HC Deb 19 April 1989 vol 151 cc326-8
8. Mr. Hunter

To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster if he will make a further statement on his policy to increase links between industry and schools.

Mr. Forth

One hundred and forty-six DTI advisers on enterprise and education are now working, and the education service has asked them to find around 100,000 pupil work experience places in their first year.

My Department is also now offering a teacher placement service, which is being managed on our behalf by Understanding British Industry. I am pleased to announce that we have appointed a director for the service —Mr. Peter Davies. More than 80 local bodies have already expressed interest in offering the service, and the first organisers are in place. Teachers will be able to choose between a number of high-quality briefing packs. This year provides the opportunity to test both these packs and the matching service, to ensure that it all runs smoothly. The teacher placement service has been developed from the successful pilot schemes run for my Department by UBI last year. I will place in the Library a copy of the UBI's report.

Mr. Hunter

While acknowledging that industry is responding positively to the need for closer contact with schools, may I ask my hon. Friend whether he accepts that more needs to be done by all interested parties? Is he aware that in areas of high job creation, such as Basingstoke, followed closely by Crawley, the shortage of skills is becoming yet more acute, and that every measure must be taken to ensure that our school leavers have the attitude and the aptitude to contribute positively to the industrial and economic life of the country?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend has summed up the problem extremely ably. We all recognise the increasing difficulty of skill shortages in many parts of the country. We have gone a long way towards recognising that this problem arises, as much as anything, from the schools. That is why the education and enterprise initiative seeks —and I believe that it has made a very good start—to address the problem of the lack of what might be called enterprise culture and understanding in many of our schools, which gives rise to a lack of proper career and educational counselling of youngsters. We hope that we shall see a lot of young people getting work experience and, more important, that we shall see teachers getting experience in the business world so that they may better advise and guide their public towards careers in the wealth-creating sector.

Mr. Skinner

I wonder whether part of one of these briefing packs that are to be issued to schools will contain information about fraud in the boardroom. Will it include, for instance, the city page of The Daily Telegraph of 15 April 1989, where it is reported that Blue Arrow loaned £25 million to de Savary and his gang; that, under section 432 of the Companies Act, the shareholders should have been fully informed of that matter, but were not; and that one of the directors of Blue Arrow is none other than the right hon. Member for Chingford (Mr. Tebbit)? Since that right hon. Member is supposed to represent those shareholders, he ought to be asking the Secretary of State to order an investigation, but as has is not here, I am doing it for him.

Mr. Forth

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's interest in the wealth-creating sector. I shall send him one of these packs, in the hope that it will increase his understanding of the process of wealth creation.

Sir John Stokes

Is not this a serious matter? Would it not be helpful to school leavers if leading industrialists could be more articulate about the scope for getting things done in industry, compared with some other professions, which I shall not mention? Why are these industrial tycoons such shy violets? Why can they not tell us how they make money and how that benefits the country also?

Mr. Forth

My hon. Friend has made an important point. We hope that people in industry and business will be much more forthcoming and co-operative in trying to carry their message into schools and colleges so that young people may better understand how wealth is created and that it is only by the creation of wealth that we as a society can provide all the other services that we want to provide for our people.

Dr. Bray

Is the Minister aware that there is a clear understanding in industry that healthy links with schools depend on a parity of esteem and resources on the two sides, and that there is major concern that schools are simply not getting the teachers, particularly of science and mathematics, whom they need? Is he aware that, this year, applications were down by 25 per cent. for physics and by 16 per cent. for mathematics? Will the DTI lend its voice in support of industrialists who demand greater resources and esteem for teachers?

Mr. Forth

I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is aware of existing problems, and is tackling them with great vigour. The esteem in which the teaching profession is held is a matter for it. I hope that the conduct and dedication of teachers in future will help to increase the esteem in which they are held.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of our biggest problems is schoolchildren's perception of engineering, inventing and manufacturing, and that we must sell the status of those occupations? Without them Britain will never rebuild its industrial and commercial strength. I am not one of those, and I am sure that the Minister is not, who say that Britain cannot manufacture products competitively. We must demonstrate to young people that engineering, inventing and manufacturing are the future for Britain.

Mr. Forth

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for making that point. I recently discussed those matters with the Engineering Council. It is acutely aware of the matter, and is mounting a positive and active campaign to carry the message to where it will be heard and understood. Our record in manufacturing productivity increases, to which reference has been made today, amply demonstrates that we still have the ability and the will to make improvements and to continue to make manufacturing and industry generally an attractive proposition for our young people.