HC Deb 27 March 1990 vol 170 cc209-21 3.30 pm
The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement about training credits for young people.

The initiative that I am announcing today marks an important new departure in our policies for training young people. Its aim is to excite young people about the benefits of continuing in training and further education after they have left school and to raise the amount and quality of training provided by employers. The initiative has the potential to revolutionise attitudes to training in this country. [Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker

Order. Will hon. Members who are not remaining for the statement please leave the Chamber quietly?

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. We are well aware that statements of this kind are a fiasco and are made for a specific purpose but the fiasco is contributed to when we cannot hear what is being said.

Mr. Speaker

I have just asked hon. Members who are not staying for the statement to leave quietly. Mr. Howard.

Mr. Howard

I was—

Mr. Stuart Bell (Middlesbrough)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Further to the point that was put to you by my hon. Friend the Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson), may I seek your protection as a Back Bencher? We have witnessed, certainly since 1987, the way in which the Government of the day have manipulated the business of the House in the interest of the Executive against that of the legislature. You are in regular contact with the usual channels and the Leader of the House. Do you agree that it would be appropriate to let the Leader of the House know that this legislature will not tolerate for much longer the manipulation of the business of the House by a Government who are—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that whether or not a statement should be made is not a matter for me but is arranged through the usual channels, of which I am not part. Mr. Howard.

Mr. Howard

If we are to continue effectively in the world economy of the 1990s, we need a skilled work force that is second to none—

Mr. Ian McCartney (Makerfield)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Is it a point of order that I can answer? I hope that the hon. Gentleman's point is not questioning whether or not the statement should be made.

Mr. McCartney

Are you aware, Mr. Speaker, that the new hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire is as much interested in the subject of the training of her young constituents as is any other hon. Member of the House? Are you further aware that she is deliberately being kept out of the Chamber—

Mr. Speaker

Order. That is not a point of order for me.

Mr. Howard

If we are to compete effectively in the world economy of the 1990s—

Mr. Andrew Faulds (Warley, East)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

This is getting ridiculous.

Mr. Faulds

Mr. Speaker, is this not yet another outcome of the introduction of the television cameras? The whole purpose of the delay of the introduction of the new hon. Member for Mid-Staffordshire is so that it does not catch prime television time. The crowd on the Government Benches are manipulating things—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is a fair bet that the introduction of the hon. Lady will catch the television cameras.

Mr. Howard

Surely there can be few things more important for the future of our country than the training of our young people.

If we are to compete effectively in the world economy of the 1990s, we need a skilled work force who are second to none. The basis for that must be effective and high-quaity education and training for young people. We are already well on the way to achieving this. In schools, the Education Reform Act 1988, the GCSE and the technical and vocational education initiative are raising levels of attainment and preparing young people for the world of work. The new arrangements for youth training will build on the achievements of the youth training scheme and lead both to higher levels of training and to training that is more relevant to the needs of employers. We are currently establishing training and enterprise councils throughout England and Wales, and local enterprise companies in Scotland. One of their key tasks will be to mobilise local employers to offer more and better training in the skills needed by industry to young people.

We must also motivate young people themselves to understand the importance to them of quality training and to come to expect training as a normal part of employment. There has been widespread interest in training credits as a means of achieving this. The Confederation of British Industry in particular has advocated credits in its report "Towards a Skills Revolution" and has proposed pilot schemes at local level to test them out.

Training credits represent an entitlement to train to approved standards. They would be issued to young people who would be able to present their credit either to an employer who makes training available or to a specialist provider of training if the young person is unable to find employment. Young people would be given quality careers advice and guidance to help them to put their credit to best use. A monetary value would be shown on the face of the credit, and it would be open to employers and the body issuing the credit to supplement this as necessary to secure higher-cost training or other priorities.

I and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, together with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and other Ministers concerned, have looked closely at the range of proposals for training credits. We agree that they are potentially an exciting means of motivating young people to train.

