§ 2.43 p.m.
§ LORD ECCLES rose to call attention to the need for widespread changes in industrial training; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I rise to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. We are all grateful to my noble and learned friend the Leader of the House for having found a day to debate a subject which touches the lives of a large number of our young people, and on which, I hasten to add, many of your Lordships are more expert 785 than myself. The Government have given us a very welcome preview in their White Paper of what they intend to do about industrial training. The general opinion of this White Paper seems to be that half a loaf is better than none. But, however one may regret that some things are left out, what is in the White Paper is of immense importance. For there, at last, we find repudiated the old doctrine that a young worker's training should be more or less exclusively the responsibility of industry, or rather—and here is the real weakness—the exclusive responsibility of the particular firm which happens to employ him. We have waited a very long time to see this, which is one of the major assumptions of the Carr Committee's Report, set aside. But the Ministry of Labour have taken the plunge, and the White Paper says officially that in future the responsibility for industrial training shall be a shared responsibility—shared, that is, between industry and the public authorities. This is the heart of the new proposals.
§ Of course, we have been moving towards this change of policy for some time now; but so long as the primary responsibility remained with industry, the education service (and that is the service chiefly concerned with this subject) has had to be something of an outsider, waiting to be called upon for help. Furthermore, nobody has been under any obligation to provide training for young people who on all counts were suitable to have it, and who wanted to have it. The system has been hit-and-miss: very good in some places, and very poor in others, and giving results which the White Paper frankly admits have fallen far short of the total demands of industry for skilled manpower; and also, I may add, far short, of what the education authorities might have achieved had they been earlier recognised as a full partner in the provision of training.
§ The policy of leaving everything to an individual firm could have worked only on two conditions: the employer had to be willing to make the arrangements for the training, and the training itself had to be adequate to the needs of his industry and of the young worker himself. The best firms have completely met this double requirement, and their training methods are first-class. But they cover only a small proportion of the field, and the real trouble is that so large a number 786 of young workers receive no training at all, or that the training they do receive falls far below what is necessary under modern conditions.
§ But now, if the main proposal of the White Paper is carried to its logical conclusion, and the public authorities become full partners with industry through out the whole field of training, then between them they will be able to build a system which in a short time will put our country on a level with, and I think ahead of, all our foreign competitors. The Government clearly intend this to happen, and that is a great advance. I am only sorry that the courage they have shown in "ditching" the old doctrine has not been equalled when they come to say what they want to put in its place. Nevertheless, it is a bold proposal, to raise a cash levy on all firms, except the very smallest, who do not provide adequate training and to supply the deficiency through technical colleges or other centralised institutions. As I understand it, the Government are now serving notice on every employer that if he cannot, or will not, do the right thing by his young workers, then the public authorities, in collaboration with the industry concerned, will do it for him, and do it partly at his expense. This is a good, solid blow, struck on behalf of the young, and it rejoices the heart.
§ But one must not disguise the fact that this system in detail will be very difficult to administer, and probably very unpopular in some quarters. Therefore it would have been better had the White Paper spelled out, with all possible clarity and enthusiasm, the dramatic difference between what we have been content with hitherto and the breadth of training now to be offered at all levels to all suitable young people. I have to say that I here find the White Paper weak and vague. We have to be satisfied with a little sketch of industrial training which reflects what is already in existence, even if it is the best in existence—training in the particular skill, with some knowledge of the basic principles of the trade. I am sure your Lordships will share my disappointment that this part of the White Paper is written so narrowly from the joint view of the Ministry of Labour and the employers.
§ Take, for example, the first section, which bases the whole case for action on 787 the need to increase the supply of craftsmen and technicians. We are told that everything is to be done to meet economic needs and technological developments. One understands how anxious the Ministry, and industry in general, must be to fill the vacancies for skilled manpower. So are we all, my Lords. But what of the craftsmen and the technicians, not to mention the semi-skilled workers? How much does the White Paper try to make them feel that they count in all these great reforms? Every single one of these badly wanted recruits for industry is a young and immature person, a mere boy or girl, to whom Parliament has a duty that goes beyond their industrial training. They have wider educational needs, and I am convinced—and I believe all responsible people in the world of education would agree with me—that unless these wider needs are met at the same time, combining their vocational and non-vocational education, industry will not get the kind of young workers it wants, and the young people themselves will not be equipped to seize the multiplying opportunities of the modern world.
