HC Deb 26 April 1990 vol 171 cc519-73

36H—Any surplus arising from the winding up of a development corporation shall be paid into the Exchequer and any deficit shall be defrayed out of money provided by Parliament."'.

Mr. Lang

New clause 9 reintroduces the original clause 30. Interestingly, its content is replicated in a new clause tabled by the Opposition and grouped with it, which illustrates the opportunist and frivolous approach that the Opposition took to eliminating the clause in Committee.

For the benefit of the House, I should explain that the clause replaces sections 36 and 36A of the New Towns (Scotland) Act 1968 with a series of new sections on the procedures to be adopted for the winding up and dissolution of the five Scottish new town development corporations. We debated the provisions of the clause extensively in Committee and I will summarise that debate. The clause extends the scope for the development corporations to dispose of their property, rights and liabilities, and empowers the Secretary of State to make directions and orders, including wind-up and transfer orders, for the transfer of property, rights and liabilities affecting the development corporations up to and at dissolution.

It also empowers the Secretary of State to relieve, by making grants, any financial burden imposed by the transfer of corporation property. The clause is essentially enabling, designed to ensure that sufficient scope is left to ensure a smooth winding-up process, consistent with the intent of the architects of the original 1946 legislation. Wind-up has been implicit for new towns since the outset, and it is generally recognised that the new towns, at varying stages of maturity, are reaching the time when wind-up is appropriate and necessary.

We intend that wind-up orders will be made in 1991 for East Kilbride and Glenrothes, and those corporations will be dissolved no later than 1994. Cumbernauld will begin winding up in 1993, Livingstone in 1995 and Irvine in 1996. Winding up will normally take place over three years, after which corporations will be dissolved. It is important to handle this matter sensibly, and we are anxious to maintain the momentum—particularly the economic momentum—established by the towns while they have had special legislative protection and support from the taxpayer.

The economic benefits that the new towns have generated for themselves, for their surrounding areas and for Scotland as a whole are too significant simply to wind up the towns without providing for a smooth transition. In the last year alone, more than 5,000 new jobs were established in the towns, where unemployment rates are well below those of the surrounding areas, having halved in the last three years. Even since we have debated the Bill in Committee, we have had excellent news about Conner Peripherals in Irvine and NEC's expansion in Livingston, I announced Locate in Scotland's annual results earlier this week, in which the new towns played a prominent part.

It is intended to make sure that satisfactory arrangements are in place before any corporation is wound up. We have concluded that the most effective way to take forward development in the towns will be through the private sector by way of a local development company, the principal role of which would be to own and manage a portfolio of industrial and commercial assets of the former development corporations and to undertake new property development on a commercial basis as it judges appropriate. In addition, and for a limited number of years, the company will undertake certain public sector functions under contract in the new town area.

A local development company vehicle offers three main advantages. The first is the potential for the introduction of a substantial private sector involvement in the on-going economic development of the towns. The second is the disposal of a significant part of the industrial and commercial assets. The third is the assured continuing delivery of certain key activities—promoting, marketing and support for the attraction of inward investment; property development; and business support and advisory services.

Housing is an important issue and undoubtedly one which concerns local residents, so we devoted considerable time to it in Committee. It is clear that the housing argument in the new towns is moving our way. Our support for diversity and variety is just what people want. That is why more than 30,000 tenants have bought their own homes and that is why housing associations are being set up and expanded. I know that district councils and Opposition Members have been quick to press the claims of councils to take over development corporation housing, but there is no sign of a demand among tenants to transfer to district councils. There are many more applications to move from councils to the development corporations. Most tenants—four fifths of them in a recent survey—want to make their choice at wind-up. I agree with them that that is the right time to choose. Our priority now is to make sure that they are aware of the alternatives.

We had a thorough and wide-ranging debate on this clause in Committee. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said: There is some cross-party agreement on this issue in that both parties accept the success of the new towns and that at some stage there must be winding-up."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 27 February 1990; c. 439.] By tabling their own new clause, the Opposition have made it plain that they accept the fact of wind-up.

I should draw attention to one addition in the clause as now proposed. On Second Reading, the hon. Member for Cumbernauld and Kilsyth (Mr. Hogg) specifically raised the matter of the proposed transfer of planning functions from development corporations to local planning authorities. He also asked how and when this transfer would take place. The new clause includes a further technical provision—section 36(3)(e)—for the Secretary of State to have powers to revoke any order relating to the development corporation". That provision will allow the special development order for any town to be revoked by the winding-up order and to be an integrated part of the wind-up process. It will not necessarily mean that the revocation of the special development order will take effect at the start of wind-up. The precise timing will be influenced by such matters as the state of readiness of local plans. The availability of this power should, however, facilitate a smoother transition, and to this end we have also added an explicit provision at new section 36(3)(f) allowing the winding-up order to contain transitional provisions.

The new clause is essential to the Bill and to the new, robust free-standing picture of the new towns in Scotland.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

The Minister said that our new clause is the same as the Government's, so the Government should have no problem in accepting our new clause, which asks them to give tenants of development corporations the right to choose to become tenants of the district council if they so wish. I wait for the Minister to say that he accepts that, but clearly he does not.

The Government are denying tenants of development corporations in Scotland the right, given to development corporation tenants in England, to transfer to district councils in the 17 new towns that were wound up there. Up to 1984, the Government agreed that development corporation housing should go to the district. The right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger) was not in Committee on the morning when the Government lost the new towns windup clause, but, on Second Reading, he was clearly under the impression that things were as they were when he was Secretary of State for Scotland.

Mr. Norman Hogg (Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)

My hon. Friend will recall that I attempted to get answers on this matter from the right hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger). Would my hon. Friend care to comment on the fact that the winding up of new towns in England was undertaken when the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) was Secretary of State for the Environment? Perhaps we could look forward to a more enlightened approach to this wind- up if, between now and the general election, he was to be promoted to glory.

Mr. Worthington

We do not have to wait for the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) to be promoted, because the new towns will be wound up under the Labour Government, who will give development corporation tenants the right to become district council tenants if they so wish.

Late last year, the Department of the Environment issued consultation papers that gave that right to council tenants. Our view is clear. It is fine by us if development corporation tenants want to do any of the following things: become owner-occupiers, vote to become a tenant of a management buy-out, join a co-operative, join a housing association, become a tenant of Scottish Homes. However, new town development corporation tenants have said overwhelmingly that they want to become tenants of the local district councils. We would give them that choice, but it is denied them by the Government.

Mr. Bill Walker (Tayside, North)

If I heard the hon. Gentleman correctly, he complained earlier that the law in Scotland would be different from the law in England—that was the substance of his comments. If that is so, can he give us an assurance that if there is a Labour Government they will ensure that Scotland has the same laws as England, as they affect the new clause, and also that that would be true of the roof tax?

5.30 pm
Mr. Worthington

I was simply trying to make the point—and I think I did so effectively—that choice is being denied to tenants by the Scottish Office. Nothing that we are asking for is out of line with what the Department of the Environment is doing. The Department would allow development corporation tenants of English new towns to transfer to the district council. The Scottish Office and the Minister have decided to deny Scots that choice. The Minister must still be trying to get brownie points with the Prime Minister at a time when it does not matter whether he gets them.

In Committee, there was great embarrassment when a dawn raid occurred at 10.30 am, and two Conservative members of the Committee, who had not managed to get up by that time, failed to arrive and we voted out a clause. Therefore, the Bill as it stands is very strange, because the crucial clause on new towns is missing from the second part of the Bill. There are two major aspects to the part of the Bill that we are discussing and they are both addressed by our new clause. The first is the importance of wind-up to the new towns, and the second is the importance of the new towns to Scotland.

The key issue is the right of tenants to choose district councils as landlords. We demand that district councils should be available as an option. Some 89 per cent. of tenants in a recent survey thought that district councils should be one of the choices. We write that into our new clause. There is nothing revolutionary about that. Until 1984, that was accepted in England and Wales, where 17 new towns have been wound up. The only exception to the rule was Runcorn, because the local district council, for its own reasons, did not want to be a housing authority.

The history of the issue is that, until the mid-1980s, new towns in England and Wales that were wound up had their housing stock transferred almost automatically to the relevant district council. Then the Government decided that more choice should be available. The Housing and Planning Act 1986 contained a provision to enable new town dwellings to be transferred to bodies other than local authorities, but local people still had the right to choose the district council.

A ballot was held in Peterborough in October and November 1987 and when the result was announced in December, 93 per cent. of tenants of an 85 per cent. turnout wanted to transfer to the district council. We want the same rights to be given to tenants in East Kilbride, Glenrothes and the other new towns in Scotland as were given to tenants in Peterborough.

In August 1988, the Department of the Environment issued a consultation paper entitled, "New Towns Housing Transfer" in which plans were announced to repeal part III of the New Towns Act 1982 in favour of new transfer arrangements enabling approved landlords to compete with district councils, but local people still had the right to transfer to the district council.

As recently as 1989, the Local Government and Housing Act—in section 172(2)—made it quite clear that in new towns in England and Wales people can transfer to district councils within whose district the dwelling is situated, or to an approved landlord.

On 11 October 1989, in another place, Lord Hesketh said: The Government will bring forward regulations which will include the detailed provisions for such tenant consultation. They will include a ballot in which we would expect tenants to be able to choose between the district council and a landlord approved by the Housing Corporation. The Minister finds ballots extremely difficult. To paraphrase what he said in Committee, ballots are difficult because they narrow the choice—they make one say yes or no, and that is unacceptable to the Minister.

Mr. Adam Ingram (East Kilbride)

My hon. Friend was paraphrasing what the Minister said in Committee. The accurate quote is: A ballot is potentially a difficult and dangerous course of action."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 6 March 1990; c. 539.] That sums up how the Government view the democratic choice facing new town tenants in Scotland.

Mr. Worthington

The Minister has a very limited vocabulary. It consists of the words "flexibility" and "choice" and he does not know the meaning of choice. We are trying to tell him that it means that one could choose between alternatives.

I am sure that there is considerable resentment in the new towns about the leaflet that was sent to tenants to tell them that they have a choice—that was the title of the leaflet. However, choice excludes the number one option for tenants.

Lord Hesketh said that even at that stage—in 1989—the Government intended to continue to offer a choice in England and Wales. He said: It is proposed that the tenants would be offered a choice between the local council and an approved landlord as the future owner of their homes."—[Official Report, House of Lords, 11 October 1989; Vol. 511, c. 490–91.] That is all that we ask for in the Bill. It is puzzling why the Scottish Office have made a universal declaration of independence. It is not good enough for the Minister to say that at some stage in the future—at wind-up—they may allow a choice, because we know what will happen during the next few years. The full Government propaganda machine will go into operation, and people will be persuaded to choose immediately because of the fears that the Government will be stirring up.

The only honest thing that the Government can do is to tell people now that there will be a choice which will include the district councils as possible landlords if tenants so wish.

The Government are clearly desperately embarrassed about the situation. In Committee, the Minister used some strange language when he was talking about the "strong preference" of 40 per cent. of people who showed an interest in owner-occupation, but the "bare" 50 per cent. who thought that they would choose the district council at wind-up. According to the Minister, the Government are seeking to achieve choice, but they do not want people to choose now. We do not think that people should be making choices now, but they should know that choice will be available at wind-up.

The point that I am making will be exemplified and elaborated by my hon. Friends who represent the five new towns in Scotland. They will express the authentic views in the new towns in Scotland. It is strange that although the new towns are success stories, the Government and the Tory party have failed to achieve any representation in those areas. If the Government continue denying choice to the residents of new towns, they will do even worse in those areas in future.

As I said in Committee, it is not simply a question of the right of tenure. We accept the case for some variety in the choice of tenure of housing in the new towns. It is not simply a question of different systems of tenure and the right to choose a landlord; it is the right to choose where one lives. It is the right of residents of East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Irvine, Cumbernauld or Livingston to continue to live in the new towns. The other options that the Government put forward give far too much weight to the depth of one's pocket in whether one can live in that area. For many people with modest incomes their only real chance of continuing to live there or being given preference over newcomers, would be through district councils playing a major role in housing policy in those areas.

Many other issues affect the new towns. The Government have said, and we accept their intention, that it is extremely important to maintain the momentum of economic development in the new towns. However, the way in which the Government are going about that is not maintaining that momentum. I am sure that all my hon. Friends who represent new towns will confirm that the impression going around is that the new towns are going out of business simply because the development corporations are going out of business. That is lessening their competitive edge in comparison with areas such as the north-east of England. It would have been much more satisfying if we had been given a satisfactory explanation in Committee of the role of the local development corporations. We were not denied that for any malign reason, but because the Government do not know.

So that other hon. Members can have a fair share of the debate, I shall conclude. I repeat to the Government that it is unacceptable to deny tenants the opportunity to transfer to the tenancy that they want. Why is the number one choice being denied? What is in it for the Government to create indecision and uncertainty and to make people worry—particularly elderly people who do not want to buy?

Mr. Ingram

They cannot afford to buy.

Mr. Worthington

My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) is quite right.

Why will the Government not realise the good sense of new clause 2, which makes it explicit that we will offer the residents of new towns and the tenants of the development corporations the choice of landlord and that choice must include the local district council?

Mr. David Lambie (Cunninghame, South)

As a representative of the youngest new town—Irvine, in the district of Cunninghame—I am pleased to take part in today's debate.

When we are discussing a Scottish Parliament and more independence for the Scottish people, Mr. Speaker keeps reminding us that this is a United Kingdom Parliament. The Under-Secretary for State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who is also chairman of the Tory party in Scotland, appears on television, on the radio and in the newspapers every week reminding the Scottish people of the benefits of being members of the United Kingdom Parliament. That is why I am disappointed that the Government should be introducing new clause 9 as a replacement for clause 30 which they lost in Committee.

5.45 pm

The Government had a majority in Committee and it was their job to ensure that Government policy was carried during the debate on clause 30. They failed to get Scottish Conservative Members to come upstairs and vote. Now, because the Scottish Tory Members failed them, the Government will depend on English Tory Members. At 7 o'clock tonight, when we vote on a matter dealing primarily with Scots who live in Scottish new towns, the clause will be reintroduced as a result of the votes of the English Tory majority, mainly from the south-east of England. That is discrimination against the Scottish people and shows that the sooner Scottish representatives are away from this place the better it will be for Scotland and for the people who live there.

Mr. Jim Sillars (Glasgow, Govan)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is even worse than he says, because tonight English Tory Members of Parliament will be voting down majority Scottish opinion although in England they applied the same standard that we are arguing for today?

Mr. Lambie

I accept what the hon. Gentleman says. I intended to make the same point to reinforce what was said forcefully by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). The Government are not only bringing in English Members of Parliament to vote against Scottish political opinion, especially that of the representatives of the new towns in Scotland, but they will be voting against what they introduced in the legislation applying to tenants of the English new towns. That is why I make this last-minute appeal, to the Government and to those English Conservative Members who are to be used as Lobby fodder tonight, to change that policy and to withdraw the new clause.

Mr. Bill Walker

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Lambie

I shall not give way, because I promised not to speak for long.

