HC Deb 19 January 1993 vol 217 cc251-2
9. Mr. Mullin

To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what plans she has for a compulsory training levy.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

I have no such plans.

Mr. Mullin

May I put it to the Secretary of State that no amount of exhortation to the myopic and greedy people in charge of so much of British industry will persuade them to invest in long-term training? Our only hope of finding training for future generations of a sort that will enable us to hold our heads high in Europe will be to compel these employers to pay a training levy. Failing that, we are doomed.

Mrs. Shephard

I find the hon. Gentleman's enthusiasm—and that of his party—for yet more burdens on employers disappointing but predictable. Opposition Members obviously have not noticed, because they are stuck in the past, that policies of compulsion were tried in the 1960s and 1970s, and they failed. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues try listening to employers instead of vilifying them as they tend to do. The commitment of employers to training remains undiminished by the difficulties of recession. This year they committed a record £20 billion to training—an excellent record representing a great commitment.

Mr. Quentin Davies

Is it not quite extraordinary at a time of cyclically high unemployment which is disturbing us all— [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Give the hon. Gentleman an opportunity.

Mr. Davies

I am glad to see that I still have my fan club among the Opposition. Is it not extraordinary that some people can think of nothing better than dreaming up new ideas to add to the costs of taking on more employees, thereby destroying the prospects for new jobs?

Mrs. Shephard

It is enough to name a burden for business to be certain that Opposition Members will support it in principle. What are more damaging for business—after all, it creates jobs—are a minimum wage, a payroll tax, a training levy, and support for a social action programme. Labour supports all those; all of them threaten jobs, as my hon. Friend is right to point out.