HC Deb 12 December 1986 vol 107 cc734-46 1.24 pm
Mr. Lewis Stevens (Nuneaton)

I beg to move,

That this House notes the wide range of education and training initiatives providing opportunities for employed and unemployed people to obtain and enhance skills; welcomes the greater publicity given to the schemes by television advertising; notes that now all 16 year old school leavers are able to have two years training and that 460,000 places are on offer; recognises the importance of the review of vocational qualifications and the extension of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative programme; further notes that adult training measures have been increased to assist over 250,000 people; acknowledges the need for continuing education and training in industry and business; notes the proposed increase to 100,000 places per year on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme due to the demand brought about by its success; and recognises the important part played by Local Enterprise Agencies and other schemes in helping small businesses. Parliament has been aware of employment and training initiatives for some time but it has tended to overlook them in general debates. The Government have put in place a wide range of measures to help the unemployed and people in employment who want to enhance their skills or obtain new ones. Such measures are among the most important factors in industrial and business life today.

By tradition, we are not as aware or as forceful about training in industry as some of our continental competitors. Even between the two world wars, our training provision was significantly smaller than that of Germany, which trained to a far higher level and on a broader basis. We had apprenticeship schemes and various other provisions, but we still had a restricted system which did not recognise the importance of training for the future.

Schemes that are run by the Department of Employment or which are run in association with it are being advertised in the press and other media. I welcome that. People are affected by advertising on television more than by any other source, and the people whom we are trying to communicate with concerning the availability of schemes are sometimes at home, depressed and watching television. Television advertising is therefore a successful method of getting the message over.

I have been impressed by the advertising of the youth training scheme, which shows people what opportunities are available to them and encourages them to explore what it offers. We want to communicate with people who have had difficulty in the past. The restart programme, which incorporates an interview procedure and counselling, has shown that, although several schemes have been in place for some years, people have not taken them up, perhaps because of lack of knowledge, lack of advertising or lack of communication in jobcentres.

The extra advertising has been shown to be helpful with the restart programme as it has got over to people the fact that their needs are recognised. That is extremely important in any training programme. The idea within the restart programme is the knowledge that many people go along with the same job or the same type of job that they did before. It is understandable that people who have worked in a trade or industry for some 20 years—I recognise that some industries may end completely—will, if they are looking for another job, seek one to which their skills will contribute directly. It is harder for them to look for something entirely different—to move from the manufacturing industry into a service job. Such people may have thought that they could never do a job that involved being in direct contact with the public. It is very difficult for such people to recognise that there are opportunities for them to undertake such work.

Having said that, there are the contradictions of skilled people in the engineering industry who were made redundant during the 1970s—perhaps they were skilled grinders—who did not look for another job in the industry but rather looked for a job as a milkman or something of that nature. Often they have been satisfied and happy in the new environment that they have chosen. However, most people are reluctant to retrain, or unaware that they can be retrained. Such retraining is not necessarily for unskilled or semi-skilled work, but there are skilled jobs that require a considerable amount of training.

One of the biggest advantages of the restart scheme is that it opens the eyes of people. The counselling and understanding of the interviewers will help such people to try to find out their aptitudes, which they may have been waiting to use. In the past, very often industry has not looked at the aptitudes of people and what they may have to offer. Those companies which have been facing redundancies and have carried out some redeployment that involveed considering the aptitudes of particular individuals have been successful. People have been taken from clerical work and put into something different, or vice versa.

This attempt to consider the aptitude and willingness of people to relearn, at all levels, is of great value. The restart scheme is successful in helping people to go out and retrain, to take the opportunities or at least, to consider those opportunities available to them. All this has been done within the general umbrella of the Government's measures and it is welcomed.

With regard to YTS, television advertising has been particularly successful. The first scheme came in for a great deal of criticism and perhaps it was not run in the same way as the present one. There have been a number of satisfactory developments. The young people I have spoken to who have been on YTS have welcomed the opportunity it offers. They consider that YTS has made a worthwhile contribution to their lives.

It is also important that, in a great many cases, YTS has enabled young people to acquire qualifications that they thought were impossible to achieve. The young people may have left school with modest or no qualifications, but under YTS, they are willing to take opportunities to qualify or to start qualifying for a particular trade. Something like a quarter of the people coming off YTS have some new qualification.