§ I missed in the White Paper any reference to the ambitions, the difficulties and the human predicament of the young. I wanted the Government to appeal to us for support for a policy that was at once efficient and sympathetic, human and patriotic. But in the White Paper their appeal is based wholly on economics. I hoped that they would ask us to give the tools to the young to make their careers a success, their leisure enjoyable, and their country stronger and more lively than it has ever been. This, of course, would imply a much wider form of training for the new entrant to industry than the average of apprenticeships as we know them to-day. Of course, apprenticeships used to be different. Maybe we have lost some the good features. For example, the medieval guilds insisted that the apprentice's master should be firmly placed in the position of a parent. The boy himself was bound not to play cards or marry, or otherwise misbehave. Under this system the master looked after his conduct and welfare while he taught him his trade. Of course, I know that times have changed, and that we cannot go back to the authoritarian relationships of the Middle Ages.788
§ But the young are still young, and how many of them can really fend for themselves in that gap between leaving school and reaching maturity, when the growing pains are sharpest? Have they really changed so much that they no longer need looking after? Some firms—we could all name one or two—look after their new entrants in an admirably comprehensive way. They know full well that vocational training is not enough in the interests of the young worker, or in their own. They take very great trouble to develop his career and his character in all its aspects. But they are in a small minority. Many more firms would say that they do not have the resources, or that it is not their business, to teach young workers things which bring no direct benefit to their shareholders. There is force in these arguments, and your Lordships may wish to admit it. But, even so, does it follow that it is no longer anybody's business to act as a good parent towards the boy of 15 when he first goes out to work? I think it wrong to treat these young people—they are really not much more than children—as if they were adult employees. They should be cared for more like pupils and members of a family. One hopes that firms—and there must be thousands of them—who cannot undertake any part of a parent's responsibility will recognise that the duty still exists, and will generously support those who can help to fill the gap, the churches, the youth service and the education authorities.
§ The most complete way in which boys and girls of this age can both be looked after and learn something useful is for them to stay on in full-time education beyond the age of 15. I shall be arguing in a moment that it would pay industry from the strictly financial point of view to encourage all children to stay on in full-time education beyond 15, but I want first to say a word about the other advantages to be gained by an extra year or two in school or college. Why do parents who pay for their children's education, often at a great sacrifice to themselves, not take them away at 15? Very largely because they expect benefits of character and self-confidence to come from those last years at school, as well as better academic qualifications. I cannot believe that the children who go to the maintained 789 schools would find these benefits any less important in their lives when they afterwards go into industry. It is their future we are considering this afternoon. We surely can say that industry would gain very much from the more mature outlook, the greater knowledge, the greater powers of communication which the young workers would derive from a longer period in school and from a longer time in the top positions of their school. Unfortunately, the White Paper gives no hint that staying on at school, or the problems of looking after the young, have anything to do with industrial training. But the truth is, my Lords, that the links between the schools and the technical colleges, and between both and industry, are the most vital relationships in the whole system of training and education for an industrial career.
§ To come now to the training itself, I think the most disturbing fact is the low quality of the training which so many young people receive. I take the engineering industry. There was a time when a craftsman took great pride in training an apprentice to be thoroughly competent in his craft. But now, one is sorry to see, many craftsmen—and it is not their own fault—are unable to maintain the old standards. Very likely they are on piece-work and so cannot spare the time to train an apprentice; if they did they would lose their bonus. Worse still, restrictive practices and job demarcation can themselves stop the craftsman from giving them any practical training in the production shop. This has to be done, if it is done at all, somewhere else, and this is very difficult for the smaller firm to arrange. These handicaps are self-imposed by industry. They are no credit to either side and they can do real harm; because when a boy can only watch what others do and is not allowed to practise it himself it is small wonder if he becomes "browned off" and perhaps even demoralised. I do not know whether employers and trade unions can be persuaded to remove these frustrations. That would help very much. I believe that there are men on both sides of industry who wish to remove them, and we should encourage them.