Credits are as yet untested. We have therefore decided to invite training and enterprise councils and local enterprise companies in Scotland to run pilot credit schemes to come into operation from April 1991. To this end, I am today issuing a prospectus inviting them, in co-operation with local education authorities, to submit bids for my approval. The aim is to select 10 such schemes to operate from April next year in areas covering up to 10 per cent. of the national total of 16 and 17-year-olds leaving full-time education—that is, some 45,000 young people a year. Every pilot will provide young people with an entitlement to train. Under some pilots, the entitlement will be for all young people leaving full-time education. Others may take a more selective approach in focusing, for example, on improving training for particular occupations or skill levels, in small firms, or through inner-city compacts or other business-education partnerships.

In all cases, the training and enterprise councils will need to work closely with local education authorities, further education colleges and the careers service. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science, together with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales, will ensure that the authorities are properly involved. The training and enterprise councils will be expected to ensure that credits are used only for training that is relevant to the needs of employers and which meets approved standards. Their schemes will need to lead to more young people undertaking training and to the attainment of higher skill levels. There will be rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of the schemes.

The councils will also have to make sure that all young people who are unable to find jobs will, as now, be guaranteed a suitable training place and that there is appropriate provision for young people who are disabled or who have other special training needs.

Overall funding for these pilot schemes will come in large part from planned provision for youth training. There will also be a contribution from the relevant element of local education authority provision for 16 to 18-year-olds undertaking part-time training and education. From their existing expenditure plans, the Government are making available a further £12 million in 1991–92, rising to £25 million in the following year. This will bring the total estimated resources available to the training and enterprise councils running pilot credit schemes to £115 million by 1992–93.

This is the first important step in an exciting new direction. Its purpose is to make a major impact on the motivation of young people to train after they have left school and so to increase the skills and productivity of our young work force. I am sure that these proposals will be widely welcomed. I commend them to the House.

Mr. Tony Blair (Sedgefield)

I must tell the Secretary of State that I am sure that the Government's appalling training record played a major part in their crushing defeat in the Mid-Staffordshire by-election last week. Surely the key question today is whether he will recognise that we have a massive and widening training gap with our competitor countries; that we are behind in every sector, whether manufacturing or services, and that we must know whether this initiative will amount to a genuine entitlement by young people to high-quality training backed up by the public sector support and cash necessary to make it a reality.

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman therefore confirm that, while the training gap in Britain is so big that half our work force are receiving no in-work training and our young people are denied training to the standards of our competitors, all that he has made available is £12 million, not this year but next, and £25 million thereafter? Is this new money or is it, as we fear, simply taken from elsewhere in the employment budget? Even if it is new money, can the Secretary of State tell us, as he has repeatedly refused to say over the last few days, whether he is intending to cut £150 million from the training budget next year, £120 million the year after and £60 million the year after—£300 million off the youth training budget over three years? Does that still stand?

Is it the case—just to forestall the excuse that this is caused by the declining numbers of young people—that, as we have calculated today, the cost of training per trainee per week over the next three years is to be cut from £50 to under £30? Does that still apply to this new training credit scheme and, if it does, how will he answer the demands by the Confederation of British Industry and the Trades Union Congress that we use any money saved by a training credit scheme to upgrade the standards and qualifications of our young people, since we languish far behind our competitors in the quality as well as the quantity of training?

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman provide, as the CBI and the TUC ask, for each young person to be provided with his or her own action plan record of achievement to plan for the future? Will he undertake, as those bodies say is a vital component of any such scheme, to boost the advice and counselling services necessary for young people to make a reality of their choice in the training market?

Will the Secretary of State confirm that he is proposing to cut careers advisory service spending next year and, perhaps as important as anything, whether the credit will meet the full cost of a young person's training? Is it, in other words, a proper entitlement or will it be in strict terms a cash-limited voucher which trainees may be obliged to top up from their own resources? We need answers to those questions.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that these pilot schemes will start in 1991 and run until 1993. It will therefore be the mid-1990s before any full-blown training scheme can take off. When we examine the skills crisis that Britain faces, when, after 11 years of his Government, the Secretary of State is still talking about pilot schemes, when we confront the magnitude of our failure and the mountain that we have to climb, does he really believe that his announcement measures up to the scale of the revolution in skills that we say Britain needs?

