HL Deb 11 February 1963 vol 246 cc804-76

3.50 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, we have listened to two very fine but sharply contrasting speeches from my noble friend below the gangway and the noble Lord opposite. My noble friend starts from a very strongly educational bias which to some extent I personally share, having been for a large part of my life the governor of a technical college and having long family connections with that side of the matter. The noble Lord, Lord Williamson, starts from what I might call a wide experience of industry. Both points of view seem to me to be necessary and legitimate; but I thought to some extent that my noble friend's feelings on the subject of education led him to make criticisms of the White Paper which were not altogether just.

I absolutely agree with both noble Lords who have spoken that the more one thinks of it the more certain it becomes that one, at least, of the limiting factors on the growth of our economy is the shortage of skilled people. I would absolutely agree with my noble friend that if one is to use the expression "skilled people" in any rational sense, one must not limit oneself to the products of craft apprenticeship. On the contrary, one of the most serious limitations of growth, although I doubt whether it could be measured in any terms of statistics, may lie in the quality of top management. We feel—at least, I feel, and I think the House will agree with me—that in this country we have in the past largely neglected the field of management studies, and that we are suffering for it now and will continue to suffer for it for many years after the neglect has ceased.

I also agree with my noble friend that in assessing the question of industrial training in its wider sense one cannot ignore the importance of a good general education in the modern world. It is quite impossible, even if it were desirable—and I would agree with my noble friend that it is not desirable—to face really skilled labour with even the vocational problems which they have to face unless they have the basis of a sound general education. In that connection I would agree with my noble friend in what he said about the importance of staying on at school, whether that school be a grammar school or any other kind of school: the importance, too, even after leaving school, of attending a college of further education or a technical college to obtain courses of a kind which could not ordinarily be administered within the ambit of craft apprenticeship. I thought, if I may say so, that my noble friend was quite right in emphasising these aspects of the matter. I would also say that in any rational definition of "industrial training" one would have to count the graduates and technologists who received their degrees at university or college of advanced technology or other college of further education of whatever standard. The technicians—the new and developing and rather ill-defined class which is a characteristic of really modern industry—would have to be included as well.

Therefore, I do not in the least complain of the philosophy which my noble friend brought to bear upon this subject. Furthermore, although to isolate the issue of craft apprenticeship and industrial training in a narrower sense may to some extent be artificial, I think it is inevitable, arid I do not myself accept it as a criticism of the White Paper, at any rate to the degree which my noble friend insisted, that the White Paper does isolate industrial training in the narrower sense to the extent to which it does. After all, as noble Lords will know, and as I think the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, appreciated by inference, craft apprenticeship in this country, which is a matter of long institution, has in practice been isolated for a very long time, at any rate to some extent. A craftsman enters work for an employer, normally for five years, either at a special apprentice school or directly in the shop of his own firm side by side with skilled men. The training of the craft apprentice is, in fact, principally undertaken by industry, and has been for many years; and the characteristic feature of it which is of vital interest to the trade unions is, of course, that there must be an employer, because wages must be paid and paid in full. The trade unions insist upon this, because they do not desire what they call the dilution of skilled labour which would otherwise be effected if this were not the case.

It is therefore inevitable that one should to some extent isolate the administration of craft apprenticeship in a White Paper of this character, although I fully agree with my noble friend in his feeling that the approach to the subject should relate it to general education and should be characterised by a warm and human approach to the whole matter, remembering that it is in many ways the young with whom we have to deal.


My Lords, would the noble Viscount forgive me for interrupting? It is accepted, and has been, that the training of technicians and graduates is the Government's responsibility and that the other training of craftsmen is industry's problem. This is what the White Paper is about.


I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who has really put in a nutshell what I was probably intending to put but was succeeding in putting less concisely. To some extent, therefore, it is inevitable that we should discuss this latter question, which, as my noble friend and as the White Paper recognise, is a partnership between the Government, represented both by the education authorities and the Minister of Labour, and industry itself.

It is with this, therefore, that I will' concern myself in the main during the course of my remarks. Is the training plant for industry adequate? I agree with what is implicit in the White Paper and with the two noble Lords who have spoken hitherto, that the answer is "Manifestly not". Do enough people go into apprenticeship? That is the first question. I am sure the answer is still No; although, in spite of the difficult time which industry is having, it is fair to add that more boys are going into apprenticeship—last year 121,500—than ever before. I think it is fair to say, too, that, whatever might be the general figure for both sexes, last year the proportion was not one in five, as noble Lords have said, but one in three—or, rather, very nearly one in three; over 30 and under 33 per cent.

I think for this purpose one is entitled to take boys because, whether it should be or not, apprenticeship is very largely a male speciality. I think these improved figures reflect an increasing awareness on the part of all concerned of the importance of skilled training; and I think they reflect great credit on the I.T.C., with which my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton has been associated, and its regional boards. But I am equally sure that it is not enough. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that each industry, and each firm within each industry, including Government Departments has an obligation to play its full part in industrial training. Of course, the White Paper, by proposing to impose a levy, recognises that compulsion is necessary in order to see that they do perform that duty.

While I would accept what my noble friend Lord Eccles has said about the development of the Carr doctrine—it is, I think on the second page of the White Paper—one must go on insisting that the obligation rests upon industry, and recognise that their obligation is certainly not less, and may be more, precisely in proportion as the partnership with Government has been recognised. A firm or an industry which does not play its appropriate part in training skilled labour is failing to develop the economy as it should be developed; and insofar as it is employing skilled labour which it has not trained, it is simply living on the efforts of others. Unless we remedy this our plans will be geared to failure, and not success.

One must also emphasise the close relationship between full employment and skilled labour. When I was Minister of Education I used to get into great trouble for saying that we were moving into the age of the qualified man. In those days it was easy for a boy leaving school to earn £8 to £9 a week in an unskilled job. It is, of course, a great temptation still to do so, even though there is unemployment. It was less profitable then, in the short run, either to stay at school or to take up an apprenticeship. But, with some exceptions to which I will turn in due course, the unemployed are the unskilled. Unemployment among the unskilled is far higher than among the skilled. It follows, therefore, that anyone who does not do his best to ensure that a boy or a girl takes up a skilled occupation, or gets some technical or graduate status, is doing him or her an ill turn.

But it is an even more important point that skilled workers create employment for unskilled workers as well as for themselves. To employ unskilled workers usefully, you need a cadre of skilled men around which to employ the unskilled. It follows that a shortage of skilled workers can be—in my opinion, even now—a cause of unemployment. Even now in the North-East, which I have just been visiting, there is a shortage of borers, precision fitters, tool makers and setter operators of all types. I am sure that, if Government policy succeeds—and we all wish that it will—there will be a shortage of skilled craftsmen in many more of the engineering skills and most of the building skills lone before we have absorbed the existing army of unskilled unemployed, and even before the shipbuilding industry makes its highly desirable recovery.

Of course, I realise the difficulty of small firms in supporting adequate apprenticeship schemes. The answer may be a group training scheme. I learnt while in the North-East that both the two I.C.I. apprentice schools, and at least one other, were not running at full capacity, and that the firms concerned would be willing to put the spare capacity of their plant at the disposal of the public—assuming, of course, that the wages of the extra apprentices were paid by the appropriate source and that adequate arrangements were made. This is something we should take advantage of, and my right honourable friend has already put some resources at the disposal of the region to accept this offer. But in the end, of course, I wish candidly to admit that, in my judgment, the existing plant is less than adequate.

I also draw attention to the problem created as regards apprentices when a firm shuts down and the apprentices concerned thereby break their training. In the main, I know, the unions and other employers recognise in such cases a moral obligation. But cases have been brought to my attention in which the apprentices have been temporarily left high and dry. It is here that the rule that there must be a sponsoring employer hits hardest. Moreover, in an area of high unemployment, it is cruel if a boy cannot find apprenticeship before he is too old, under the existing rules, to admit him. This is a social injustice which we have no right to inflict; and no one, Government, employers, or union, can rest happy so long as there is a possibility that it can be inflicted. In parenthesis, at this stage I would ask: are we facing the problem of adult retraining sufficiently seriously? Because this must be within the terms of my noble friend's Motion. Again I must answer, "No". Obviously, it is possible to exaggerate the extent of the problem involved. Clearly, some skills are interchangeable. In other cases, union skills cross the boundaries of industries. A plumber is a plumber whether he is plumbing in a house or a ship; and there are many kinds of engineering skills (to mention only one point) inside the coalmining industry.

But, my Lords, we must not blind ourselves to the existence of a real problem; and here I must make one blunt, brutal point. It is quite morally unacceptable that a man who in middle age becomes redundant should join the ranks of the unskilled for the rest of his life. If he wants to be received, and can be trained to an adequate level, then facilities should exist or be created, and other unions should accept this with generosity and compassion. I want to deal with this matter with great delicacy, because I know how deep are the feelings which have to be overcome. But we must make some progress in this direction; it is not good enough to fail to do so. The need for retraining is going to be a normal feature of industrial life. The second industrial revolution is going to make changes of skill more frequent, even in periods of full employment.

Here, my Lords, I have one partial failure to report. Last year my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour announced his intention of opening three new small centres (two in Scotland and one in North-East England) in areas which will be particularly affected by coalmining redundancy. The A.E.U. did not oppose these proposals in principle, provided that the Ministry obtained the agreement of the local officials. Despite protracted discussions this agreement has not been forthcoming. In the building industry one union, the Woodworkers, agreed in principle to this retraining of redundant men. The other unions concerned, those for bricklayers, plumbers, painters and plasterers, refused to agree. Despite these difficulties my right honourable friend intends to go ahead with these new training centres and to introduce classes in building trades at centres already in being. He is giving greater encouragement to suitable men who have become redundant to undertake training, rather than to go into unskilled employment, by raising substantially the training allowances paid to men at training centres. A single man now receives £7 10s. as against £5 10s. previously; a man with a wife and two children gets £9 as against £8. These allowances are not subject to taxation or to reduction for National Insurance contribution. I would ask the House to say that we must press on and ask public opinion to support us.

I return to apprenticeship—the age of entry, length of course, content of course and facilities available. I agree with noble Lords that employers have simply got to realise that 16 is too early an age for a boy to lose his training chances for the whole of his life. I agree with what my noble friend said about the value of his staying on at school. The fact is that within certain limits of capacity and demand for skills, in a free society a young man has a right to be trained in the skill of his choice. Neither Government nor management, nor trade union, has really a right to deny him the choice of his own occupation or the means of acquiring the necessary skills to pursue it. Moreover, he may wish to turn to acquire a skill after a preliminary error in rushing after an unskilled job. Still more, he may be thrown out of work by technical changes or alterations in the pattern and structure of industry. It is vital that both industry and unions should accept these circumstances as part of our industrial life and I repeat that employers really must learn that their refusal to take young apprentices of over 16 is not in accordance with the public interest. It is simply an incitement to leave school early.

I am bound to say that I agree with the views expressed by, I think, both noble Lords, but certainly by the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, that the current length of apprenticeship is too long at five years, and, apart from that, the ages between which it is received are absurdly rigid. I agree that laymen in any profession tend to underestimate the time it takes to get professional skill, but during the war it took us only a matter of months to train a Spitfire pilot and I decline to believe that it takes five years to train a bricklayer, especially as the normal period abroad, whore the children are no more intelligent than ours, is three years and not five, as the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said. Moreover, I entirely agree with what has been said about the value of the particular training received and the standard of achievement at the end of it.

It is no longer satisfactory that the main criterion in the definition of a craftsman is that he has (to use the cant expression) "served his time". Some training is very good indeed, but there is no guarantee of this. In the absence of properly detailed syllabuses and of some way of testing the adequacy of training given and received, the term "time-served apprentices" may mean anything or nothing. The fact is that the actual content of apprenticeship courses has been insufficiently surveyed. Modern methods of conveying information have developed in a revolutionary way in recent years. Pre-apprenticeship courses in school or colleges of further education can largely take the place of the early months of years of apprenticeship, as my noble friend pointed out. It is a pity that they are not yet generally allowed to do so.

My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour has taken a strong personal interest in this question. Some eighteen months ago, he approached the engineering and construction industries and asked them to take a fresh look at their training arrangements, not only as regards apprenticeships, but both as regards age of entry and as regards length of course and quality of training. I know that it is his view that a strong lead is required from the centre of different industries. Proper standards need to be established, syllabuses drawn up, and steps taken to see that these are actually put into practice in individual firms. For some occupations, new forms of training altogether are needed. The training of technicians, for example, has received far less attention than it deserves. At present, a tech- nician is often either a promoted craftsman or a failed engineer.

I do not know how far to describe my right honourable friend's efforts as a success. Last summer, the construction industries agreed to give regional committees authority to reduce the period of training from five years to four years. But so far only three regions have taken advantage of this. Among those who refused are the Northern, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire, Eastern and Southern Midlands, North-Western and Scotland. The construction industry has also decided to commission a three-year study of its occupational requirements and the effect these will have on training. This is a far-sighted move, and I commend both sides of the industry for agreeing to it. But I sincerely wish they would do a little more.