§ My Lords, all this is especially necessary, because it is inevitable as things go on that a larger proportion 790 of industrial training will have to be given outside the factory, in some technical college, and for a reason which is familiar to your Lordships. It is this. To-day's recruit to industry has to adjust himself during his working life to many new labour-saving developments and many new discoveries, few of which can be foreseen during his period of training. So it is just as important that he should be equipped for technical change as that he should master the skill needed for his first job. The White Paper makes this point very well and, in paragraph 15, advocates a more systematic training in the basic principles of the trade.
§ The apprentices employed by progressive firms to-day receive such a comprehensive training. But one has to admit that the majority do not, and perhaps one reason for this weakness is the old distinction between training and technical education. It is an unreal distinction. It has crept into the White Paper and it mars some of the best passages in it. There may once have been something valid in separating principles and practice, but there is nothing now. A boy needs both and it ought to be a matter of convenience whether either part of his training would come in the works or in a college. As the technical age proceeds the educational element in training is bound to increase, and it does not make sense any longer to plan vocational and non-vocational training in separate compartments.
§ I hear on all hands how the young worker to-day ought to study more the uses of the English language. I hear that he ought to learn some general economies, something about the structure of industry or perhaps a foreign langage. Once that sort of thing is accepted and a broadening of the training becomes desirable, then some very important administrative consequences follow, and they are not quite clearly drawn in this White Paper. There are very few firms who have the resources to teach basic science mathematics or languages, and therefore either boys and girls must be encouraged to stay longer at school or arrangements must be made for the courses to be given in a technical college.
§ Naturally, one effect of providing a better general education will be that many boys and girls will not be ready to enter industry at 16. I hope industry 791 will be prepared to modify the entrance arrangement to suit the school-leaving dates. Some firms do it now. But, my Lords, how often I have come across the opposite! How often I have seen a child compelled to leave school before taking the G.C.E. rather than miss a job which can be started only at 16. It is not right, and this is one reason why the whole system of apprenticeships must now be reviewed.
§ I do not look for a new set of rules of apprenticeship to govern the whole country. Of course we do not want that, and the White Paper is certainly wise in saying that each industry must work out its own apprenticeship system for itself. All the same, I think it must be true that in nearly all industries to-day five years is too long to learn one unionised skill, and one skill is not enough to last a lifetime. One hopes that the industry boards will recommend shorter periods for apprenticeships and, within those periods, more full-time education. My own view is that that full-time education is best given directly after leaving school. I know that the Minister of Labour himself is firmly resolved to see that major changes in the apprentice system shall be made, and he will need all the support we can give him.
§ I hope he is also going to promote better training for semi-skilled workers. At present there are five young people entering industry for every one apprentice. A suitable training for a large proportion of these so-called unskilled boys and girls would promote better production, lower labour turnover, lower scrap rates, and ensure better safety on the job. It would also help to remove that sense of inferiority at being left behind, which drives some boys to try to get their own back by aggressive behaviour. If we could provide them with a little training they would think they counted, and their behaviour would be very much better.
§ However, taken together, apprentices and non-apprentices, several hundred thousand young people enter industry every year and the question arises: under whose auspices and in what type of institution should this vast number of young people be given that part of the industrial training which cannot be given in the factory 792 itself? This problem, which is approached in the White Paper, needs considerably more thought; and I am very doubtful about the proposal in paragraph 10, that the industry boards should set up their own training centres, for these would inevitably come into competition with the technical college. This is an idea derived from that old distinction between training and education which in my judgment, is no longer valid.
§ It would seem to me to be a serious mistake, for several reasons. We are going to be desperately short of teachers, full-time and part-time, and we know from experience that the best use can be made of those we can attract by recruiting them and deploying them through one system, where the maximum opportunity can be provided for their promotion and also for research into training methods. We know also that young students benefit very much from attending a large college where they can mix with others who are taking courses related to different industries and where they have a wide choice of social activities. In such a college it is possible to provide a common service in liberal studies, and I cannot overstress to your Lordships how important that can be.
