§ The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)
I have recently received a number of representations regarding training and enterprise councils covering a range of issues. I warmly welcome the interest that has been shown in the councils from all quarters, and I am particularly encouraged by the enthusiastic response from business leaders. The TEC programme is currently two years ahead of schedule, with 72 TECs already having received development funding. I can announce today that I have now approved the 13th TEC to enter its operational phase, the East Lancashire TEC.
§ Mr. Yeo
Although I welcome the greater involvement of the private sector and the decentralisation of the management training schemes, in view of the crucial importance for the future prosperity of Britain of our industry remaining fully competitive with those overseas, will my right hon. and learned Friend assure the House that he will monitor most carefully the performance of TECs in delivering to British employers the sort of highly trained work force that we will need in the 21st century?
§ Mr. Howard
My hon. Friend is right to emphasise the importance of performance. TECs will operate a performance-based contract and will report regularly to me on their management and financial performance. The Department's training standards inspectors will monitor the quality of the training provided.
§ Mr. Wallace
The Department's brochure issued last year called for people who were chairmen, chief executives or top operational managers at local level to be involved in TECs. That is good as far as it goes, but does the Secretary of State recognise that that may exclude people who have expertise in training? What steps is he taking to ensure that TECs and their counterparts in Scotland, local enterprise companies, have people involved in them with some expertise in training? Is not it important to have trainers involved?
§ Mr. Howard
Of course, as the hon. Gentleman syggests, the involvement of trainers is important. There is ample scope for their involvement with training and enterprise councils, without necessarily serving on the boards of those councils. We now have about 1,000 chairmen and chief operating officers all over the country giving voluntarily of their time to the training and enterprise councils. They have the clout to make sure that those councils will deliver the results that I hope we all want.
§ Mr. Hannam
Does my right hon. and learned Friend. accept that the TECs will play an important role in the training of disabled people for work, and that there is a danger that some of the existing schemes may be lost if there is no requirement that every TEC board includes someone with direct responsibility for the training of disabled people?
§ Mr. Howard
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to emphasise the importance of providing adequate training for disabled people. That is a matter dealt with in the TEC' contract, and about which the TECs must satisfy me before approval is given.
§ Mr. Blair
Will the Secretary of State confirm that according to his own Department's documents, cuts in youth training are expected of not just 7 per cent., but IS per cent. after inflation and, in some areas, 30 to 50 per cent., with the loss of thousands of training places and hundreds of trainer jobs? How can we begin Britain's training revolution by savaging Britain's training budget?
§ Mr. Howard
The hon. Gentleman constantly seeks to raise alarms about such matters. During the past four years, training spending by Government has increased in real terms by 60 per cent. at a time when unemployment has fallen by 50 per cent., so it is not surprising that some adjustment should be made this year. We are determined to maintain the guarantees on youth training and employment training, and the quality of training. But we have no commitment to ensure that every training provider who provided training last year should also do so this year, next year and for every year into the future. We believe in adapting to the needs of change and ensuring that those best able to provide the sort of training we want will do so.