What is disappointing is that the engineering industry has so far done nothing. It is still deliberating. This is particularly disappointing on the North-East Coast because, as I said before, the biggest shortage of craftsmen is in engineering. Even at present there is a shortage of some grades of craftsmen, which I have enumerated, a shortage which would become serious if present industry were to revive to its former level, and still more serious if considerable numbers of new firms were introduced. Only last week, the Ministry of Labour official who was accompanying me told me of an inquiry from a firm who wanted to come up North but wished an immediate availability of 200 of the rarest type of craftsmen. So, even with a high rate of unemployment skill can be a limiting factor in growth.

This brings me to the White Paper proposals. All these considerations—the continuing shortage of skill, the need to improve the quality of training, the failure of industry in some cases to put its own house in order, and the success of the courses in Government training centres and technical colleges—have convinced the Government that, in the words of the White Paper. the time has come to strengthen and improve the existing partnership between industry, the Government and the educational authorities in the provision of industrial training". I agree with my noble friend's argument that for the Carr doctrine, as it was accepted in 1958, there ought now to be substituted the view that industrial training is a partnership between industry, Government and the education authorities. It will be argued with a good deal of force that this ought to have been done a long time ago. To this position, I oppose only two arguments. The first is that the most pressing task of recent years was to make sure that industry increased the amount of training it did in order to cope with the so-called bulge and that to make radical changes at the time would have interfered with this object. The second argument is that industrial opinion itself is only too little prepared to change in this field and has only showed signs of moving in the last two years in favour of Government playing a more active rôle. This is a compelling argument, but I am not sure that it reflects credit either on us or on them.

Your Lordships will already be familiar with the proposals in detail and therefore I do not wish to deal with them at any length. I should, however, like to bring out the features in the White Paper which give the Government ground for the belief that the scheme proposed is sound and workable. It will be our aim to make full use of the existing facilities for training in colleges of further education, in training establishments provided by firms and in Government training centres themselves. This to some extent deals with one of the points raised by my noble friend in the course of his speech. This can be achieved, in our view, only if proper standards and training syllabuses are established and if, generally, a systematic policy is formulated in such matters as admission to training courses, their length and provision for attendance at further education establishments. It seems to us that this kind of objective can be reached only if the burden of cost is more evenly spread than it has been hitherto. Hence, the White Paper proposes that training boards should have the power to impose a levy on all firms in their industry.

I quite accept the point which the noble Lord opposite made, to the effect that industries are difficult of definition, and the idea of 150-odd training boards is a manifestly absurd one. From the proceeds of this levy grants could be made to firms which were giving training of an approved standard. It would also be open to a board to set up its own training centre and, if it thought fit, to pay allowances to trainees while they were being trained, either in public centres or in their own centres. On the other hand, I think it is generally accepted that industry itself should also make a contribution towards the training from which it will gain immediate benefits, and the training boards to be established by my right honourable friend would, therefore, be given power to impose a levy. It would, of course, be our intention that rebates should be allowed from the levy where firms provide training of approved quality.

My Lords, all this demands close consultation. This is now proceeding, and discussions are being held by my right honourable friend with industrial organisations, notably the Trades Union Congress and the British Employers' Confederation. On the education front, my right honourable friends the Education Ministers are consulting educational organisations. Obviously, the success or failure of these proposals will depend in great measure on the calibre of the boards which my right honourable friend will set up. This again will be a matter for consultation with industry; but it is our intention that the educational interests should be adequately represented, and also that the Ministry of Labour, and one or both of the Education Departments, shall be represented on each board by assessors. This, together with the proposal to empower the Minister of Labour to appoint officers to ensure adequate standards of training, should meet the doubts which have been aired about the likelihood of some of the boards being of sufficient calibre.

My noble friend Lord Eccles asked me two specific questions arising out of that proposition. In the first place, he asked: What will the Government do if an industry refuses to set up a training board? The training boards will not be set up by industry; they will be set up by the Minister of Labour, although, of course, in consultation with the industry concerned. Since Government money is to be made available in the form of grants to training boards, the Ministry of Labour expect that industries will willingly co-operate in setting up boards. Indeed, industries with reasonable training arrangements already are likely to benefit financially because of the Government grants. The Minister of Labour expects that the financial stimulus of a Govern- ment grant should act as a sufficient incentive to industries without adequate training schemes to co-operate in getting a training board set up.

Secondly, my noble friend asked how tough the Government would be if the board did not provide adequate training. Of course, this is an early stage, but I must remind my noble friend that the Minister will have power to appoint inspectors to see that the training arrangements made by the boards are satisfactory; and if they are not, he will have power to withhold the Government grant. At this early stage I do not want to say more than that we have the power, if the ultimate sanction were invoked, to ensure that our intention was carried out. But our intention is to see, in partnership with industry, that the training schemes do succeed, so that the sanction will not have to be invoked.


My Lords, before leaving that important point, would the noble Viscount say what sort of sanction the Minister has in the case of refusal?


I thought I had made it clear that he has the right to appoint inspectors to inspect the adequacy of the arrangements, and he has the right to withhold grants if the arrangements are not adequate.


The right to pay grants is an inducement, but not a sanction. With regard to the question of inspectors, an inspector is not a substitute for a board. I gather the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, to be this. Supposing the Minister wants a board to be set up, he consults the industry concerned. But if, for some reason, the industry refuses, what sanction has the Minister?


This was the first of the two points made by my noble friend. It is not the industry which sets up the board; it is the Minister of Labour. While I agree that an offer of grant is an incentive and not a sanction, I would say that the withholding of grant, once given, is a sanction and not an incentive.

My Lords, I am conscious of having taken up a great deal of time in the speech which I have delivered. I think the proposals in the White Paper have been welcomed by both the noble Lords who have spoken. I have some sympathy with those enthusiasts who feel that they do not go far enough. Those of us who regard industrial training as one of the keys to our economic well-being can perhaps be forgiven for showing some impatience with the number of administrative difficulties which are involved in launching proposals of this sort. But this does not make the difficulties any less real; and I know that my noble friend, who has great experience in this matter, realises this better than most. I believe that the proposals in the White Paper promise to lay a sound pattern for industrial training in the future and, as such, I warmly commend them to the House.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful for the opportunity provided by the Motion moved by the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, of giving that discussion to the Government's proposals for industrial training which I assume to be part of the reason for publishing them in the form of a White Paper. I find myself largely in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said, and his hope that when eventually legislation is brought forward it may be wider in purpose and more far-reaching in terms than the White Paper itself. Here, if I appear to be critical, may I apologise in advance if I am unable to remain until the conclusion in the debate? I have to take the Chair at my Diocesan Conference this evening, and since the Diocesan Bishop in a Diocesan Conference in his own single person constitutes an Upper House, my own presence is somewhat essential on this occasion.

As I read the proposals in the White Paper, I have an anxiety, which has been partially dispelled by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, that though they are good in themselves, they will not necessarily make things happen which we all wish to see happen. Will the levy, for instance, be so calculated and enforced that youths in small firms will not be at a disadvantage compared with those in larger concerns? Will the proposed boards have sufficient power, not only to establish standards of training, but also to enforce them? Will they be able to make a radical reappraisement of the apprenticeship system, which has its own mystique not untinged by its mediæval origins, and which may not be suited to the technological needs of to-day, when industry requires an almost unlimited series of grades of skills which are themselves constantly changing? My fear is that if we allow the training of apprentices to loom too large in our thinking, we may lose sight of the 64 per cent. of the boys and 90 per cent. of the girls who on leaving school at the present time do not enter apprenticeships and who, in the total picture, are no less important as individual persons and as citizens, and for whom, as has been said, there is at present very little educational or training provision.

I welcome the reference made to the need of retraining of adults. The present restrictions result sometimes in a grave injustice to the individual, because they deny to men and women who have not taken the chance of learning a trade before the age of 21, or who, for reasons which are not their own fault, have found themselves in a trade in which they are redundant, any second or third chance of equipping themselves for more skilled work. Not very much so far in this debate has been said about women, but I should have thought that this applies far more to women even than it does to men. Is the ability of a woman of 45, returning to work after bringing up a family, best used by her returning to the kind of work she did as a girl of 15? Can she get the retraining which she needs to make the contribution of which she was capable?

For reasons such as these, I cannot but question whether a stronger direction of policy at the national level may not be essential. While the White Paper speaks of improving the existing partnership between industry, the Government and the education authorities it does not specificially mention, for instance, the Minister of Education. Technical colleges are his responsibility; training centres, I suppose, will be under the direction of the Minister of Labour. But who would make the overall decisions of policy on what is essentially, as the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has said, an educational question?

I agree with the noble Lord that the need to raise the school leaving age is paramount, but as one who has spent most of his working life directly or indirectly in connection with formal education, the older I get the more convinced I am that it is necessary to go on reminding people that the process of education is not confined to what goes on within the four walls of a class room or a lecture theatre. Work is itself, when rightly handled, a vital part of the education of an adolescent or of anybody else. To be without work is not just a loss of income or even an increased opportunity to get into mischief; it is a definite deprivation of the individual personality. Whatever we do to care for the young people who are unemployed—and the Church is anxious to do all it can to help—there is no educational substitute for work and training for work at the right point of maturity.

There are now boys and girls moving into the second year of worklessness; there are some who, having achieved one or two "O" level passes after five years of secondary education, are finding it almost impossible to get employment. In the short-term approach to the personal problems created by enforced idleness, every effort must clearly be made to continue and develop both general education and technical training, using, I should hope on an increasing scale, the imaginative, informal educational methods of which Outward Bound and Young Farmers' Clubs are but two examples. This is not merely "ambulance work"; it would be a definite contribution to the solution of the long-term problem of solving those economic difficulties of which unemployment is only a symptom.

There is another point to which reference has not so far been made, and that is the need for someone or some body to keep a watch upon the development of young people as they move from one job to another within an industry, or outside the boundaries of a particular industry. Their development requires that somebody should be concerned that their education and training continues, and while this might be a function of youth employment officers, I am inclined to think that it would be better done by the colleges of further education who are in a different and more regular relationship with the young. But it is perhaps a point that could come appropriately under the general oversight of the new boards.

There is much in the White Paper which is welcome, as has been said: for instance, the suggestion that the main attention of the boards should be given to the improvement of first-year training, for there is evidence that much can go wrong at this stage which it is difficult to rectify subsequently. Perhaps it is too early to go into the details of what the boards should do, but the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has mentioned the question of the relative values of day release and block release. Here I would agree with him that the evidence so far available suggests that block release is educationally much more efficient, in that it does not necessarily lengthen the number of hours per annum that students spend in the college but leads to a better attitude to work when they are in the college of further education, and in terms of examinations, at any rate, leads to better results.

Can we not work out some schemes of this kind which would apply to boys and girls who are not apprenticed, but who need these skills and trainings no less? In spite of what the noble Viscount has said, I believe that this industrial training is essentially an educational rather than a purely industrial process, complicated as it is by the great variety in the requirements of different industries, by the differing grades of skills required, and by the difficulty of providing training for a few students in small firms. Nevertheless, it has to be faced, and it is right that industry should have a large share of the responsibility. I think we should all agree that it should be regarded as a failure in management not to use potential ability, just as we consider it a failure in management to leave plant idle and not fully used. The best firms—and they are many—know this and act accordingly. I hope that the new boards may have sufficient power to compel those who are less enlightened to do what they should.

My main concern is with the point which I made earlier, that in all this we are dealing with human beings. The emphasis in the White Paper on industrial efficiency alone could be somewhat disquieting. Clearly, it is necessary for the economic well-being of the country that skilled men and women should be available in adequate numbers, but the young and the not-so-young need to be educated all the time in the widest sense, for economic welfare depends on other factors than technical efficiency alone. It depends on our having men and women who are good technicians, good citizens and good men and women, integrated and balanced in their judgments and informed about the social implications of the work they do. The Minister of Education showed his concern for this in the pamphlet issued recently with the title, General Studies in Technical Colleges.

Many local education authorities have already had experience of the marked effect which time spent on social studies and English has on the students' attitude to life and work and their ability to express themselves clearly and concisely. I saw recently a letter from the managing director of a large concern who praised the social studies course in a block release scheme because of the ability it gave students to express ideas clearly and logically, to differ amicably from each other, and to examine a proposal critically and constructively. That applied to a scheme for apprentice training. I think the hope of all of us is that, as the proposals of the White Paper are developed into legislation, such opportunities on the widest scale will be made available to all who enter industry and commerce, whether skilled, semiskilled or unskilled, and whether those distinctions will have any meaning whatever twenty years from now. Our young men and women are the nation's potential and priceless asset. Industrial training is only part of their education. But we have a responsibility to see that, by whatever form it is done, the ability and the assets we have are not thrown away by neglect or only partial encouragement.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I think we are all much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, for having raised the subject of industrial training to-day, and for collecting a number of speakers of different points of view. I am sure those of us in industry welcome especially the intervention of the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of London, in the debate. I should like to declare a rather special interest. I have only recently retired from being President of the British Employers' Confederation, and was privileged to be the first President of the Industrial Training Council, so I am somewhat biased in some of the things I say in those respects.

I would remind the House, with no offence to anybody, that we are discussing not general education but industrial training, and I think that should be remembered. The White Paper says, I think quite rightly, that the Government have decided that the time has come to strengthen and improve the existing partnership between industry, the Government and the education authorities in the provision of industrial training. That, I think, is welcomed on all sides. Like the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, I myself believe very strongly—and I think that a great majority of employers would agree with me—that the sooner we can get the school-leaving age in general to 16, the better for industry and, indeed, the better for the whole country.