I represent Irvine, the youngest new town, where the winding-up order will be published in 1996 and the new town wound up in 1999. There will be at least two general elections before the effects of the Bill apply to Irvine. I know that, after the next general election, when there is a Labour Government, we shall rescind this legislation and the fears of my constituents, the tenants in Irvine new town, will be removed.

The Government are offering new town tenants certain options, if they do not wish to buy or to take part in any schemes involving mortgages which will give them the right to buy. Among those options is to hand over the houses to Scottish Homes when the new town has been wound up. The people in Irvine new town are afraid of the policies of Scottish Homes. I am not prepared to say whether those fears are justified. They think that Scottish Homes was brought into being as a Tory Trojan horse to eliminate the public rented sector. I believe that my constituents are correct to be afraid of Scottish Homes.

The other option for tenants is to become tenants of organisations such as Quality Street, a private sector limited company which tenants fear is interested only in making money. In every vote taken, new town tenants have always chosen Cunninghame district council as their landlord.

I hope that at this late stage the Government will rescind their decision to go it alone in Scotland, implement the policy that was accepted for England and give the tenants of Irvine development corporation the opportunity to become tenants of Cunninghame district council when the new town is wound up.

Mr. Bill Walker

I shall be brief, because hon. Members representing new towns should be given an adequate and fair hearing. I hope that they will understand that my being brief means not that I could not speak at length but that I believe that they should be heard.

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (M r. Lambie) made great play of the fact that the Government are introducing legislation for Scotland different from that for England. That comes rich from a member of a party which, when in government, enacted provisions for revaluation every five years in Scotland but not in England and Wales. I could give a long list of similar points, but I will not do so.

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, South should bear in mind the fact that Scottish Homes is the inheritor of the Scottish Special Housing Association, which did a good job, and of the housing associations, which have a long and distinguished record in Scotland. To suggest that the new body, Scottish Homes, is less than Scottish or something of which we cannot be proud is nonsense—it is Scottish, and it will be run by Scots for Scots.

Of course we are different in Scotland. We are always telling people that we want to be different. Yet when the Government introduce legislation making Scotland different, all we get is girning and greeting from Opposition Members.

Mr. Ingram

I certainly will not be as brief as the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), who made not a genuine contribution to the debate but a mere interruption.

When Opposition Members voted down clause 30, the Minister accused them of being frivolous and opportunistic. The truth is that a Whip was at fault in not ensuring that Conservative Members were present to vote. The vote went deeper than that, because it showed the indifference of Scottish Tory Members to voting on such an important issue. It was not frivolous or opportunistic, but a clear statement of the views of the people of the new towns on what was happening in Committee.

I said after the vote that, if the Minister had been more willing to listen, more flexible and more prepared to take on board the broad consensus on the arguments being advanced, I would not have voted against the clause. His inflexibility and unwillingness to listen forced Labour Members into that action. There is nothing wrong in our tabling new clause 8, which reflects the principles that we tried to advance in Committee, but without any response from the Minister.

Mr. Bill Walker


Mr. Ingram

If the opportunity arises, I might give way to the hon. Member for Tayside, North. I am conscious of the fact that other hon. Members who represent new towns want to speak in the debate.

Everyone involved in the new towns, not only Members of Parliament or local representatives but residents and tenants, are deeply concerned about what the future holds. In Committee, I mentioned comments made to me by industrialists in Irvine, one of whom asked, "Who will speak for industry when the development corporations are wound up?" No one could answer that. Opposition Members cannot say what is in the Government's mind, but the Government are not saying who will speak for industry when the development corporations are wound up.

There was deep disillusionment and disappointment about what happened in Committee. Everyone recognised that, at some stage, the new towns would have to be wound up. There were constructive responses to the Green Paper—although perhaps they were not what the Government wanted to hear—but there were gasps of surprise at the drafting of the White Paper and people were stunned by the lack of detail in the Bill. They waited to see whether any flesh would be put on the bones of the Bill in Committee. The Minister was probed and pushed by Opposition Members about how the considerable assets that the new towns have built up over the years were to be disposed of and how they would be managed in the future for the greater good of not only the new town communities but the wider communities in which they exist and the Scottish economy. He was further probed and pushed on local authorities' role in the management of those assets and what the role, structure and function of the vague body called the local development company would be when it was given their industrial and commercial assets to manage.

The local development company is not mentioned in the Bill, yet in Committee the Minister said that it is a key element in Government policy. When we tried to question him about it, we were simply pushed aside, because, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said, he does not know what it will do. The answers that we were given were evasive and shifty. The minds of the people who are aware of the success of the new towns were not put at rest by the Minister's approach.

Attempts were made in Committee to include in the Bill the basic principles now set out in new clause 8. They were watered down following the arguments in Committee in the hope that the Minister, even at this late stage, would respond to the wide concern that has been expressed.

I repeat the point that was made in Committee about the need for a proper economic audit of the assets of the new towns. The Government say that they will conduct an audit of the recreational, environmental and parks assets of the new towns, but they are not prepared to conduct an economic audit of the industrial, commercial and land assets of the new towns. They are saying, "All that detail is contained in the annual reports of the new town development corporations; go and find it yourselves." That is disgraceful. A proper portfolio of what the new towns are worth is required.

We do not agree with the Government's proposed method of disposing of the new towns' assets, but none the less there is a need to understand their total worth. The Government are not prepared to concede that, because, I suspect, they do not want people to be aware of their total worth. They want to give away those considerable assets, all of which were built and developed at public expense, at knock-down prices. In Committee, the Minister said that the understanding of the worth of the assets is essentially an administrative matter, but that is not the view of the people of the new towns. It is essential to their understanding of what will happen when their communities are wound up that they should understand the worth of those assets.

Local authorities have asked to be able to purchase, through equity participation, a share in the local development company. It is accepted that the Government will press ahead with that body. The local authorities say, "If that is to happen, can we have a role in the development and management of our town?" We made this request in Committee. Will the Minister please concede the point? Will he instruct or advise the new town development corporations, over which he has direct control, to allow the local authorities to have not a controlling place, but simply a place on the board? If the Minister does that, he will mirror the arguments that he claims to support in relation to the private and public mixture which is supposed to be for the good of the Scottish economy. When we made that appeal for the new towns, we were told that it was a matter for the development corporations. The Minister is not prepared to give that simple advice or instruction to the development corporations.

6 pm

Through new clause 8, we are asking the Minister to recognise that local authorities should have the right to buy equity participation, and I should like to hear what objections he has to that proposal. I again ask the Minister, as I did in Committee, to give a green light to that concept, because it will encourage the development corporations to involve local authorities in the development of their towns.

I shall leave it to my colleagues to refer to the need to consult on wind-up about transportation. It is unbelievable that a consultation process is not enshrined in the legislation. The Minister said that consultation would take place, but I do not trust the Minister or the Government to consult properly with any level of representation within the new towns. The hon. Gentleman dismissed the concept of ballots as too democratic—perhaps resulting in the wrong answers, according to his thinking.

I have been involved in housing matters since I moved to East Kilbride 20 years ago and since I have been a local authority representative, leader of the council and the Member representing that new town. The choice to be given to new town tenants is a major issue in the new towns, as my hon. Friends the Members for Clydebank and Milngavie and for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) pointed out. That view cuts across the whole community—not only people who live in development corporation houses but those who have bought their houses and whose children would expect one day to be able to get a district council house or, if in a new town, a development corporation house. They are worried about what the future holds. The Minister has not said anything of any substance on that score.

We need from the Minister a clear statement that he has revised his thinking and realised how inflexible he has been over the past year and a half since this exercise started and this matter was considered in Committee. He has consistently refused to grant tenants that right and has caused unease in the minds of residents and tenants of new towns. This is not a party political point—it cuts across the breadth of the community. It is a point about tenants who are worried about what the future holds for them and for their families in terms of the opportunity to get a development corporation house.

Worry is felt not only by the people who live in the new towns but by the officials. I have received a document written not by my new town development corporation but by the Glenrothes development corporation. It was dated 20 February 1990 and was considered by the development corporation's board. It made four main points about the concern felt by those who manage the houses. The development corporation said: The uncertainty in this matter is to continue. The officials commented on the survey of tenants in Scottish new towns and, contrary to the Minister's consistent interpretation of such surveys, said: It is clear from the Survey findings that a substantial majority of our tenants would, if required now to make a choice, choose the District Council. Everyone holds that view, except the Minister. It prevails within the new towns. The chief officers of the development corporation concluded: in order to remove uncertainty on the part of our tenants, it is desirable that the Government should announce now whether when the Corporation is wound up its tenants will be permitted to transfer to the District Council. The Corporation is invited to say whether representations on these lines should be made to the Industry Department for Scotland. I do not know whether those representations were made, but I referred to that development corporation document because it showed that the professionals—even those who may be interested in a management buy-out—recognise the fear of the people whom they have tried to place in houses and over whose interests they have so much control. I should be interested to hear whether the Minister has received a report from Glenrothes development corporation and whether he is prepared to move from his inflexible position.

The point about English legislation needs to be repeated. This is a valid point, unlike the case that was trivialised by the hon. Member for Tayside, North. All Members voted for that legislation. It is not English versus Scottish legislation. The correct legislation applies to England. The same principle, not necessarily the detail, should apply to tenants in Scotland who will be affected by the wind-up orders. They should be allowed to "choose" the district council as a landlord, rather than "say" that the district council "will" be the landlord.

Mr. Bill Walker

I would not wish the hon. Gentleman to think that, because I made a brief intervention, I was being trivial. I was not. The Labour party thought that it was right to introduce fundamental legislation on revaluation which had an impact on every council house tenant and ratepayer. One can argue about the details, but I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's principle. The Labour Government introduced legislation providing for separate revaluations. That was important fundamental legislation and there was nothing trivial about it. The Labour Government introduced it on the principle that it was right to legislate differently for Scotland.

Mr. Ingram

The hon. Gentleman shows us that, whether his interventions are brief or long, they are always trivial.

Reference is made in new clause 3 to an important aspect which was argued about in Committee—vacant houses. It has been proposed in certain new towns that vacant houses should be sold off either in management buy-outs or to other housing entrepreneurs and that the new owners would manage the housing stock. I have heard about a price in my new town of East Kilbride of £4.,000 a house. That is a ridiculous price for an asset which may be worth up to £50,000—for example, newly built houses in green environments. It is unacceptable.

In new clause 3, we have said that, because of the growing homelessness in the new towns and the demand for housing, the Minister should at least accept that vacant property should be transferred to the district councils on wind-up at a price to be agreed between the development corporation and the district council. That is not such a radical concept. The approach proposed in new clause 3 is the proper approach to adopt: those houses should he transferred to the district council.

I hope that the Minister will show himself more responsive and flexible in dealing with these most important issues than he has in the past 18 months.

Mr. Barry Porter (Wirral, South)

The House may wonder why I should have the effrontery to intervene in Scottish matters. My mother's maiden name was Brown, which does not help much. My father served in the Liverpool Scottish military forum in the war and was later transferred to the 51st Highland division. I do not like porridge very much, but I prefer Loch Fyne kippers to Manx kippers. It could be said that that gives me my credentials, but the real reason why I choose to intervene is that, as a number of hon. Members have said, this is a United Kingdom Parliament. Unless the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) gets his way, I shall continue to speak in a United Kingdom Parliament on Scottish, Irish and Welsh affairs, as I shall on English affairs and on any other affairs that may be appropriate.

I have listened with interest to a debate about housing. I have great pleasure in supporting the Government's housing policy over the past 10 years, but one or two matters concern me. It appears from the arguments advanced by Opposition Members that there is some block on district councils having the right to choose to become landlords in due course. I must say to my hon. Friend the Minister of State that the document provided by the great and glorious Conservative central office does not back up that view. I quote: The Bill proposes that district councils should not be the automatic inheritors of new town housing at wind-up. Fine; that is super by me. But the central office brief continues: They remain an option among a number of other possibilities. Will my hon Friend confirm that, to be the case, and that when the wind-up is completed, the option of a partial transfer to district councils is not ruled out? Whether or not the district councils are dreadful, awful, demented or mad is of no consequence to me. If the Scots choose to elect such people, that is a matter for them; they must suffer the consequences.

Mr. Worthington

The hon. Gentleman is making a helpful speech. The handout to which he referred says that, at some stage in the future, the choice of going to district councils may not be ruled out. What we ask is quite simple—that that choice should be ruled in now, because if it is not ruled in now it will be open to a Government of the present Government's disposition to rule it out in future. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we are being reasonable?

Mr. Porter

The answer to that is that I do not know, because I am waiting to hear from the Minister precisely what the position is. I must add, however, that I shall need to be convinced that there is some specific reason why Scotland should be treated in a different way from England and Wales. In the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Mr. Beaumont-Dark) and as his PPS, I have to say that I remain to be convinced. If the Scottish people wish to treat their district councils in a certain way, which may be different from what we should like, that must be a matter for them—otherwise, what is the point of having local government?

Mr. Norman Hogg

I listened with interest to the Minister of State. Judging by his remarks about the Government losing clause 30, he cannot have attended the same sitting of the Standing Committee as me. Nobody was being frivolous; what happened was that Conservative Members failed to turn up. My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) described an event that took place at half-past 10 in the morning as a dawn raid. I can only conclude that, once upon a time, he worked at a college or somewhere similar. But whatever kind of raid it was, it was certainly successful.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram), who made an excellent contribution today and made excellent contributions on behalf of new town tenants throughout the Committee proceedings, was right to take the Minister to task for saying that the event was frivolous. The clause was lost because Conservative Members were dilatory in performing their parliamentary duties.

6.15 pm

I view the setting up of the local development companies with some concern. I am sorry that the Minister has not felt able to say that he hopes that these commercial organisations—that is what they will be—will none the less accept the principle of having local authority representatives on their boards. There is no difficulty with that; it happens in other organisations, including commercial organisations, and there is no reason why it should not happen with the local development companies. I am surprised that the Minister is not encouraging it.

The development corporations themselves have greatly benefited from the presence of local authority representatives. Over the years in Cumbernauld, the development corporation has had representatives from the Labour party, the SNP and the Conservative party, although none of the Conservative representatives came from Cumbernauld, because, as we all know, Cumbernauld is a Tory-free zone.

The development corporations have benefited from the experience of local authority representatives and from their knowledge of local conditions. It is a sad day if the Government now so disapprove of local government and if the principle of local government is so ideologically unacceptable to them that they are prepared to reject altogether the idea of local authority representatives. The local development corporations will be the poorer for their mistake.

The Government information—not only on housing but on inward investment—that is reaching those who live in the new towns and industrialists with factories in the new towns is very scant indeed. I hope that the Scottish Office will do something to improve that. It is to the credit of local newspapers and their editors that the information has found its way to the people through them. Even at this late stage, however, there is a shortage of information about what is intended.

We have concentrated today on housing, and that must be right. I am sorry that the Government have not taken into account any of the representations that they have received from SLANT—Scottish Local Authorities with New Towns. I fear that that is because, yet again, they do not think that local government has anything to say about anything that they might want to listen to. That is a great mistake. SLANT was set up by my hon. Friend the Member for East Kilbride when he was leader of East Kilbride council, Councillor Rosemary McKenna, who subsequently became the provost of Cumbernauld, and myself to help all those concerned with the winding up of the new towns development corporation.