I welcome the Government's extension of the scheme to two years. There were many criticisms from people on the previous scheme that, just when they had got to grips with the work, they were having to leave and get a job. The extension was welcomed by both sides of the House and I think that that is a much more satisfactory basis on which young people can learn and be introduced into the work situation.

Whatever happens with the YTS, there will always be some individual criticisms, but I am encouraged by the fact that although there were many criticisms when the scheme started, the problems have diminished and the monitoring and control of schemes and agencies seem to be much more successful, which gives us hope that those coming out of the scheme will have a sound background for work.

Considerable progress has been made in the review of vocational qualifications. We have a proliferation of qualifications and bits of paper that people can pick up. I do not demean qualifications, but they are not readily understood or comparable, particularly by small employers.

The review of vocational qualifications up to higher national certificate level—the HNC is no mean standard to achieve—will produce a rationalisation and understanding of qualifications and that will encourage young people to look at the worth of courses when seeking qualifications that will help them when they look for jobs.

Not only individuals will gain; industry and business will gain enormously when people obtain qualifications on schemes. We need a sufficient number of well-trained and qualified people if our businesses are to prosper. It has not been uncommon for us, especially in the past 25 years, to have a shortage of skills in some areas. Companies have often not developed and the lack of skills has made us comparatively inefficient in our use of labour.

As training becomes available, companies will have a better source for the skills that they need. The issue is wider than the employment and training initiatives, because we have a long way to go in developing our education systems to give us what the country needs. The system has been too fragmented and too ad hoc. A rationalisation towards a more understandable system will be helpful.

The technical and vocational education initiative is being expanded and it is hoped that about 100,000 school leavers will be helped next year, at a cost of about £250 million. That is good, because it brings in the relationship between industry, the education system and the Manpower Services Commission. Through collaboration, many schemes are becoming more realistic and more in tune with the needs of an area.

In my own area, at the north Warwickshire college, the collaboration between the MSC and business has been successful. Any initial reluctance to see the MSC and employers directly involved was overcome without much trouble. There is a genuine willingness to have co-operation and involvement in these ongoing schemes. I refer to people of all ages, not just those who are leaving school or those still at school. Older people are embarking on other schemes involving open learning and the Open Tech, which provides an excellent opportunity for the development, extension and acquisition of skills.

I was impressed by the way in which the Open Tech system allows people to work at their own speed and ability. Many of us became used to set courses at technical colleges. Now, 50,000 people will take Open Tech courses. That is an important contribution to the development of skills.

The Government's proposed adult training measures are significant. They range from local training grants, job training schemes, training for enterprise, the Open Tech, and so on. About 250,000 people will take advantage of those schemes at a total cost of around £270,000. That is a major contribution towards helping industry and the unemployed. Many people taking part in the adult learning schemes will be unemployed. At that cost and with such a large number of people, it is a significant contribution. The training and employment initiatives are worthwhile. A number of people are engaged in community programmes and the Government are making a further 250,000 places available.

The criticism that they are not real jobs or that they do not help does not alter the fact that schemes help people to learn new skills and encourage people back to industry. As well as restart, there are other programmes, such as the community programme.

Another successful course that I am glad to see the Government recognise every few months by extending it is the enterprise allowance scheme. That scheme is expected to increase to 100,000 places a year. It has provided an opportunity for people to have a go at something. Those who have faced a bleak outlook will no longer be penalised. This scheme is successful and is attractive to people who have been absent from industry through redundancy. They know that they have some help. One hundred thousand places are available, and that shows the success of the scheme. So far, 190,000 people have taken advantage of the scheme. All hon. Members would welcome those who are enterprising. It makes the forceful point that we are creating new businesses, small though they may be. About 90-odd jobs for every 100 firms will be offered. That is one of the most successful and attractive schemes and every bit of advertising helps to promote it.

Local enterprise agencies have helped in setting up many small businesses and they have been very successful, although I am sure that their success varies from area to area. The Warwickshire enterprise agency has given enormous help to those starting on enterprise allowances and to those who already own small businesses. The Department of Employment has recognised the many difficulties faced by small businesses, which benefit from being able turn easily to enterprise agencies for assistance in continuing and expanding. In some cases, those agencies have enabled people to start small businesses.

There are more than 300 local enterprise agencies, and I am sure that the numbers will increase. Their work fills a gap. The Government provide £2.5 million to the enterprise agencies, but it is important also that such agencies are privately based. They give invaluable advice to small business men. The Government have set up other schemes to help small firms. It helps small firms to know that they can obtain impartial advice, some of which is free.