Mr. Howard

That must rank as one of the most churlish receptions to an imaginative new training scheme that the House has heard. Of course I can confirm that the scheme will provide a genuine entitlement to high-quality training. That is what it is all about. To answer the question that I think the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) said was the most important of those that he asked, I can confirm that there will be no question of the person receiving the training being asked to top it up from his or her own resources.

The value of the training will in the first instance be provided on the face of the credit. It will be topped up either by the training and enterprise council or by the employer, or by both. The funds to achieve that will be made available. I indicated clearly in my statement that the additional resources will be made available to ensure that these schemes deliver their objectives and are a great success.

The hon. Gentleman complained, among other things, that the additional money would not be made available until next year. That is because the scheme cannot start until next year. It is typical of the level of criticisms which we get from the hon. Gentleman that he should make such a point. To answer another of his questions, it is true that we recognise the importance of the careers advisory service, and we will be discussing with it how it can best play its part in ensuring that young people make the best use of the credits that will be made available to them.

The hon. Gentleman returned again to the criticism that he made yesterday about resources. I tried to explain to him yesterday that the contribution made by employers to the training of young people has increased six times in the last four years and that we expect it to increase again. His response to that yesterday was that he would use sanctions against employers who did not do what he wanted them to do, and that he would deal with them. It says volumes for the innermost thinking of the hon. Gentleman and his party that they use the same language about British employers as they use about the foreign regime which they most deeply detest.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I remind the House that this is a Back Benchers' day?

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

These are statements.

Mr. Speaker

I know. But I am frequently asked if statements may be made; I am seldom asked if a statement may not be made. As I was saying, this is a Back Benchers' day and there should be plenty of opportunity on the Adjournment motion or on the Consolidated Fund Bill to outline a case. Therefore I ask hon. Members to put single questions to the Secretary of State so that we may get on more rapidly.

Mr. Andrew Rowe (Mid-Kent)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend share my contempt for those on the Opposition Front Bench who, having clamoured for pilot studies in the Health Service, then come here to excoriate him for introducing an imaginative scheme as an experiment? Does he agree that colleges throughout the country are already responding to the possibility of being able to compete in the training market with enthusiasm and imagination?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The only place where enthusiasm for this initiative is lacking is on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)

Given the training gap, it would be churlish not to welcome a scheme that will do something about it, albeit we wish to see other schemes too. Can the Secretary of State say what provision there will be for the maintenance of young people who are in receipt of training credits?

Mr. Howard

Those who are not in employment will have exactly the same entitlement as exists at the moment under the youth training scheme. I should emphasise that the guarantee that is currently available under youth training will continue and that all young people who cannot find jobs will continue to be guaranteed a training place. For young people in employment, obviously their income will be a matter of negotiation between them and their employers.

Mr. Colin Shepherd (Hereford)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that this will be seen by young people and employers alike as an incredibly valuable tool for the new training and enterprise councils? Can he confirm that the development of the TECs, which are so essential to his initiative, is running ahead of schedule? Does he agree that it behoves young people to recognise where confidence is placed in them—that is, that they should stay with a Conservative Government who have their best interests in mind, in view of the coyness with which the Opposition state their position on the future of training and enterprise councils?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his welcome for the proposals. He is absolutely right. Training and enterprise councils are running two years ahead of schedule and 66 are now receiving development funding. They are proceeding with the development of training that is much more responsive to the needs of local circumstances. That in itself represents the most exciting training initiative that we have ever seen in this country.

