HC Deb 31 January 1990 vol 166 cc298-9
5. Mr. Wallace

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received regarding the performance of the employment training scheme in Scotland.

The Minister of State, Scottish Office (Mr. Ian Lang)

Since September 1988 when employment training first started in Scotland, my right hon. and learned Friend has received 190 representations about the operation of employment training in Scotland, and 66 were parliamentary questions.

Mr. Wallace

The Minister will be aware that, under the employment training regulations, it is possible to give to single parents an allowance for child care while they are in training. How does he explain the selective approach to my constituents who are the wives of fishermen and who, when their husbands are at sea, are to all intents and purposes single-parent mothers and who wish to undertake training? Will the new local enterprise companies that are to be set up in Scotland and will have a training remit have the flexibility to allow payment to be made to such wives?

Mr. Lang

It is part of our purpose that local enterprise companies should have as much flexibility as possible in the development and administration of training schemes. That is one of the important reasons why we are setting them up. At the same time, the existing arrangements take account of problems in different parts of the country. The hon. Gentleman will know that in the administration of employment training in Orkney and Shetland, consideration is being given to awarding skill shortage status to that area, which will be of advantage to it.

Mr. Worthington

Is the Minister aware of the report that has just been published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations showing what the consequences for community care were of the transition from the community programme to the disastrous employment training scheme? That report has shown that over £17 million has been lost to community care, and that 50 per cent. of the care for the elderly and 62 per cent. of the care for the disabled have been lost. The voluntary organisations warned the Minister that this would happen, but he could not have cared less. Will he now show some regret for the distress caused by the withdrawal of these services?

Mr. Lang

One of the reasons for the loss of places was the lack of co-operation—indeed, the positive hostility—of many authorities. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is heavily funded by the Government and it does a good job. However, it is important that it should realise that employment training is not another form of social care—which is already fully provided—but essentially an employment training scheme to help unemployed people into jobs. In that, it is doing much better than the community programme did, as it is now helping 59 per cent. of leavers into jobs or further training and education, compared with 42 per cent. on the community programme. We should encourage that trend.

Mr. Lester

When my hon. Friend has the opportunity to make representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, will he draw his attention to the following anomaly? Under the employment training scheme we quite properly support single mothers by allowing them to claim the costs of child care, but when they are trained and seeking a job there is no provision for looking after their children—a heavy premium for anyone seeking employment. Might there be an opportunity in the next Budget to do something about that?

Mr. Lang

I understand that there are certain advantages at salaries of up to £8,500 a year, but I shall pass on my hon. Friend's comments to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor. My hon. Friend would not expect me to comment on what might be in the Budget.