HC Deb 09 July 1985 vol 82 cc891-2
9. Mr. Alton

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he is satisfied with the current level of apprenticeships.

Mr. Alan Clark

The numbers entering traditional apprenticeships are becoming increasingly irrelevant as a measure of the real level of skills training being undertaken by industry arising out of the reform and modernisation of existing arrangements and the substantial provision of initial skills training under the youth training scheme.

Mr. Alton

Given the Secretary of State's criticism in The Times this morning of the fact that this country spends seven times less than the United States and 14 times less than West Germany on provision for training, does the Minister agree that it is time that we introduced the West German system of statutory apprenticeships, which are the best quality training that can be given? When he describes apprenticeships as irrelevant, does he believe that people who commission someone to work in their homes will be as satisfied with someone from the YTS—worthwhile as some of those schemes may be — as they would be if they had a proper apprentice?

Mr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman referred to a proper apprentice. The whole nature of training has gone through a major sea change which reflects the transition from manufacturing to service industries and from heavy to high-tech industries. The Government have more than doubled expenditure on training since they took office. Government grants are available to help employers with apprentice training but all the money provided has not been taken up.

Mr. Lawler

Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way to encourage more apprentices is to encourage more companies to remodel their apprenticeship schemes to incorporate YTS, as has already been successfully done by the electrical contracting industry?

Mr. Clark

Yes, Mr. Speaker. One of the features of the electrical contracting industry's scheme is that it negotiated a completely revised wage structure, which reduced pay from £43 to £27. As a result, first-year apprenticeships have trebled.

Mr. Gordon Brown

With regard to the level of apprenticeships, is the Minister aware that one of the 204 miners sacked in my constituency was a Coal Board apprentice? He was sacked without having the opportunity to put his case to his employer. Does the Minister support employers sacking people without giving them the chance of a fair hearing?

Mr. Clark

I am aware that the House does not like this type of answer, but clearly with such a case the hon. Gentleman must put the argument in writing.