It is to be regretted that, once again, the Government have set their face against any view that the local authorities may wish to express. They have ignored the local authorities just as they have ignored the hugely well-attended public meetings in my constituency. I have never seen anything like it except during a general election campaign. In various areas of my new town, we have had numerous meetings attended by more than 100 people. I am sure that the largest meeting that my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie has attended since he became Opposition spokesman was the meeting that we had in my constituency when we met the people of Carbrain to discuss the wind-up.

All those people have said the same thing. They want the option of the district council as their landlord. No one in the Labour party or in any other political party is telling tenants of corporation houses that they should become council tenants. We accept that housing associations and co-operatives are options. I reluctantly accept that choice must include private landlords. However, it is unacceptable for the Government to tell tenants that they cannot choose the district council as landlord until the end of the process. The Government are saying that the district council might only then be a choice. That is disgraceful.

We have had this Conservative Government for a long time. I am sorry that they talk about choice, but tell people, "We know what's good for you and we will tell you how to behave." If that is contemporary Conservatism as expressed by the Minister of State, we will be saying farewell to him at the next general election. I hope that, even at this late hour, the Government will have regard to the views of the people who live in the new towns.

Mr. Robin Cook (Livingston)

By the nature of our proceedings, this debate on the Government's new clause is rather more open-ended than I had anticipated on Second Reading. I understood initially that the open-ended nature of our proceedings tonight was the result of what I had hoped was a wise and fair-minded decision of the hon. and learned Member for Perth and Kinross (Sir N. Fairbairn) to absent himself from a critical vote in Committee. However, I more readily comprehend his absence in that I understand that the vote took place at dawn.

The happy result of that misunderstanding is that the House faces a choice between two very different new clauses on the wind-up of the new towns. The critical difference lies in the treatment of the housing stock. Before I consider that, I want to respond to the observations by the Minister of State about industrial promotion in new towns following the wind-up.

When the Minister of State described a development company in Committee, he made it perfectly plain that it would be a commercial operation. He said: The development company will be a Companies Act company, with a normal share structure, board of directors and articles of association. It will be commercially driven."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 1 March 1990; c. 479] The problem is that a decision that may make commercial sense for that commercially driven private company may not be a decision that makes industrial sense for the new town's local community. Livingston is one of the younger new towns and we have many green-field sites awaiting development. Indeed, the whole of Livingston is built on a green-field site. The existing development corporation, perfectly properly and responsibly, has encouraged high-tech, high-skill, electronic companies on those green-field sites. Undoubtedly that gives us a strong, healthy economic base and that was the right decision to take.

If that development corporation had been a commercial company with development powers looking simply at how to maximise its rate of return on those green fields bang in the middle of Scotland's motorway hub, it would have developed warehousing and distribution facilities that would have maximised the returns, but provided the minimum number of jobs.

The Minister of State has constantly avoided facing the fundamental problem. It is clear from the White Paper that the Government's motivation in the Bill is to maximise the rate of return on the sale of the nev, towns' assets. It is impossible to read the White Paper without hearing cash registers ringing at the back of Ministers' minds. There is inevitably a conflict between maximising the return on the new towns' assets and protecting the economic future and basis of the people who live in those new towns.

The main issue of concern to my constituents and to the constituents of my hon. Friend who represents the other four Scottish new towns is, what will happen to the houses that people rent from the development corporations once the corporations are wound up? I read the debates in Committee about housing. In a spirit of compassion. I must tell the Minister of State that I felt sorry for him when I did that. Now, that is uncharacteristic of me and I promise my hon. Friends that I will try to conquer that uncharacteristic sentimental weakness. However, I have been part of delegations to the Minister, as have my other hon. Friends who represent the Scottish new towns, and we have discussed that matter.

I hope that I speak for some of my colleagues when I say that it is impossible not to be moved by the Minister's obvious discomfort when we discuss that matter. The Minister is impaled on a fork. Having used the language of tenants' choice for several years, he suddenly finds that the one choice that tenants want is the choice that he does not want to give them. That is the fundamental problem.

In Committee, the Minister of State referred to the fact that the percentage of people who expressed a preference for the district council was "barely 50 per cent." I challenge the Minister now to explain to this democratically elected House of Commons how "barely 50 per cent." differs from a clear majority. The two must surely be synonymous. The survey from which the Minister quoted shows that only 12 per cent. expressed an interest in any other landlord. Of those who want to remain tenants and expressed a preference, four out of five expressed a preference for the district council. I submit that it would be an outrage if they were denied that choice at wind-up.

I want to refer to the distress that the Minister faced in his speech today and also in Committee about the fact that quite a number of the new town residents want to purchase their houses and become owner-occupiers. It is not necessarily the case that even those who intend to buy have no interest in what happens to the rest of the housing stock. Over the past month, the clear majority of people in Livingston who have come to me for assistance with a housing problem and in desperate housing need were owner-occupiers facing dispossession and a forced sale either as a result of a marital split or because of redundancy.

The position of those people on wind-up threatens to be impossible. The statutory authority with a duty for homelessness in Livingston is West Lothian district council. As I understand the Minister, after wind-up that council may be stuck with that duty and responsibility, but without any housing to fulfil it. It will no longer have access to Livingston development corporation housing stock to discharge its responsibility.

Mr. Worthington

Is my hon. Friend aware of the position in East Kilbride, where tenants must pay £1 extra a week on their rents because of the low number of houses which the district council controls?

Mr. Cook

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that information, which fortifies my case. I will strongly support new clause 2 because it entrenches the right of individual tenants—not on a majority ballot—to choose from a full range of options, including the district council.

It will not be enough for the Minister of State to respond to our anxieties by accepting the bolthole offered by his hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) that the district council option is not ruled out. The massive majority of the tenants have chosen the district council option. By the Minister's own admission, 50 per cent. chose the district council while only 12 per cent. chose any other landlord.

It is not enough to respond to that by saying that the Government have not ruled out the district council option. The Minister of State is asking Parliament to pass the Bill tonight. He cannot ask us to do that while he is saying that the Government retain an open mind about what they will do when the new powers have been enacted. He must tell the House what he intends to do with his powers. More important, he owes it to tenants to tell them what to do, because they want to know now, not three years hence.

If the Minister of State accepts that proposition, it will offer him a blessed release from the discomfort that has been caused by the position that he has been asked to defend. The Minister of State affects a style that has a certain gravitas. The position that he is being asked to defend threatens to undermine that rhetorical style. It is impossible for the Minister of State to speak with dignity when he is committed to saying that the Government are committed to tenants' choice but they have not yet made up their mind on whether they will let tenants choose the landlord they want. That position is a farce. It has neither gravitas nor dignity. The Minister should abandon it. If he does not, hon. Members should vote it down.

6.30 pm
Mr. Henry McLeish (Fife, Central)

I am pleased to participate in the debate, and I warmly welcome the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook). From meetings with the Minister of State at Dover house and from our proceedings in Committee it is quite obvious that he suffers discomfort, partly because he must know that he cannot offer choice to the tenants of the five new towns when their major aspirations are security and an accountable landlord that will take care of their long-term interests. He clearly cannot be talking about choice if that major option is ruled out.

It is nearly 50 years since the New Towns Act 1946 came into being as one of the most significant regional policy initiatives of the first post-war Labour Government. It is a tragedy that, in the next two or three years, that achievement will be turned into the implementation of this measure, which is a curious combination of ideology, incompetence, investment squandering, irrelevance and, more important when we discuss housing, insensitivity. The key issue is that the Government will not allow the tenants of Scotland's five new towns to exercise a judgment that will allow them, if they wish, to opt for the district council as a preferred landlord. Hon. Members have said that this matter is not political; it is technical, it is common sense and it is logical. If we want to maximise choice, we maximise options. However, the key has been excluded.

The reason why the Government languish in the polls is that they listen to no one about anything. The situation cannot be defended. Scots in new towns want a choice. The debate is a travesty. People in Scotland, including hon. Members from the five new towns, support the district council option, but one significant group have isolated themselves—Conservative Members. The Secretary of State, unlike the Under-Secretary of State, should surely want some avenues to try to improve his party's electoral prospects among one tenth of the population of Scotland. That is how many people will be affected by our decisions this evening.

I shall be charitable because my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston said that he had some feeling for the Minister of State's plight. Hansard will possibly record the silences. I invite the Minister to intervene and tell the Scots without equivocation why the Government will not allow tenants to select the district council in the winding-up period, if that is one option on offer to them. Will the Minister of State respond to that challenge so that we can have it on the official record that that is the Government's unequivocal position? I want to be charitable, so I shall ask again—

Mr. John McAllion (Dundee, East)

The Minister of State may be sleeping.

Mr. McLeish

My hon. Friend is suggesting that the Minister of State is nodding off.

The Government have no case. It is simply an exercise in politics, when we should be putting tenants' interests high on our political agenda.

If this were only political malice, it would be bad enough, but we have confusion as well. In Committee, in response to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe), the Minister of State said: If the hon. Lady will allow me to continue, I shall come to that. The second important point to emerge from the report was that only 30 per cent. of tenants want to make a choice now; four fifths would prefer to choose at wind-up. That seems to be a more appropriate time at which to address the choice. Later in the same debate, he said: Had the hon. Gentleman been here at the beginning, he would have heard me say that there was no justification for transferring from one public authority to another. The role of Scottish Homes is to become the residual landlord of those houses that are not transferred elsewhere in the interim."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 6 March 1990, c. 518–31.] The Government have not completely closed the door. In the process between now and the wind-up, district councils will not be an option and anything that is left will go to Scottish Homes. That defies logic—it cannot work. In the Minister of State's rantings, there is no prospect of the district council being a serious option in the run-up to the wind-up or post wind-up. The Minister of State is deceiving the Scottish people on a scale previously not seen, even under the standards of the present Government. Why is that? The powerful combination of confusion and ideology will mean that tenants in Glenrothes and the other four new towns will look upon the Government and merely shrug their shoulders and say, "Fifteen per cent. in the opinion polls is probably far too generous."

Parliament's time can often be tragically wasted. This issue unites everyone in a common cause to provide choice to tenants who live in some of the most successful post-war public sector initiatives. I make a final appeal to the Minister of State. He should put aside his confusion, step back from ideology and do the things that matter to people. If Parliament is to mean anything, we should, as far as possible, reflect tenants' wishes and those of the five new town representatives who are closer to the public in Scotland than are the present Government, and certainly the Minister of State.

Mr. Mike Watson (Glasgow, Central)

There have been several high-standard contributions to the debate. In some respects one of the most interesting speeches was by the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter), who failed miserably to establish his Scottish credentials but none the less made some interesting comments on the proposals. It might have been useful if he had been a member of the Standing Committee. The Government had to pull in five hon. Members representing English constituencies, and the hon. Member for Wirral, South was not one of them. Perhaps now that we have heard his view, having looked at one of the aspects of the Bill in detail, it is obvious why he was not a member of the Committee. None the less, his comments were interesting and have been expanded in great detail and with great force by my hon. Friends who represent the new towns.

It is a matter of hypocrisy and double standards for the Minister of State and the Secretary of State to come to the House with proposals that are so restrictive of tenants' choice. Their double standards take two forms. First, they have championed choice. They have built many pieces of legislation on choice—choice for consumers, patients, parents and tenants in other aspects of their right to buy local authority houses. That choice is now being significantly narrowed, specifically to exclude the one choice that the majority of tenants have designated.

The second double standard was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie)—the different way in which legislation is framed for Scottish tenants and tenants south of the border. It is disgraceful that English tenants can still opt for their district councils when new towns are wound up, while that facility is not to be offered to Scots.

The Government should have learnt something from the painful lesson that emerged from the Budget statement last month, when different treatment between Scotland and England rebounded on them with force. Indeed, I have discovered in recent days that there is to be another double standard between Scotland and England, this time in relation to Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the way in which complaints relating to them are to be handled.

At present, the Training Agency has responsibility for dealing with complaints applying to training, and individuals can go to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration with their complaints. I hear that it is being proposed through a back-door method—I say that because I have only seen a copy of a letter dealing with this matter—that that right should be removed and that it should not be possible for complaints to be referred to the commissioner under Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise or any of the local enterprise committees in Scotland.

In England and Wales, where the Training Agency continues to have responsibility for training, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration will still be able to deal with complaints which go through the agency.

The Government, including the Scottish Office, are treating Scotland in a second-class way, and that exemplifies the double standards that the Government are applying in this and other legislation. The people of Scotland will note this trend, as they will note the disgraceful restriction on tenants' choice that this measure proposes.

Mr. Sillars

We have listened with interest to the five excellent speeches that have been made by hon. Members who represent new towns in Scotland. Our main anxiety is about the Minister's statement that the final choice is not ruled out. It is not just that he has not ruled it in. Our fear is that in due course a Government spokesman will say, "We did not make any such promise. Nowhere can you find that promise in black and white." That is our major anxiety and it is disreputable for the Minister to use such weasel words as "We have not ruled it out."

Throughout the debate, the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter) has been the only English Member present. He entered the Chamber willing and happy to support the Government, but as he listened to the debate, he saw the logic, fairness and principle of our argument, and his speech was in support of the Opposition. Whether in due course his vote will follow his speech is a matter for him.

The point that the hon. Gentleman made will not be missed, because our proceedings are televised. The Government Benches have been empty for the debate, while a clear case on behalf of the tenants of Scottish new towns has been made by Opposition Members. In other words, the only English Tory who came to listen became convinced of the wisdom of our case. Tragically, when a Division takes place, all those English Tories who did not hear the argument will vote for the Government.

6.45 pm
Mr. Lang

The debate has taken a predictable course. I suppose that I should be grateful for the sympathy offered by Opposition Members and their avowed conversion to the principle of choice and diversification in housing. I would express such a view if I found it remotely credible, but I have not forgotten how Opposition Members fought tooth and nail when we sought to introduce choice arid tenants' rights into Scottish housing. The Opposition are, as they have always been, believers in the municipalisation of housing and the ownership of housing by district councils, and they have always resisted private housing.

Mr. Norman Hogg

The Minister talks about tenants' choice. That worries me, because he is an authority on aggressive paternalism. If that is what he is giving us, he should be careful about talking of choice and the right to buy in the context of new towns because those tenants always had the right to buy their houses.

Mr. Lang

I have yet to be persuaded that Labour Members have changed the policy attitude that they adopted when we came to office in 1979, which was to resist our proposals to introduce the right to buy for council house tenants. Opposition Members have spoken of large turn-outs at meetings and of concern and anxiety in new towns about our proposals for housing, and it is no wonder that there is that anxiety because Opposition Members are stirring up fears about the future. It is their statements which are raising those doubts. We want to see diversification in housing. We want more housing associations and other forms of rented tenure as well as more private ownership. That ties in with the wishes of tenants. Opposition protestations of a similar commitment to diversification carry no conviction with my hon. Friends and me.

Opposition Members still seek the option of district council transfer as a means to press that option alone. If that were to happen, tenants would lapse back into the old monopolistic straitjacket of a public sector landlord, and all our work in eliminating uniformity would have been to no avail.

Mr. Robin Cook

Leaving aside for a moment the Minister's suspicions about the Opposition's motivation, is he aware that one reason why it would be impossible to do as he alleges is the fact that district councils themselves are no longer seeking that course? A unanimous feature of the five districts representing new towns is their statement, "Leave it to the tenants to choose, but put us on the menu of choice."