Mr. Ron Leighton (Newham, North-East)

In principle, the Secretary of State has the germ of a good idea which could empower people to have a right to training. However, does he agree that the scheme might wither in the hands of the Government if they underfund it? Will it be a further excuse to make further cuts in the training budget? The youth training scheme currently costs the Exchequer £50 per week per place. By 1992, that is scheduled to drop to £33 per week per place. Providing £50 per week amounts to a total of £2,500 per year. The Secretary of State has been to Germany and knows that Germany's apprenticeship places cost between £6,000 and £9,000 each. How much will the credits be worth? I have heard people talk in terms of £1,000, which is about £20 a week. We will not get much quality training for that.

Will the Secretary of State ensure that the payments are also made to children who stay on in school, because that is equally important? Will he ensure that employers give day release? Does he appreciate that, while welcoming the principle, the Select Committee on Employment will want to monitor its practice closely?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the Chairman of the Select Committee for his welcome for the scheme. I also welcome the fact that he has said that the Select Committee will monitor the operation of the scheme. We shall all need to do that. I am confident that it will succeed. I am confident that far from withering in the Government's hands, as the hon. Gentleman suggested, the scheme will flower and that we shall all regard it in a welcoming spirit when we have seen the extent to which it delivers results.

On the point about resources, I refer the hon. Gentleman to my earlier reply to his hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) and to what I said in the Budget debate yesterday. Employers' contributions for training are improving fast, and we expect them to continue to improve. One objective of the scheme is to encourage employers to contribute more to the cost of the training that we need.

Mr. David Madel (Bedfordshire, South-West)

Once the schemes are under way, they will be very helpful to young people, but does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that it is important that we continue to expand the technical and vocational education initiative courses in schools? To that end, may we have an assurance that the Government will ensure that the equipment for TVEI courses is modern and in good working condition, which will require finance?

Mr. Howard

I agree with my hon. Friend—TVEI is one of the Government's greatest successes. We intend that it should grow and increase and continue to play an important part in strengthening the relationships between schools and the world of work. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks.

Mr. James Molyneaux (Lagan Valley)

The Secretary of State has said that he will implement the scheme with the assistance of three Cabinet colleagues, representing England, Scotland and Wales. Why has the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland been omitted?

Mr. Howard

There are no present plans to extend the scheme to Northern Ireland, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will have listened carefully to the right hon. Gentleman's observations.

Sir Philip Goodhart (Beckenham)

While appreciating that young people must be given priority in this imaginative scheme, may I draw my right hon. and learned Friend's attention to the recent recommendations of the Select Committee on Employment, that training credits should be extended to older workers who may be contemplating a change of career?

Mr. Howard

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend who, in a pamphlet written some time ago, of which he was the co-author, pioneered an idea that is not very different from that which I have announced today. I have listened carefully to what he said about extending the proposal to older employees. We want to do all we can to encourage an increase in the amount of training that is provided for people of all ages in work. We shall be in a better position to evaluate whether the scheme represents the best way forward when the pilot schemes have been in operation for some time.

Mr. Jack Thompson (Wansbeck)

Does the Minister recognise that his statement is an admission and confession that the youth opportunities programme and YTS have been an absolute and utter failure during the past 10 years? Although the changes suggested today are a slight step in the right direction, they do not compare with some of the schemes that have been running in Europe during the past 10 years—for instance, in Germany, France, Belgium and Holland. Compared to them, we have lost out for three generations. Is it not time to give the matter more urgency and priority?

Mr. Howard

I shall pay the hon. Gentleman this tribute. His attitude is at least consistent with that of his party, which has consistently opposed every training initiative introduced by the Government during the past 10 years. That is the limit of the extent to which his remarks were accurate. It is wrong to suggest that the youth training scheme has been anything but a considerable success. We have made rapid strides in training during the past 10 or 11 years. Of course, there is more to be done. The statement represents an important step forward.

Mr. Spencer Batiste (Elmet)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that his announcement will be a particular boost to open learning of the type conducted by the Open college? Will he tell those who would like to make constructive bids for pilot projects what criteria he will use to assess them?