§ There is another practical reason, and that is the problem of residential versus day courses. No Government or industry in the foreseeable future will be able to afford to set up a great network of hostels when the teaching plant itself so desperately needs expansion, and the young workers in many industries—and agriculture comes to mind—are scattered up and down the country. They must have day courses, and it is far easier to provide them with day courses through the technical colleges than in isolated training centres set up hereafter by one industry or another. However these problems of accommodation may be solved, a very large building programme is going to be called for. The Government simply must not wait until the training boards are set up and then wait again to hear what the training boards recommend before they authorise a large expansion in places both for the students and for training technical teachers.
§ We know now (no one is more glad of it than myself) that in spite of the big programme in hand—and there is something like £100 million worth of work 793 in progress in the technical colleges for England and Wales—shortages of places are beginning to appear in several of our large cities: in London and in Coventry for example. Even on present plans these shortages are bound to increase; and so, if we are serious about the proposals in the White Paper, an immediate expansion in building and staffing becomes essential. I beg my noble friend to believe that swift action on this point will be taken as an outward and visible symbol of how much the Government mind about their proposals in the White Paper.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Lord to clarify a point in his extremely interesting argument. I did not quite follow what he was advocating as between residential and day courses. Is the choice in his mind between full-time residential and full-time non-residential courses; or, when he is talking about day courses, is he meaning day release? I do not think he quite got his argument across.
§ LORD ECCLES
I am grateful for the intervention. What I was advocating is simply this. I know there are many thousands of young people who will want to get technical education of one kind and another in the near future. It is not possible to build residential accommodation for these young people. Therefore I feel we must go for the day places, because time is short. I am not at all meaning that the clay places should be part-time. I hope, and I think everyone connected with the technical college world hopes, that full-time courses will become a larger proportion of the whole. Personally, I have always believed in block release against day release, but if the boy can live at home and go every day to take his course, that is the best we can hope for. No doubt in time we shall be able to build hostels, but it is impractical to think we can in the near future meet problems of this size by residential courses; and in my judgment that knocks out the proposal of the White Paper for isolated training centres set up by individual industries.
I was saying that the cost of the proposals will be very great. A contribution will come front the levy taken from those who do not themselves provide adequate training. But who can doubt that the Government will have to under- 794 write a very large part of this programme? I hope the Government will not forget that industry is about to pay very much more in local rates and that half these extra local rates will go straight to education—and a good thing, too! I can think of no expenditure of public money which could better be described as an investment in prosperity and happiness. Yet I cannot feel sure, remembering old battles and few victories, that the money will be there on time. Old habits of thought persist, and in some quarters education is still looked on as an article of consumption, something on which it is wrong of us to ask for more unless we are richer and can afford it out of income, like a better wardrobe or a longer holiday. But science and technology have turned that concept of education upside down. Education to-day is an article of production, something which has to be paid for in advance of the growth of national output of which it is itself the chief instrument. Here one sees the real difference from the other social services, which can properly be regarded as a fruit on the tree of prosperity; but education and training are the soil in which it grows.
Before returning for one moment to the theme which I started with, there is just one question I should like to ask the Government, and it is vital to the whole of this discussion. What do they intend to do if an industry says it has no use for a training board? Will they then accept defeat and let things remain as they are, or will they take power in the Bill to do it some other way? Then when there is a board, how tough will they be with that board if it fails to provide adequate training? It would be a tragedy if the promise to do the right thing by our young workers remained in the White Paper, a gesture of good will and nothing more, I know my noble friend shares my feelings on this subject and I hope he will be able to give us a clear answer this afternoon.