Mr. Lang

My impression from all my meetings with SLANT, Scottish Local Authorities with New Towns—the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) was present at those meetings—has been of that there is a substantial ambition that local district councils should take over that housing.

Mr. Ingram


Mr. Lang

I will not give way. I promise to deal later with the points that the hon. Gentleman made.

Mr. Norman Hogg

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood that we were engaged on what are described as the remaining stages of the Bill and that these proceedings are not time-limited. The Minister therefore has every opportunity to reply to our points. I assure him that we are prepared to sit here for as long as he is willing to address us.

Mr. Lang

I am anxious to reply to the points raised in the debate and I have before me a considerable number of notes.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) said that all English new towns had the right to opt for the district council, and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Sillars) also seemed to favour the English solution to Scotland's problems—a course that he is not normally accustomed to follow.

In fact, English new towns do not have that right. The power in England was introduced in the Housing Act 1988, by which time only four remained out of the 19 corporations originally set up in England. Before that change, the Commission for the New Towns was the body available, as a residuary body, to take over housing. Scotland does not have a commission for new towns. We did not regard that as a desirable body to set up. We have Scottish Homes, and that body is available to take over corporation houses.

There is no comparable body in England. Had there been such a body, the approach adopted in England might have been different. I believe that Scottish Homes is a responsible landlord and will operate the same high standards as the corporations. It is still in its early days, and although it may be suffering from the fact that it is still an unknown quantity, I am confident that tenants need have no cause for concern about the future with Scottish Homes.

Mr. McLeish

Why will the Minister not allow the district council to become part of the menu offered to him by my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook)?

Mr. Lang

The hon. Gentleman should examine the booklet that we circulated to the new town local authorities, in which we made it clear that, among the options that we would consider at the appropriate time during wind-up, were housing associations, housing co-operatives, district councils and other landlords. In that booklet we also made it clear that, at the end of wind-up, the residuary body for houses which did not go to other destinations would be Scottish Homes.

The hon. Gentleman quoted me as saying that at this stage there was no sense in transferring from one public body to another, but at this stage in the process the Government—who in any case believe that there should be not an increase but a reduction in the amount of public housing—could achieve nothing by transferring housing from the development corporation to the district council. Towards the end of wind-up will be the time to consider the appropriate choice.

Mr. Barry Porter

I am genuinely puzzled. It seems that, during the wind-up period, the option to transfer to a district council does not exist, and that on wind-up those who have not transferred to something else will go to Scottish Homes. Scottish Homes may or may not be a wonderful thing, and district councils may or may not be dreadful things, but at what point do the tenants have the option of going to the appropriate place? I do not understand.

Mr. Lang

I was about to come to that. My hon. Friend asked me earlier to confirm that the option of transfer to the district council had not been ruled out, and I am happy to do so, but now is not the right moment at which to decide that that will be a firm option. We have made it clear that the options will be addressed and decided during wind-up, which will start in the first new towns—East Kilbride and Glenrothes—next year and run for a further three years. The winding up of the last of the five new towns—Irvine, in 1996—will not finish until just before the end of the century, by which time the hon. Member for Cunninghame, South (Mr. Lambie) will be a venerable individual. It would be wrong for us now to pre-empt the option, to foreclose on the choices and to make decisions which might bear no relation to the housing circumstances prevailing at that time.

Mr. George Foulkes (Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley)

Like the hon. Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Porter), I was not a member of the Standing Committee, and I am equally puzzled. No one today has urged the Government to take the course they are taking—that of ruling out the opportunity for tenants to choose a district council as their landlord. What bodies or individuals in Scotland have urged that course on the Government?

Mr. Lang

The Government do not form their policies in response to urgings from people—we prepare our policies and put them to the electorate. The electorate returned a Conservative Government at the last election. Obviously, people support the policies that we pursue, including our housing policies. We are pursuing a policy that we believe is right and ill the best interests of new town residents.

Mr. Foulkes

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Lang

No, I have many other points to answer.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie asserted that in England all the housing went to district councils, but that is not so—housing in Basildon is still managed by the Commission for the New Towns and in Runcorn the district council was not prepared to take on the housing, so the Government had to retrieve the situation there and ensure that the needs of tenants were met. In Scotland, Scottish Homes can continue to provide secure tenancies and a high quality of service for existing development corporation tenants.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie talked of tenants' right to choose where they wished to live. Nothing in our proposals would affect in any way the rights of secure tenants to continue to live in the houses that they currently occupy. Sections 45 to 56 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987 govern security of tenure, and our proposals do not change those rights. If the hon. Gentleman is worried about those who are now without houses in the new towns—a perfectly legitimate concern—I should point out that we are responding by spending some £40 million on Scottish new town housing in 1991–92, including £17 million in East Kilbride where, I acknowledge, there are particular problems. More than 1,400 completions have taken place since I lifted the moratorium on general needs house building a couple of years ago, and 4,300 public and private sector houses are being built in the new towns.

The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) said that one tenth of Scottish people were affected by the Government's decision on new town housing. The hon. Gentleman's sums are somewhat out of kilter. The new towns accounted for 5 per cent. of the Scottish population, but for only 4.1 per cent. of the Scottish public sector tenanted stock as at the end of last year. Taking all Scottish housing stock together, fewer than 1.5 per cent. of the Scottish population are new town development corporation tenants, and that figure is falling every day as a further 11 houses per day are bought by sitting tenants.

Opposition Members have cited various figures culled from surveys in an attempt to prove an overwhelming demand among tenants to move to district councils from development corporations, but insofar as any demand is evident, it is in the other direction. If we examine the number of applications from development corporation tenants to move to local district councils, we find that about 40 times as many district council tenants want to do the opposite. For example, in Irvine, three development corporation tenants have applied to go to Cunninghame district council, but 184 have applied to go in the opposite direction.

Mr. Worthington

If so few tenants want to go to the district council, why cannot that simply be agreed? If there are a great many, why cannot it be agreed as a democratic choice? Either way, the Minister is being awkward.

Mr. Lang

It can be agreed, but now is not the right time to make the decision. The time for that is when wind-up ends and the development corporations approach the point of dissolution.

From the surveys that have been carried out, it is evident that tenants want more information as they do not know what options are available to them or what they want to do. As one survey pointed out, only 30 per cent. of district council tenants want to make a choice now. Four fifths of development corporation tenants want to choose at wind-up, which is the right time to choose. Some 50 per cent. of people currently think that they would choose to move to district councils. That is not the ringing endorsement of district councils that the hon. Member for Livingston seems to think it, as some 38 per cent. of tenants—more than a third—say that they do not know what their choice would be, and if they made their choice now, fewer than one fifth would choose the district council.

The number one choice—to use the phrase of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie—is not the district council but home ownership. That is the strong trend emerging through the development corporations. Some 40 per cent. of existing tenants are interested in home ownership, two thirds are actively considering it and three quarters of the rest expect to consider it within the next five years. That is where the central thrust is in new town housing, and I believe that it is a desirable trend.

Mr. Ingram

Will the Minister come to my constituency? I will pay for a meeting and arrange for him to deliver that argument to the vast numbers of people who will turn up. Let him listen to what the residents of the new towns have to say. If they say what we are saying, will he then change his mind?

Mr. Lang

I hope to have many opportunities to visit East Kilbride again. Substantial economic success has been achieved there and I have visited both industrial and housing developments. There will be plenty of opportunities for me to assess, in various ways, the views of the residents.

The hon. Member for East Kilbride (Mr. Ingram) raised a number of points relating to new clause 8. The, wording is similar to the Government's, but it seeks to introduce a number of additional provisions, which we debated in Committee but which the hon. Gentleman seeks to re-air. The first proposal relates to an audit. An economic audit of the industrial assets of the towns takes place every year and is summarised regularly in the annual reports of the corporations. It would be a waste of resources, time and effort to repeat the exercise.

We want to carry out an environmental audit to identify those areas in the new towns which are non-productive and non-revenue-earning and which in due course will need to find a new owner. That does not need legislation—it is an administrative matter. East Kilbride and Glenrothes are preparing to proceed at an early stage.

As for making the findings available, I should like that to be done if possible. That would be worth while. However, commercial confidentiality may be involved in certain cases. To the extent that that could limit the availability of information, I am inhibited from giving an unqualified undertaking. However, as complete a version as possible of the report will be made available.

7 pm

As for local authority investment in local development companies, development corporations are not inhibited from investing in local development companies. Legislation is not needed. Why should the Government seek to compel development corporations or district councils to invest in local development companies? The Government ought to be neutral. However, there is no reason why those bodies should not seek to invest in local development companies. It might be in the interests of a local development company to seek that investment, but it is for the company to take that decision.

I take issue with several elements in the proposal that there should be consultation on disposals. The most important is the sheer impracticality of the proposal. Consultation would be required every time that a development corporation intended to dispose of some of its assets or liabilities. Under such an arrangement, everyone would become bogged down in the process of consultation and response. Even without wind-up, the development corporations are disposing of properties. We are contemplating an intensification of that process. However, I will consider whether the wind-up order might properly contain a provision for enhanced consultation.

I see no merit in transferring vacant houses to district councils. An appropriate part of the management of housing stock is to provide for a certain number of vacant houses to allow for modernisation and other factors. The development corporations have an excellent record on the efficient management of their housing stock. The average of empty properties is less than 2 per cent., compared with about 6 per cent. in district councils.

The hon. Member for Livingston referred to industrial promotion and to other aspects which he believed were contrary to the commercially driven momentum of local development companies. He was right to identify that aspect, but we have addressed the point. I referred to this in Committee when I made it clear that any local development company which succeeded in securing a contract to take over commercial assets and the opportunity further to develop them in new town areas would also be obliged to enter into a contract for a period of years with Scottish Enterprise to fulfil precisely those non-commercial roles which would be in the interests of the Scottish economy and of the new towns—such as industrial promotion, the provision of specific factory requirements for inward investment cases and the provision of commercially unattractive small industrial start-up workshops.

Far from seeking to maximise the return to the taxpayer, the Government's purpose is to maintain the existing momentum in the new towns. It would be easy to wind up the new towns and walk away leaving nothing, but we believe that the economic momentum and economic achievements of the new towns are such that we should seek to preserve that momentum and enhance it in the period ahead.

The Scottish new towns have been, and will continue to be, powerful engines of social and economic change. They have been an almost unqualified success story, and the changes that they have achieved are fundamental and lasting. Our economic policies are informed by justifiable pride in the maturity of the new towns and their ability to make their own way in the world. New problems and different economic challenges elsewhere should properly command our concern and commitment. The new clause is a necessary provision to ensure that the new towns can be wound up and that the future economic and social well-being of those areas is maintained. I commend the new clause to the House.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:——

The House divided: Ayes 141, Noes 81.

Division No. 182] [7.04 pm
Alexander, Richard Forth, Eric
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Garel-Jones, Tristan
Amess, David Gill, Christopher
Amos, Alan Glyn, Dr Sir Alan
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Goodlad, Alastair
Ashby, David Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Atkins, Robert Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Atkinson, David Gow, Ian
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Green way, John (Ryedale)
Bellingham, Henry Gregory, Conal
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Hague, William
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Boswell, Tim Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Bowis, John Harris, David
Brandon-Bravo, Martin Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Brazier, Julian Hayward, Robert
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Browne, John (Winchester) Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Buck, Sir Antony Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Burns, Simon Irvine, Michael
Burl, Alistair Jack, Michael
Butler, Chris Key, Robert
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) Kilfedder, James
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Carrington, Matthew Knapman, Roger
Cash, William Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Chapman, Sydney Lang, Ian
Chope, Christopher Lawrence, Ivan
Clark, Hon Alan (Plym'th S'n) Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Colvin, Michael Lightbown, David
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Lilley, Peter
Cope, Rt Hon John Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Cran, James Lord, Michael
Davis, David (Boothferry) Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Dorrell, Stephen Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Dunn, Bob Maclean, David
Durant, Tony McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Emery, Sir Peter Mans, Keith
Evennett, David Marland, Paul
Fallon, Michael Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Favell, Tony Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Monro, Sir Hector
Fookes, Dame Janet Morrison, Sir Charles
Moss, Malcolm Steen, Anthony
Neubert, Michael Stern, Michael
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Stevens, Lewis
Norris, Steve Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Onslow, Rt Hon Cranley Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Oppenheim, Phillip Summerson, Hugo
Page, Richard Taylor, Teddy (S'end E)
Paice, James Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Patten, Rt Hon Chris (Bath) Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Pawsey, James Thorne, Neil
Porter, David (Waveney) Twinn, Dr Ian
Raffan, Keith Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Redwood, John Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Renton, Rt Hon Tim Waller, Gary
Riddick, Graham Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Rifkind, Rt Hon Malcolm Watts, John
Sackville, Hon Tom Wheeler, Sir John
Shaw, David (Dover) Widdecombe, Ann
Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb') Wood, Timothy
Shelton, Sir William Yeo, Tim
Sims, Roger Young, Sir George (Acton)
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Speed, Keith Tellers for the Ayes:
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs) Mr. John M. Taylor and Mr. Irvine Patnick.
Squire, Robin
Stanbrook, Ivor
Allen, Graham Lambie, David
Anderson, Donald Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter McAllion, John
Beckett, Margaret McAvoy, Thomas
Beith, A. J. McCartney, Ian
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) McFall, John
Bermingham, Gerald McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Bidwell, Sydney McLeish, Henry
Boateng, Paul Maclennan, Robert
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon) Madden, Max
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Clay, Bob Moonie, Dr Lewis
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Morgan, Rhodri
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Morley, Elliot
Cryer, Bob Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Cummings, John Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Dalyell, Tarn Murphy, Paul
Dixon, Don Nellist, Dave
Dobson, Frank Patchett, Terry
Doran, Frank Pike, Peter L.
Dunnachie, Jimmy Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Dun woody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Quin, Ms Joyce
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Reid, Dr John
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Robertson, George
Flynn, Paul Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Foster, Derek Ruddock, Joan
Foulkes, George Salmond, Alex
Galloway, George Sillars, Jim
Godman, Dr Norman A. Skinner, Dennis
Golding, Mrs Llin Spearing, Nigel
Gordon, Mildred Watson, Mike (Glasgow, C)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Heal, Mrs Sylvia Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Henderson, Doug Wilson, Brian
Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth) Winnick, David
Home Robertson, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Worthington, Tony
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Adam Tellers for the Noes:
Janner, Greville Mr. Frank Haynes and Mr. Martyn Jones.
Kennedy, Charles
Kirkwood, Archy

Question accordingly agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 10





Without prejudice to paragraph (a) of section 2(4) of this Act or to any enactment prohibiting discrimination (within the meaning of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 or the Race Relations Act 1976), Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise shall each, in exercising its functions, promote—

(a) such actings by any employer as are lawful by virtue of section 48(1) of the said Act of 1975 (facilities for women only or for men only to train for, and encouragement for them to take up, work not ordinarily done for the employer by persons of the sex in question etc.) or 38(1) of the said Act of 1976 (corresponding facilities and encouragement in relation to members of particular racial groups); and

(b) actings by any employer—

  1. (i) to afford access to facilities for training for disabled persons which would help to fit them for particular work in his employment; or
  2. (ii) to encourage disabled persons to take advantage of opportunities for doing such work.'—[Mr. Lang.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

7.15 pm
Mr. Lang

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harold Walker)

With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments Nos. 1 to 4, 15, 22, 23 and 27.