Small businesses still have some problems. Some large companies do not pay their bills quickly, which creates tremendous cash flow problems for small companies. A small company's very survival may be determined by how quickly large companies pay. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State is more than aware of this problem, which has been drawn to his attention many times. There must be careful consideration to determine what pressure will make large companies recognise the needs of small business people.

The Government's measures to build businesses, not barriers, are important. Many small businesses face financial problems, not just because they are unsuccessful but because of the reaction of the banks and other financial institutions. Manufacturing businesses have fairly large investments in relation to their size, so there may be difficulties in paying for supplies. The set-up is much more complex than it is for retail businesses. Many are at times threatened by the financial world's lack of understanding of their needs.

The Department of Employment and the Department of Education and Science have been involved in important training initiatives to alleviate unemployment and to enable people to look forward to new or better jobs. Even if people are involved in industry and commerce, a problem remains.

The Engineering Council in its document "A Call to Action" mentioned the problem of continued education and training. That is important and needs to be considered by industry and commerce. Even professional people in industry and commerce need to update their knowledge, awareness and skills. The Engineering Council has suggested continual education and training of engineers, whether qualified, chartered or technical. Many people in industry and commerce retain and attend courses to update their knowledge, but it is logical and important for most professions to produce a structured way of doing that. I certainly support that view and I know that the Department of Education and Science has been sympathetic and given universities some help with that.

Training does not end after initial training or after a job is found. It is continuous. All hon. Members know that it is important to retrain people who leave one job and go to another and we must recognise that training thereafter is equally important. A range of schemes is available through the Department of Employment, which provide opportunities and have a significant contribution to make to employment. They will give us a better trained work force in future. It is important that that information is conveyed in the most suitable ways to those who can take advantage of it. Television advertising and the restart programme have contributed.

We have the technology and the schemes to give people a better opportunity to return to work and to enhance their skills in work. Now is the time to use them.

1.51 pm
Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

First, there can be no question but that we in the Labour party welcome training and retraining schemes when they are proper schemes. One could hardly do otherwise considering that we have the highest level of unemployment anywhere in the industrial world and one of the highest levels of long-term unemployment in the industrial world. Indeed, the Department of Employment is getting itself a rather shady reputation. The notice outside its door states: Department of Employment: official Government massage parlour. For the Department, any method of massage for employment statistics is considered. The notice continues: Eighteen methods currently in use. Reducing is our speciality. If only the Government showed the same dedication to, obsession with and imagination for, dealing with the problems of employment that they show in dealing with the employment statistics, they might have a record of which they could speak with pride.

We are discussing training and retraining against the background of the worst trained work force in the developed world. That is astonishing considering that we used to be the workshop of the world and considering that we are told that the future of our economy must lie in high value added and new industries. How can it when there are not the people to man those industries?

In January, the Financial Times carried the headline, MSC warns of growing skills shortage". The article stated British industry faces continuing and in cases increasing shortages of skilled workers across a widening range of jobs, says a report by the Manpower Services Commission. That is the view of the MSC, the Government's own quango. The article continued: It says various indicators point to skill shortages not only in the new advanced technology areas of engineering and electronics but in service sectors on which the Government's hopes of economic growth are pinned. In new technology areas such as electonics and software, research indicates growing shortages at all levels of the engineering industry—craftsmen, technicians, professional engineers and computer specialists. We are preparing ourselves for the economy of the future and the markets of the future with diminishing skill levels and the replacement of previous schemes with new schemes which are largely synthetic and cosmetic in aim. It is hardly surprising that at both skill level and graduate level we trail behind virtually all our competitors.

A remarkable feature of British industry is the idea that training is someone else's job. Business men turn up at meetings to bleat about the schools, the universities and the technical colleges, but they do nothing themselves. They do not put their money where their complaints are. In this country, industry spends 0.15 per cent. of turnover on training—about one sixth of 1 per cent. The Germans spend 3 per cent., so it is hardly surprising that their products tend to win in the market and that their efficiency is greater than ours. Productivity is not just a function of the work force. It is a function of the quality of the work force, the quality of investment and the quality of management. The best workmen in the world cannot match productivity if they do not have the equipment or if the firm is not adequately organised.