There are many other issues raised in the Whtie Paper on which I should dearly have liked to trespass on your Lordships' time—such as the tests for apprenticeships and the retraining of redundant workers—but I thought it better to concentrate upon an appeal for a wider look at the whole of industrial training, and that from the young workers' point of view, and briefly I come back to that in 795 conclusion. My Lords, the cry all around us is that British industry must become more efficient. We are bidden to shake off complacency, to get rid of restrictive practices and to raise productivity. Yet when the ordinary man is impressed by the justice of these strictures, and in good faith inquires how precisely all this is to be done, the answers which he receives inspire no enthusiasm. Perhaps that is because these answers are so largely the medicine of professional economics: that purchase tax is to be cut, investment allowances are to be increased, tariffs lowered, and so on. Intellectually there may be a case for every one of these measures, but none of them convinces the ordinary man that the future is going to be better; not one of them stirs him to a fresh personal effort.
In these circumstances, might it not be better to go behind economic policies, and roundly to say that from now onwards we will make the character and the skill of those who do the work, managers, technicians, operatives, the spearhead of our plans and a first charge upon our resources, taking special care of all the young now entering industry on whom the vigour of the economy must so soon depend? Any of your Lordships who shares this view will welcome the White Paper, because in it the Government promise to go into partnership with industry and provide better industrial training. But for whom, and for what purpose? The White Paper gives us half the answer—the economic half, and nothing more.
So I ask my noble friend to tell us, when they take this great step forward whose champion will the Government be? I hope he will say that they will be the champion of the young, of all the millions of boys and girls who cannot proceed from school to university but must go out, early, to work. I have tried to show that this is the true rôle—the champion of the young—of the Government in this business. It we thought it right, and if we did not shrink from the expense, we know that we could do much more than we are doing now to help young people to make the best of their talents at work and to build good homes for their families. On their side, each generation of school leavers knows better than the last how much they are missing when we have not adequately provided 796 for their further education. They are going to see, in the action taken on this White Paper, a test of how this Parliament understood and cared for their future. And for the public at large the coming legislation on industrial training can be the best of all proofs that Britain is not dropping out of the race but is set upon educating her children to lead interesting and full lives, and to maintain the influence and the honour of their country. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.25 p.m.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, we should, I think, welcome the Motion of the noble Lord; and I am grateful for the opportunity of discussing in your Lordships' House this most vital question, especially having regard to the White Paper (Cmnd. 1892) outlining the Government's proposals for industrial training. While there may be argument on the detailed proposals of the White Paper, it is surely a welcome sign that at long last there are prospects that the potential skills and possibilities of our manpower resources are to be harnessed and brought up to a higher level of efficiency.
It is a sad thing to have to say, but we in this country are woefully behind in this respect, and there can be no disagreement with the Government's objectives, which are to enable industrial training to be better related to industrial needs, to improve the overall quality of training, and to spread the cost more evenly over industry. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, pointed out that there is nobody in this country in industry under any obligation to do any training at all, and it is now generally accepted that the training of our young men and women has been much neglected over the years; and we can fairly lay at the door of this neglect any of the major shortcomings that there may be in our industrial performance.
It is now five years since serious attention was focused nationally on this question by the inquiry and findings of what is now referred to as the Carr Committee; and if there is any justification for the criticism now being levelled at the Carr Committee, that it did not go far enough, it was not altogether the fault of the Committee. The Committee faithfully considered and reported on the information and evidence it was able to 797 gather. That evidence was extremely limited. The Committee was unable to obtain any reliable statistics concerning numbers of skilled personnel, numbers of apprentices or estimates of future requirements. The Carr Committee Report tells us, at page 10, that few industries were able to give any information at all in regard to these matters. This fact alone clearly demonstrates how haphazard the approach to this question has been.
The fact is that now, five years after the publication of the Carr Report, industrial training is to a large extent subject to the good will of industry and individual firms. We should be grateful to those progressive industries and firms who have in the past fostered training schemes at great cost; trained trainees not only for their own requirements but also for other firms which have selfishly neglected to carry out any training at all, although many of them have always been able financially and even now are quite able to do so. The time has come now to make them pay without much more loss of time. The stark fact is that there is yet no plan, no system, no co-ordination, and the most tragic disability in the industrial system is the fact that the vast proportion of our young people receive no opportunity for training at all.
