

Mr. Charles Morris

In the meeting to discuss the reduction in the number of craft apprentices in Manchester, will the Minister ensure that his ministerial colleague remembers that one in three youngsters in Manchester between the ages of 16 and 24 are unemployed? That makes the issue of craft apprentices crucial.

Sir George Young

I am sure that that type of issue will be raised at the meeting with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Employment.

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