I am very anxious to see that all industry which trains skilled apprentices should come to regard an extra year at school as being equivalent to an extra year's apprenticeship training. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, spoke about five years' training for an apprenticeship as being too long. If we can keep them at school another year, and have four years' apprenticeship training, or if some are kept at school for two years and have three years' training in industry, I believe that the results would be well worthwhile.

I was glad that the right reverend Prelate took up the question of day and block release, which the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, mentioned but passed over very quickly. I am one of those who are and have been for some time enthusiastic for block release, but we do not seem to be making much progress on that line. It seems to be a much more efficient idea than letting the boys go off for one day each week. They leave a gap in the industrial establishment when they go, especially when they are nearing their fourth or fifth years and are useful members of the shop or floor. It would seem to me better for them to have continuous training for a short time, if it can be arranged, rather than have this intermittent training. However, I cannot help feeling that the resistance to the acceptance of the idea of block release comes just as much from the educational as from the industrial world and I personally wish that we could get over it.

I was most interested, as I am sure was the whole House, in what that great authority, the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, told us; and, I must confess, for my own part, that I have nothing with which to cross swords with him in what he said. Might I also emphasise to the noble Viscount how much I agreed with him on the absence of training for top management? In my own industry there are a number of our younger, highly skilled people who are always coming round, pressing us and saying: "Where can we go to get top management training to enable us to be proper members of the boardroom when, as we hope, we get there? This is a matter of considerable concern, though it is outside, I think, the scope of this debate as I see it this evening.

My Lords, I was very glad, too, that the right reverend Prelate mentioned training for women. I believe that all people who go into industry want some training, whatever their job is going to be and however long they are going to last in it. Indeed, the Industrial Training Council recently produced a booklet, which was widely accepted, on training for women. I hope that the right reverend Prelate has received a copy. If he has not, I will see that he gets one.

The need for change in the field of industrial training is, I think, now widely recognised on all sides, and I would say that the Government's recent proposals for improving training arrangements in industry have been accepted by the employers as a suitable basis on which to discuss with the Ministry of Labour the best way of strengthening and improving the partnership which we have already mentioned. If I might put my own gloss on how to read these proposals, summed up in one sentence I would say that they contemplate the introduction into Parliament of a Training Bill which would empower the Ministry of Labour, after consultation with the organisations principally concerned on both sides, to establish statutory boards. I think it is important to remember that these will be statutory boards with responsibility for all aspects of training in the industries, and with power to undertake the wide range of functions set out in the White Paper, including, of course, the training levy, on which the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, had some pertinent comments to make. The White Paper does not lay down how many statutory boards are going to be set up. That is an extremely difficult question and one which will have to be discussed carefully by industry and the educational world with the Ministry.

My colleagues in industry and I fully accept the determination of the Government in this way to fortify the means by which it can itself encourage the improvement and expansion of industrial training, and I should like to take that in its widest sphere as one part of the effort the Government should be and is, I believe, making to develop our economic efficiency at this time. But I would add this: that I believe there is much more credit due to industry generally than is given by the general public and by speakers and writers in the development of training arrangements which have been made over the last few years. Progress in this field is, of necessity, slow. There is a great deal of partnership, conservatism expertise and back knowledge in the way in which we train our people, and while change is important, change for change's sake is of no value. We must make sure that any change is for the better.

If people wish to challenge this progress, I would only quote the same figures as were given by the noble Viscount. The Industrial Training Council—the trade unions and the employers—when we set ourselves up, invited the Ministry of Labour, the nationalised industries and educational authorities to come in with us, and the first task we set ourselves was to increase the number of apprenticeships, so as to make sure that the boys coming out in the "bulge" years should have at least as good an opportunity to get an apprenticeship as those coming out when the numbers were much smaller. We set ourselves a target of a 20 per cent. increase over four years. A target of 30 per cent. was actually reached. There are 30 per cent. more boys in training to-day than there were in 1958 when the I.T.C. was set up, and I think that that is quite a considerable achievement, and one which I wish to lay before your Lordships.

I must confess that I get tired sometimes when I hear people who should know better making rash charges against industry in general, and against the skill and training of our craftsmen in particular. I listened to a talk last Thursday night (I think the programme was called "Gallery") on B.B.C. Television; I do not think I have ever listened to this particular programme before. It had a distinguished cast in Mr. Carr, a Member of Parliament and Chairman of the Carr Committee, Mr. Frank Cousins, and a Mr. Shanks, who, I believe, was introduced as from one of the prominent national newspapers. Mr. Shanks was particularly virulent in attacking industry for not training more people, and nobody would have realised from that discourse that Mr. Shanks's own industry was the one which was pilloried so recently by the Royal Commission on the Press as not making any effort whatever to train its own craftsmen but was stealing them from the general printing industry. It made me rather tired to hear this particular gentleman railing against the engineering industry, the building industry and others which are making great efforts, when his own industry is making none at all.

I claim that the message which the I.T.C. try to put before the country in this matter has not gone unheeded, but I would say that the pressure should still be on; that although we are now training 30 per cent. more than we did in 1958, that percentage must increase still further in the next two or three years. I think that industry fully recognises that there is room for considerable improvement, both in the quantity and in the quality of industrial training at every level. Therefore, I believe that industry and employers are fully appreciative that a case for action by the Government has been made out in the field of industrial training, and accordingly we welcome the introduction of this White Paper. We hope to see that the scheme here laid out will enable decisions on the scale of training to be better related to economic needs and the developments of technology. We hope that it will improve the overall quality of industrial training, which is very necessary, and establish minimum standards—again, I think, something we have been lacking in the past. It is, in my view, a very good thing that the cost should be more evenly spread. I would emphasise to your Lordships that I believe that these proposals in no way undermine the basic responsibility of industry for the training of its own workpeople and that they merely give statutory backing to broad principles in the Carr Report, that each individual industry should be responsible for ensuring the adequacy of its own training and that all firms should contribute to the cost. I am glad to say that the Ministry of Labour have already contacted the T.U.C. and the British Employers' Confederation with detailed discussions on how to carry out the ideas put forward in this White Paper.

There are many difficulties before we can get to a satisfactory Bill and Act. Some of the problems are extremely difficult and complicated: the basis on which industry should be defined (the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, said something about this) for the purpose of establishing training boards; how many training boards are to be established; the means of identifying companies within the definition of an industry, companies which may be carrying on many ancillary or different trades; the grades and ages of workers to be covered by the boards, and, of course, the way the levy should be applied. There is also the composition of the training boards, which is, of course, of supreme importance. I believe that the composition of the training boards should be primarily representatives of the trade unions and the employers with, of course, important representatives from the educational organisations, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education itself.

Will there be need for a central authority? I believe there will. Indeed there may be need for some form of central authority in two parts, two different schemes. The first functions of the White Paper deal with the actual overall control. The Government are going to put up money. I hope they are going to be fairly generous in this respect. The Government—the Ministry of Labour, I presume, will be the appropriate Department—must keep some form of statutory control and also inspection of standards of training adopted where Government money is being spent.

But I believe that the second kind of function needed to be performed by a central authority—and I maintain this is quite as important as the overall responsibility of the Government—is that of providing general advice and guidance to the training boards when they are first set up on the very wide range of responsibilities and activities which they will have to undertake: assessment of their training, analysis of jobs and occupations in terms of skill, planning systematic training schemes—different grades of workers will need different types of training even in the same industry—establishment of training standards, minimum standards, and, indeed, even more, working out of syllabuses, establishment of training tests, which I believe have long been needed in industry, how they should be applied, whether they should be mandatory or voluntary, the establishment of qualifications, and tests for instructors. This is one of the most important points. Instructors, of course, are so apt, through no fault of their own, to get out of date; they are apt to leave industry to come to the training centre, and within five years conditions in industry have completely changed and they may find themselves teaching old ways which are quite out of date in industry. I believe some method must be prepared—indeed, this has been tried out in my own industry and others—by which instructors can go back into firms in industry for a month or two during the recess and bring themselves up to date. These are some of the important things to be considered.

I believe there needs to be a source of general information, and I should like to plead that the Industrial Training Council are able and willing to fulfil this rÔle of a central organisation who can give the proper guidance to these training boards when they are set up on all those matters which come within their scope and which will make all the difference between success and failure. The I.T.C., especially under the guidance of Mr. George Lothian and now Mr. R. A. Banks from the Imperial Chemical Industries Limited, have made big progress in propagating and encouraging the spread of systematic training arrangements for all our young people, not only apprentices, women as well as men, and they now enjoy a very great measure of support from all sides of industry, and, I believe, in many other quarters as well. At first, as I say, we concentrated on endeavouring to get up the number of apprenticeships. Now the I.T.C. are concentrating on providing training facilities. We have established a training advisory service. I am glad to say we have most excellent officers staffing this, with wide experience and practice in training matters, who are going out more and more into industry, helping those firms and industries who have not made progress themselves in industrial training schemes to do so. I believe they are fully competent to take over the work which I suggest.

There is an enormous amount of work to be done in improving and modernising our industrial training system, and there is no doubt that if we can do this work a most vital part of the raising of the efficiency and productivity of industry will be performed. But I would agree with the right reverend Prelate: if we give our young people coming into industry a sense of their being an important part of industry, of its being worth while to give a little personal attention to them, a little training, I believe it may well establish a basis for improved industrial relations which may last them all their lives; for all good industrial relations depend upon the human element and the human being, not as a cog but as a person. To succeed in our efforts in this respect we must have full and active co-operation between employers and trade unions, and, I believe—and I am blowing our own trumpet again—the I.T.C. has been a valuable source of bringing together the two sides of industry in this important joint effort; and the educational authorities and the Government have, of course, played their part with us. While accepting, therefore, the general need for change in industrial training, I believe that the Government are right in approaching the whole problem, not as a take-over bid by the educational or any other section of the community but as consolidating the present partnership between themselves and industry.

Before I sit down, may I say one word on a problem on which the noble Viscount touched? It is, to my mind, rather a separate problem, and it is the retraining of adult skilled workers. He has dwelt on some of the difficulties, the deep personal difficulties, which this problem raises. Another difference between apprenticeship or general training in industry and this problem of retraining is that the apprentices and other trainees are in work and in industry, while most of those who need retraining are out of work and therefore not earning any wages or attached to any firm. I believe that this retraining must inevitably be a prime responsibility of the Government, although I am sure that industry will do its best to help them. I would urge the Government to look at it from that point of view. It is a special problem. It is a problem that will grow more and more important as more and more of the older trades turn over to new ones, and I believe it is one which must have full Government control.

Finally, I should like to put before your Lordships one other point. I do not think that youth employment officers have been yet mentioned. I believe we all should, in this debate, pay tribute to the youth employment officers up and down the country. They do a good job of work. They make all the difference to the approach to industry of a great number of young people, and I should like to commend their work to your Lordships.

5.1 p.m.


My Lords, we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, for giving us an opportunity to debate this important subject. I should like to say how much I appreciate all he said in his speech in opening the discussion. I would also support what Lord Williamson has said, particularly about getting more factual information as to what we actually need in the way of apprentices to keep our industries properly supplied with skilled men. I hope that the Government will take note of that request. I should like to see much more definite information made available to us than we have had hitherto.

In this Motion the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, has used the phrase "widespread changes in industrial training". I would hope that in asking for widespread changes he is not asking for revolutionary changes, but for the specific development of a great number of the methods that have been used up to the present; because although these methods may be deficient in some respects, nevertheless they have achieved much that is to their credit and are worthy of much commendation. For example, our technical college system in relation to industrial training has many accomplishments to its credit. The recent White Paper, in giving an outline of possible Government proposals, is indeed a welcome document, even if it must be regarded, as I think legitimately it can be, as a coat-trailing document to see what kind of reception such ideas are likely to receive from interested parties whose reactions to new suggestions are sometimes rather difficult to predict.

So far as I am concerned, let me say right away that I support those who want more and better training. That remark applies not only to the highly organised forms of training, such as the whole range of apprenticeship schemes, but also to the looser, shorter forms, often somewhat irregular but nevertheless most helpful, that vary all the way from the purely functional and utilitarian types to the somewhat starry-eyed social and psychological talks aimed at formulating an acceptable gospel of work. I regard better industrial training as something that is absolutely essential if we are to get our industries on a sure foundation. We must do all possible to achieve that. I trust that this debate will be given serious consideration by industrial organisations at large, both by firms and their staffs who are responsible for establishing and operating training courses, and by those, including the trade unions, who more directly represent the interests of the people on the pay roll.

I urge that whatever improvements in industrial training can be brought to reality, through the suggestions in the present White Paper, they should be seized on and consolidated. Let there be no dragging of our feet in going forward with the proposals that are outlined in this White Paper. We should not run the risk of missing any possible advance merely because a major reorientation cannot be obtained in the immediate future. I stress the wisdom of such a course because industrial training is not a problem that can be considered once and for all; nor one for which a solution put forward at the present time will provide a full remedy for the next decade or two. Industrial training is a matter which must have continuous study and development if it is to meet the needs of a rapidly developing industrial situation.