Mr. Lang

In Committee, we considered amendments to give Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise a role in developing employment opportunities for women, the disabled and ethnic minorities, and I said then that there were technical problems with the amendments. In particular, the wording risked infringing the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976. I also said that I was wholly in sympathy with the sentiments underlying the amendments.

The promotion of equal opportunities is a firm plank of Government policy, and our commercial prosperity will increasingly depend on unlocking the potential skills of all groups in society. I am happy to commend the new clause, which we propose to insert between clause 15 and clause 16. It will oblige Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to promote positive action by employers to increase employment and training opportunities for women—and, indeed, for men—for the disabled and for racial minorities in occupations in which such groups are under-represented.

The new clause may seem complicated, but it is important to ensure——

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

As one who unequivocally supports the need to have the concerns of women and others in training and employment at the forefront of the Bill, I point out to the Minister that the board of the Renfrew enterprise company has no woman among its 18 members. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in voicing regret over the total omission of women from such a board. Is that likely to be the case for other such companies?

Mr. Lang

It is a matter for each local enterprise company to decide who will constitute its board. I should like to see them choose women, but those women must be chosen on merit and not as a tokenist approach. We are responsible for appointing the directors of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, and I am happy to be able to point out to the hon. Gentleman that there are three women on the board of Scottish Enterprise. I believe—I will correct this later if I am wrong—that there are two women on the board of Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Therefore, as far as it is within our power to make such appointments, we have demonstrated our commitment fairly substantially. I share the hon. Gentleman's wish to see more women coming forward to such public positions, and perhaps local enterprise companies will find suitable opportunities for them to do just that.

The new clause will oblige Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to promote positive action by employers to increase employment and training opportunities for women—and men—the disabled and members of racial minorities in occupations in which such groups are under-represented. It is important to ensure that the clause does not detract from the provisions against discrimination in employment and training in the Sex Discrimination and Race Relations Acts. The new clause builds on those provisions, giving Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands enterprise a duty to promote positive action by employers when exercising their functions.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 3 are technical amendments, consequential on new clause 10 and, in the case of amendment No. 3, on amendment No. 4.

Amendment No. 4 deals with a matter that we discussed in Committee. There, an amendment was tabled to extend the role of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise—carried forward from the Training Agency—in encouraging increases in training opportunities for women, girls and the disabled to ethnic minorities. I put on record then my agreement with what was intended. Existing race relations legislation, of course, makes it illegal to discriminate against racial minorities in such matters. This amendment goes beyond prohibiting discrimination to empowering Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to take positive action. There was some difficulty with the original amendment proposed in Committee because the use of the term "ethnic minorities" does not tie in with existing race relations legislation. The present amendment gets round this by referring directly to the Race Relations Act 1976.

I turn now to amendment No. 15. It is at present unlawful for the Training Agency to discriminate on grounds of sex or race in exercising its functions. It is clearly right that, once the Training Agency in Scotland is subsumed within Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, sexual or racial discrimination in the exercise of their training functions should also be unlawful, on the same basis. That is what the present clause 16 sought to achieve by reference to provisions in the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 and the Race Relations Act 1976.

But there are technical problems with the rest of the clause as it stands. I am advised that it does not bring Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise within the ambit of all the relevant provisions in the 1975 and 1976 Acts. It has also been overtaken by amendments to the 1975 and 1976 Acts made by the Employment Act 1989. The present amendment therefore gets round those problems by simply inserting references to Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the 1975 and 1976 Acts. Therefore, I hope that the amendment will be acceptable to the House.

Amendment No. 2 relates to women and girls and to disabled persons, and makes it clear that the provisions of clause 2 include all types of training. Clause 2(4)(a) empowers Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to encourage increases in the opportunities for training that are available for women, girls and the disabled. In Committee, Opposition Members suggested the addition of the words "at all skill levels". As they will recall, we saw some technical problems with that amendment. It might have been taken to imply that, if any training opportunities were encouraged, it had to be done at all levels, but, as hon. Members who served on the Committee will recall, I was happy to take on board the spirit of the amendment.

It is certainly desirable that not just the quantity but also the range of training for women and the disabled should be developed wherever practicable. We have also tabled an amendment to extend this provision to ethnic minorities. Indeed, we expect Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to act as catalysts in developing training opportunities for all sections of the community, but I recognise the necessity to pay particular attention to the needs of women, the disabled and racial minorities.

It it already implicit in the clause that training may be at a variety of levels. All that is required is a clarification, and that is what the amendment is designed to do. It makes it clear that arrangements may include all types of training.

Amendment No. 22 arises from points made in Committee by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe), who is unfortunately not in her place. In response to an amendment that she moved, I undertook to bring forward amendments requiring the Secretary of State to have regard to the principle that equality of opportunity should be promoted as between men and women, in making appointments to the boards of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 fulfil that undertaking.

At the time, the hon. Lady said: Since I came to the House … I have heard various employment Ministers reiterate their commitment to equal opportunities, but that never seems to result in action. … We still await the day when the Government will act all by themselves, without needing to be spured into action by someone else."—[Official Report, First Scottish Standing Committee, 1 February 1990; c. 178.] It is sad that the hon. Member for Maryhill is not in her place now because she pressed these matters in Committee effectively and articulately. When she reads the report of our proceedings in Hansard, I hope that she will agree that, in advance of tabling this amendment, we have demonstrably had regard to that principle in making our appointments to the designate boards of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The Scottish Development Agency at present has only one female member—I believe that she is the first it has ever had. As I said in reply to the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) a moment ago, three of the 10 ordinary board members of Scottish Enterprise will be women, as will two of the 10 of Highlands and Islands Enterprise. There cannot be any suggestion of tokenism in those appointments. Those women have all been appointed for their personal qualities and track record and for the individual contributions that they can make. They are unquestionably there on merit. I hope that that will be reflected in the appreciation of Opposition Members for what I believe is a sensible move.

Amendment No. 23 is consequential, relating to amendment No. 22.

I turn now to amendment No. 27. We have been keen to remove barriers facing parents who want to return to work, or to take up training before returning to work. In the Budget, we announced tax relief on the assessed value of workplace nursery places. Within employment training, we make available a special allowance of up to £50 a week for child care to lone parents. In that connection, we took a power in the Employment Act 1989 to exempt discrimination in favour of lone parents in connection with training from the restrictions of the Sex Discrimination Act 1975.

The precise wording of section 8(1) in the 1989 Act refers to training arrangements under section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973 or to any training otherwise provided. Of course, training by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise could count as training otherwise provided, but I think it best to put the matter beyond doubt by inserting in the 1989 Act a specific reference to training arrangements by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. I am sure that that will meet with approval on all sides, and I commend the amendment to the House.

The amendments are not controversial and do not change anything in previous legislation in any policy sense. However, they heighten the importance of avoiding discrimination whether on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin or disability. The amendments will improve the Bill. I am grateful to the Opposition Members who contributed to the debate that resulted in these amendments, which I commend to the House.

Mr. Worthington

I wonder whether the Minister has noticed how much more comfortable it was to talk sense instead of what we heard in the previous debate. I am sure that he found it comfortable to make his second speech, and I hope that that will encourage him to speak in such a vein more often.

We made suggestions along these lines in Committee. As the Minister has said, a lot of the work on this was carried out by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mrs. Fyfe). We very much welcome what the Government have done and their proposals. Those who represent ethnic minorities in the Glasgow area have conveyed to me their pleasure at such a specific reference.

The importance of new clause 10 is that it will give women, disabled people and members of the ethnic minorities the levers that might be necessary in the future if at any time they feel that Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise or—let us not forget about this—the local enterprise companies are not doing enough in that respect. The united wish of the House that action should be taken on that will now be enshrined in legislation. Therefore, we welcome the provisions.

Mr. Foulkes

I understand why my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) will welcome equal opportunities for ethnic minorities in Glasgow and its district. However, the specific point that I want to make relates to training opportunities for the mentally handicapped.

A week ago last Tuesday, I had an opportunity to visit Seabank and Henrietta street in Girvan, one of the Quarriers homes. I was greatly impressed by the work being done there, as I am by the work done by the Quarriers homes throughout Scotland, and the way in which they are adapting to different challenges. The home is responsible for providing accommodation and other help for a relatively small number of mentally handicapped adults.

7.30 pm

The people at the home raised with me the question of the length of training, in particular, in Maytag, the Maybole enterprise training scheme, which is now developing and expanding to Girvan, on which there have been mentally handicapped people. They find that the training opportunities for the mildly mentally handicapped are useful, but with one reservation. They feel strongly that, in order that mildly mentally handicapped people, often slow learners, may benefit fully from the training opportunities available, they should attend the course for two years rather than just the one to which they are limited under the current regulations.

I have written to the Secretary of State for Scotland—I expect that my letter will find its way to the Minister's desk, as these things do—urging him to consider changing the current regulations to allow mildly mentally handicapped people to go on the course for two years so that it should be as valuable to them as it is to other people in a year.

I had hoped that the amendments would allow some flexibility to enable training organisations such as Maytag to keep such trainees for two years rather than one, but at the end of his speech the Minister said that none of the amendments changed the structure of training, and that is slightly disturbing. If the Minister replies, I hope that he will say that there is some flexibility so that once the amendments are accepted Scottish Enterprise or local enterprise companies will be able to allow organisations such as Maytag some flexibility in the training of mentally handicapped people. If, after completing a course, such people are to compete on reasonably even terms with the rest of society, they should be able to go on the courses for two years.

I told the representatives of the Quarriers Home and some of its residents that I would press their case with the Minister, and I am glad to have the opportunity to do so on the Floor of the House. I hope that the Minister will be able to say that there will be flexibility in the schemes to allow for that need and that they will not be as rigid as at present.

Dr. Godman

I want briefly to echo the plea made by my hon. Friend the Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) about the training needs of those with mental handicaps. The Minister will recall that, in Scottish questions a couple of weeks ago, I asked him about the sheltered employment scheme which has found sheltered workplaces for some 350 people. In his reply, the Minister spoke warmly of that scheme.

I pointed out that, in Strathclyde region alone, between 14,000 and 15,000 people are, sadly, offlicted with mental handicaps to a lesser or greater extent. My hon. Friend made a sound plea when he asked that the special needs of such people should be taken into account where training provision, within the parameters of the Bill, must be given special attention. He is right to say that those with mental handicaps require systematic training, which, by its very nature, needs to be much more extensive than training given to people without handicaps. Given the number of people in Scotland who are handicapped, it is essential that they be found training places and employment. The sheltered employment scheme can only be a part of the employment opportunities offered to some people.

All the work of industrial psychologists in that area and those working in ergonomics shows that, with the right kind of training, mentally handicapped people can perform functions as adequately as those who are not handicapped. It is the quality of the training and the trainers that is important.

I am pleased to see that lone parents are to be given financial assistance for child care provision when they undertake training, but what of a couple with small children who are suffering unemployment? Do the Government intend to give the same assistance offered to lone parents to couples with immature children?

Mr. Lang

The final point raised by the hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) would probably be more appropriately addressed to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security, and I shall make sure that the matter is drawn to his attention.

It is encouraging that, in such difficult and sensitive matters, there is a degree of agreement across the House on how we approach them. For example, the general approach as embodied in our "Care in the Community" proposals, although we may disagree on some aspects, has gained acceptance on both sides of the House and it embodies the recognition of the need for a new and sensitive approach to the problems of those with disabilities and handicaps, whether mental or physical.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) for his welcome for the amendments. I have not yet seen the letter from the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), but no doubt I shall in due course and I shall reply to it. It is hard to generalise on the right period of training for mentally handicapped people, because the degree of handicap varies. I note that he was primarily concerned on behalf of Maytag, with its reservations about the mildly mentally handicapped, the need for flexibility and the possible extension of training facilities from one year to two.

We have made provision for greater flexibility for employment training which might go some way to cover that point. There are, as the House will know, some central guarantees on which the Government insist for the provision of training schemes. In the case of employment training, one of the requirements is that training should be open to everyone who has been unemployed for a certain period, with a guaranteed place for those aged between 18 and 25 who have been unemployed for between six and 12 months.

We require that all training will enhance the job prospects of those taking part. We need a guarantee on minimum nationally set levels of training allowance, and we need a guaranteed acceptance of health and safety and equal opportunity standards. But that apart, there is flexibility. Not only do we allow for flexibility but we are keen to see it and we emphasise the importance of it in the kind of training places on offer, in the length and context of training, and in the payments to providers of training.

I hope that the needs of the mentally handicapped will not be overlooked as the new Scottish Enterprise proposals come into being. As clause 2(3) emphasises: Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise shall each, to such extent as it considers appropriate, make arrangements for the purpose of—assisting persons to train". Clause 2(4)(a) refers to

"arrangements for encouraging increases in the opportunities for training that are available to women and girls or to disabled persons".

This important sector is receiving increasing attention in Government and in the wider community, and I am sure that the new clause will enhance the chances of further recognition of it.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

New clause 11


'Where the functions of Scottish Enterprise, or of Highlands and Islands Enterprise, mentioned in section 2(3)(a) or (b) of this Act are carried out through an agent or are delegated to any person, the body in question shall have the duty (which shall not itself be delegated) of keeping under continuous review the suitability and adequacy of any training provided by that agent, or as the case may be by that person (or his agent) in discharging those functions.'.—[Mr. Lang.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Mr. Lang

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this it will be convenient to take new clause 4—Training Inspectorate'Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise shall together establish and fund an inspectorate, and shall place at its disposal the services of such officers or servants as each body considers appropriate, with the duty of monitoring the quality of the training and the efficacy of the arrangements made under section 2(3) of this Act.'.

Mr. Lang

The Government have consistently demonstrated their determination to maintain and improve training quality, and this new clause is concerned with that. We have introduced the approved training organisation concept, and rapidly implemented it, first for youth training and in its turn for employment training.

Mr. Worthington

Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Lang

I have said nothing controversial yet, but I shall give way.

Mr. Worthington

How many approved training organisations are there in Scotland?

Mr. Lang

I shall give the figure in my winding-up speech.

In awarding approved training organisation status, and in monitoring it thereafter, the Training Agency verifies that the training provider meets comprehensive quality standards, covering assessment procedures, calibre of training, design and delivery, quality of management and staff, adherence to equal opportunities and health and safety requirements, and financial viability. In addition, the training standards advisory service provides an independent advisory service that has as its main role to assess the overall quality of training provision and to undertake evaluations of individual projects.

Mr. Worthington

Will the Minister confirm that there are six people in that unit?

Mr. Lang

Yes, I will confirm that, and that is a sufficient number of people to carry out the work efficiently and effectively.

We have repeatedly made clear our commitment to ensuring that training quality will continue to be a key consideration once the new bodies of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise come into being. New clause 11 makes this explicit. It expressly places a duty on Scottish Enterprise and on Highlands and Islands Enterprise to monitor training quality wherever that training is provided by a local enterprise company or, as is expected invariably to be the case, by training providers subcontracting with the local enterprise company. For self-evident reasons, this duty to monitor is not in itself to be delegated, and amendments Nos 16 and 17 to clause 17 are consequentially needed.

