HC Deb 20 March 1989 vol 149 cc714-5
2. Mr. Coleman

To ask the Secretary of State for Wales what representations he has received concerning the local education authority training grant scheme in Wales; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

I have recently received a number of representations on behalf of voluntary youth organisations expressing concern that unpaid voluntary sector youth workers do not come within the scope of the local education authority training grant scheme. Similar representations have been made in the past in respect of careers officers, nursery nurses, and other groups whose training costs are not supported under the scheme. Representations have also been received from school governors about the disruption caused by teachers' absences from the classroom to attend training courses.

Mr. Coleman

Will the hon. Gentleman clarify the Welsh Office's position in respect of whether LEA training grants can be applied to voluntary organisations, such as the Boys Brigade, the Scout Association and the Girl Guides Association for the valuable training of their voluntary workers? If the answer is no, will he undertake to revise the Welsh Office circular on that matter so as to permit the necessary financing to be made available to those important organisations?

Mr. Roberts

Those training grants are paid under the Education (Training Grants) Regulations 1987, which define eligible youth and community workers as: Youth and community workers employed by a Local Education Authority or a voluntary organisation. Both we and the Department of Education and Science have always interpreted that as meaning that only paid workers are eligible and that volunteers are not. We have, however, encouraged LEAs to make their own provision from their own resources.

Mr. Morgan

Does the Minister agree that that is part of the pattern of general retreat from the provision of training in Wales and goes along with the decision of the engineering industry training board to close its Cardiff office? We need to be assured that the Minister was consulted about that, as well as about the privatisation of the skill centres. Does he agree that with the prospect of Bosch and Toyota coming to south Wales serious damage will be caused if the Government do not adopt the attitude that real training for real skills can lead to real jobs?

Mr. Roberts

I was astonished to see the hon. Gentleman's remarks in the Western Mail this morning and I am even more appalled to hear him repeat them in the Chamber. There is no such thing as a retreat from training under this Government. At this very moment, we are seeking to expand training facilities for people in Wales.

Mr. Morgan

Tell that to the Germans.

Mr. Roberts

We do indeed tell it to the Germans, as well as to all other inward investors in Wales.

The hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that the change in the training board means no more than the removal of administrative jobs from Cardiff to Bristol and that all the training field workers will remain in place as they now are.

Mr. Ian Bruce

Will my hon. Friend clarify the situation regarding grant because many Scout associations in Wales and the rest of Britain are concerned about the apparent change in the grants system for the training of adult leaders? For a number of years an excellent scheme has operated which has been virtually the only support that voluntary organisations have had in obtaining grants to train leaders. Those leaders give up their time voluntarily, but they have expenses to meet as a result of the courses. Can my hon. Friend clarify whether in the past the Government have given the money or whether it has come from local resources?

Mr. Roberts

I can indeed clarify the position. Either we can increase the resources earmarked for the grants, which local authorities would not like us to do or we can reduce, the support for those already within the scope of the scheme, which hon. Members would not like. I repeat that local authorities are free to fund training courses from their own resources for those outside the scheme.

Forward to