We in this country of course sincerely believe that our industry is not stagnant, but is lively and advancing to meet the inevitable changes that the future will bring. Some progress has, of course, already been made: for instance, in the day-release scheme. With all due acknowledgment to the block-release scheme, the day-release scheme is, I think, a worthy operation. But in the day-release scheme progress is regrettably small. In England and Wales, the figures given in another place some eleven months ago gave the most recent position for boys and girls released by their employers as 14.6 per cent., whereas in Scotland, once the proud home of advanced and advancing education, the comparable figure was only 9 per cent. This is not the time to inquire into the discrepancy, but I venture to think that until it is remedied Scotland cannot claim that it is doing everything possible to make itself an efficient industrial community. In the matter of day release, of course employers are more forthcoming so far as boys are concerned. That is perhaps natural, and in fairness it should be acknowledged that, for England and Wales, the Official Statistics of Education for 1961 give 30.4 per cent. for boys released by their employers to attend part-time day courses.

It is necessary, however, to look on industrial training and the White Paper from a much broader point of view. It would not be realistic to expect too close definitions in the words used in the White Paper, but some clarity of definition may be wise just to make specific what we mean by "industrial training". Clearly, what was uppermost in the minds of the writers of the White Paper was the training of young people freshly introduced into industry. I think that that wording should be accepted, because it is most vital, and the discussion so far this afternoon has shown that apprenticeships and the position of young people are much in their mind; so I accept cordially the wording that is in the White Paper, that it is mainly concerned with young people.

The wording used, however, does not exclude a second type, the training and retraining of adults required for whatever reason, either declining industry or unemployment. It is very important that this type of training and retraining should be kept in mind, but I do not think there is any probability that this admirably short paper can hope to make any material contribution to that very complex problem. I suggest that the problems of training adults and of retraining had better he given further consideration in independent documents.

A third type of training which would seem not to be excluded from the White Paper by the wording employed, is managerial training of the type given at a large number of institutions of which the Administrative Staff College at Henley is one. The language of the White Paper would seem not to exclude that type of managerial and supervisory training, but I would suggest that it should be excluded from our present consideration and should not be included in our present definition of industrial training. Therefore, in my present observations to your Lordships I shall confine my remarks to the industrial training of youth—in short, I shall concentrate on apprentice and allied problems.

My Lords, evidence of the sincerity of our industries in their desire to improve industrial training is seen, as the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, just mentioned, in the setting up of the Industrial Training Council by the three organisations: the British Employers' Confederation, the trade unions, and the nationalised industries. The Industrial Training Council is doing good work, which is widely recognised, and it has some measure of financial support from the Government. But I infer that the White Paper, produced as it is by the Minister of Labour, basically arises from acknowledgment that the Industrial Training Council, worthy body that it is, is not proving to have adequate driving force. The same kind of thought comes from a consideration of the various group training schemes, such as the Mid-Tyne Group Training Council scheme and similar schemes, which, I understand, exist, for example, in the Birmingham area and on Merseyside. These are clearly motivated with the highest intention to give youths a wider experience in bigger organisations and so to break away from the restricted training that necessarily results from apprenticeships served in smaller firms. My information on such schemes is somwhat limited, but so far as it goes the indications are that the boys taken away from their parent firms find that the grafting process for them to be received in the accepting firms is difficult to achieve with any degree of success.

My Lords, I should like now, having expressed wholehearted sympathy with the basic considerations of the White Paper, to examine some of its implications, and to ask: are they likely to prove adequate and successful? Here I have to say that I fear that in practice they will exhibit some fundamental weaknesses. First of all, the proposed boards are to be the prime responsibility of the Minister of Labour. I very much appreciated the remarks of the noble and learned Viscount the Leader of the House when he emphasised that the Ministry of Education was vital to the partnership. The Ministry of Education is, in fact, very much concerned, and I personally have hitherto looked mainly to the Ministry of Education for initiative in these matters. It was under the Ministry of Education that the Willis Jackson Committee on the Supply and Training of Teachers for Technical Colleges was set up, and it is from the Ministry of Education that the further education staff college, which is essentially dealing with technical college teachers, gets a financial grant.

Under the White Paper the Ministry of Labour, among other things, would be concerned with establishing and running training courses in its own training centres". This dual interest of the two Ministries seems to be yet a further example of the developments we are experiencing to-day in many aspects of science and technology—namely, that it is in the borderlands of hitherto well-defined fields and traditional skills that the greatest present growth is being experienced. A well-recognised example in science is between mathematics and biology. These used to be quite distinct, almost unrelated, disciplines, and now it is in the borderland between those disciplines that the greatest thought and much work is being given, and where we see the greatest manifestation of growth. In a parallel way, I suggest that the question of industrial training, where we ought to see much growth and advance, is equally—and I emphasise the word "equally"—the responsibility of labour and education, and the organisation looking after it should be some kind of organisation equipped with funds from both the Education Minister and the Labour Minister—again, I emphasise, with equal responsibility. If that is not done, I fear there is a liability that in this borderland, where we want growth, there will be a tendency towards dissipation of effort and wastage. By means of some kind of joint panel we could have an integrated whole, associated, on the one hand, with the Ministry of Labour and, through them, with the employers' organisations and the trade unions, and, on the other hand, with the Ministry of Education and the local education authorities and, through them, with their schemes for technical education.

My next point is that when these industrial training boards are set up endeavours should be made to keep their organisation as simple as possible. If the pattern indicated in the White Paper were to be followed, I tremble to think what a complex, creaking, bureaucratic machine we should be setting up. The board has to have some ten functions, which are set out in the White Paper: power to make levies; to remit its levies; to pay grants to trainees; to borrow; and to propose, for the Minister's decision, what firms are within the definition of an industry. Each and all of those questions seem to be of a nature that would require long periods of hairsplitting and sometimes heated discussion before they could be satisfactorily resolved.

Again, I should like to question the wisdom of making the Ministry of Labour set up boards which would be responsible for all aspects of training in individual industries. This question has already been touched upon by the noble Lords, Lord Williamson and Lord McCorquodale of Newton. In the White Paper there is almost continuous reference to "the industry", and I gather, from such accounts as I have of the debate which occurred in another place some ten days ago, that the Ministry of Labour is strongly attached to the idea that the boards foreshadowed in the White Paper should be organised on the basis of individual industries. I would hope that the Minister would keep an open mind on this subject of industrial training, and come to a conclusion only after he had fully considered all the available evidence. I could go on to give examples of this, on which I think the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, has already touched. Take the shipbuilding industry with its centres on the Mersey, the Wear, the Tyne, the Clyde and in the East of Scotland. In every centre a multitude of skills is required. Are we to have at each centre training facilities for each skill applied to shipbuilding? The chemical industry also operates at many of these centres for the same skills. In any one centre, are we to have organised training for joiners for the chemical industry and another organisation for joiners for the shipbuilding industry? Surely, it would be much simpler if the training were organised on a geographical regional basis such as has already been suggested.

Some idea of the magnitude of this training has already been indicated, and I would remind your Lordships that the Standard Industrial Classification of the Central Statistical Office gives the number of industries in this country as 152. Even admitting, as could easily be agreed, that you will not want training boards for all of those, and even if we allow for the number of interested industries to be only a quarter of the total, what a complex machine it will require to look after 30 or so boards, each having wide and variously interpreted powers! Is not the answer to this criticism to be found in the conception that the major matter at issue is the whole basis of our apprenticeship ideas, and its contribution to efficient and modern industries? However, here I would suggest that basic progress will be made only after the conception of apprenticeship and its adequate evolutionary growth has been thoroughly rethought in the light of modern industrial concepts. Admittedly, the joiner must be a real specialist in wood, but should he be completely devoid of all experience in working with other materials? For my part, the answer would be that he is a specialist in wood, certainly; but give him some knowledge of the properties of other materials. And the same kind of reasoning applies to the fitter. If that kind of technical development and education can be applied, we shall, I believe, be better off with a set of training centres grouped geographically, than with a multitude of smaller centres grouped on an industry basis.

Here I should like to make reference to what I think can be described as the Glasgow experiment. This is an apprentice scheme under the local education authority, guided by friends in the Royal College of Science and Technology, and in operation, admittedly on a very limited scale, since last September in premises formerly used by the North British Locomotive Company. I gather that the scheme, with the agreement of employers and the A.E.U., has been launched on a three years' basis for some 33 boys paid by the sending firms, and drawn from sixteen or seventeen firms. I should be glad if we could be told by the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, who will wind up the debate for the Government, if this scheme has the backing of the Scottish Education Department and the Ministry of Labour. At the moment, as I understand it, it is a scheme for apprentice fitters who would, in the normal course of events, become members of the A.E.U. But it is a scheme which, if it is successful, would seem readily capable of being expanded to general training based on geographical centres.

As I have said, I am speaking in general when I say that I think the schemes for apprentices need revising. The usual form of criticism is that for what they teach they are too long, and might with advantage be reduced to three years. For my part I would prefer to see an extension of the things to be learned by the apprentice, and an extension of his appreciation of associated techniques and technologies. This means that industry and trade unions have to sit down together and hammer out some new schemes directly designed to meet modern industrial needs. Here again I see the importance of development of ideas in the borderlands to which I have earlier referred. First of all, I referred to the borderlands between classical disciplines, then to the borderlands between Ministries. The point I am now making is that thought and consideration should be given to the borderlands between apprentice skills, so that in these areas the efficiency of industry could be raised, as it should be raised, by the use of modern methods and techniques.

Some months ago I ventured to address your Lordships on an associated subject, and I endeavoured to make the point that we had some 4. million tradesmen in this country who are of great potential value as qualified technicians to extend the reservoir of technical capacity. I want to see this reservoir still further extended and improved by our qualified tradesmen having better qualifications, so that their skills may have a wider application through better understanding and better training. Moves towards that goal can be made only over an appreciable period of time. The better the industrial training methods that are available to us, the surer shall we move towards making our skilled craftsmen a real source of industrial strength to the nation. I am glad that we have had this White Paper, and I trust that favourable reactions given to it will stimulate the Ministries of Labour and Education to further thought, and to bring forward specific proposals that will achieve a greater degree of suitability to the desirable ends we all have so much at heart.

5.27 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to the mover of this Motion, not merely for its timeliness but also for the reasoned and eloquent, yet not uncritical speech that he made in its support. I assure him that there is no need for anyone, in any section of the community, to seek to convert the people who are on these Benches to the need for adequate and extensive training of young people. I had been at the Trades Union Congress for only three years when a resolution was moved 36 years ago, the effect of which was to call for appropriate industrial training for all young workers. This view was expressed again in 1942 in a T.U.C. memorandum on education. Then in 1945 a resolution was carried by Congress declaring that fundamental changes were necessary in the conditions governing the employment of young people in industry and commerce. The changes suggested included, among other measures, the establishment in each industry of a comprehensive scheme of training and apprenticeship, to be agreed upon between the employers and the trade unions, and endorsed and supervised by what was then the Board of Education. In point of detail there may be some qualification to make to those resolutions, but in principle they are in close accord with the White Paper which we are now discussing.

I would also remind your Lordships that, when it came to giving practical effect to this aspiration for better training, the Labour Government in its Proposals for the Nationalised Industries placed a duty upon the Boards, not merely in the sphere of safety, health and welfare, but also in education and training; and, as far as my knowledge goes, those Boards have worthily carried out the responsibilities devolving upon them. I have served on three of those Boards, and I can answer for two, at least, by saying that if the schemes that they have in operation were adopted and carried out in the measure that they are by the nationalised industries, this White Paper would not be necessary. In point of fact, the schemes have been operated in close co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Education, although the Boards themselves are responsible for evolving the schemes.

Now I do not think that anyone really acquainted with this subject would object to the proposals set forward in paragraph 10 of this White Paper, which indicates the broad Governmental proposals. I join, too, with those who have spoken already in my tribute to those private firms in industry who, under no compulsion except that of interest in their employees and a knowledge of the value of training in the economic sphere, have set up schemes and financed those schemes entirely out of their own resources. In passing, that is one of the advantages of the trade unions in industry. I think your Lordships know that for many years I have been in favour of bigger units in British industry, not merely for the facilities they can afford in respect of research and such matters but on basic policy questions, and on this subject of education and training. I am afraid that almost the only people who can operate such schemes on a comprehensive basis are the large private firms, because those schemes would be outside the resources of the smaller firms. We have, of course, to define what we mean by the smaller firms; but, broadly speaking, it is the big unit, the big firm, which is able to provide these schemes.

The difference between them and the nationalised industries is that they relate to a particular firm or enterprise, whereas the nationalised industries cover the whole of an industry. There are great problems in trying to evolve a scheme to cover a whole industry if that industry is in private hands. Not only are there all kinds of obstacles because of the diversities of the industry, but also the state of mind of some of the people inside those industries perhaps makes that task a really formidable one. In nationalised industries it has proved to be much simpler, and principles have been worked out which, at least in part, could be imported into any industrial schemes that are set up. I personally retain my pride in the achievements of the electricity supply industry in doing what is, in substance, pioneer work in this field. There have been private firms that I have visited over many years whore I have seen excellent schemes in operation; but I repeat that the main difference is that the nationalised industries cover an industry and the individual firm a much smaller compass.

I thought I detected in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, when he moved this Motion, a tinge of regret at the apparent stress upon the economic aspects of this question almost to the exclusion of any consideration of the development of the character and the qualities of the individual. If I am right in interpreting him in that way, I want to say at once that I share entirely his view. The purpose of industry, ultimately, is the service of mankind, and in the process of giving that service the more that the qualities of the individual can be developed, the more his character can be unfolded in a communally desirable way, I think the better for everybody.