No such provision was included in the Bill as originally drafted, for the simple reason that no specific provision of this kind has been thought necessary heretofore to empower the monitoring of training quality. The training standards advisory service operates under the general terms of section 2 of the Employment and Training Act 1973, as amended. The equivalent provision in this Bill is in clause 2. I have been convinced that training quality is so important and so central to what we are seeking to achieve through the Scottish Enterprise initiative that it is desirable on policy grounds to make specific reference to it in statute.

I recognise that new clause 4 is similar in its intention. Had it been possible, I should have been happy to support it, as I have no significant difficulty with it in policy terms. However, it is technically defective, so I have judged it best to table a version that avoids such technical difficulties. In the circumstances, I hope that the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie will be content not to press new clause 4 but will support new clause 11.

Mr. Worthington

I listened to the Minister with great interest, but what he said about his new clause was not congruent with my reading of it. I hope that he will take up that point. New clause 11 says: Where the functions of Scottish Enterprise or of Highlands and Islands Enterprise … are carried out through an agent or are delegated to any person, the body in question"— which I have interpreted as meaning the local enterprise company—would be responsible for monitoring the quality of the training. That is just good management by that company. We are proposing an independent body to monitor and supervise the quality and performance of the local enterprise company. It is not adequate to ask the local enterprise company to monitor its own performance, and that would not meet our point, as it would be part of the contract that such companies are likely to have with Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

7.45 pm

I can go further than that. The new clause is unattractive because there is a hand-washing element to it. It says that it is solely the reponsibility of the local enterprise company to monitor the quality of training rather than that it is the responsibility of Scottish Enterprise or Highlands and Islands Enterprise. The Government are washing their hands of training and are stepping back from it, expecting it to be done by other bodies. Public control of training, already limited, will decrease.

Our new clause would set up a training inspectorate because we are concerned about quality. That concern has arisen because of the Government's performance with their current schemes, a performance that has repeatedly given rise to public concern. The Government are changing the arrangements, but the direction of that change gives us cause for further concern, as an independent commercially driven body—the local enterprise company—will be responsible for training. The Department of Employment has run training in an appalling way. I speak about the Department of Employment because that training was, as it will continue to be, instigated by the Department. In Committee and on Second Reading, the pretence that there is Scottish Office control was simply deceitful.

Dr. Godman

Will the training inspectorate, as outlined in the new clause, not only assess the quality and efficacy of training programmes undertaken within local enterprise companies but have an advisory role? Will the people in the inspectorate have sufficient skills and knowledge to advise the local enterprise companies of the training that should be carried out in their areas?

Mr. Worthington

Our new clause is not ideal. Part of the problem is that, if we wanted to set up a genuinely independent inspectorate, outside the two enterprise bodies, such a move would be outside the scope of the Bill. To stay in order, we have tabled a new clause setting up a body that is inadequately independent but is the best possible within the terms of the Bill.

We are concerned that training is to go under the wing of local enterprise companies and will disappear from public view. On Second Reading, I described the situation as the laundering of public money. Money will come from the public and will be spent by private concerns. There is widespread anxiety that trainers whose central motivation is profit will be attracted into the field. There is a straight correlation, because the more that one spends on training, the less profit will go to the company. Therefore, there has to be some check, and at the moment the Training Agency does not achieve a good level of scrutiny. The Minister seems to be sanguine that there are six people to monitor quality throughout Scotland. That is simply not adequate.

I look forward with great interest to learning how many approved training organisations now exist in Scotland. When I last asked, I was told that we had hardly reached the first stage—setting up such organisations. It is not even as if training will be under the control of the Scottish Office, or under the control of a public body in Scotland, as we were promised. Control remains with the Department of Employment, and nothing emphasised that fact more than the recently proposed initiative on training credits.

I think that it was on a Tuesday that the Department of Employment announced, with a great fanfare, the 10 pilot schemes for training credits that were to be introduced throughout Britain. If there was Scottish control of training, why should Scotland not have as many training credit schemes as it wants to experiment with? It cannot be because of the cost as the expense of introducing the training credit scheme throughout Britain for 1990–92 is only £12 million, and this year the Government are cutting £28 million from the Scottish budget.

Mr. McLeish

At least.

Mr. Worthington

As my hon. Friend says, we have been able to identify at least £28 million so far, but more may be revealed.

Why should Scotland not have as many training credit schemes as it wants? These schemes were initiated to an English and Welsh timetable, which is strange. Organisations that do not yet exist—local enterprise companies—have to put in a bid for a training credit scheme by 4 May. How can a body which has only just been approved for development money put in a bid by 4 May for a training scheme? I do not know. However, that is the timetable that has been sat down, and it is the same in Scotland as in England and Wales. Outline bids have to go to the Scottish Office by 4 May from bodies that do not exist. Detailed bids have to be submitted by the end of July. Who will submit those detailed bids?

Mr. McLeish

Does my hon. Friend agree that the timetable for credits is consistent with the chaotic timetable for the renegotiation of employment training contracts? Should we be surprised about the incompetence of the Government in Scotland?

Mr. Worthington

My hon. Friend should not spoil the second part of my speech, in which I shall come to the gross incompetence involved in the renegotiation of contracts.

Detailed bids have to be submitted by the end of July. Discussions have to take place between non-existent bodies and the local authorities about career schemes. I do not know how that will be done. I have no doubt that schemes will go forward in the names of certain organisations, but there cannot be much honesty involved.

When one asks the Scottish Office whether there will be a scheme—any scheme—in Scotland, they cannot say, "Yes, there will." We know that there will be such a scheme because the Department of Employment will decide that it had better keep the Jocks quiet, so a scheme will be allocated to Scotland on the grounds of expediency and not quality. Something will be cobbled together.

The Department of Employment is remote from Scotland and dominated by a south of England representative. We know that the employment training scheme would never have been devised by a political party in Scotland because it does not meet Scottish requirements. However, training will continue to be run by the Department of Employment, and the Training Agency has an appalling record of mismanagement.

In Committee, the Minister sought desperately to mislead us about the new flexibility open to local enterprise companies for employment training. He tried to make it sound as if it was a Scottish initiative, but it was clear to everyone in Committee that he was announcing the flexibility that is being introduced into the employment training scheme throughout the United Kingdom. I leave it to the Minister to demonstrate that there is any flexibility which applies particularly to the scheme in Scotland, and any Scottish aspect of youth training or employment training that is distinct from training in the rest of the United Kingdom. [Interruption.] I have had to wait for an answer to that question since 9 January. I am still waiting.

Mr. Bill Walker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is aware that I have been interested in training and development throughout my life. For many years, the Royal Air Force paid me as one of its inspectors. I am curious to know what particular Scottish dimension in training seems likely to be missing from any scheme that applies throughout the United Kingdom.

Mr. Worthington

In simple terms, training the people without jobs for the jobs without workers is a south-of-England expression. In places where there are no jobs or where unemployment levels are about 20 per cent.—what the Minister calls a small patch in Glasgow—the scheme is inappropriate because it is geared for a different situation. When unemployment levels are 2 or 3 per cent., as they are in many parts of south-east England, one scheme may be suitable. In areas such as Springburn and Easterhouse in Glasgow, where male unemployment is between 30 and 40 per cent., one needs to devise another scheme.

Mr. Walker


Mr. Worthington

I have answered the hon. Gentleman's question fully, and I would prefer him to make his own speech in his own way later.

Evidence to show why we need an inspectorate has emerged in the past month and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) referred to that a few moments ago.

Training managers and agents have been treated appallingly by the Department of Employment. At the end of March—this was brought to my attention on 30 March—the Department of Employment sent a letter to training managers and agents informing them that their contracts, which were due to run until September, were cancelled and would run only until the end of April. At the beginning of April, when people came into the office on a Monday, they were told that their contracts would run for only another month.

We are talking about hundreds of trainers and thousands of trainees whose lives were wrapped up in the employment training scheme. They found that the plans they made had been totally disrupted, not because of a particular Scottish problem, but for some reason that has not yet emerged because of problems in the Department of Employment. How can one run a quality training scheme in such circumstances?

It happened in the past with the Manpower Services Commission and the Training Commission and when we changed from the community programme to employment training. The whole system is dug up by the roots and thrown up in the air and it is hoped that something will grow from it. After all the years of the Manpower Services Commission, we still have schemes rather than a structured training system. The end of the letter said: the Training Agency will be contacting you"— that is, the training managers and the training agents—" urgently to discuss the recontracting process. To the best of my knowledge, the Training Agency has not yet made contact with any agency or manager throughout Scotland.

8 pm

After 10 days, I became so concerned about the threat to training that I telephoned the head of the Training Agency in Scotland, Mr. Lex Gold, and said, "Are you aware that there has been no contact between the Training Agency and any of the training managers or training agents within Scotland?" He replied, "Who told you that?" I said, "My contacts are in the west of Scotland," and he replied, "Do you mean to say that the west of Scotland has not started yet?" The man who is in control of the training system within Scotland had no idea about what was happening in the west of Scotland. After speaking to him. I found out what was happening in the east of Scotland and it was the same—nothing.

I asked him, "How will you implement these cuts?" That is what it is about. The letter states: We shall be taking the opportunity of contract renegotiation to review and agree with providers current payments, the numbers of contracted places and current arrangements for filling more places than specified in contracts. The overall aim will be to reduce unit costs. How on earth will that be implemented without any guidelines from the Training Agency as to how the costs will be renegotiated? What are to be the future unit costs for places within Scotland?

In a parliamentary question which was answered on 24 April, I asked what was the public expenditure per trainee on employment training in 1989–90 and I was told that it was £104 per trainee. I also asked for the figures for 1990–91 and was told: Regional ET plans for 1990–91 are for internal management information purposes only."—[Official Report, 24 April 1990; Vol. 171, c. 167.] The Department would not tell me. Public money is being invested in training, yet the Government have become so arrogant, withdrawn and unconcerned that they do not think that a Member of Parliament has the right to know what will be spent per trainee in Scotland. It is a crazy, appalling way of running training to send out a letter saying that all contracts are abandoned. I am now told that training agents and managers have received another letter telling them that their contracts are extended until the end of May.

That is exactly why we need a quality inspectorate. We are dealing with the training of young people, as youth training is also being renegotiated. We need a training inspectorate, not to tell the bodies that are administering training that they are responsible for monitoring the quality of training—which is what new clause 11 says—but an independent body to scrutinise the quality of training. No Government dedicated to quality would send out such a letter. It would be a contradiction in terms.

On the Tuesday, there was a fanfare when training credits costing £12 million next year were announced, yet on Friday letters were hand delivered under the cloak of secrecy, with no fanfares, implementing the cuts in training. We must remember that the policy is countrywide. The Minister told us that it will be Scottish training for Scottish needs. The letter states: As far as possible ET providers in all parts of the country are operating on a similar basis. Where is the flexibility in that? The Government are seeking to reduce unit costs to a level which Members of Parliament are told they have no right to know.

What a way to treat trainers, managers and above all trainees. What a way to treat colleges with contracts to supply training. Nothing has happened, despite the statement that agents and managers will be contacted urgently. We still know nothing about budgets, targets or principles on the cuts. We simply have the incompetence of the Department of Employment, which will continue. We need a training inspectorate.

It keeps on happening. Suddenly the system is dug up. It happened when we changed from the community programme to employment training. A devastating document produced by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations shows how may thousands of places caring for the vulnerable in society disappeared because of the indifference of the Minister. The Minister always says that the community programme involved no training, whereas employment training does. Many community programmes involved a great deal more training than some of the employment training schemes. When we made the transition from the community programme to employment training, 5,000 social care training places in Scotland—representing 55 per cent. of the total social care plans provided under the community programme—were lost. Yet the Minister says that he believes in community care. That has no credibility whatsoever.

Other sinister and disturbing things are happening. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) for bringing to my attention the parliamentary scrutiny of training. Until now it has been possible to appeal to the ombudsman, or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, if it is felt that there has been some maladministration. However, the Government have now written to the ombudsman to say that they do not consider that training administered under the local enterprise companies should be subject to the ombudsman's scrutiny.

The ombudsman replied to the Office of the Minister for the Civil Service: First, there does not appear to have been any communication by the Scottish Office or yourselves with the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in regard to the Government's intentions regarding Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Obviously there was no consultation. The letter went on: Secondly … I would expect this aspect of the matter to be of concern to the Select Committee. it appears that the Government are effectively seeking to close off from citizens in Scotland who might be aggrieved at the way a local enterprise company had dealt with their affairs"— that is a local enterprise company using public money— an avenue of redress which—by virtue of the Training Agency's role—would nonetheless be available, it seems to me, to citizens south of the border who had similar grievances in respect of alleged maladministration by Training arid Enterprise Councils. That redress to the ombudsman will be denied in Scotland if the Government have their way.

The ombudsman continued: In view of the events in the House of Commons this week following the Budget statement, you may wish to put the above consideration to the Scottish Office. He was writing in Budget week. The Government have simply ignored the wishes of the ombudsman and are trying to remove matters from public scrutiny.

Mr. Bill Walker

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would not be quite so abrupt and cavalier. I imagine that he understands the position with regard to the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration and the Scottish Development Agency. Is he aware that such quangos only recently came under the umbrella of the ombudsman? If he is, he will understand that what falls within the Committee's jurisdiction is part of the normal negotiations between that Committee and Departments. If he is aware of that, what is he complaining about?

Mr. Worthington

I am complaining that, whereas at present the affairs of the Department of Employment and training are supervised by the Select Committee on the ombudsman, when training is transferred to Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, it will not be scrutinised by the ombudsman or the Select Committee.

Many hon. Members will have received a letter from Grand Metropolitan Community Services, which is a good friend of the Government and one of the few major companies involved in employment training. A problem with employment training is that most major companies have turned their backs on it. Mr. T. R. E. Mann, managing director of Grand Metropolitan Community Services—who, to my knowledge, is not a paid-up member of the Labour party and has no interest in supporting it—wrote a letter expressing his concern about how the Department of Employment is operating. He says: It is impossible to get sense out of the Training Agency, where practices vary not only between regions but in some cases between the same Training Agency area office from one week to the next. He expresses his concern about the reduction by 30 per cent. over the next three years in expenditure on youth training and employment training. Referring to the Government's intention to make employers pay more for training, which we do not oppose, he says: The Training Agency has indicated that it will expect the reduction in Government funding to be made up by contributions from employers. In view of the combination of both the economic situation"— we all know what that is— and the standard of ET clients now available on the job market"— that is a south of England rather than a Scottish comment— it seems improbable that employers will be prepared to pay more for training in the foreseeable future, especially when only a small proportion of ET clients are likely to be placed with employers. He concludes by expressing his concern about the effect on training quality: What we have got is great financial strain on some of the providers of training at the present time. A training inspectorate is desperately needed because of the cavalier way in which the Department of Employment—the Scottish Office is irrelevant because it has no control or influence on this matter—will continue to make abrupt changes in practice which will affect Scottish Enterprise and Scottish LECs and prevent adequate quality training in Scotland.