Before anyone comes out with the nonsensical argument that people in this country are incapable of matching productivity levels, let him talk to Japanese, American and German firms using their managerial techniques with a British labour force and obtaining productivity levels as good as those anywhere in the world. Yet according to the National Institute of Economic and Social Research productivity in West Germany is now 60 per cent. higher than in this country.

As I have said, productivity involves a combination of elements. I have quoted the view of the MSC that there is a desperate and galloping shortage over the whole spectrum of skills, especially in the new technologies. How much investment is being made in those areas? Are we making up for the skill deficiencies in the engineering of our products? Are we putting in equipment to provide the inbuilt engineered skill that the work force does not possess? The answer is no. Only today there are newspaper reports on this. I quote from a press notice from the Department of Trade and Industry, so the Government cannot question its authenticity. We are told that Total investment by manufacturers … is expected to rise by around 2 per cent. in 1987 compared with 1986. That is wonderful. At that rate of matching resource to need—if the Government can sustain that marvellous increase in manufacturing investment—we shall only have to wait until 1995 to get back to the level of investment in 1979. They are making progress! The Opposition cannot be blamed, however, for being rather dubious even about the claim of 2 per cent. growth from next year, which is what the Government envisage. During Trade and Industry questions and questions to the Prime Minister during the year, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Prime Minister have said, "We are on our way." We have been told that investment is on the upturn. The right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Lady have said, "Investment is growing and our predictions are being fulfilled." It must be noted, however, that the press release from the Department of Trade and Industry to which I have already referred shows that after a year of "marvellous" progress as a result of "highly successful" Government policies, investment will be £150 million less than a year ago. It seems that that will happen despite all that we have heard said from the Government Dispatch Box. Even if the increase is achieved next year that the Government are claiming, we shall return to the pathetic level of performance that the Government achieved a year ago.

British industry must shudder when it sees what is happening elsewhere. There is a shortage of manpower skills across the board. If we are lucky and if the Government can sustain the rate of growth in investment, we shall return to the level of 1979 only by 1995. How proud the Government must be of their success and achievements.

Industry seems to show no more sense of urgency than the Government. A recent report in the Financial Times showed that 56 per cent. of the companies surveyed had no formal training scheme. The investment figures suggest that companies do not have formal investment plans either. If the three components are a trained and skilled work force, adequate investment and good quality management, what can be said about the quality of our management when we are faced with an across-the-board shortage of skills because it will not train, and a lack of capital equipment to match that which is provided by our competitors because British industry will not invest because it has no confidence in the Government's policies and progress?

Various schemes are coming forward, some of which are interesting and some positively fascinating. Preliminary results in the nine pilot areas where the restart scheme is being operated show that only 1 per cent. of restart interviewees were placed in proper full-time jobs after leaving the scheme.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)


Mr. Williams

I shall be glad to hear why that is wrong when the Minister replies. I shall be delighted if he can provide some information that is not as dubious as the unemployment statistics. I suggest that he sends a message along the Government Front Bench to the Box to ask whether the figures that he is to give when replying to the debate will have been massaged 18 times between leaving the Box and his receipt of them, bearing in mind that the unemployment figures have been massaged 18 times by the Government.

The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) used the term "real jobs". I can recollect the indignation that the Prime Minister displayed during Prime Minister's Question Time when she was told about the need for public expenditure. That was put to her by the CBI, the TUC and the Opposition. The right hon. Lady did not want to know and said, "We want real jobs". She argued that jobs created by public expenditure are phoney jobs. The clarion cry for years was "real jobs". We do not see any real jobs being created. Nearly all the improvement in the employment statistics is as a result of the creation of unreal jobs, using the very public expenditure that the Prime Minister was supposed to be disdaining.

Let us look at the phoney jobs and the statistical method used by the Government—the massage parlour approach, which removed over 1 million people from the employment record. The motion tabled by the hon. Member for Nuneaton mentions employment schemes. About 600,000 or 700,000 people are on those schemes, which, coincidentally, takes them off the unemployment register, but there is no guarantee that there will be a job at the end of the scheme for which, temporarily, the Government are using public expenditure.