We must somehow find a way of awakening the pride of people in the industries in which they are employed. There may be divisions of opinion about that. To the Labour Movement, it often appears that private industry, in some of the sections at least, is run entirely for the benefit of the individual body of shareholders; but, broadly speaking, it surely is a good thing that people in their employment should feel that they are doing something worth while, that they are expressing themselves in some way, that they are contributing to the communal good. I have many times denounced the expression, whenever an idea or proposal is put forward, of "selling" that idea. I think the phraseology is diabolical and destroys the purpose. What we have to do is to take an interest in the individual and show him, if we can, that whatever proposals are put forward are primarily concerned with him as an individual; are primarily intended to try to develop his characteristics and to enable him to give of his best. I think that is of prime importance, and I hope it will never be overlooked.

The structure of the scheme is, of course, one of establishment of industrial boards, and the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, has already drawn attention to the problem that that is going to place on somebody by way of defining the limits of industry. My noble friend Lord Williamson has already indicated the ramifications of the engineering industry. It runs, almost on a horizontal level, through nearly every kind of service in industry. But arbitrary decisions will have to be come to, as they are in these matters, and the general common sense and the ability to improvise that is characteristic of our nation will, I think, be able to produce a common-sense solution.

These boards are to be set up, apparently after consultation with the organisations functioning in the industry. That, of course, is all to the good. I think it can truly be said that, irrespective of the political colour of individual Governments, that has become a basic principle in the sphere of relations between industry and Government. I would just mention this, purely as an individual opinion: that I feel there might be some advantage if, in determining the personnel to function on the boards, the Minister did not confine himself entirely to representatives of the organisations of employers or workpeople. I think there is room here for the interposition of a public element, if I can so describe it; public people engaged in the social sphere, particularly in the educational sphere, who could give their guidance and the benefit of their experience to both sides.

I have one experience only to draw upon. When I was Chairman of the Miners' Welfare Committee—which, as your Lordships know, functioned under an Act of Parliament—I found the public members very progressive in every sense of the word. Time after time, when there was some reluctance because of tradition and conservatism (if I may so put it) on the part of the so-called practical people, we were induced to go one step further, and that step always proved, in my experience, to be a good one. So I hope that that point will be kept open. The Minister is not tied, according to the White Paper, to limiting himself to direct representatives of the employers and the trade unions, so perhaps that aspect could be considered. Of course, the boards are bound to involve some overlapping, and I share the anxiety of the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, who spoke of the difficulties in avoiding this overlapping and doing repetitive training of the same classes of men.

I should like to make an observation on the noble Lord's suggestions in respect of this co-ordination. I regard co-ordination of this matter as absolutely essential to success. Unless there is, at the top and in the regions, some co-ordination (even assuming an industrial board system) there is bound to be waste and lack of drive. I do not rely in the slightest in this respect upon the individual officers who may be appointed as members of a board or working under its authority, because I know how difficult it is for an individual officer to maintain a view which is diametrically different from that of the Minister under whom he serves. Because of that it is necessary for any central authority that may be set up to co-ordinate (and no such plan is envisaged in the White Paper) to be independent of the Ministry. Without that co-ordination, and without that independence, I cannot see how this scheme will function.

It is implicit in the White Paper that such co-ordination as was necessary would be carried out by the Ministry of Labour. I do not know where the Ministry of Education will fit in in this programme; but I should regard a scheme where the co-ordination is placed exclusively in the hands of the Ministry of Labour as a regrettable one. There would have to be some measure of co-ordination between the educational aspects of this matter and also the ones which the Ministry of Labour are qualified to deal with. Therefore I hope that there will not be any hesitation about realising the need for central co-ordination by a body independent of the Ministries both at the national and at the area level. I have reason to think that this point has already been raised with the Minister and, for some reason that I do not understand, he has shown reluctance to admit that any co-ordination outside the Ministry of Labour is essential.

Having said that, I would say that I do not entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Williamson in respect of the setting up of centres which would be entirely open to every class of worker. I have a feeling that they would get remote from the industries. It would not be related closely enough to the industries. It is a moot point. Such a system would have the benefit of simplification, as has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Fleck; but I have a feeling that the principle of industrial boards is right, and I hope it will be approved by the organisations who are directly concerned. I gather that that is likely to be the position. But I sincerely hope there will be this measure of co-ordination with those industrial bodies. I do not know where the National Training Council is going to stand. Nowhere in the White Paper is it mentioned that that body will become redundant, but what function could it perform in this scheme unless it is made in some way the co-ordinating authority? I think we should receive a little light on that point.

There are one or two points of detail which I am glad to see in the scheme but which represent to me a very great departure. Many times from these Benches and from the Labour movement generally we have urged that planning without sanctions of some kind at the end is a long, arduous and not altogether successful role. I know that when I was Secretary of the T.U.C. and was continually being asked to evolve schemes for solving every problem under the sun, we were conscious in advance that, no matter how ideal the scheme or its proposals might be, it would not be carried into practice because there was no way by which it could be enforced. Therefore I welcome the proposal in the White Paper for the boards to have power to make a levy on the different firms and make suitable rebates where they are satisfied that the training is up to their standard. That is good; and I suppose, in the nature of things, there are precedents for it, because, unless the Conservative members have been converted from their basic beliefs, this power of compulsion is a new element, so far as I know. I hope there would not be hesitation to utilise this power if it became necessary.

I am puzzled, still, despite the answer of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, as to how the Ministry could impose a board upon an industry that did not want it. Without co-operation from the organisations in the industries, how could the Ministry compel anybody to do anything? Certainly, the withholding of a grant from a particular firm would be an inducement. In that sense it is a measure of sanctions; but it is a very mild one compared with the sanctions that could be imposed if the boards were appointed in agreement with the representatives of the employers and trade unions. The Ministry must be prepared to meet reasonable objections to this machinery.

I should be the last person to suggest or provoke opposition to the basic principle of this scheme because I think it is a considerable step forward, but I have to remember the experience when the Whitley Council system was initiated. Then, the organised employers in several industries said: "Our system is better than this one. We do not want it." And trade unions and employers in leading industries, like the engineering industry, for instance, never had the Whitley Council system in operation. I think that their schemes were poorer than the Whitley Council conception; but, none the less, they did not want it. They wanted to go on their own road.

There may be features of this scheme which would not completely fit in with the conceptions of those in the industry. I am far from thinking that, because of that, the Government should do nothing about it; but at least the Minister should be ready to listen to alternatives and should not tie himself too rigidly to any scheme until he has had the opportunity of the full discussions which are necessary. I do not want these discussions to go to the point of procrastination. There is an art in industry of delaying decisions. When it comes to applying an increase in wages the employers, as a general rule, find it necessary to consult their constituents down to the lowest possible unit; and if there is any suggestion of any material change on the trade union side, the trade union representatives show the employers what novices they are in the art of procrastination. I do not want that kind of dilemma to arise in the setting up of these boards.

I should like to ask about the position in the nationalised industries. So far as my knowledge goes, all these industries have excellent schemes in operation, under statutory authority, now. Could we be told whether it is intended that the nationalised industries should be brought within the ambit of the scheme or, having regard to their present statutory duties and the way they are being implemented, whether they would be regarded as already covered? I do not take up any position on this point: I merely ask the question.

In conclusion, I should like to say that this scheme will not bring in quickly a transformation in the methods of training in British industry. First of all, there is the legislative stage to go through; then there is the stage of consultation; and thirdly, there is the stage of administration. I have had some experience of the expedition with which legislation can be carried through, with a given majority in Parliament—quite quickly—but the next stage is invariably the harder. So I think that we should be wise to assume that there will not be any widespread transformation right across the face of industry for a long time to come. What I hope will happen is that a limited number of schemes and boards will be established, preferably in the industries which are fairly well organised now, but which may not from top to bottom have adequate schemes. And I hope that, arising from the experience of these boards, the principles and methods of operation (allowing for proper variations where they are needed) will spread across industry as a whole. I am quite sure that, given good will—and this is the vital thing for the prosperity of this nation and the standard of life of its people—all the obstacles that stand in the way can be surmounted.

5.53 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my humble thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, for giving us an opportunity to consider this vital question at such an opportune moment as to-day. In a debate on unemployment in your Lordships' House about four years ago, I ventured to make a few remarks on the subject of youth employment, and on that occasion I observed that the Industrial Training Council, which had just been established, was collecting information about the plans of industry for the training of young people. I was rash enough to add that the Council, which, as has already been said, is representative of the federations of employers, trade unions and the nationalised industries, was not exactly built for speed and was constitutionally incapable of stripping for action.

I made certain suggestions as to how the education authorities might play a larger part in this business of training apprentices. The noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, who at that time was Chairman of the Industrial Training Council, and who spoke soon after me, received my sally with his usual courtesy and good humour and said that what I had had to say would certainly be considered at the next meeting of the Industrial Training Council. I do not suppose they did anything of the sort, but soon afterwards I found myself a member of the north-western regional committee of the Council. I do not suppose for a moment that this was a case of cause and effect, but it certainly put me on the spot at the time. Since then, I came increasingly to hold the view, and to express the view, that in the end something more than exhortation would be needed if, as a nation, we were to ensure that all those people who were capable of profiting from training for skilled occupations would in fact get that training. So I, too, should like to congratulate the Government on the proposal contained in the White Paper to take statutory power to get something moving at last in this field.

I am glad that it is proposed that industry should play a large part in the boards which the Government are planning to set up in tackling the job, for a solution to which the boards which are directly concerned in a problem have contributed is clearly going to be more acceptable to them than one that is imposed from outside. I welcome also the decision that, over and above the levy to be made on firms, certain financial help is to be given by the Government to these boards. It has always seemed to me to be wrong in principle that the standards of our industrial training arrangements should depend on the state of the national economy at any particular moment. But the point that I should like, above all, to stress is that in this matter there is really no time to lose. Already we have reached the peak of the so-called "bulge" in the number of people reaching school-leaving age, and valuable human material is already being wasted.

I know that it is no good dashing into action until we have our objectives clearly in view and that it is essential, when establishing the number of apprentices to be trained in any particular industry, first to have formed some estimate of the long-term requirements of that industry for craftsmen; but I believe that the greatest service we in this House, as leaders of informed opinion, can perform today is (if your Lordships will pardon the phrase) to get the Government cracking. In my view, any further consultation that is needed should be completed quickly, the legislation proposed in the White Paper should be enacted, and these boards set up as a matter of national urgency. Thereafter, the Government must satisfy themselves that the boards do in fact undertake the functions they will be empowered to perform. This means, among other things, that the Government must give the boards adequate help for that purpose.

I very much hope that industry will play its part in this matter. As one whose life is largely spent negotiating with the trade unions, I do not underestimate for a moment the complexities and difficulties of the task, but with the establishment of the levy, smaller employers will no longer have any reason for not training their share of apprentices, either directly or through group apprenticeship schemes. As for the trade unions themselves, there are certainly plenty of challenges for them set out in paragraph 10 of the White Paper.

Subparagraph (1) refers to the question of admission to apprenticeship or otherwise, and this seems to me to be the nearest that the White Paper comes to having anything to say on the subject of adult training or retraining. I was glad to hear what the noble Viscount the Leader of the House had to say on this subject, and of the Government's decision to press ahead with their plans for training centres in Scotland and the North-East. The noble Viscount asked for the support of public opinion in this, and I certainly hope that he gets it.

Subparagraph (4) of paragraph 10 deals with Devising tests to be taken by apprentices and other trainees on completion of training and, if necessary, at intermediate stages …". I believe this to be an important point in the proposals.

To revert to subparagraph (1)—some reference has already been made to this—it deals with the question of the length of training. I am not a technician, but I know that if to-day you ask any competent engineer in a well-run factory how long he thinks the training of an apprentice fitter or electrician should take, he will tell you it should not be more than three years. I was glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, as it seemed to me, support that view. At the very least, it seems to me that if apprenticeships are to continue to last for as long as five years, then the time spent in full-time education should go towards that period.

Alternatively, we ought to be training people on the American pattern, so that they are capable of performing any one of a number of trades. Of course, it is no good training people for a variety of trades if then they are not able to move from one trade to another when the occasion demands. It seems to me to follow that the craft unions should cease to place unreasonable restrictions on the number of apprentices to be trained, on the number of occupations for which they are trained, and on the type of work they may undertake once they are trained. These, I know, are tall orders, and they seem to me to constitute in themselves a powerful argument why the National Economic Development Council needs urgently to devise a generally agreed policy for incomes and economic growth which will enable industry to operate consistently under conditions of full employment. These matters also seem to me to highlight, if I may say so with due respect to the noble Lords, Lord Williamson and Lord Citrine, the need for radical changes in the organisation and structure of British trade unionism. In this connection, I think we should congratulate the boilermakers and the shipwrights on having recently joined forces in a way which should bring considerable benefits to the shipbuilding industry. We should also give all the encouragement we can to enlightened and progressive trade union leaders, like Mr. Woodcock, in the steps they are courageously taking in the same direction.