The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, pointed out that for every one trained apprentice there are five young people who are destined to be unskilled or labourers, or at best semi-skilled and picking up their training as best they can. It was because of this sorry state of affairs that, following the Can Report, the National Training Council was formed five years ago. In some quarters there are those who are trying to make a scapegoat of the National Training Council. It is said that notwithstanding the progress it has undoubtedly made in some directions, it has achieved not nearly enough. It has not done so because it has been hamstrung from the start. Here the Government must accept their share of responsibility because, to finance this massive task confronting the Council, to encourage and foster training schemes throughout industry, commerce and distribution, all the Government could see their way to contribute was £75,000 over three years—not enough to pay for an office and an administrative staff.
798 I anticipate that the noble Viscount who will speak for the Government will say that even this small sum was not fully expended by the Council. That is quite correct. But the reason is that the National Training Council was able to offer such miserable financial assistance to the various industries towards the cost of inaugurating training schemes that there was little response. At one stage when I was a member of the National Training Council we invited industries to participate and, after two or three months, we received just two inquiries.
My Lords, running like a thread through this pattern is the fact that many good, progressive firms become discouraged over the years through constantly having workers whom they have trained at considerable cost filched by other firms, prosperous firms making substantial profits but taking no part in training at all. These unco-operative firms have found it cheaper to pay "over the odds" to seduce trained labour, than to pay their share of training expenses. Those are the firms that we must tackle and compel to pay their share, not only in their own interest but in the interest of the nation. If I may digress for a moment, this conduct is not dissimilar from that of firms who make substantial calls on imported raw materials, and take no interest whatsoever in exports. This is a matter which might occupy us on some other occasion.
My Lords, we have now arrived at the stage where we cannot afford another five years of abortive exploration. If we want skilled workers in sufficient volume tomorrow we must train them today, and we should therefore welcome this White Paper. I should like to refer to certain of its proposals. It is proposed that statutory boards should be set up in individual industries, after consultation with both sides of the industry. But there are probably between 100 and 150 different industries, and it would appear to be fantastic that a separate board should be set up in each of so many industries. But assuming that only certain industries are to have a statutory board (and I am led to believe that it is only in a few of the main industries that boards are likely to be established: the noble Viscount can probably inform us on this point), it would be a serious omission if no provision were made for all the other important manufacturing industries.
799 In any case, my Lords, a controlling and co-ordinating authority seems to be essential. A central authority would be able to carry out one of the first basic requirements: an estimation of the requirements of skilled personnel in the various grades and occupations; how these are likely to change; and what requirements are likely to be in the years ahead. Without this information, how on earth can the statutory boards plan the volume and variation of training which should be provided for? If individual boards are to embark unilaterally on training schemes, how will they know whether they are under-training, over-training or overlapping with other boards?
My Lords, I can think of at least three industries whose skilled personnel is common to all industries to some degree. There is no one who can define the boundaries of the engineering industry or the boundaries of the chemical industry. With modern developments industries are becoming mixed—not quite as definitive as they used to be some years ago. The three industries of which I speak are engineering, the building trade and electricity. Most, if not all, establishments in the country—industrial, administrative and distributive—need maintenance engineers, building trade craftsmen, and electricians. There are probably more skilled electricians outside the electricity industry than inside. Who should be responsible for training the many thousands of maintenance craftsmen?
The great difficulty up to now has been that, although the engineering and building industries have been doing a great deal of training, other industries who use engineering maintenance men and building trade craftsmen have taken the men trained in those industries and thus created a shortage of trained men. As a result, some have become very discouraged. Will the electricity industry train only for its own requirements, with other industries training their own electricians; or will the engineering industry train personnel to provide for all the maintenance engineers in other industries, and the building trades industry train to provide for all the maintenance building trade craftsmen in other industries? Without a controlling central board there could be confusion worse confounded.