The enterprise allowance scheme is mentioned in the motion, and the hon. Member for Nuneaton spoke about it. I gather that it is one of the Government's great success stories. An article in the "Financial Guardian" on 24 November this year examines the scheme and, to his surprise, the writer discovers: one man's job creation can become another's job loss. There has been a new study of entrants to the enterprise allowance scheme, based on its operation in Strathclyde, Tyneside and London. It was carried out by the small business unit of the polytechnic of Central London. So the figures and effects have been looked at. It was fascinating to see what emerged. Nearly two out of five—40 per cent. — of the firms surveyed were sure that their business activities had either partially or completely displaced competitors. Surveys by the Manpower Services Commission, which controls the scheme, give a displacement rate of 50 per cent., so the very scheme that the hon. Member for Nuneaton is lauding in his motion is in fact destroying one job for every two that it claims to create. That displacement figure may be on the low side.

Mr. Trippier

indicated dissent.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman knows that. He need not shake his head. He knows my background on the creation of small businesses, and so on. I think that I know as much about the matter as he does. Most of the people entering those schemes are going for the jobs for which entry is easiest. One cannot blame them. That is understandable and natural. They go for the sectors where the capital cost going in is lowest because they do not have the capital and, as the hon. Member for Nuneaton said, the local bank managers make sure that they do not find it easy to obtain the capital. Then those people try to knock out existing businesses so that they can take over their work. The newspaper article states: More than one third of survivors indicated that their preferred business strategy involved cutting prices, 'presumably below that of their competitors.' A further 15 per cent. used advertising and 14 per cent. said that they offered a faster service than their rivals. This is the important point: In other words, more than 60 per cent. of surviving firms employed a strategy aimed at taking customers from their rivals rather than creating a new market. The report goes on to suggest that the real 12-month job creation rate could be as low as 17 per 100 surviving firms when one excludes the number of people who have lost their job as a result of the consequences of the scheme. In many cases the schemes are not only fraudulent about what they purport to be, but are destructive of the objectives that the Government claimed in advancing them.

Far from having anything to be proud of, the Government should answer to the House why it is that the Manpower Services Commission is so worried about the future supply of skill. The Government chose to abolish the training board system and many of the other training systems. If these were genuine training proposals that in any way related to the scale and quality of our needs we would applaud them. Unfortunately, they are not.

2.10 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. David Trippier)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Stevens) on his success in the ballot and on his choice of subject for this debate. I welcome to the debate the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams). We are old sparring partners from the time when I was a junior Minister in the Department of Trade and Industry. We shared many interesting hours together in Standing Committee on what became well known as the Co-operative Development Agency and Industrial Development Bill which is now an Act.

I shall not devote as much time as the right hon. Gentleman would wish me to devote to answering all his points, because if I did that I would be deflected from my main purpose, which is to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton for his support for the "Action for Jobs" campaign. However, the right hon. Gentleman will not be surprised if I take him up on one or two issues. We have spent an enormous amount of money, £3,000 million, to provide opportunities and help for over 1 million people in more than 30 schemes and programmes.

We introduced our campaign in April because research told us that far too few people knew about the help that we offered through our employment enterprise and training measures, and both employers and employees proved to have little knowledge of our measures and suggested that we should do more to publicise them. That is why we produced the "Action for Jobs" booklet. It is an easy-to-read guide to the support and opportunity that we make available.

So far more than 3.3 million people have picked up a copy of the booklet. Many people, including my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton, have told us how useful it is. That view was endorsed this week because the "Action for Jobs" booklet was one of the winners of the Plain English award. We in the Department are proud of that because only eight awards are given in any one year. The Department of Employment won two awards and one went to the Department of Health and Social Security. I think it is unique for one Government Department to win two such awards.

It is clear that we are effective in putting across our message and we shall continue to put it across in a straightforward and simple way. Our principal aims are to make people more aware of the range of measures introduced by the Department and to improve the awareness of individual schemes. That is why we have also used television advertising because we want to get the message across to people who want to open more doors to more opportunities. That is why our campaign slogan "Action for Jobs, Opening more Doors" has caught on, and the evidence shows that our campaign is working.

I was fascinated to hear the right hon. Member for Swansea, West speak about 18 different changes. The Labour party constantly speaks about those changes. In many different ways the right hon. Gentleman accuses the Government of exaggeration. In reality, there have been just six changes that can be detailed and have already been detailed by my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and my right hon. and learned Friend the Paymaster General when they were giving evidence to the Select Committee on Employment.