I was impressed by an article on training that I read in The Economist. It quoted Mr. Brian Wolfson, who will be known to the Government as the man who has chaired selection committees for LECs in Scotland. He said that the Government had introduced into training a state of catatonic confusion, and that one local LEC had asked companies what they knew about Government schemes. The second most popular answer was a scheme that did not exist.

8.15 pm
Mr. Bill Walker

I intervene because I was astonished by the theoretical and inept speech of the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). When I asked a fairly straightforward question and gave him the opportunity to say what special Scottish dimension had to be taken on board, all I received was waffle about the problems——

Mr. Worthington


Mr. Walker

I will give way to the hon. Gentleman; I am not nearly as discourteous as he is. Labour Members know that I always give way.

Mr. Worthington

May I ask a practical and down-to-earth question? If there is no Scottish dimension, why does the Scottish Office claim that there is?

Mr. Walker

I did not say that there was no Scottish dimension; I asked what special Scottish dimension the hon. Gentleman was referring to, but he gave a dimension that is common throughout the United Kingdom in areas of high and relatively low unemployment. That is not a special Scottish dimension.

I was not saying that there is no need for local enterprise companies to concentrate on the special needs in their areas. Those needs will differ from area to area. I should have thought that that was common ground among those who have attempted to study the problems of training.

We are considering whether an area has shortages not in tactile skills but human relations or social skills. It must be fairly clear to the hon. Gentleman and other Labour Members that, in a constituency such as mine, where the largest employer is the tourist industry, one of the requirements is training in social and human relations skills. Textile workers in Forfar will need tactile skills, and workers in Aberfeldy or Pitlochry will need skills relevant to the whisky industry. Local enterprise companies and employers will have to recognise and train workers in the skills necessary for those tasks.

There is much common ground on training. We should not disagree about it because the United Kingdom will need a well-trained work force if it is to compete in the world of today and tomorrow. What are we talking about? New clause 11 imposes a duty (which shall not itself be delegated) of keeping under continuous review the suitability and adequacy of any training provided by that agent". I should have thought that we would all agree. The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie seems to think that we need to set up a training inspectorate.

I spent many years as an inspector on behalf of the Royal Air Force—[Laughter.] I do not find this amusing. The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. McLeish) has an academic qualification which I respect. He should realise that my qualification took longer to obtain than a degree. It must have some relevance, especially as it relates to training. I spent years training people to fly, teaching pilots how to be instructors and examining instructors. I think that I know something about this matter, although that may be astonishing to the hon. Member for Fife, Central. I respect the views of Opposition Members whose qualifications show that they have certain abilities and have had training. I respect the hon. Gentleman in terms of education and training, because I know his record.

Mr. Watson

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the education and training courses leading to the various qualifications of hon. Members have been validated and monitored? Is not that an important part of any training programme? Does he recognise that our proposal for an inspectorate is designed to build that into the Government's training programmes?

Mr. Walker

I acknowledge that point. I criticised the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie not because of what he would like to achieve but because he made his point in an inept, academic and theoretical way. Any training mechanism needs to be checked, and the new clause enables the local enterprise companies to do that.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie did not treat my question seriously. For what was he asking? What special Scottish needs did he identify? I am confident that the hon. Member for Fife, Central will answer.

Dr. Godman

The hon. Gentleman referred to the training needs of the tourist industry. Given that it is scattered throughout Scotland and its islands, that it is fragmented and that it is largely made up of small enterprises—often family enterprises—might not the envisaged inspectorate be able to lay down training programmes that are beneficial to tourism in all parts of Scotland?

Mr. Walker

My experience of training boards is fairly extensive. Under the old training board system, the boards began to think that they were the be-all and end-all of training authorities. I helped to set up pilot schemes and, in the beginning, was a keen supporter of training boards. I grew disillusioned because they built empires. Marks and Spencer, Trusthouse Forte and similar organisations know more about skill training than any theoretical body. I should have thought that, in the Scotch whisky industry, United Distillers, the largest whisky company, would have training schemes. If such organisations are part of the local enterprise companies, that is a basis on which we can build on what is known to work. That is preferable to setting up an inspectorate with a theoretical approach. At this early stage, I am concerned that we may not lock properly into the established bodies.

Anyone who knows anything about training knows that the same companies have invested in it. They have a reputation. When the local enterprise companies are up and running, they should be locked properly into a system involving experts in training. We will then be able to evaluate skill measurements and so on. I caution my hon. Friend the Minister because of our experience of the training boards. There is a danger that we may set up so-called training experts who become more interested in their empire than in the product—in giving people the opportunity to be trained to alleviate shortages and inadequacies in social, tactile, management and other skills in their areas.

The Opposition should not always assume that Conservative Members are hostile to their ideas. We may not be, but unless those ideas are packaged and properly presented, the Opposition should not be suprised if we want answers to our questions.

Dr. Godman

Despite the fact that I served a six-year apprenticeship in a shipyard and years later studied for a postgraduate diploma in industrial psychology, largely based on training, I readily acknowledge that I have nowhere near the experience and knowledge of industrial training of the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker).

New clauses 11 and 4 are eminently compatible. If the Minister is not willing to listen to the arguments in support of new clause 4, I hope that the 10 members of Scottish Enterprise and the 10 members of Highlands and Islands Enterprise will at least listen. It might be in the interests of those organisations and local enterprise companies if There were an inspectorate or review body. I am not talking about training boards. I asked the hon. Member for Tayside, North about the relevance of the inspectorate to tourism and he answered by talking about Marks and Spencer and whisky distilleries. I believe that local enterprise companies could be helped by the development of training programmes for industries such as tourism which are to be found throughout Scotland. That might defray some of the training costs incurred by LEC's.

One of the most important elements in the training role is that of matching employers' training needs with those of employees or potential employees. In constituencies such as mine, there is often significant incompatibility between what incoming firms require and the skills of local people—not only young people but unemployed middle-aged people.

8.30 pm

The Renfrew enterprise company has a board of 18 members. Not one woman has been chosen, although in the area covered by that local enterprise company, women form about 52 per cent. of the population. In response to a comment that the Minister made earlier, I should say that I do not seek to argue the case for tokenism. There are many highly skilled and successful business women in the Inverclyde area, who could make a major contribution on that board, especially in training matters. I have every confidence in the chairman, John McClelland, who is the plant director of IBM. I readily concur with what the hon. Member for Tayside, North said on this subject. IBM is one of the companies which provide a superb training programme for their employees, so I was pleased to learn that Mr. McClelland had become the chairman of that company.

The huge problems that Inverclyde faces are not peculiar to the lower Clyde—they are problems typical of any areas of high unemployment seeking to attract new companies by means of enterprise zones. Many of the companies attracted to an enterprise zone require skilled labour. One of the first of the companies attracted to Inverclyde was the Crusader insurance company, which has already recruited a number of young people—a goodly proportion of whom have quit their employment in the local social security office to go to work for that company, and I do not blame them for that. They have rightly concluded that they will be offered better terms and conditions of employment by Crusader than they enjoy at the DSS. About 16 employees of the DSS have gone to join Crusader; good luck to them. I only hope that the DSS in turn will take on 16 unemployed people, including some of the middle-aged people who figure all too prominently in the long list of long-term unemployed in Inverclyde.

New companies need training personnel with basic skills to take on in-house training programmes. I welcome the new clause, because I think that the local enterprise companies have a heavy responsibility to ensure that training programmes are set up in their areas, but I also support new clause 4, which advocates a review committee set up by Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise. Such a committee could assist local enterprise companies and local colleges as well as local trainers of personnel. It could also play an important role in meeting the training needs of companies, especially companies new to Scotland. Just as important—perhaps more so—it could help with the training needs of unemployed people, especially the middle-aged unemployed who are to be found in such large numbers in the ranks of the long-term unemployed.

I repeat that new clause 11 and the new clause offered by my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) are compatible proposals which would assist in meeting training needs.

Mr. McLeish

I support the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington). Most people—as usual we must exclude the Government from any consensus—are concerned about the problem of quality. The commercialisation of Government schemes is creating a crisis of investment and quality. As the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) said, there is a consensus that the 1990s must be the decade of skill training and effective investment by Government and employers, but it appears that that balance is not being struck, because the Government are moving quickly out of investment and are seeking at every possible opportunity to pass the burden from the state to employers, who may or may not be ready to accommodate such an initiative.

I do not blame the Training Agency or the former officials of the Manpower Services Commission. I do not blame advisers in the Scottish Office. I blame the Government alone for their incompetence and insensitivity in allowing the Department of Employment in London and its branch section in Scotland to permit the Treasury to dictate the pace and volume of investment. That is a major reason why we have a crisis in training in Scotland and throughout the United Kingdom.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie was right to suggest that there had been a cut of £28 million. From a review of autumn statements, public expenditure White Papers and supply estimates over the past two to three years, we have established that, on a Great Britain basis, about £250,000-worth of cuts will have been made between 1989–90 and 1990–91. It appears that, in the space of a few weeks, £250,000 has disappeared, although no Minister will admit to it. That is one of the reasons why the quality of planned programme provision including employment training and YTS is in a state of chaos, on the one hand because of incompetency and crisis and on the other because of lack of investment.

It was evident from the remarks of the Minister of State and the Secretary of State that the Scottish Office is some way responsible for the employment activities of the Department of Employment. The truth is a million miles from the fiction peddled by the Scottish Office day in, day out.

I should like to bring to the Minister's attention a sitting of the Select Committee on Employment held on Wednesday 17 January, at which evidence was taken concerning the employment service. There was an exchange of views between my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross) and a senior official of the Department of Employment concerning local enterprise companies and training and enterprise councils and their relationship and how the Department of Employment would be involved in overseeing their development.

In a telling exchange, minuted in paragraph 42 on page 9, the senior official from the Department was quizzed about the relationship. He remarked: I think there will be a degree of stability and shared policy because Ministers are part of the same Government". That has never occasioned stability and an exchange of policy in the past. He went on: our Secretary of State as I understand it will continue to have an overriding responsibility for employment matters in Scotland. It is clear that the Scottish Office is a poor appendage of the Department of Employment.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie has exposed another myth, which is that the LEC initiative in Scotland reflected the Scottish culture, the Scottish labour market and its training needs and aspirations. In reality, the former Secretary of State for Employment decided to take a trip to the United States and visit Massachusetts. He visited private industry training councils in America and brought the idea back here. Transferring ideas from a different culture is always difficult. The Government made a mess of that idea in Great Britain and the Scottish Office hijacked that residual mess from America, called the principle local enterprise companies and the circle is now complete.

The idea is that we have control over our affairs in Scotland, but we do not. Local enterprise companies are supposedly an imaginative Scottish idea, but they are not. Now, savage cuts have been imposed on employment training by an English-based Treasury which has little regard for the quality of training provision. Instead, the Treasury has a high regard for keeping public expenditure constraints extremely tight indeed.

Why do estimated and outturn figures in any one year virtually automatically now become the planned provision for the following year? In 1986–87, in real terms, we were spending £4 billion on training in Great Britain. By 1992–93 that will drop to £2£8 billion. That is a cut of £1£2 billion over seven years. That is supposed a positive contribution to the skills crisis and a proper reflection of the Government's concern for people who do not have skills. That is hypocrisy, but the position is worse than that.

There is a need throughout Great Britain for the Government to work in partnership with employers. However, as my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie explained, chaos has ensued as a result of the Training Agency being pressured to send a letter to employment training agents and managers. That was a panic policy outcome of a chaotic response from the Secretary of State for Employment to training and enterprise councils in England and Wales.

Youth training is no better. The YT budget is being cut in this financial year by £164 million. The burden of expenditure is being passed to employers who have not been consulted about the fact that the £50 a week that trainees receive from the public purse is to be reduced to £33 by 1992–93. That will be a cut of one third of a billion pounds between 1990 and 1993. That will make the Government's plight even worse and that is why I believe that our concern for quality, which is at the centre of new clause 4, is crucial.

I began by saying that the commercialisation of training programmes would have a devastating impact. I believe that the Government have got themselves into such a mess that it is our responsibility to expose the travesty of the current position, in which skill needs are so great and visible that they demand to be tackled.

I sincerely hope that the Minister of State will reconsider his position on quality. As my hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie stated clearly, confidence in the Government's ability to handle the skills crisis is draining away by the day. If the Government continue to heap chaos upon chaos, it will be the duty of a Labour Government, when we are elected, to clear up the mess, put skills training at the top of the political agenda and earmark a sufficient amount of investment which we can use in partnership with the private sector to tackle the needs of our young people, of adults and employer-based training where the greatest deficiency exists. I hope that my comments will be taken seriously and that we do not receive off-the-cuff complacent rhetoric which, when examined, does not stand up to scrutiny.

8.45 pm
Mr. Watson

I also want to emphasise quality in training, because it is central to the provision of training. Recently, a number of horror stories have emerged and have been well publicised, of employment training schemes which have been abused and which, by definition, have been an abuse of public funds.

It is surprising that the Minister of State should come to the House with a proposal that training programmes will be kept "under continuous review" without specifying to our satisfaction just how that will be achieved. I cannot understand why the Minister of State should be unhappy with the proposal that an inspectorate should be charged with the responsibility of ensuring that there is high quality training in the Government's schemes.

On Second Reading, I referred to several cases of abuse of employment training schemes. The Minister told me then that, if there were cases of genuine abuse, the Government would do something about them once they had been investigated. I do not know whether the Minister of State can respond further to that when he replies, but I have heard nothing since Second Reading to the effect that the Government have responded to the cases which were raised in particular by the Glasgow Evening Times in a series of articles in October and November last year.

Those articles revealed abuses including the case of a number of people who were taken on ostensibly as landscape gardeners. However, they were given nothing to do other than to build a driveway at the home of the training manager. In another case drivers were trying to get heavy goods vehicle licences to obtain work as lorry drivers or bus drivers. However, they simply had to ferry other ET workers back and forward every morning and evening and had nothing to do in between except twiddle their thumbs.

In another case, a young woman who wanted to learn secretarial skills to improve her chances of getting a job was given nothing but the most menial tasks. Perhaps most worrying of all, a number of completely unskilled people were taken on as security guards under an ET scheme. No doubt my colleagues from other parts of Scotland could give other examples of abuse. The underlying factor is that the policing of ET is far too lax. The emphasis is not on training. In too many cases, employers see ET as a lucrative business in which to be involved and they are not too concerned about training.

The serious employers who are interested in providing training have shied away from Employment Training. Strathclyde university carried out a survey in November 1989 in which it contacted 106 companies in the private sector in Scotland. Those companies employed 80,000 people. Only 12 of them were participating in Employment Training. The other companies said that they did not consider Employment Training as meaningful training.

They also said that it was unlikely to produce the skills that they were looking for or that Employment Training did not meet their needs to the extent that they would rather involve themselves in other forms of training. That is an indictment of Employment Training which—I am prepared to give the Government the benefit of the doubt here—is intended genuinely to increase the chances of long-term unemployed and, increasingly, young people of gaining proper employment.

We must ensure that the training that is provided is of a high quality—or at least of a higher quality than has been offered hitherto. The Government's proposal to keep training schemes "under continuous review" will not achieve that end. A properly financed and resourced inspectorate with people who understand training and know what should be achieved from properly designed training programmes would be much more likely to act as a watchdog with teeth in that important area.

