HC Deb 18 December 1984 vol 70 cc146-7
7. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what representations he has received recently on the closure of skillcentres.

Mr. Tom King

Since my statement in the House about the skillcentre proposals being made to the Manpower Services Commission by the Skillcentre Training Agency, my colleagues and I have received some 50 letters on the subject.

Mr. Sheerman

Is the Secretary of State aware that throughout the country numerous firms have declared their opposition to the closure of skillcentres, which provide the up-to-date and relevant skills for their industries? I have received letters on this matter from Taylor Woodrow and Lonhro and from the sunrise and sunset industries, if one must use that terminology. Will the right hon. Gentleman instruct the MSC to consult all bodies — not only employers, but trade unions and education authorities— before any of these closures are brought forward?

Mr. King

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the officials in the MSC and the Skillcentre Training Agency gave evidence to the Select Committee and agreed to defer making any decision at their last meeting on this subject. I understand that the Select Committee will hold a further meeting with the Civil Service unions concerned in this matter. I know that the MSC will be anxious to hear the views of anyone who wishes to comment on these proposals.

Mr. Jessel

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider whether the Twickenham skillcentre, which he visited last year and which he knows does excellent work, can be saved? Failing that, will he ascertain what other openings within easy reach of the area can be offered to staff and trainees?

Mr. King

I know that my hon. Friend was extremely prompt in expressing his interest in the skillcentre in his constituency and that he sent one of the letters that we received on the subject. I know also that he has spoken to my hon. Friend the Minister of State. We shall certainly consider the points that he has made.

Mr. Corbett

How will the proposed closure of the skillcentre at Castle Bromwich help people to acquire the skills they need to obtain a reasonable chance of getting a job?

Mr. King

If the hon. Gentleman has a chance to look at the proposals, he will note that they will establish a wider range of adult training and ensure that we provide more opportunities. The figures for the midlands show that there will be an increase of 157 per cent. in the number of people who will be able to receive adult training under the new proposals. That is on the basis of the proposals made by the Skillcentre Training Agency.

Mr. Stanbrook

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the devil makes work for idle hands, and that all useful training must be beneficial?

Mr. King

The answer to the first part of my hon. Friend's question is yes.

With regard to the second part, we are most anxious to ensure that training provision is relevant and appropriate and covers as many people as possible and that resources are available to give people the best possible chance of getting into jobs.