If the unions are to give up these restrictive practices in the field of industrial training, I believe that employers, too, must be prepared to strike a financial bargain with them, on the lines of that which has already been made by the Esso Oil Company. The essential point, surely, is that any intelligent, patriotic and impartial observer can see that these are things which need to be altered; and if they cannot be altered quickly, with the willing agreement of the parties concerned in industry, then it seems to me that the Government must not shrink from seeing that they are altered in some other way. The time has come to make sure that, one way or another, the nation gets the skilled manpower it will need in the future. For it is this skill which is still our greatest industrial asset, and it is there for us to exploit, if only we have the will. The Times has a leading article this morning, which many of your Lordships will have read, entitled, "The Tide will not wait". It seems to me that the conclusion reached in this article is the right one, which is: The crisis inherent in the political and economic situation of Britain is a moral one. Let it not be said of us, as it was said of the slothful and unprofitable servant, that we were afraid and we went and hid our talents in the earth.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, welcome the White Paper, and the debate that is taking place this afternoon, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, for introducing it. Thus far, at any rate, the debate has been authoritative and has indicated a real consciousness on the part of noble Lords in this House of the critical problem of industrial training. Perhaps the biggest danger facing this country on the economic front to-day is wishful thinking, especially when wishful thinking is blinding us to the economic facts of life. No treaty, whether it be of Rome or any other association of nations, can be a substitute for the vital and urgent need to achieve the most effective use of our total national resources.

Outside the vast production potential of the nation's total employable population our natural resources are somewhat limited—limited, indeed, to around 20 per cent. of our raw materials used in industry, and to the productive capacity of our soil, yielding something like 50 per cent.-plus of the food we need to sustain the 52 million people in the United Kingdom on a sound and varied diet. That is why exports are essential to sur- vival, let alone solvency. Foreign exchange just has to be earned in a highly competitive world in order to pay for the raw materials needed to keep the wheels of industry turning and to buy the balance of the food we must still import. Thereafter, and only thereafter, any favourable balance of payments derived from earnings in excess of these requisites conditions our capacity to play a fuller role in the world, whether it be reflected in aid to developing countries, or sustaining the strength of the pound as an international currency, or in exerting influence for good, based on strength, in international politics.

The challenge of our time is, therefore, in winning and holding markets for our exportable products, be they goods or services, which contain the maximum content of skilled—and I emphasise "skilled"—human endeavour and the minimum content of imported raw materials and unskilled labour. Skills of the nature so demanded can be acquired only by training. Fundamental and applied research represents the essential basis for technological progress and development, and the equipment for these pursuits can come only from our universities and colleges. It is, however, in the development and practical application of new processes and techniques that the real fruits of research can accrue. It is in this broader field that the necessary human skills must be moulded fully to exploit and harness the creative genius of those in research and development. The more the developing countries seek to utilise domestically indigenous raw materials and manpower by fostering their own secondary industries, the more an erstwhile exporter has to find new and more sophisticated products to meet the demands, stimulating either a new demand in the developing countries, or competing on quality or novelty in an already sophisticated market.

For all these reasons, therefore, there was never a greater need for us to be equipped to meet the challenge: more research and development springing from our universities and research establishments, and then a highly-trained management and artisan class to exploit fully the inherent potential therefrom. It is against this background, and as Chairman of the British Productivity Council in National Productivity Year, that I support strongly the advocacy of the noble Lord for the need for dynamic progress in the general field of industrial training.

I should like to speak, however, on a particular facet, that of training for agriculture. Agriculture needs men of versatility, with initiative and experience, to deal with the problems as they arise, since farm workers are often working alone. Even so, modern agriculture is technically a rapidly advancing industry, using complicated machinery, complex chemicals and highly intensive and specialised methods of livestock production. The level of training and skill now required is therefore certainly no less than is required in industry. Indeed, with its wide dispersal of many small units the problems of training in agriculture are even greater. Out of 340,000 farms in England and Wales, 21,000 have no workers other than the farmer himself; 70,000 have only one worker besides the farmer, whilst only 14,000 have four workers or more. Organised training within a single farm unit is therefore virtually impossible either through the lack of numbers of trainees, or through the lack of aptitude for instruction by the farmer himself.

Despite the drift from the land, hitherto most entrants to agriculture have been of country stock, nurtured in country lore and a variety of rural crafts. To-day, technology has gained precedence over craft, and urban entrants now willing to move in require even better and more concentrated training to equip them. Although progress has been made, there is certainly no room for complacency. Against the background of an annual intake of 20,000 workers into agriculture per year, only 2,500 are currently attending full-time courses at some 33 farming institutes, 1,150 are currently attending full time courses at agricultural colleges, and 1,600 are agricultural students at our universities. Just under 6,000 of our young people are taking day-release classes, of whom 900 are serving a three-year apprenticeship. Formal training in agriculture is therefore the exception rather than the rule, though positive progress is indicated in the figures I have just quoted.

Under the Agricultural Apprenticeship Council, established barely a decade ago, and sponsored by the farm organisations of both employers and employees, an apprenticeship with proficiency tests is now established and, I am glad to say, growing. The need, however—and it is an urgent need—is for more willing and able training farmers, those who will undertake to have with them an apprentice and have the aptitude to train him. There exists on the part of many farmers a natural reluctance to undertake the training, bearing all the costs inherent in so doing, and then to risk losing the trained apprentice for the benefit of some other employer. I would here draw the distinction between agriculture and industry, where there is usually a pool of apprentices. The loss of one out of a pool may not be as severe a loss as one out of a very small number of employees, as would be the case in agriculture if an apprentice were lost in that way.

Further finance is required—and it is required urgently—to promote the agricultural apprenticeship scheme and to speed up its expansion. It is gratifying that day release has gone up from 3,000 to 6,000 in four years, despite transport problems and the fact that often the one boy may well represent half the farmer's labour force. Here I have to say that, by comparison with block release, day release in agriculture often proves to be the only practicable means of ensuring a measure of training at all. It is claimed that agricultural productivity in Western Germany is rising faster than it is here, Granted. I would say, however, with emphasis, that there is more leeway to make up. Even so, they claim to have no fewer than 36,000 farm apprentices, and even farmers' own sons are required to undertake training on someone else's farm. No longer can we afford the untrained, whether they be farmers' sons or employees.

The White Paper on Industrial Training displays creative thinking and contains certainly novel proposals. I should say that no industry needs a training board more than agriculture does. While the method of collecting the levy may raise some problems, the principle is surely right. The application may present difficulties and will need to be worked out with care, just as noble Lords this afternoon have indicated that for industry, too, there will be complications. But I am sure that, given goodwill, no problem in this context is insurmountable. The training boards' activities must, in my view, be co-ordinated with those of the local education authorities, and certainly supplement rather than replace their present activities.

May I, therefore, conclude where I began, by repeating that we must ensure the most effective use of our total national resources? The higher the level of productivity in agriculture, the lower, in the ultimate, will be the unit cost of its products. If, therefore, our domestic industrial out-turn, be it for human consumption or export, is to carry the highest content of skilled human effort and the minimum of imported raw materials, then agriculture has a most critical part to play, on the one hand, in making the food content of that human effort cost as little as may be, through progressive efficiency in both production and distribution; and, on the other hand, by using that natural resource, the land of this country, to the most productive national advantage. And training is the key to the full exploitation of that advantage. No effort, therefore, should be spared to give every possible aid and encouragement to stimulating changes for the better in industrial training, and I am happy to support the worthy objective of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, and to thank him for so ably ventilating this critically important subject.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, I echo the words of previous speakers in thanking my noble friend Lord Eccles for the initiative he has shown in putting this Motion on the Paper to-day. I think we have had a very interesting and valuable debate at a very high level with two ex-Ministers of Education taking part, and it is with some temerity that I rise to my feet. Nevertheless, I am emboldened to make a brief intervention because for many years, as production director of a company with which I am associated, I have as part of my duties taken a close interest in, and have considerable practical experience of, training schemes of every kind, for management trainees, for supervisory staff and for operatives both male and female. The only training scheme of which I have had no experience, and of which therefore there will be no reference in the few remarks I am going to make, is that for apprentices.

For many years I have been a member of the Council of the Industrial Welfare Society, and for some years past have been privileged to sit on the executive council of that body. Although my practical experience has been confined to the factories for which I was responsible—although these were not by any means all in the tobacco industry—on the other hand, I have learned much from my association with the Industrial Welfare Society, which, as your Lordships will know, covers the whole field of industry and has always concerned itself with training and education, with emphasis on the importance of human relations at work, a factor to which the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, so eloquently referred in his speech.

The White Paper (Cmnd. 1892) is entitled Industrial Training…, but in fact, refers both to training and to education, and I do not think it sufficiently differentiates between these two things. Unless one does differentiate, I submit it is not very easy to chart the best course to follow in order to stimulate wider interests in either or both or to provoke further action as a matter of urgency, which I think is the objective of us all. I define education as the inculcation of knowledge, general or particular, and I define training as the teaching of how to apply that knowledge in whatever job one has to do. Industrialists, or anybody for that matter who is an employer, employ men and women who have already received education to a greater or lesser extent, and the employer's job is then to train these people in the job for which they are employed. Further education may well be necessary; in fact it will be necessary in a great many cases, notably for professional men such as engineers, scientists and accountants and also for the supervisory staff, to which I shall refer later. Night classes, technical colleges, commercial colleges, adult education centres and courses provided by voluntary bodies such as the industrial Welfare Society exist to provide this further education; and there are probably, so far as I can judge, about 200 such organisations working in this field. Whether they are sufficient and whether they are used enough is another matter.

First of all, I should like to speak about training, the responsibility for which, in my view, lies fairly and squarely on the shoulders of management, because in my experience it must be done on the job. Training in industry, as indeed in any other walk of life, needs leadership and this is what management must give. Of course, management has to give leadership to many other aspects of any enterprise, but I submit that the question really before us to-day is this: is management as a whole giving adequate leadership in this important matter of training and, if not, how can they best be helped or spurred on to do so? Of course, the necessary leadership must come from every level of management, which brings me to what I believe to be one of the most vital factors in this matter: the training of supervisors and, in particular, training them to train their subordinates. What this means is admirably described in the Report of the Committee set up by the Ministry of Labour in April, 1961. Their Report, generally known as the Barnes Report, was published just a year later in April, 1962. I think this is an excellent Report and one which every industrialist should study.

I have seen it stated—I think in the Barnes Report—that there are some 500,000 supervisors in industry of which few have received any formal training. Upon the face of it it is a pretty bad state of affairs, but in fact it is not quite as bad as it appears because I think that most firms practice promotion from within and therefore their supervisors, or the majority of them, have received some form of training, sometimes quite a lot, before they take up the job. But what is undoubtedly needed for these people is further training and education in their responsibility for training the people working under them. Over the years I have conceived a very great admiration or the foremen and forewomen, the chargehands and chargewomen I have met in industry. They are the salt of the earth—the petty officers, the N.C.O.s of industry, if you like. Sometimes their importance to management is not sufficiently realised and therefore the importance of giving the men training is not sufficiently realised. In this matter of training the supervisory staff it is my view that these people hold, if not the key, at least a very important key towards improving the general standard of training and performance in industry, and it is they who need not only help from their senior managements but possibly Goverment action to stimulate action by industry itself. If we get our leadership right, particularly at the supervisory level, I think we shall find that the rest will follow as surely as night follows day.

What should be done? I have given very careful consideration to the Training Bill proposed in the White Paper, and I must say at once that I do not think the conglomeration of training boards described therein will be really effective. I made such research as I could and arrived at the figure of 77 for different industries; but the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, in his most interesting speech gave the figure, I think, from an excellent source, as 152. Whatever the number be, I think it will prove extremely difficult, wellnigh impossible, to find qualified people, not so much to sit as board members but to provide the officers of these boards. My own feeling is that it would be very difficult to find adequate staff for half a dozen such boards. I personally agree with the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, and, I think, the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, who indicated a preference for regional boards.

All the larger units in industry have their own training schemes. They also pay great attention to education. No doubt some are better than others, and sonic, inadequate; but a great deal more is being done in this field than is generally realised, or than one might have thought from some of the speeches made this afternoon. It is the smaller firms that need the help, but even among them the majority realise the need. That is my experience. The position is that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak; in other words they have not the financial resources or the staff.

What should we do to help them in this position?—and I must say that I do not think the problem can be solved by "widespread changes in industrial training", to quote the Motion. The noble Lord, Lord Fleck, referred to this wording and said that it did not mean revolution. I agree. I think that changes may be necessary; improvements are certainly necessary. But the real problem is to stimulate and maintain interest, and to spur it on. I believe that in many respects, and in some very important respects, this is a question of publicity, though I think a better word which is very prevalent in industry to-day is "communication"—communication up and down the line. We hear a great deal about that, and I think we want improved communication in this matter of industrial training.

I suggest that there are two steps which could be taken immediately without great cost. First, I believe that the Industrial Training Council, of which my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton is President—


I am not the President now.


—was such a distinguished President, should be given more "teeth", so that it can make more impact on industry than it has been able to do hitherto. I think it has made great impact on industry in the matter of apprenticeship training, but in other respects, as I believe one noble Lord on the opposite Benches said, it has been hamstrung. The second step which I think we should take is to strengthen the Training Within Industry section, generally known as T.W.I., in the Ministry of Labour, which was very successful in its early days but is now suffering, I believe, from depleted staff, due to some economy drive a few years ago. Many of the best men who worked in T.W.I. in the Ministry of Labour are now, in fact, in senior training positions in industry.