Mr. Howard

As my hon. Friend suggests, there will be a place for open learning within the framework of the scheme. In assessing the bids that come forward, we shall consider proposals to increase the numbers of young people receiving training, the levels of training they receive and the qualifications they are expected to obtain, and proposals made by training and enterprise councils to increase employers' contributions and to avoid deadweight—that is, to avoid duplicating training which is already provided and paid for by employers. A copy of the prospectus—indeed many copies—will be available in the Vote Office shortly after I sit down.

Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead)

As the Government, rightly, emphasise the importance of consumer choice, may I welcome the first statement from his Department in 11 years that promotes that objective? May I also take the Secretary of State back to the points made by his hon. Friend the Member for Elmet (Mr. Batiste)? Surely, if the best way to test the scheme is by pilot studies, should not he announce in the near future the extension of such a scheme to the long-term unemployed, and equally importantly, to the low paid in work?

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his welcome for the scheme, however qualified. I understand the force of the points he makes, but it is important that we should proceed a step at a time. The statement is an important step. We want to make sure that it is carefully prepared and evaluated. We shall decide how to take the matter forward in the light of the lessons that we learn from the pilots.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (Norfolk, North-West)

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that safety on construction sites is extremely important? Will he pay tribute to the construction industry training board for the excellent work that it has done in raising standards throughout the country? Will he ensure that it is given a full role to play in this new and exciting initiative?

Mr. Howard

I am aware of my hon. Friend's close interest in these matters. I am happy to pay tribute to the role of the construction industry training board on safety. We shall have to consider its precise role in this initiative.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)

Secretary of State spoke of ensuring that there would be appropriate provision for the disabled and those needing special training. Will the Government give direction to LECs and TECs on that matter? Will he ensure that groups representing the disabled are consulted and that additional funding is made available for the special needs of that group of people?

Mr. Howard

The important matters referred to by the hon. Lady will be among those taken into account when considering the bids that we receive from the TECs and LECs in Scotland. Such matters will be taken into account in that way.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

As some of the Government's excellent training initiatives in the past have been treated badly because of unfair political attacks on them, will the Secretary of State say briefly what extra entitlements or rights to opportunities will be available to young people through this latest initiative? Will he give some guidance on where the £12 million will go?

Mr. Howard

The essence of the scheme is that the young person receives the credit in his hands. That represents an entitlement to training with a significant monetary sum on the face of the credit to motivate that young person and make him or her much more aware of the value that should be attached to training. We want to encourage and excite young people about the importance of receiving training—that is the essence of the proposal.

The additional resources are designed to encourage more people to receive training; obviously, the greater the numbers who receive training, the more that will cost. We want to encourage and to achieve more people in training. I have tried to explain the way in which we are confident that the pilots will achieve that end.

Mr. Dave Nellist (Coventry, South-East)

In the past 10 years, the successive freezing, and therefore erosion, of the allowances paid to school leavers on such schemes mean that the present generation of school leavers are £30 worse off than their counterparts were 10 years ago under the youth opportunities programme. Why and how does the proposed training scheme differ in terms of giving a decent allowance instead of the slave-labour rates of previous schemes? Given the Secretary of State's previous answer and his precise description, does he agree that training is far too important to be treated like luncheon vouchers?

Mr. Howard

When the hon. Gentleman got up to make a comparison of expenditure with that of 10 years ago, I thought that he was going to point out that the Government spend six times as much on training as did the previous Labour Government—three times more in real terms. That is the real comparison to be made between records when it comes to judging spending now with that of 10 years ago. We believe that the proposal represents a substantial step forward in exciting young people about the opportunities that are available to them on training. In due course, I hope that even the hon. Gentleman will recognise the importance of the proposal and the success it has achieved.

Mr. Roger Knapman (Stroud)

Is my right hon. and learned Friend aware that I was privileged to open a £1 million extension to Stroud college in my constituency? Two thirds of that money came from local employers. Surely my right hon. and learned Friend's excellent announcement is tailor-made for areas such as Stroud.