How on earth the Labour party can come up with 18 changes stretches credulity to breaking point. It is up to the Labour party to explain which of the six changes that have taken place it would reverse. Which category of people that we have removed would Labour put back on the register? It is up to the Labour party to explain what it would do. The Labour party's shadow spokesman on employment admitted on television that if he had been advised by the Chief Statistician in the Department of Employment, as Ministers have been advised, to change the methodology, he would have accepted his advice. By that admission, he blew the Labour party's cover. We have referred to that time and again in the past, and we shall certainly do so in the future.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West said that the enterprise allowance scheme will lead to displacement, and he referred to the Manpower Services Commission's figures. There is an element of truth in what he said. It would be wrong of me to mislead the House; there is bound to be some displacement. The Manpower Services Commission's figure was agreed with the Treasury, which calculated that the cost of each job under the EAS would be £2,300. However, there should be detailed research of the displacement that will be caused by the scheme.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton rightly said that about 192,000 people have been set up under the scheme and that 99 additional jobs are created by every 100 businesses that succeed. Many of the small firms that have been set up under the EAS will employ even more people, and that figure will eventually be higher. Most of the firms that fail do so within the first 18 months. This scheme has been running for three years and three months, so we are able to compare it with other schemes on a three-year basis.

On the help that is available to the long-term unemployed throught the Action for Jobs programme, the central feature is Restart. By March 1987 we shall have invited 1.4 million people who have been out of work for over a year to an interview at their local jobcentre. We aim to offer everybody we interview a positive way back into employment. Restart has been amazingly successful. In the nine pilot areas to which the right hon. Member for Swansea, West referred, 91 per cent. of those who were interviewed were offered positive help. The right hon. Gentleman did not refer to the enterprise allowance scheme, because he thinks that those people are not employed. But they are in a job; they are self-employed. Therefore, I challenge his figures. They are completely wrong.

Included in the Restart package are a number of positive and practical opportunities, such as a job interview or a place on a Restart course or in a job club. The right hon. Gentleman and the labour party are quick to rubbish a number of these initiatives, despite the fact that they have been successful. The right hon. Gentleman is an honourable man in every possible sense and meaning of that word, but I challenge some of his colleagues, who do not, I believe, want the unemployment figures to come down. They do not like the fact that, for the last three consecutive months, the unemployment figures have come down. As the general election approaches, they do not like the fact that we are on top of the problem; it is unacceptable to them. Again I make the point that I do not accuse the right hon. Gentleman, but I am absolutely convinced that many of his colleagues are of that opinion.

After Restart, many people will go into the community programme, our principal scheme for providing help for the long-term unemployed. About 250,000 places are available on the programme, and this year 300,000 people will benefit from the scheme. Jobs are offered that last for up to a year on projects that significantly increase the long-term employment prospects of the participants and that result in the creation of something that is of practical value to the local community.

We are doing quite a lot to assist the long-term unemployed, and so we should. However, we are not neglecting those who are still at school or those who have recently left school—far from it. Young people need and deserve an education and training system that allows them to develop their talents and that equips them for future employment. Therefore, we have developed policies that are designed to reform and modernise our education and training system.

The technical and vocational education initiative programme announced by my right honourable Friend the Prime Minister in 1982 has rapidly become one of the most exciting and far-reaching developments in the school curriculum since the war. In my view, it was long overdue. In that programme emphasis is placed on the development of initiative and problem-solving skills. Its benefits are numerous—improved motivation, a more relevant curriculum and the giving of more impetus to school—industry links. But the main thing that hits one when one visits a TVEI school or college is the infectious enthusiasm of the pupils and teachers. That is why the £250 million being spent on the pilot projects is money well spent, and why, even at this early stage, we have committed £900 million over the next 10 years to extending TVEI to all secondary schools and colleges in Great Britain.

Of course, many young people will continue to leave school at the age of 16 or I7, and for them there is the new two-year youth training scheme, which builds on the enormous success of the one-year YTS which we launched in 1983. Opposition Members are far too quick to criticise or to rubbish the scheme. That is staggering, because it is an insult to those young people who are on such schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton was right to say that the vast majority—83 per cent.—were well satisfied with the training that they had received on the YTS.

In acknowledgement of a point made by the right hon. Member for Swansea, West, one must admit that Britain still lacks an adequately trained work force. The Conservative party has said that since 1979. We consider that a combination of the two-year YTS and the review of vocational qualifications is the one thing that will put that right. The two things go together. It is absolutely vital that we come out with a new system of vocational qualifications which will be respected and recognised by employers. Otherwise we are wasting our time.

I welcome the opportunity of paying a warm tribute to Mr. Oscar DeVille, chairman of the review vocational qualifications, for all the work that he is doing.