I think that the Ministry of Labour should be allowed to recruit sufficient skilled personnel to produce three or four teams at least—possibly more—with the idea that each team should concentrate on one particular area or region for, say, six months at a time. These teams should not be allowed to dissipate their efforts over the whole country, or a whole industry. They should go into a certain area rather as what I would call T.W.I. commandos and concentrate on that particular region. In their work, in my opinion, these commandos should give the highest priority to this important question of selection and training of supervisors based on that excellent Barnes Report.

Furthermore, my Lords, I believe that greater use can be made of trade associations to "spread the gospel". I have one or two friends who are directors of trade associations. One who dined with me last night is a director of a most important heavy industry trade association based mainly on the North-East coast; and after talking to him and consulting with him, I am convinced that a trade association can do a great deal to put across this need for training and education. I suggest that one of the first tasks of the strengthened or reinforced Industrial Training Council should be to enlist the aid of, to make a dead set at, these trade associations. The members of a trade association know that it is their own "show", and they listen to what their directorate has to say. Even more important, they read the occasional bulletins of information which their trade association send out. Moreover, in the constituent firms of a trade association it is the top people who read these things. As many of your Lordships will know, all senior management in industry have far too much outside paper coming on to their desks. If they have too much inside paper it is their own fault because that is within their own control; but outside paper is not. It pours in. If they want to get out and about, and get to their factories or see their clients, as they should, there is only one thing to do and that is what I do—put it in the wastepaper basket.

Trade associations could also be asked to draw the attention of their members to the facilities available for further industrial education as provided by the technical and commercial colleges and the voluntary organisations, such as the British Institute of Management, the Industrial Welfare Society, and others. I will not waste your Lordships' time by mentioning their names, but they will all be found in Appendix B of the Barnes Report. Lastly, on the subject of trade associations, surely they are in the best position to assess, or to get that assistance which is necessary to assess, the facilities best suited to their members' requirements and best located geographically.

My Lords, the subject of industrial training and education is a very wide one indeed. It is one in which, as I know, from my own experience, the majority of industrialists take a close interest. I should like to tell your Lordships in far more detail some of the practical problems and how some of these have been solved; of the successes and failures and of the beneficial results which flow from close attention by management to this matter; but I must not detain your Lordships any longer. Before I resume my seat, however, I should like to pay a tribute to what, in my experience, has been the most helpful attitude of many trade unions which I have come across. I am sure that much remains to be done, by both managements and trade unions, and also by the Government—I think we shall all admit that. But to help us all, and in particular to help the small firms, I am sure it would be wiser, cheaper and quicker—and speed is the essence of this contract—to build on and to improve the existing organisations, rather than to create the new and, as I think, top-heavy organisation set out in the White Paper.

6.41 p.m.


My Lords, like earlier speakers to-day I greatly welcome the Motion which was put down by the noble Lord, Lord Eccles. I share his conviction that widespread changes are needed in industrial training, and I intervene in the debate only to draw attention to one aspect of this problem, to wit the question of supply and training of technicians. I think it has been generally agreed (this is a point which I think the noble Lord, Lord Netherthorpe, made) that progress in industry to-day is determined to a quite substantial extent by advances in science and technology. For this reason there has for a number of years been considerable interest, even considerable agitation, about our shortage of scientists and technologists, and a number of steps have been taken to try to meet our requirements. But much less attention has been paid to the problem of our shortage of technicians. Yet it is the technician, and only the technician, who can translate into practical results in industry the researches of the scientist and technologist. The craftsman alone cannot fill the gap, and unless we have a proper supply of well-qualified technicians we shall simply continue to waste as we do now, a good deal of the time of fully-qualified scientists and technologists on performing operations which would be more appropriate to, and as a rule better carried out by, people with lower academic qualifications.

I suppose the lack of appreciation of the need of the country at the present time is due to the fact that, save in a few industries like the chemical industry, electrical engineering and telecommunications, recognition of the technician as a distinct type is fairly new and the scarcity has not become apparent until recently. Of course one may quite properly ask for a definition of a "technician". It is not easy to give a short and concise definition because of the wide variation in functions and skills in different industries. But, generally speaking, the technician, as I understand the term, means a man who stands between the scientist and technologist, on the one hand, and the craftsman or operator, on the other. He can apply, in a responsible manner under professional direction, the proven techniques which are normally employed by experts in such fields as research and development, design, maintenance and so on; and he must have not merely a high degree of skill, but a degree of education and training which will enable him not only to perform but to understand the reasons for, and the purpose of, the various operations.

This means, since such people are going to play a large part in any effort we make to increase our productivity, that we have to face up to the need for educating a considerable number of people technically to a much higher level than we have done in the past. I cannot give any precise estimate of the numbers of technicians that are required. The only data on this subject are found in a short report on a small sample survey made by the Ministry of Labour in 1960. That survey covered only firms in the chemical, metal goods and general engineering industries. But the finding there was that about four technicians are employed in industry for every one qualified scientist or technologist. Of course it may be that some of the other industries which were not examined might employ a lesser proportion of technologists, but it is pretty certain that, overall in industry, the number of technologists employed to-day is less than it ought to be. And, in any case, even taking the figures quoted, when you remember that according to the latest census there are about 200,000 qualified scientists and technologists economically active in areas where technicians are involved, you can understand that the number of technicians we want is pretty considerable.

By and large, the majority of the technicians in industry to-day are simply promoted craftsmen, and most of them have followed no systematic course of educational training to fit them for the work which they now undertake. Even in the engineering industry, where the technician has been known and recognised for a considerable time, the qualifications of technicians, where they have any, are exceedingly variable. This, I think, is because the traditional method of producing both craftsmen and technicians in this country has been the apprenticeship system. To my mind, there is no doubt at all but that the apprenticeship system needs a complete overhaul. If the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, was not quite so blunt as to say that, I think he nevertheless had much the same idea in mind. An overhaul of this type will demand joint action by the employers, the trade unions and to my mind the technical colleges. I know, and I am glad to know, that some action on these lines is being taken. But I should like to feel that the people concerned are treating this matter with the urgency it deserves.

I am afraid that, even to-day—there is a hint of it in the White Paper that has been mentioned, and in some of the speeches we have heard to-day—in discussing the education of technicians, people are inclined to think of it as a part of craft training. The educational requirements of the technician and the craftsman are not the same, and I think that part of our trouble is due to our consistent failure to recognise this fact. I think that if we seek to continue the equation of the technician's training with the craftsman's training, the best we can hope for is that we shall finish up with an apprenticeship system which presents too high an intellectual hurdle for the craftsman, and is still no use at all for the training of technicians.

For this reason, I greatly welcome the White Paper (Cmnd. 1892), which has been mentioned several times to-day, because we need some move in the general direction that it lays down. In the last year or two there have, of course, been a number of suggested variations in the courses for technicians. These are of a rather experimental character, but no doubt we shall learn a good deal from them. But the success of these experimental courses, or indeed of any course, will depend largely on the employers, because it is only employers who can secure the release of young people in industry to attend training courses.

On this matter of training courses, I confess that I have a kind of preference for block release rather than day release, particularly in the first two or three years of employment. I must try to keep an open mind on this matter, because I admit that my preference for block release rests largely on impressions I have gained over the years of the way in which students at university level react to various types of courses. I expect that they are no different from any other young people. Quite apart from personal preference, in the year 1961–62, as the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, has said, the number of boys between 15 and 18 in employment in this country who were obtaining day release represented a proportion of only 1 in 3, and as to girls only 1 in 10. This suggests to me that a good deal more could be done than has been done up to the present time.

If we have the kind of action taken that is suggested in the Ministry of Labour's White Paper, I hope that we may see some kind of uniformity in our approach to the training of technicians. That uniformity will be rather difficult, although I think it can be achieved because the recognition of functions and ranges of skill of technicians varies enormously not only between different industries but even between firms in the same industry. There are, indeed, firms who seem to have failed to realise even yet that there is any need for training of technicians outside their own operations.

These are matters which have been of great concern not merely to me personally, but also to the Advisory Council on Scientific Policy, of which I have the honour to be Chairman. As your Lordships will know, that Council has a Committee on Scientific Manpower which over the years has produced a series of reports on the supply of, and demand for, scientific manpower. We have recently asked our Committee to undertake a survey on similar lines on the whole question of the supply and demand in the field of technicians. This inquiry will, I think for the first time, seek to delimit the magnitude of the technician problem in this country; and I hope that, in addition, it may uncover some basis for a coherent educational approach, which I think is necessary. The danger at the moment in regard to technicians is that of proceeding to a piecemeal solution, industry by industry—a solution which will almost certainly end in the development of a multiplicity of courses, each far too narrowly based to meet the needs of ever-changing, flexible industry to-day.

I hope, too, my Lords, that if we secure a good, general approach to this problem of the education of technicians (and the White Paper will help us on this), we may also see, as a result, the vocation of technician given the status and recognition which it deserves. I should like to see the vocation of technician recognised in such a way as to make it appeal as a career for thousands of our young people leaving school every year. And it should appeal, because it is a career—or, if you like, a vocation—of great importance, one which can provide young people with a job full of both interest and stimulus.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, to-day has been a notable day indeed, and I think that your Lordships have, in the way that the Press occasionally likes to suggest, really justified yourselves by the very high quality of the speeches. I particularly enjoyed the opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles. I have noticed among ex-Ministers of Defence and such like subjects a reformed character: they are more critical of the Government. But in the case of Lord Eccles, I think the wisdom he acquired at the Ministry of Education has enabled him to give a really distinct and creative approach to this problem. I am only sorry that the other ex-Minister of Education, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, is still in the Government and therefore tied to this rather, I will not say "tatty" piece of paper, but let us call it, as Lord Fleck did, coat-trailing document. He failed to trail his coat very far, and was determined, so far as I could tell, to confine the debate to the subject of the training of craftsmen. He mentioned managers and a number of other people he would have liked to talk about who he said were important, but the only thing he said that was constructive in this discussion was concerned with craftsmen.

It is quite clear that a debate of this kind, as with all our debates on industrial affairs—or, for that matter, on foreign affairs—touches all sides of national life, but I think we have succeeded in keeping pretty close to the subject of the Motion—even though Lord Hailsham carved out an even smaller patch within that Motion for himself. Clearly, we could have discussed, because it is germane to this topic, the whole structure of industry—the trade union structure, problems of industrial co-operation, and so on; and it is quite obvious, as I am sure we should all agree, that any really effective approach to improved training, particularly retraining, presupposes a state of full employment. I am not getting at the Government particularly at the moment when I say that obviously the circumstances that prevail to-day make it a little more difficult to persuade the trade unions to face up to problems of dilution, and so on.

We have to accept the fact that there will be a vast amount of technological change which might lead to technological unemployment. When we look at the new industries that have been created in the last 50 years—and I need not mention them because they will immediately spring to your Lordships' minds—and think of what is likely to come about in the next 50 years, the problem in regard to training at the operative level (and in saying "operative" I am including the so-called unskilled worker and the so-called skilled worker or craftsman—and we probably ought to include Lord Todd's technician, although I suspect technicians are a specialised problem) is obvious. My main criticism of this particular White Paper is that it tends to narrow the consideration: it isolates the craftsman. Although it is skilfully ambiguous enough to avoid relating its remarks only to apprentices—it says "and other trainees"—the emphasis seems to be mainly on industrial skilled workers. Having listened carefully to practically the whole of this debate—in which, I again emphasise, I was gratified to find how much the initial forward-looking approach of Lord Eccles's speech was sustained throughout the debate, and in which the House of Lords was really feeling its way into the future—I have a fear that we may be tackling this question in the wrong way by thinking primarily in terms of craft skills.

My Lords, I would agree that the exercise the Government are doing and which we have gone through is useful, but the old dividing lines are no longer valid and, of course, in some industries they scarcely exist at all. Nor would it be true to say that there are no skills in industries which some people regard as unskilled. I admit that this is again a problem of the definition of industry. I am not sure whether that includes agriculture; I suspect that it certainly does not include the distributive trades. But I do not think that we can look at this without looking at the whole field of industry and commerce and, indeed, at all those activities outside direct Government services that add up to the total of the national product.

There are in fact great skills in some of these other trades. It takes a good deal of training, for example, to make a good shop assistant. A good shop assistant has to know a great deal about merchandise and has to be trained in a number of things. And indeed in the retail trade, for example, there is a very good Retail Training Council. There is a certain amount of day release, and there are standards of proficiency for the national retail certificates, yet the painful fact is that only something like 14 per cent. of young people in the retail trade are going for day release, let alone block release for which so much preference has been expressed. I think that in the long run we ought to look at this nationally, however much the Government and we to-day have thought in terms of craftsmen, apprentices and manufacturing industry.

