HC Deb 01 February 1990 vol 166 cc419-20
2. Mr. Beggs

To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether he will defer for a period of 12 months his proposals for the community workshops in Northern Ireland.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Mr. Richard Needham)

No. I have listened carefully to the representations made to me in recent weeks and at my meeting on Monday with the workshops I told them of changes that the Government were prepared to make to meet their concerns.

Mr. Beggs

I thank the Minister for his response and I want to record the appreciation of the delegation from the workshops. The Minister was receptive and responsive to their needs and fears about their future, but will he give me an assurance today that the operation of workshops will be monitored closely during the next 12 months to ensure that there will be no insolvency and that they will be protected and supported so that they can provide and maintain jobs and training in areas of high unemployment?

Will the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland consider setting up a mechanism whereby the Under-Secretaries responsible for education and economic development could regularly meet the authorities representing further education in Northern Ireland to consider the main problems that they face and to endeavour to resolve them?

Mr. Needham

On the first part of the question, I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall work together and monitor closely how the community workshops get on. I have arranged a conference with representatives from them in the autumn, when we can all get together and discuss how progress is being made. The insolvency issue has a wider dimension because it is part of the regulations covering all company law, but we shall discuss it and see what can be done. I shall pass on the request in the final part of the hon. Gentleman's question to my right hon. Friend.

Mr. Stott

I reinforce the request made by the hon. Member for Antrim, East (Mr. Beggs). Does the Minister agree that, having reached agreement with community workshops about the new youth training programme, his colleague in the Department of Education should turn his attention to the devastating effects that the proposals would have on further education-based YTP? Is it not the case that the Government intend to save money and that, as a result, the more expensive and high-quality further education-based YTP will disappear, leaving many of Northern Ireland's young people disadvantaged in the training they receive?

Mr. Needham

The basis of our proposals for the workshops is to improve the quality of training received there. As the hon. Gentleman knows, there are some good workshops in Northern Ireland and some that need to be brought up to the quality of the best. By introducing the new scheme we are ensuring that much more is done on employers' premises to get the youngsters involved in those workshops ready for the world of work, that we are sure will come about in the 1990s. Obviously, that requires an input from the further education colleges to give the generally broad training skills that young people need in the workshops.

Rev. Ian Paisley

I endorse what the previous speakers have said about the thanks that are due for the reappraisal of the scheme. Will the Minister give an assurance that if, with regard to solvency, the scheme does not come up to his expectations, he will look at it again?

Mr. Needham

I will discuss the matter carefully and see what can be done. I do not have a magic wand to solve the insolvency problem, but I am sure that, working together, we can find a sensible way round it.