The motion refers to the need for continuing education and training in industry. The Government entirely agree that effective training at all levels and throughout working life is an essential element in ensuring the competitiveness of British industry. It is primarily industry's responsibility to train its work force. Industry should consider that as an investment and not as a cost.

Hon. Members may be interested to know that a few weeks ago I had the privilege of visiting Sir John Egan, the chairman and managing director of Jaguar plc, in Coventry. I was interested to see what he was doing about management training, because no hon. Member would deny that Sir John Egan has effectively turned that company round. He puts its success down to two factors: first, quality assurance, and, secondly, management training.

The thing that I find interesting—the right hon. Member for Swansea, West will welcome this as much as I did—is that Sir John Egan insists that everyone, from the lowest rungs of management right up to the top, must take two weeks out a year to go on a management training course. That should be broadcast from the roof tops. When I asked Sir John whether that included him, he said that it did. I asked him where he went for his management training and he replied "The London Business School". He considered that it was important for him to get out of the company, perhaps to take a wider view and to find out what was going on in other companies. Jaguar plc, with Sir John Egan at its head, recognises the importance of management training. It knows that that permeates all the way down to the shop floor because, obviously it has concentrated on skill training with the company and that has led to the company's undoubted success. The company deserves to be warmly congratulated.

The right hon. Member for Swansea, West got it wrong when he referred to the article about skills shortages and to the MSC's statement. The truth is that skills shortages are not as he said, desperate and widespread.

There are shortages in some specific skills, such as in the new technologies, and in specific geographic areas, such as in London and the south-east. Indeed, only yesterday, I was dealing with a particular problem. I must admit that there are shortages, particularly in the construction industry, but we shall do something to try to put that right pretty quickly.

I should like to respond to the praise in the motion for our enterprise programmes, because I believe that the Department's prime aim is to encourage the development of an enterprise economy. To that end, the Government attach considerable importance to the local enterprise agency movement. My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton has a very distinguished and successful enterprise agency, known as the Warwickshire enterprise agency, which covers his constituency. It applied to my Department for grant under the local enterprise agency grant scheme, and I am pleased to say that we were glad to support it in August, by giving it a £16,000 grant.

Tribute should be paid to Mike Whitfield, who has done a tremendous amount to build up that agency. I know that my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton and many of our colleagues use that agency when dealing with constituency problems in relation to small businesses. It must be said time and again that, if only small businesses took advantage of the hand-holding service provided by enterprise agencies, they would be much more likely to succeed. The failure rate is one in 12 over a period of three years, compared with the average failure rate of one in three. Therefore, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton also referred to the enterprise allowance scheme, which the Department regards as the jewel in the crown. We are extremely proud of it. My hon. Friend made some forceful remarks about the importance to small businesses of being paid on time. He urged large companies to pay their hills to small businesses on time. I have been crusading for that for many months.

As a result of research that we had done, a new Government code of practice entitled "Payment on Time" was issued. It was well received, and has had to be reprinted. The most important thing that I had to do was to write to the chairmen of the top 100 companies in this country, saying that it was important that they should recognise that delaying payment to small businesses could make all the difference between survival and failure. If the reverse happens, the large firms could withstand the pressures.

But it is also important to point out that the procurement departments within Government must also pay their bills on time. I am pleased to say that they are under standing instructions to pay on time. If any hon. Member has evidence of that not happening, I hope that he will write to me so that I can endeavour to put things right very quickly.

In the short time available, I hope that I have given the House an indication of how wide-ranging our employment, enterprise and training initiatives are. It has only been an indication, and there are other important initiatives that I have not had time to mention. I again congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton on his initiative and enterprise in initiating this debate, and I am very happy to support the motion.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That this House notes the wide range of education and training initiatives providing opportunities for employed and unemployed people to obtain and enhance skills; welcomes the greater publicity given to the schemes by television advertising; notes that now all 16 year old school leavers are able to have two years training and that 460,000 places are on offer; recognises the importance of the review of vocational qualifications and the extension of the Technical and Vocational Education Initiative programme; further notes that adult training measures have been increased to assist over 250,000 people; acknowledges the need for continuing education and training in industry and business; notes the proposed increase to 100,000 places per year on the Enterprise Allowance Scheme due to the demand brought about by its success; and recognises the important part played by Local Enterprise Agencies and other schemes in helping small businesses.