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I am sure that the college—the extension to which he opened last week—will be anxious to take advantage of the increased opportunities that will be made available to it under the proposal to play its full part in providing training and education responsive to the needs of local employers in his area.

Mr. Gerald Bermingham (St. Helens, South)

The Secretary of State will appreciate that I have little faith in what he says, as he recently sold the skill centre in my constituency to a consortium, about which his office will not give me details. Does he agree that the best way in which to train the engineers, the lathe operators and the skilled technicians of tomorrow is to encourage industry to do it, instead of discouraging it as the Government have done in the past 11 years?

Mr. Howard

I cannot think what lies behind the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question, because we have been encouraging industry and employers to train. We have not only encouraged them to do so, but all the evidence suggests that they have responded to that encouragement to an unprecedented extent. Between 1984 and 1989, the number of people in work receiving training increased by 70 per cent.; that demonstrates the progress we are making. Of course there is more to be done, and the proposal I have announced will help us in that.

Mrs. Teresa Gorman (Billericay)

I welcome the proposal that I have long advocated, particularly as an employer in a small firm and as chairman of the Alliance of Small Firms and Self Employed People. Will my right hon. and learned Friend assure us that small businesses, which provide the majority of jobs where training can take place, will not be precluded from the schemes by making the terms on which money can be spent too difficult for those businesses to qualify? My right hon. and learned Friend and I know that small firms will train their young people, but the trouble is that, these days, the cost of an apprenticeship is so high that they need some input of money. The proposal will give that input. I am sure that my right hon. and learned Friend agrees that we must be careful not to make the conditions so difficult that small firms cannot participate.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her welcome for the proposal. She will recall that I specifically identified small businesses as one of the criteria on which selective schemes could be put forward by the training and enterprise councils. We will be looking with interest at the bids that we receive to examine the extent to which they reflect the concerns of my hon. Friend and many others about this issue. [Interruption.]

Mrs. Gorman

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has accused me of not being here for the statement, but I was.

Mr. Speaker

I know. I saw the hon. Lady or I would not have given her such a high place in the questions put to the Secretary of State.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Is not this a paltry sum of money compared to £300 million of cuts in youth training? Will this money be directed at local education authorities or towards the sleazy sell-off to Astra Training Services Ltd. of a number of skill centres? It is designed to give the little cabal inside the civil service extra money or is it genuinely aimed at training?

Mr. Howard

It is designed to improve both the quantity and quality of training provided to our young people. I am confident that it will achieve precisely that objective.

Mr. Alan Haselhurst (Saffron Walden)

Is not the point precisely that, if this welcome new instrument is fashioned correctly, it will help to draw into the training business some employers and firms that would have been reluctant to come in under the previous dispensation?

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right: that is one of the proposals' main objectives, and one of the criteria that we shall consider when we assess the bids.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Is the Secretary of State aware that, when I saw that this item was on the agenda, I realised that it was part and parcel of the idea to prevent any extra publicity for the Mid-Staffordshire victor? Then I thought that perhaps the Government were worried about the election—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ask a question."] I am asking the Secretary of State whether he is aware of this. Then, when I saw that only £12 million—

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Gentleman should ask one question.

Mr. Skinner

I am asking the question now, unless you, Mr. Speaker, want me to say what my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campell-Savours) said yesterday.

When I found out that the amount was only £12 million, I realised what a pathetic programme it was—just enough money to cover the costs of Downing street and Buckingham palace for one year. I have some news for the Secretary of State: when the Labour party get into power, we will have a pilot training scheme and put its members on the gates outside No. 10 to pull them down.

Mr. Howard

The money that will be available for these proposals in 1992–93 will be £155 million. That may be an insignificant sum to the hon. Gentleman and the Labour party, in which case they should have a word with the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who is always telling us that the Labour party will not spend money on anything other than its two priority areas, among which training does not feature.

