HC Deb 23 February 1994 vol 238 cc263-5
4. Mr. Ernie Ross

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last met Scottish Enterprise to discuss training.

Mr. Lang

I last discussed training with the chairman and chief executive of Scottish Enterprise on 2 November last year.

Mr. Ross

When will we hear from the Secretary of State the distinctive Scottish circumstances that suggest to him that he should opt out of the proposed national development plan launched by the Secretary of State for Employment for 150,000 apprenticeships? Does the Secretary of State think that Scotland is so different that our young people do not deserve apprenticeships, or that our manufacturing base is so strong that we do not need young people in apprentice training—just in case the economy ever picks up?

Mr. Lang

Labour Members are usually busy telling me how different Scotland is and how important it is that it should have its own arrangements. I am keeping closely in touch with the development of the apprenticeship scheme at the Department of Employment for use south of the border. One of the reasons why we are not automatically and immediately linking ourselves with it is that we are already achieving 30 per cent. Scottish vocational qualification level 3, which is the target that has been set for the apprenticeship scheme. We are already ahead of what they are aiming at south of the border in that regard. Nevertheless, we will learn from the scheme as it is developed in the south. If it has application in Scotland, I am sure that it will be applied there.

Mr. Gallie

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, given the comments that he has made on the gaining of qualification under the training schemes, the new skill seekers scheme that is on offer presents a great opportunity for Scottish youth and allows youths to choose the training of their need with the employer of their choice? That will benefit them greatly in future years.

Mr. Lang

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. He will welcome the fact that youth training credits should be applicable throughout Scotland by 1996.

Mr. Beggs

When the Secretary of State last met Scottish Enterprise, did he discuss its successful initiative into Vietnam, which identified a number of viable hydro-electric projects which would have provided training and employment in Scotland and in my constituency? Will he discuss with the Overseas Development Administration and his colleague in that Department why there has been no response and why there is ongoing delay, and when the funding will be provided to make those projects become viable?

Mr. Lang

That was not on the agenda for our discussion when we met in November. My right hon. and noble Friend the Minister for Overseas Development will in due course hear the hon. Gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Galloway

Will the Secretary of State ask the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, Mr. Crawford Beveridge, what he was doing last weekend at a Conservative party fund-raising dinner at an hotel in my constituency—the Focus on Scotland dinner which Sir Michael Hirst, the chairman of the Conservative party, tells Malcolm Rifkind is immensely important and raises around 30 per cent. of its income? Why were a whole host of heads and high officials of Government quangos there, including a reported sighting of Mr. Lawrence Peterken, the expensively transferred health official about whom the House has heard much in recent months? Is it healthy for individuals who owe their livelihoods to Government patronage to be seated around tables raising funds at an immensely important Conservative party fund-raising dinner?

Mr. Lang

There were almost 900 guests at that dinner. A further 200 would have liked to come but were unable to get seats. That is a reflection of the strength of support for the Government among the business community in Scotland. If Mr. Crawford Beveridge was brought as a guest of one of those business men, that is entirely a matter for him. So far as I am concerned, he and any other guests brought to that dinner were equally welcome. I only wish that some Opposition Members had been invited by businesses in their community. They might have learnt quite a lot.

Mr. McLeish

Will the Secretary of State tell the House when he expects to meet Professor Donald Mackay to discuss the skills crisis in Scotland, because, despite the ludicrous answer that he gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, West (Mr. Ross), 83 per cent. of trainees on employment training in Scotland leave without a qualification and 76 per cent. of young Scots after being on youth training leave without a qualification? Surely the Secretary of State will not continue to be complacent about the future of so many young Scots. Scottish Enterprise is letting him down. He is involved in a widespread sell-out of the Scottish unemployed. It is a national scandal and he should make a statement about it today.

Mr. Lang

Again, the Opposition are trying to talk Scotland down by presenting selective statistics and facts. The hon. Gentleman might have chosen to draw attention to the success of adult training—a scheme that is no more expensive in Scotland than in England and has produced a higher success rate in Scotland. He might also have pointed out that 30 per cent. achieve Scottish vocational qualification level 3 and above—much higher levels than are achieved in England—and that 80 per cent. aim for level 2. He might have mentioned that more youth and adult trainees than ever before are gaining recognised qualifications and that a larger proportion of adult trainees go into jobs, further education or further training.

The fact is that the quality of training in Scotland is improving considerably.