I should like to make one remark on trade union co-operation. I would say 800 to the trade unions, particularly the craft unions, that it is absolutely vital that they should co-operate in the training of young people in those crafts. I sincerely trust they will—in fact, I am sure that many of them will do so. But trade unions, particularly some of the smaller craft unions, are more likely to accept training and co-operate in training schemes if they know that there is some central co-ordinating authority which is safeguarding the possibility of over-training in any particular craft, with the possibility of redundancy. This question of redundancy, of not being able to work at one's craft, is a real one, and I am sure that if it is shown, as is said in some of these publications, that we are short of 20,000 engineering craftsmen and a similar number of building trades craftsmen, then these unions will be more likely to co-operate.
I would ask the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, to tell us whether the possibility has been considered of linking up these proposed industrial boards with regional boards covering areas of supervision, not dissimilar from the regional boards for industry which now exist. Such boards would be invaluable in assessing, from first-hand information, local requirements and the volume and type of training required. A great deal of the training in the North-East, for instance, will be quite different from that required in, say, the North-West; or that in the Midlands from that required in South Wales. If only a few industries are to have statutory boards, I believe that regional boards to cover all training for all industries—which I think was in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, in part of his speech—would be more comprehensive and would prove to be more adequate and efficient.
The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, mentioned the question of centres and technical colleges. Surely it is not envisaged that the electricity industry, the engineering industry and the chemical industry should each have their own colleges. There could be comprehensive buildings providing training for many trades in the same industry. So, my Lords, after much thought I myself have reached the conclusion that, whether or not we agree now, we shall be forced to agree in the future to have a statutory central national training council, with statutory regional training councils to cover all industrial training; and these need not inhibit or 801 prevent any industry or firm from having its own training facilities.
The financing of these schemes is, of course, all-important, and the Command Paper proposes a levy on firms in the particular industry for which a statutory board is established. What about those firms and industries for which a statutory board is not to be appointed? Presumably they are not to be subject to a levy, notwithstanding that they are employing skilled personnel and are probably making no contribution at all to training. This is precisely the trouble now, and what the White Paper proposes is to rectify this disability. Why not a training levy on all firms? It is the Government's responsibility to assure adequate finance, one way or the other. Why not a bold and imaginative scheme now? I have been looking at the evidence from Sweden. In Sweden, municipal vocational schools and works schools receive substantial State subsidies. In France there are 26 centres run by the State with State subsidies. I have been privileged to have a look at one or two of them, and they are very good. They are not taking five years to train many of these craftsmen for some industries, such as the building trade; they are taking something like twelve or eighteen months, and giving them training in more than one particular section of the trade. There is a wages tax levied in France of 0.4 per cent. of all wages, and this is levied on firms whether or not they engage apprentices.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, would my noble friend allow me to interrupt him just before he leaves this point? I think he will agree that there are in this country firms which have excellent apprenticeship schemes and training schemes. He surely would not suggest that they also should pay a levy on top of their own schemes?
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
Yes, my Lords. I agree that there are progressive firms which have these training schemes. The levy could be paid and then there could be rebates; that would be the easiest way of doing it. Or they could be relieved from the levy if they could show that they were carrying out training.
§ LORD WILLIAMSON
My Lords, in Germany apprenticeship schools are maintained out of public funds. In Holland apprenticeship schemes are arranged by joint industrial committees, which receive a subsidy of 70 per cent. from the Central Government and 30 per cent. from local authorities. The Dutch Government paid £1 million recently for the training of 52,000 apprentices. What about us? A very small levy of a half of 1 per cent. on the wages in this country would bring in £45 million; or a quarter of 1 per cent. would bring in over £20 million. Why then should we not go the whole hog? If in the future there are going to be wage increases from year to year of 3 or 4 per cent., is it going to be a really serious impost on industry to meet a charge of a quarter of 1 per cent., which after all is going to be a profitable investment?
I will not take up any more of your Lordships' time. I believe that our national and economic salvation will depend more in the future than it has in the past on our industrial performance; and our greatest asset will be the skills inventiveness, genius and efficiency of our manpower. Financial resources put into the training of our young men and women will be the nation's most profitable investment, from which the nation will reap rich dividends in the years to come.