HC Deb 05 December 1989 vol 163 cc139-40
1. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training and enterprise councils have received development funding in the northern region; and if he will make a statement.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Norman Fowler)

I have approved applications for development funding for five training and enterprise councils in the Training Agency's northern region. This means that councils are now being established in all parts of the region—Teesside, Tyneside, Wearside, county Durham and Northumberland. In addition, four further councils are being established in Yorkshire and Humberside.

Mr. Brown

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that encouraging reply. Will he confirm that the number of training and enterprise councils in the United Kingdom is touching the 50 mark? He said that consideration was being given to setting up TECs in Yorkshire and Humberside. Will Brigg and Cleethorpes feature in the list?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. I understand that Brigg and Cleethorpes feature on the list. They will be covered by the bid for a Humberside TEC, which is expected to be made early in February. I am sure that we shall establish a TEC in my hon. Friend's constituency. On the general position, more than 40 applications have been processed and given development funding and more applications are coming in. I am confident that in the next months we shall cover the whole country with TECs.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

Is the Secretary of State aware that between 2,500 and 3,500 people are to lose their jobs on the Thorpe construction project in west Cumberland and other construction projects in the nuclear industry? Is he satisfied that the TEC will be able to train all those people so that we can retain them in west Cumberland to rebuild our industrial base for the future?

Mr. Fowler

I think that it will be a combination of both. The TEC will improve training in the region but in addition we shall need to use the experience and skill of the employment service. I shall look into the matter that the hon. Gentleman raised to see what further action we can suggest.

Mr. Jack

Will my right hon. Friend do all that he can to ensure that west Lancashire is included in his plans for TECs? Will he tell the House what is happening in the north-west as a whole? Will he concentrate his efforts on areas such as Blackpool which are still unemployment black spots and need particular help?

Mr. Fowler

Yes. My latest information shows that in the north-west about eight TECs have been given development funding. Other applications are being considered and I have no doubt that we shall consider Blackpool and the surrounding area. Indeed, we shall consider all areas where unemployment is an issue.

Mr. Blair

Is the Secretary of State aware that only a third of British employees have occupational qualifications compared with two thirds in West Germany, and that Britain has only 30 per cent. of the number of qualified electricians and technicians in France? Two weeks ago a British Minister told the world: We are only just developing in the United Kingdom the recognition of the importance of encouraging a high level of skills. Does the Secretary of State agree that the training gap with our competitors is not merely serious but critical? What steps is he taking to ensure that TECs offer not only a Government programme for the long-term unemployed and young people but a strategy for adults already in work, who will form the bulk of the work force?

Mr. Speaker

Long questions take up a great deal of time.

Mr. Fowler

The hon. Gentleman almost made an Adjournment speech and I shall try to set out what is happening. With training and enterprise councils we are seeking to narrow the training gap, which has not appeared suddenly in the past few years but has been a feature of this country literally since the war, if not before. The encouraging feature about training and enterprise councils is the way in which employers have responded to them. With the new programmes we shall be able to train some 450,000 unemployed people through employment training and 260,000 young people through YTS.

Now that the hon. Gentleman has joined the Opposition Front Bench on employment, I hope that he will reverse the Labour party's position and support employment training for unemployed people.

Ms. Short

That was a long answer, too.

Mr. Speaker

I know, but long questions lead to long answers, so let us have less of them.