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) has left the Chamber. [HON. MEMBERS: "We are not."] Well, my colleagues may not be sorry, but I am because he commented on the complaints procedure which will be open to Scots in terms of the training provided by Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the local enterprise companies that are set up through them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington) mentioned that there will be no recourse to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration for people in Scotland who wish to complain about the standard of training or maladministration by local enterprise companies. I shall not rehearse my argument about the difference in the situation between Scotland and England, serious though it is.

However, the point that I would have made to the hon. Member for Tayside, North, had he been here, is that I am aware of the length of time in which it has been possible to raise such complaints through the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration in terms of Scottish training schemes. A letter from the parliamentary commissioner states there that there will be no "avenue of redress" for people in Scotland who are aggrieved at the way a local enterprise company has dealt with their affairs. That is a serious matter. It is tied up with reviewing, monitoring and inspecting at close quarters the training that is available.

I am similarly concerned about a further comment in the letter: Scottish Office officials are considering the scope for an appropriate complaints mechanism for members of the public dissatisfied with the actions of local enterprise companies. We have heard nothing from the Minister of State about that, and I hope that he will take the opportunity to refer to it when he replies. Perhaps consideration is continuing, but it is important that people understand what system of redress is available, particularly because the Training Agency will continue to have responsibility for training schemes through TECs in England. Complaints raised through a training agency will be able to go to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration, and that is a much firmer fall-back for people in England and Wales than for people in Scotland. I look forward to receiving some assurance from the Minister on that point.

It is not a matter of trying to score political points over the Government. The training of young people and the long-term unemployed is much too important to become the victim of a political slanging match. I ask the Minister of State to accept that Opposition Members care deeply about training and think that it has an important role in trying to improve the employment prospects of many people who at the moment seem to have poor prospects, if any at all. If training is to fill the skills gap, it is vital that there is a proper watchdog with teeth and a proper back-up to make sure that quality exists. Without quality, no matter how many schemes there are, we will not improve the employment prospects for people in Scotland.

Mr. Lang

I hope that the debate has been useful. It is a pity that my hon. Friend the Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker) is not present to hear me thank him for a short and effective intervention based on his own substantial personal experience of these matters. I heard considerably more good sense from him than from other hon. Members.

Mr. McAllion

Will the Minister of State give way?

Mr. Lang

I have said nothing controversial yet.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman), who unfortunately is not present either, made a thoughtful speech recognising the different complexions of training needs and skills in different parts of the country. I hope that he will reflect on what we are bringing forward through the local enterprise companies and through Scottish Enterprise to meet precisely those varieties of needs and skills. He talked about the compatibility of new clauses 11 and 4. Indeed, there is compatibility of policy intention: I hope that I made that clear at the outset. Our clause is more appropriate because it is worded in a more effective way. As I said earlier, the Opposition's new clause is defective in several respects.

I emphasise to the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie (Mr. Worthington), who seemed to misunderstand the point of our new clause, that it expressly places a duty on Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to monitor the quality of training provided by virtue of clause 2(3) (a) or (b) and it requires that the duty itself shall not be delegated. It cannot be delegated down to local enterprise companies.

The hon. Gentleman made several points, most of which we heard in Committee, but I cannot resist the temptation to reply to the last point that he made in Committee. He drew attention to a suggestion of mine when, as a Back Bencher in 1981, I called on the Scottish Development Agency to set up a training scheme in dry-stone dyking. He seemed to think that that was an absurd and preposterous notion. I refer the hon. Gentleman to page 38 of the last year's SDA report where he will find that, during the year, a scheme of local trainingships in dry-stone dyking was instituted. It may have taken some time for me to exert influence over the SDA, but in the end I succeeded. My constituency, and no doubt other parts of Scotland, will be better for it.

The hon. Gentleman launched into his characteristic attack on employment training. The scheme is very worthwhile. It is widely welcomed by the large number of people who are taking part in it. More than 26,000 people throughout Scotland are now in employment training. More than 18,000 people have started on training since the programme began. It is more effective than the community programme precisely because of the training component. Thirty-two per cent. of all employment training starters have been unemployed for more than two years. The figure is lower on the community programme.

Mr. Worthington

How can the Minister of State say that it is more affective when there is no inspection system? He has admitted several times that there has been no scrutiny in Scotland.

Mr. Lang

The scheme is subject to increasing and more effective scrutiny. I shall refer to that point in more detail later. By comparison with the community programme that it replaces, it is engendering a greater skills component in the work force and delivering more effective results, for example for the long-term unemployed and people with long-term health problems or disabilities. Indeed, 33 per cent. of all entrants with training managers are women. That is an increase on the community programme. Also, 53 per cent. of leavers who complete training go into jobs or self-employment, compared with 42 per cent. under the community programme. It is a more effective scheme, and we shall seek to make it better instead of castigating it.

Mr. McAllion

I draw the Minister of State's attention to an article in this week's edition of The Economist, which examines the Government's training proposals and deals with employment training and youth training schemes. It describes those schemes as elementary low-level training for school drop-outs and for the long-term unemployed which are completely incapable of bridging the skills gap which faces Scotland and Britain. How would the Minister of State reply to the authors of that article?

Mr. Lang

I shall read the article with great care. The scheme is aimed precisely at helping a particularly difficult to place and difficult to train section of the work force and is increasingly achieving results. A special national survey of trainees shows that between 75 and 80 per cent. either agreed or strongly agreed that employment training had increased their self-confidence and improved their chances of getting a job. Of course it will not deliver the best possible training to the highest possible level. There are other ways in which that can be delivered. However, the scheme is meeting the needs of the client group to which it is directed. Instead of sniping at the scheme in a petty way, it would be more appropriate for Opposition Members to support it and to recognise the improvement that it offers for that group in society.

The whole point of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations' approach is that it was not recognised that employment training was about training for the unemployed, whereas the community programme was primarily a work experience programme. We are anxious to emphasise that training component. I urge those in the voluntary organisations to seek ways of introducing training elements into their activities and to make use of the facilities that the employment training programme can offer.

9 pm

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie raised again the old question of the relationship between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Employment. There is a national framework to ensure comparability of standards and equality of opportunity. The Government as whole will continue to develop and improve that framework, and the Secretary of State for Scotland will continue to contribute to that process.

Under the Scottish Enterprise proposals, the control of training in Scotland will rest with the Secretary of State for Scotland as from 1 April next year, and I will repeat the key points about that. Whereas the Training Agency has been responsible to the Secretary of State for Employment, Scottish Enterprise and for Highlands and Islands Enterprise will be responsible to the Secretary of State for Scotland.

Whereas the funding of training in Scotland has been the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Employment in consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend, the funding for Scottish Enterprise and for Highlands and Islands Enterprise will be provided by the Secretary of State for Scotland. He will duly consult the Secretary of State for Employment and, of course, the Treasury about the appropriate level of provision, to ensure broad consistency of approach throughout Britain.

Mr. McAllion

The Minister says that the funding for the new enterprise companies will come from the Scottish Office. The allegation is made in the article to which I referred in my previous intervention that 90 per cent. of the funding going into the new enterprise organisations will be money transferred directly from employment training and the youth training scheme, and will not provide the training bodies with the resources that they will need if they are to introduce high-level training to meet the economic needs of Scotland.

Mr. Lang

The figure that the hon. Gentleman gives is not correct; it is a smaller proportion of the total, nearer 70 than 90 per cent. In any event, that is central Government funding. In addition, there is the opportunity to attract private sector funding to lever in more private sector commitment, and I shall give figures on that later.

Mr. Worthington

As the Minister is aware, these bodies are modelled on private companies in the United States. They have been transplanted here. The most successful of those private bodies in the United States—this is revealed in the article in The Economist, to which reference has been made—have attracted 5 per cent. of their funds from private sources.

Mr. Lang

Opposition Members love to repeat the myth that what we are doing in this country derives from what is going on in the United States. I visited a number of training activities in New England when I was in the United States. I was interested in what they were doing, but it was clear that they did not begin to come near to living up to the comprehensive approach that we are taking to employment, economic development and training. The relationship is lodged in the minds and imaginations of Opposition Members.

On the question of the relationship between ourselves and the Department of Employment, the hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie said in Committee that it was important for us to have compatible training schemes throughout the United Kingdom, but that that did not mean having identical schemes. That is precisely what we are seeking to achieve.

The hon. Gentleman questioned the adequacy of monitoring. That is an important point, which goes to the heart of what we are doing in the new clause. Organisations providing training under YTS and employment training must achieve approved training organisation status. Contracts with organisations that fail to meet ATO standards will not be renewed. Seven criteria govern that status: identification training needs; training designed and delivered to national standards; effective quality management; recruitment selection and competence of staff; equal opportunities; health, safety and suitability of premises and equipment; and financial viability.

There are 115 Training Agency staff in Scotland involved in checking on the attainment of ATO status and monitoring the performance of the training provided. Frequent visits to training agents and training managers are undertaken on a sampling basis and detailed reports are produced for action by training providers.

The Training Agency also carries out financial checks on all training providers and employs independent consultants to undertake a range of quality development tasks. In addition, six training standards inspectors are employed in Scotland to act independently of the Training Agency's line management to scrutinise the provision of training providers.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie asked how many ATOs there were in Scotland. The figure that I gave in answer to a written question some weeks ago was a total of 387 for the youth training scheme. For employment training, the arrangements are still being developed. The 226 training agents and managers are currently going through the approval process. The youth training figures are now somewhere nearer to 400 than the 387 that I mentioned.

Mr. Worthington

Is the Minister saying that in relation to employment training, no organisations have achieved approved training status?

Mr. Lang

That is correct, but far from that being a bull point for the Opposition, it reflects the thoroughness and care with which these matters are being developed. In due course, ATO status will be reached and it will be an achievement worth reaching.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned the recontracting arrangements that are now taking place. Revised employment training contracts are necessary to effect the new flexibilities for employment training that we have announced and which, although grudgingly, Opposition Members have welcomed. The recontracting process is being carried out as quickly as possible to introduce changes that will benefit both providers and trainees. For the vast majority of providers it will not be a difficult process, and it will be largely complete by the end of the month. Negotiations with any remaining providers can be extended to the end of May.

The simplification of the funding basis to a single unit price will mean less bureaucracy and more flexibility for providers. The need to remove underutilised capacity is in both the Government's and the providers' interest, and I believe that the measure is sensible. An important point on which Opposition Members should reflect when they say that it demonstrates that Scotland has somehow failed to develop a new departure from the rest of the United Kingdom is that the transfer of responsibility for training matters is not due to take place until 1 April 1991.

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. Watson) mentioned complaints about employment training schemes. As I have said before, the Government and the Training Agency are ready to investigate fully any such complaint. I encourage any hon. Member who receives or uncovers evidence of abuse to report anything suspicious to the Training Agency or to me. All the issues raised by the Glasgow Evening Times have been investigated, and I am satisfied that there has been no serious abuse of the employment training scheme. Some minor matters of concern were identified, and have now been rectified.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

The Minister has just issued a remarkable statement—that the serious allegations in the Glasgow Evening Times were not justified. I can hardly conceive that, if that is his conclusion and if the findings of the investigation were as he described, the Minister will not be asking the newspaper for a full apology and retraction, such was the seriousness of the allegations. The Minister cannot just brush them away by saying that they were not true; either he must do something about them, or the public will conclude—as I do—that every word was true. It is a serious slander of the journalist concerned to say with a snap of the fingers that the allegations were not true.

Mr. Lang

Far from its being a snap of the fingers, I am telling the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) the outcome of a thorough and detailed investigation. If I were to ask for an apology and for a retraction every time the Glasgow Evening Times said something that I found unattractive, unacceptable or inaccurate, it would have to run a column that would be an even more regular feature than the hon. Gentleman's column in the Glasgow Herald.

Mr. Watson

I did not understand the Minister to say that the allegations were not true. He said that he had found no evidence of serious abuse; that means that there was some abuse. To what extent are the training managers who were identified in the report as responsible still undertaking schemes with Government approval?

Mr. Lang

The status of the training managers is currently under consideration. However, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman any specific information now, because anything that I say might be prejudicial to any subsequent appeal.

Bodies that operate in a predominately commercial manner are excluded from the jurisdiction of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration. Both Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will be providing many commercial services. Training and enterprise companies south of the border will not be within the jurisdiction of the PCA either, although the Training Agency will be.

The main check on the activities of a local enterprise company will be through its contract. Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise will monitor compliance with the contract, and performance against targets. In addition, local enterprise companies will be obliged by the terms of their contracts to operate a complaints procedure, under which an individual with a complaint can be assured that his case will be considered by the chief executive of the enterprise company, and if necessary by the chairman. The Government will also want to monitor such complaints.

The hon. Member for Clydebank and Milngavie raised the recurring question of training flexibilities. He seemed to be asking for evidence that our flexibilities were any different from those in the rest of the United Kingdom. The answer is that we are setting up the procedure to introduce flexibility. That flexibility will evolve and develop as the local enterprise companies get under way and develop the training schemes to meet the needs of their areas.

Opposition Members continually returned to the question of cost. I would like to see employers spending more on training: I am sure that we all recognise that training is the key to economic development and success in the 1990s and beyond. That will be even more true as we begin to face additional competition within the single European market and as we face the demographic trends that will reduce the number of young people coming into the work force.

Although the recent report "Training in Britain" identified the need for more money to be spent by employers on training, it also showed that a considerable amount of training is being undertaken by employers and that they are playing a leading role. In 1986–87, some £33 billion was spent in Great Britain on training, involving 500 million trainee days. Some £18 billion of that total expenditure was incurred by employers. Nevertheless, I should like the private sector to spend more money on training. However, it is a bit rich for the Opposition to blame the Government for reducing expenditure on training. We have substantially increased the training budget. It has fallen slightly this year, just as the Scottish Development Agency's budget—the other component of Scottish Enterprise's budget—has been substantially increased.

It would be irresponsible of the Government not to take account of changing circumstances. An important factor to take into account is the significant decline in the number of young people entering the labour market. Together with the considerable improvement in employment prospects for young people, that will inevitably result in a reduced demand for youth training.

There has also been a welcome reduction in the number of long-term unemployed. That is decreasing even faster than unemployment generally. Moreover, more young people are entering higher education. Against that background, it is entirely right to take that fact into account when preparing our budgets.

Mr. Worthington

If there were any logic in the training cuts because of a decline in unemployment or in the number of young people, what is the logic of reducing the amount of money that is spent per training place?

Mr. Lang

We have to ensure that resources are allocated in the most cost-effective way. It is highly desirable that training programmes should use taxpayers' money both economically and effectively.

Expenditure in 1988 on adult labour market training and special youth measures as a percentage of gross domestic product shows that the United Kingdom is spending more on training than West Germany, Japan and the United States. When I look at our 1988–89 budget of £2.764 billion for all training schemes and compare it with the last year of the Labour Government, who spent only £471 million on training—one sixth, in cash terms, or one third, in real terms, of what we are spending now—I see that we need no lessons from the Opposition on the commitment of resources to training.

More people arc in employment in Scotland than there were when the Labour Government left office. Unemployment is falling sharply. During the last three years, it has gone down by 170,000.

The quality of training is crucial. The clause seeks to enhance the quality of training, and I commend it to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.

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