My right hon. and learned Friend last met the chairman of Essex training and enterprise council on 28 November. He is aware of the excellent contribution that Essex TEC is making to the training and enterprise needs of the area, but he has no plans to visit it in the immediate future.
§ Mr. Burns
When my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State next meets the chairman of Essex TEC in Chelmsford, will he congratulate him on the splendid work that that TEC is doing in encouraging job creation, which in the past six months has led to 315 new small businesses starting in that area? Does my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary agree that that belies the guffaws and 795 complaints of the moaning Minnies on the Opposition Benches, who constantly do down the excellent training that is available throughout Essex and the rest of the country?
I thank my hon. Friend for his remarks, which were heard also by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State, and I will convey them to Essex TEC, which is doing an excellent job. Its current budget is £28.75 million, which is a substantial sum from the taxpayer. It has 4,400 young people in youth training places and 1,300 people in employment training places. I am glad that my hon. Friend appreciates the good job that that TEC is doing.
§ Mr. Ashton
Is not it a fact that all those training places were not needed in Chelmsford in 1979 because the young people there had jobs then, under a Labour Government? Is not unemployment the reason for the massive increase in the number of training places?
The whole House will be rather amused by the hon. Gentleman's interpretation. We all remember the serious problem of increasing youth unemployment in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Our training programmes—which are operating on a scale two and a half times larger in real terms than those of the last Labour Government—arose as a response to that problem, which existed when Labour was in office but about which that Government did nothing.