HC Deb 25 October 1988 vol 139 cc155-6
3. Mr. Lewis

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many people are currently participating in employment training.

Mr. Fowler

Employment training has got off to an excellent start. As at 14 October there were 60,000 people in training with training managers.

Mr. Lewis

Is the Secretary of State aware that his performance this afternoon will be greeted with derision by training agents and training managers throughout the country, who are complaining bitterly about the shortfall in trainees and about the 50 per cent. drop-out rate mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher)? It is a disgrace.

Mr. Fowler

There is no 50 per cent. drop-out; there are no such figures. I can guarantee with absolute certainty that training agents and training managers would not regard the hon. Gentleman as their spokesman in these matters.

Mr. Bowis

Can my right hon. Friend supply the figures for disabled people who are benefiting from the training? Will he ensure that there is careful monitoring of the scheme as it progresses, to ensure that such people benefit from training to enable them to participate in the jobs that are being created in our expanding economy?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. We shall do everything in our power to enable disabled people to benefit from the training programme. Nothing is more important than that we should do that. It is written into the employment training programme, and we shall monitor it as we go along.

Mr. Wallace

What assessment has the Secretary of State's Department made of the demand from women who, because of domestic commitments, have not registered as unemployed and available for work? Is he satisfied that adequate provision is being made to meet that demand?

Mr. Fowler

As the hon. Gentleman knows, there is provision for such women, but, again, we shall want to assess that. It is certainly part of the Government's policy to seek to bring about conditions that will encourage women to return to the labour market. The labour market will need them in the coming years.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

Will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the initiative of Nottingham Network, established under ET? Network aims to give tuition to small businesses by offering practical and sound financial advice. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we have a very long way to go in establishing one-man and very small businesses to help in our campaign to reduce unemployment?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. I believe that the Network programme in Nottingham to which my hon. Friend referred is a very promising development. I look forward to its providing more employment in that very important city.

Ms. Short

Perhaps I can help the Secretary of State by reminding him of what my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition said at Bournemouth. He said that ET was a rotten scheme and he advised the trade unions to stay in it to try to make it better. The Secretary of State then closed down the Training Commission and kicked out the trade unions, so he should not quote my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition as being on his side.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm what the Financial Times told us on 17 October: that his Department has issued a confidential circular saying that the priority of restart interviews for the unemployed is, at the first stage, to push people into employment training and, at the second stage, if those people do not take up such training, to find out why not? Is that happening because the right hon. Gentleman is frightened that the unemployed do not like his scheme?

Mr. Fowler

One of the options for unemployed people at a normal restart interview is employment training. There are other options as well. If at the restart interview someone says that he is going to employment training but does not turn up, it is reasonable for the Department to find out why.

On the hon. Lady's first point, she knows as well as everyone that had the Labour party, especially the hon. Lady and the hon. Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Meacher), taken a more constructive view on employment training there would have been an entirely different outcome. I am not prepared to take lectures from the hon. Lady. The Labour party has turned its back on the unemployed, and the public recognise that.