HC Deb 16 December 1986 vol 107 cc1041-3
6. Mr. Sheerman

asked the Paymaster General what measures he considers necessary to increase the volume and quality of training in engineering skills.

17. Mr. George Howarth

asked the Paymaster General if he is satisfied with the volume of craft and technician training in the engineering industry.

Mr. Trippier

It is the responsibility of employers to identify their own engineering skill requirements and ensure an appropriate volume and quality of training at all levels, but the Government are providing substantial help through their £1.5 billion training programmes for young people and adults.

Mr. Sheerman

Does the Minister realise that a recent report from the Engineering Industry Training Board says that in the past eight years training has declined by 30 per cent. in the industry, and over the past 15 years by 50 per cent.? Is he aware that there is a crisis in engineering training at the entry and the adult training and retraining levels? That crisis will stop this country from moving again when the Labour party takes office. Is it not about time that he did something to prepare the ground for that?

Mr. Trippier

If the hon. Gentleman is trying to prepare the ground for the inopportune and unlikely event of a Labour Government being elected, he is not going about it in the right way. He cannot have it both ways. The engineering industry comes under the responsibility of a statutory training board, the like of which he wishes to replicate throughout the rest of industry and commerce. The views that are expressed by the Engineering Industry Training Board, which I very much welcome, must, under that statutory training system, be welcomed, otherwise the hon. Gentleman is claiming that the statutory training system which already imposes a levy does not work. There are many people inside and outside the House who believe that that is the truth.

Mr. Lawler

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the reasons for the training crisis in the engineering industry is the high wage rates that have been negotiated by trade unions for young people entering the industry by? Does he accept that the best way to increase the volume of training is for the engineering industry to adapt the traditional apprenticeship schemes and integrate them with YTS? Will my hon. Friend congratulate those far-sighted engineering companies which have already done that?

Mr. Trippier

I certainly congratulate those companies which have adopted that practice. My hon. Friend has made a valid point. Apprenticeship is not the only route to craft and technician jobs. YTS has already enabled a substantial amount of initial skills training to be carried out. The expanded two-year scheme will enable even more people to be trained in that way.

Mr. Ron Brown

Does the Minister agree that it is appalling that the CBI has claimed that there is a shortage of skilled workers when at the same time it is exploiting the YTS as cheap labour and completely failing to promote real apprenticeships? Is it not the country that is suffering overall?

Mr. Trippier

If the hon. Gentleman was correct it would mean that the 83 per cent. of people who have benefited under YTS, who have said that they are satisfied with the training that they have received under that programme, are completely wrong. First of all the hon. Gentleman insults those—

Mr. Brown

Forget the statistics. The Minister should come up to Scotland and meet the young people, and then he would know better.

Mr. Trippier

I did not interrupt the hon. Gentleman when he asked his question. I would be grateful if he would try to listen to my reply.

First, the allowance made is an allowance, and the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Lawler) is absolutely right. It is appropriate that a lower differential should be established so that those who are not fully skilled can try to attain a qualification that would try to put right the skill shortage that we know about.

Mr. Batiste

Would my hon. Friend be able to estimate how much more successful the training and other employment measures of the Government would be if the Government were not constantly faced with carping and politically motivated criticism from the Opposition, whose sole purpose is to undermine their success for electoral purposes?

Mr. Trippier

I agree with my hon. Friend. In the first place, every time an Opposition Member seeks to rubbish the youth training scheme it is an insult to those young people who have enjoyed that form of training. I believe, as do my colleagues on the Front Bench, that every opportunity is taken by the Opposition to knock every scheme. That leads us to understand that they do not want the unemployment figures to come down prior to the general election, and that they are not sincere in wanting to reduce the unacceptable level of unemployment.