Mr. James Pawsey (Rugby and Kenilworth)

I urge my right hon. and learned Friend to disregard the all-too-carping remarks from Opposition Members. I assure him that his imaginative project will receive a warm welcome from Conservative Members. The ideas that he has proposed to the House today are in line with the thinking of both the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry. He might have some difficulty with local education authorities, particularly those under Labour control, if the city technology scheme is anything to go by.

Mr. Howard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. There is widespread enthusiasm among local education authorities for the ideas put forward by the CBI. I am confident that it will wish to play a full part in the development of the proposals. I fear that Opposition Members are the only odd ones out.

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

I have heard the whole statement and the Secretary of State's answer to all the questions. Will he draw our attention to the parts of his statement which prevented its being made either yesterday or tomorrow?

Mr. Howard

I dare say that, whenever the statement was made, we would have had a similar reaction from the Opposition. Even the hon. Gentleman, with all his customary ingenuity, cannot find a criticism to make about the substance of the statement.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

I welcome this imaginative scheme. Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that its beauty is that it is locally planned, with education authorities and training and enterprise councils working together to provide the training needed in the immediate locality? It is flexible, so that the training can be taken in work, at college or in the evening.

Mr. Howard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; both the general flexibility, to which he referred, and the extent to which the training provided will respond to local circumstances—local jobs and the need to provide the skills necessary in each local area—will mean that it will be warmly received outside the House.

Mr. Tony Worthington (Clydebank and Milngavie)

Is the Secretary of State aware that £12 million for Britain is less than one third of the cost of providing training this year in Scotland? The Secretary of State for Scotland has recently been saying that he is in control of training within Scotland. Will the Secretary of State for Employment confirm that the scheme is to be introduced in Scotland in exactly the same way as the rest of Britain and that there is nothing distinctive about it there? If there is something distinctive about it, what is it?

Mr. Howard

Local enterprise companies in Scotland will be able to bid to put forward a pilot scheme and operate it in the same way as training and enterprise councils in England. We shall consider such bids on the same basis as we consider bids from England and Wales. I am sure that Scotland will wish to play its full part in the initiative.

Mr. Derek Fatchett (Leeds, Central)

Is not the key to success in the scheme the size of the resources that the Government are prepared to allocate to it? Do not we judge the Government's record by what they have already allocated to youth training and the decisions that they have set out in their expenditure plans? Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is still the Government's intention to cut £240 million from the youth training budget between this financial year and 1992 and 1993? Will he confirm also that it is still his intention to cut the amount of money available for each trainee's training from £50 a week to £33? Will he give a guarantee that any youngster wishing to follow any training course will have the money made available to him or her either by the employer or by the TEC, or will the money available to the TEC be cash-limited so that certain youngsters will be disqualified from using the freedom that the right hon. and learned Gentleman claims under the credit?

Mr. Howard

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber yesterday to listen to the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair). If he had heard the hon. Gentleman's speech, he would appreciate how absurd it is for him to say that the only criterion is the money that the Government are putting forward. The hon. Member for Sedgefield reaffirmed the Labour party's commitment to a jobs tax, to a compulsory payroll tax and to the sanctions which he said that the Labour party would apply to employers. How can that be said while at the same time the hon. Gentleman suggests that the only thing that matters is the money which the taxpayer is contributing towards the cost of training?

I said yesterday—I have repeated it today—that employers are making an increasing contribution towards the cost of youth training. The only difference is that, under this Government, they are doing it rapidly and voluntarily, while under the Labour party's proposals they would be obliged to do it as part of a payroll tax. There will be ample, and more than adequate recourses available to ensure the success of these proposals. We are content to see them judged by the monitoring to which the hon. Member for Newham, North-East (Mr. Leighton), the Chairman of the Select Committee on Employment, referred and by the monitoring to which the Department will subject them. They represent an exciting new step forward. They will be warmly welcomed everywhere except on the Opposition Benches.

Mr. Nellist

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

I call Mr. Secretary Parkinson to make another statement. I shall take the hon. Gentleman's point of order afterwards.

Mr. Nellist

My point of order is on the first statement.

Mr. Speaker

I shall take it after the next statement.