HC Deb 16 January 1990 vol 165 cc146-8
6. Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on the progress being made to establish training and enterprise councils.

14. Mr. Paice

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many proposals have been made to the national task force for the establishment of training and enterprise councils; and how many have been accepted for development funding.

Mr. Howard

I am able to announce today that a further seven training and enterprise councils have been awarded development funding. That brings the total number of TECs to 51, just 10 months after the initiative was first launched.

Mr. Jones

I join other hon. Members in welcoming the Secretary of State to his new position. Does he agree that a major concern about setting up councils in rural areas is that their members may lack the necessary breadth of expertise to make them a success? Few industrialists have direct experience of in-house training in rural areas. Does the Secretary of State agree that, in rural areas, it is necessary to fund bodies that bring together not only industrialists but careers teachers, technical colleges, universities and training agencies to identify potential skill shortages in rural areas and to begin to tackle the job at that end?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome. I agree that all the organisations to which he referred have a part to play in the TEC initiative. One of the great advantages of that initiative is that it is able to draw on local circumstances and adjust programmes to take full account of local needs.

Mr. Paice

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the results that he has described demonstrate that we are way ahead of target and that we shall achieve TEC coverage of most of the United Kingdom much earlier than was originally anticipated? Does he agree also that the results clearly demonstrate the truth that has been known by business for a long time is being learnt by our schools and is about to be learnt in the National Health Service—that if one delegates responsibility to the people who can use it properly, one will get not only better interest and commitment but far better results?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We expect the whole network to be in place by the end of this year, about two years ahead of schedule. The establishment of TECs is the most exciting training initiative that we have ever seen. I hope that the TECs will receive a warm welcome on both sides of the House.

Mr. Cousins

Will the Minister advance the commencement of the Tyneside TEC by six weeks, to allow a Confederation of British Industry initiative in Cruddas park in Newcastle to continue? That initiative was run into the ground because not one local employer agreed to employ people on Government programmes in Cruddas park. Will the Secretary of State go to Newcastle, start the TEC six weeks early, and make sure that we can find one local employer who will participate in that initiative?

Mr. Howard

I hope to visit Newcastle as soon as is convenient and I shall look into the point that the hon. Gentleman raised.

Mr. Brandon-Bravo

I know that my right hon. and learned Friend is concerned about the quality of the membership of the TECs, but does he agree that we might be being a little too restrictive, because a senior director of a major national company, who may not be the chief executive of that company, can have more to offer a TEC than, say, the managing director of a much smaller commercial enterprise. Should we not be a little more flexible than we are at present?

Mr. Howard

I understand the concern that lies behind my hon. Friend's question, but the success of the TECs owes a great deal to the fact that it is the chief executives, or their equivalents, of the companies concerned who are members of the TEC boards. That lends the TECs an extra impetus that they would not otherwise have and that is why we attach so much importance to the participation of chief executive officers of companies.

Mr. Blair

I welcome the new Secretary of State, but does he agree that his first priority must be to deal with Britain's lamentable record on training and skills? In that connection, when his own Department's survey shows that one in five employers do not themselves train but poach trained staff from others and when half Britain's work force in any one year will not receive any training at all, what powers will the new training and enterprise councils have to prevent the bad employers from exploiting the good?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome, but I am sorry that he should have prefaced his question with routine party political criticism of the type in which he engaged. I hope that he will work with the Government to ensure that the TEC initiative succeeds, as it shows every sign of succeeding, and that it achieves great progress in dealing, among other things, with the problem that he identified.

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