HC Deb 11 February 1992 vol 203 cc779-80
1. Mr. Gerald Bowden

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment how many training and enterprise councils were operational in (a) March 1990 and (b) January 1992.

The Secretary of State for Employment (Mr. Michael Howard)

There were no training and enterprise councils operational in March 1990. The full network of 82 training and enterprise councils has been operational since last October. That has been achieved as the direct result of the enthusiasm and support of key business and community leaders throughout the country.

Mr. Bowden

I thank my right hon. and learned Friend for that reply. Will he join me in congratulating the TECs on the part that they are playing in promoting the local economy? Having in mind my own South Thames TEC in south London, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that the acceptance, success and street credibility of the TECs have been greatly enhanced by the emphasis that they put on the enterprise element of their make-up?

Mr. Howard

I am delighted to respond to my hon. Friend's invitation and I entirely agree with his remarks. The success of the TEC movement is the result of an unprecedented partnership between business leaders and the Government across the country—[Interruption.] I note that sedentary observation of the hon. Member for Worsley (Mr. Lewis), which no doubt represents the Labour party's true attitude to training and enterprise councils.

Mr. Ray Powell

What financial controls and supervision do the Government exercise over TECs? Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make a statement on that matter?

Mr. Howard

Money is made available to training and enterprise councils in return for their performance in pursuance of a contract that they make with me. The way in which and the extent to which they perform and adhere to the terms of the contract are carefully monitored. Indeed, complaints are frequently made that too many monitoring requirements are made of TECs.

Mr. Devlin

Does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that unit costs and the availability of placement s will not be the same for employers in different parts of the country? I know that he recently considered this matter at a meeting with the northern TECs, but will he further consider the plight of some regions where costs are slightly higher than in, say, the south-east?

Mr. Howard

I agree with my hon. Friend that unit costs are not always the same in all parts of the country. I hope that he agrees that that does not mean that differences that are difficult to justify should be perpetuated indefinitely. We have a duty to obtain the best value for money for the taxpayer. That frequently means that some of our negotiations are tough.

Mr. Blair

Is not the real problem facing many TECs the fact that their funds are being cut at a time of recession and rapidly rising unemployment? Will the Secretary of State now answer for the record the question that he has consistently refused to answer? How many employment training and youth training places have been cut in the past two years? How many fewer places are there today than there were two years ago?

Mr. Howard

The point that was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton, South (Mr. Devlin) related to unit costs. The allegations that have been made by the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Blair) go further and further into the realms of fantasy. We are continuing to deliver the youth training guarantee. We are making sure that employment training is making its full contribution to the aim and guarantee groups for the long-term unemployed. Such comments come a bit rich from the Opposition, when they have opposed each and every training initiative that we have introduced during the past 12 years and when we are spending two and a half times as much in real terms as the Labour Government did.