HC Deb 10 December 1998 vol 322 cc472-3
8. Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge)

What fiscal measures he has taken to encourage the development of skills in the work force. [61752]

The Paymaster General (Mr. Geoffrey Robinson)

The £19 billion extra that the Government have found for education will lay the basis for the skills improvement that we need. Specifically, this year we are providing a further £100 million for information technology skills. Some £40 million of that will fund some 60 IT centres; £20 million will fund the provision of essential equipment for IT training; and a further £10 million will help to fund the university for industry.

Mrs. Campbell

I welcome the start-up funding that the Government have allocated to the university for industry, an exciting institution that will help to raise the skills of the unemployed and people who work in small businesses. If my hon. Friend has time, will he take a look at some of the software being developed by Cambridge Training and Development in my constituency? It has some innovative software to help adults to raise their levels of literacy and numeracy.

Mr. Robinson

I was in Cambridge this week with my hon. Friend, and was made aware of that interesting software package. That is an area that the university for industry will be anxious to develop further. Apart from what has already been made available, my hon. Friend will be pleased to learn that we will provide an extra £40 million next year to ensure that that exciting idea gets off the ground. All we are waiting for now is to hear that the Conservative Opposition oppose that, too.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)

What has the Minister to say about those who have manufacturing skills but who have lost their jobs during the past 18 months as a result of the recession made in Downing street? Would he guide those people towards gaining different skills, or would he prefer them simply to advertise their availability for hire in the yellow pages?

Mr. Robinson

We need no lectures from the Opposition about manufacturing industry. During the previous Government's self-made recession, a million jobs were lost in manufacturing, and output dropped by 7 per cent. We do not face such a prospect now. The news of an interest rate reduction, which the Opposition have failed to welcome, is very good news for manufacturing.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland)

What response would my hon. Friend give to an economist who shares his name but who is no relation, and who works for the Institute for Public Policy Research, an organisation known to both my hon. Friend and my hon. Friend the Economic Secretary to the Treasury? At the Select Committee on Education and Employment this week, Peter Robinson dismayed me by saying that there was no evidence of any return to companies for training. There was plenty of evidence that there is a return to individuals, but none of any return to companies. How does my hon. Friend respond to that?

Mr. Robinson

Peter Robinson is eponymous with my younger brother, but is no relation of my family. He is obviously out of touch with the manufacturing sector. Perhaps he was not invited to one of our seminars, but if he had attended one, he would have heard time after time from industrialists of the close link between training and both the skills and competitiveness of their companies.