My Lords, I should now like to turn to this question of the boards and how they will be set up. In particular, I would reiterate the question which somebody (I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Eccles) asked the noble Viscount as to how tough the Government would be in setting up these boards. To some extent the model is the Industrial Organisation and Development Act, which was passed when the noble Viscount was in another place, in 1946–47. There powers were taken to set up development councils, provided that in the opinion of the Minister a sufficient number of people in the industry thought there was a demand for a development council. They had considerable powers; indeed, powers to develop training and to make levies. I remember some of the violent discussion that went on against this gross interference with private enterprise. It is interesting to see how far we have come from those days. But what is absolutely true—and the critics were right—is that you cannot impose this.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, that it will not be possible to impose these boards with powers to collect levies which will be regarded as punitive, unless the particular industry—however that may be defined, and we certainly have been given no clue as to how you define an industry—wants it. The fact that there will be a carrot in that certain firms in an industry will get the levies paid back to them does not seem to me to meet the case sufficiently. I understand the Government are thinking in terms of direct grants. I would urge that it would surely be better for the Government to accept the responsibility of government in this matter, and not to transfer their taxing powers to subordinate bodies.

I think one of the values of this debate is that we are still following out ideas. I know that any Government spokesman clearly cannot say more than what represents Government policy at the moment, but the rest of us can at least float our ideas. Might it not be better that the responsibility for financing training should rest with the Government? If they wish to make a direct charge on industry, I would suggest one method—though it may not be popular on either side of the House; that is, that they should revive the idea of that seriously misconceived tax, the payroll tax. The Government introduced the payroll tax under the impression that it would be a short-term economic regulator. How they did this, and how they believed this, it is quite impossible to tell, because it is not a short-term economic regulator. But in so far as we wish to get greater efficiency, and to provide incentives to the better use of manpower, I am sure that in all our planning we must plan on the basis that any Government will maintain full employment. This then would seem to be a much easier and more painless way—indeed, I would say a much more proper way—to collect this money. Thereafter the Government, either from that fund (I know that they do not like hypothecated taxes), or from direct taxation, would pay broadly for the training that is done in the industry.

My Lords, here I should like to suggest, as other noble Lords have done, that this should not be primarily the responsibility of the Ministry of Labour. There is much to be said for regarding this as an extension of the education system. There are other examples in other countries to suggest that this would be a rather honourable precedent, and surely industrial training, in the terms of this White Paper—in terms of first-year and apprenticeship training—grows out of the education system. It is extraordinarily difficult to distinguish between vocational and non-vocational training. All vocational training departments are consciously doing a lot of what many people would call non-vocational training, because, as with all general education, it has a relationship to the subsequent vocation of the particular individual.

There have been certain other criticisms of the narrowness of the Government's proposals. I would endorse the suggestion made by other noble Lords, that there is a need for some form of co-ordinating body. I do not think it ought to be done by the Ministry of Labour; and I doubt whether the Ministry of Education will be allowed to do it. I would therefore suggest that there should be some sort of national co-ordinating vocational training body. I think this should be a Government body, and I should like to keep the Industrial Training Council playing the extremely useful sort of rôle that it is doing now—supported by the Government, but not simply a Government agent. It may well be that it should be combined with this Government body, but I think there is a good deal to be said for its playing this particular rôle.

Here, my Lords, I should like to turn to an actual example of another country—Sweden. There has been some reference to other countries, and some of your Lordships will have seen the article in the current Economist quoting from Lady Williams's book on vocational training and industrial training in other countries. It is interesting to see how far they have gone in a country like Sweden. They have clearly had one big advantage. They have had a much simpler pattern of industry, and they have had industrial trade unions, rather than a mixture of craft and other types of trade unions. We need not go into the merits of this, but clearly it is going to simplify any industrial approach. I personally am in favour of the industrial board. But it seems to me that if we are to make the industrial board work, as opposed to the area board or the other approach, it can be done only on a national scale; otherwise we shall be continually confronted over the whole of the rest of industry with this problem of who trains the electricians. In Sweden they have precisely this sort of pattern. They have the Industrial Joint Trade Committee, representing both trade unions and employers, which operates at industry level. Above that, they have a Joint Vocational Training Council (and the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, is probably very familiar with this) which is not so very different from our own Industrial Training Council. Then, in addition, there is the Civil Service Department, the National Swedish Board of Vocational Education.

My Lords, firms who already carry out their own training, their own apprenticeship and their own craft or other training are, in fact, paid for their contribution in these training schools, and it seems to me that this would be an easier way to operate this scheme than the rather strange mixture of carrot and implied stick—and the Government have yet to show that they have a stick which will be effective against a possibly reluctant industry. Furthermore, I suggest that this approach would make it very much easier to achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, wants to achieve; that is, flexibility in these fields where there is new development as between the existing disciplines in the sciences and industry.

My Lords, the debate has gone on for quite a long time. I shall not say more, apart from a word on the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham. He had some fine words, and some sympathetic words, to say about the miners and their right to be retrained. There is not time now to go into the question of retraining, but I do not think these fine words, or the intentions of the Government (and I am quite sure that the Government have a number of views, which they have been too careful to put into their White Paper, for fear of treading on toes), will get very far by a piecemeal and an unadventurous approach. I am quite sure that we need a more fundamental approach than has yet been shown; and if they did come out with a strong initiative in this way, I think there would be much more chance of overcoming the difficulties which they fear from both employers and trade unions.

7.14 p.m.


My Lords, I would very much agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, when he said that this had been a very remarkable debate, very constructive and well-informed. I would agree, too, with what all the other speakers have said, when they thanked my noble friend Lord Eccles for putting this Motion down. Not only has he made a most notable contribution to the debate, but his Motion has enabled many of your Lordships with a lifetime of experience of industrial training to make speeches which will be of great value to my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour in forming his plans for the next step forward.

I hope your Lordships will acquit me of any discourtesy if I do not mention every speech that has been made this afternoon, because, alas! my Lords, unlike those who have taken part in the debate, I am navigating in what to me are rather uncharted waters, and I speak this evening with considerable diffidence. But it so happens that when, unlike this afternoon, sailing under my true colours, the White Ensign, I can justly claim to represent a Department with a very good record of achievement in the matters which we have been discussing. We are good employers. Not only do we operate, and have been operating for a very long time, a comprehensive apprentice training scheme for civilians who come into the Admiralty service, but we also undertake a very large programme of Royal Naval apprentice training. On the civilian side, the number of apprentices entered annually is more than 1,300, and they are encouraged to follow courses at schools and technical colleges which lead to the City and Guilds and National Certificate examinations. We want everybody serving an apprenticeship to attend a school or technical college for at least two years.

As for the naval side, about 700 craftsmen annually leave the Navy at ages when they still have a long working life in front of them, and they contribute greatly to the skills which are so necessary in civilian life. Perhaps I might be allowed just one more boast before I turn to the subject proper of this debate, and that is to say that one of the great difficulties in the Royal Navy to-day is the temptation placed before our trained men by civilian employers who know that the training to be had in the Navy is unmatched in the civilian world.

Perhaps, too, I might just be allowed to say how much I agree with what my noble friend Lord Netherthorpe said, about how badly we need a training board in the agricultural industry—an industry in which he and I are both vitally interested.

My Lords, many things have been said in the course of the debate about the inadequacy of our present industrial training methods, but about one thing there has been and can be absolutely no disagreement in any quarter of the House. Everyone agrees that if we are to maintain and improve our position in an increasingly competitive world, we must increase our supply of skilled labour—and, so far as I can judge, the only way that this can be done is by training. It is an interesting fact that ever since the war, except for a very few short periods, the country has been chronically short of skilled workers. To take but one example, in September, 1961, when demand was high but not as high as it had been, there were vacancies for skilled men in engineering alone exceeding skilled men unemployed by more than 20,000; and even last September the figure was over 6,000.

Not only must we increase the amount of training: we must also increase the quality of training. Like my noble friend the Leader of the House, I find it extraordinary that the only essential condition for the successful completion of a craft apprenticeship in this country is to have "served time". The period of time has no relation to the amount of time actually needed to train, or to the amount of time which was used for training. Of course, that does not mean that all the training given is bad: some of it is very good indeed, but it does not necessarily follow. There should be some way of testing the adequacy of the training given and received, and a means of ensuring that the training is given according to a properly detailed syllabus. The City and Guilds of London Institute and the technical colleges have certainly helped to raise standards. So have the specialist education and training officers appointed by many firms—though I do not think there are nearly enough of them. The Training Advisory Service of the Industrial Training Council is also doing invaluable work in helping firms to raise the standards of training; and a further impetus to good training has been the spread of group training schemes, which the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, mentioned, though I think he had some qualifications about them. These schemes have been particularly valuable in enabling the small or specialised firm to undertake training which the firm, by relying on its own resources, would have been unable to contemplate.

A typical group consists of a dozen or more smaller firms employing altogether about 30 apprentices under the control of a group training officer who supervises their progress according to a detailed syllabus. The composition of the group is so balanced that the facilities and experience available in one firm complement that available in the other group members. The most successful group apprenticeship scheme is that of the Engineering Industries Association, which has about 800 apprentices from nearly 400 firms organised in groups in many parts of the country. It accounts for well over half the total number in group schemes throughout the country. Also the Industrial Training Council has encouraged the spread of group schemes by making grants to assist with the initial development work. This has been very helpful. More recently the Government, through the Industrial Training Council, have offered exceptional help to the North-East training council for the promotion of a group scheme on Tees-side.

In 1960 a number of courses for apprentices in their first year were started in Government training centres. At about the same time full-time courses of integrated training and education for first-year apprentices were made available in some technical colleges on terms similar to those in Government training centres. The numerical contribution which these courses have made is small, but they have effectively demonstrated that systematic training means better training and quicker training. The continuing shortage—and it is continuing—of skill, and the need to improve the quality of training, have convinced the Government that, in the words of the Command Paper presented to Parliament by my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour: The time has come to strengthen and improve the existing partnership between industry, the Government and the educational authorities in the provision of industrial training. The White Paper outlines—and I emphasise "outlines"—what the Government believe to be a workable scheme, but the details will not be filled in until we have heard the views of organisations and individuals with an interest in the subject. This naturally includes the views of those of your Lordships who have spoken this afternoon. Your Lordships' speeches will be carefully considered. This is a matter of vital public concern, and one of the Government's objects in publishing the White Paper was to promote the widest possible discussion of it. The Ministry of Labour at the moment is having consultations with industrial organisations such as the British Employers' Confederation and with the Trades Union Congress. Discussions with the nationalised industries will follow; and, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, no decision has yet been taken how the nationalised industries will fit into these proposals. At the same time, my right honourable friends the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland are consulting educational organisations.

Generally the proposals in the White Paper have been welcomed, and I suppose the main criticism which has been voiced in this House this afternoon is that they do not go far enough. It has been suggested that the powers which it is proposed the boards should have will be permissive rather than mandatory, that the success or failure of the new proposals will depend on who is appointed to serve on the boards, and that if the boards lack the will to do anything then nothing will happen. As I have already said, no decisions have yet been taken as to what the legislation will contain, but I think this is taking rather too pessimistic a view of things. My noble friend the Leader of the House said that the White Paper proposes that the Minister of Labour should have the power to pay grants to the boards and that he should also have the power to appoint inspectors to satisfy himself that the standard of training adopted by each board is sufficient to justify the payment of a grant. This is a powerful sanction. My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour has gone on record as saying that he has no intention of introducing legislation merely to maintain the status quo.

The noble Lord, Lord Williamson and my noble friend, Lord Ampthill, have suggested that in addition to the national boards there ought to be regional boards with proper arrangements for liaison between them. The noble Lord, Lord Fleck, suggested that instead of national boards covering individual industries there ought to be a series of regional boards covering all industries. I think it is important to distinguish between what may be called the policy making and the executive function of the boards. By policy making, I mean decisions on syllabuses, standards, length of training, and so on. Clearly these are decisions which will have to be taken nationally. One cannot have a system whereby a carpenter would be trained to one standard within two years in the South-West while he would be expected to have a five-year training in the North-East. We are much too small an island to have differences of that sort and it would be quite unacceptable. But when it comes to execution of policies to ensure that agreed syllabuses are carried out, proper arrangements for further education made and so on, I should have thought that that was another matter. It is going to be necessary that the national boards should have some form of regional organisation possibly through regional committees. Perhaps one regional commitee could carry out executive functions for more than one industrial board or maybe all boards. These problems will form part of the detailed discussions which my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour is having with both sides of industry. No decisions have yet been reached on these matters.

As for the composition of the boards, the White Paper proposed that the majority of members should be drawn from industry, from management and from the trade unions. This is right, as the noble Lord, Lord McCorquodale of Newton, said. It is the Government intention that there should be adequate representation of educational interests on the boards, and it is generally accepted that both the Ministry of Labour and one or both of the educational Departments should be represented on each board by an assessor. This takes care of the worry which has been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Citrine. Power given to the board to impose a levy on firms in its industry is an essential part of the plan.

This proposal for spreading the cost of training more fairly has been warmly welcomed, but not by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton. Indeed, criticism so far has been that the proposals in paragraph 11 of the White Paper that firms below a certain size might be excluded from the levy is going too far. There is, in equity, no reason for excluding any firms, to the extent that all benefit from training and all should pay. The intention was only to relieve the boards of the need to collect the levy from very small firms, say of five employees or less, where this could be done only at disproportionate cost. If the administrative difficulties should prove to be less than feared, then the argument for excluding any firms would disappear.

I was interested in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Todd. In a sense, it was, I think, a little outside the scope of this Motion, but in any event he will comfort himself with the thought that sitting behind me and listening was the noble Viscount the Leader of the House who, wearing a different hat as Minister for Science, was, I know, taking a great interest in what the noble Lord was saying. He is much concerned with this problem and will study the noble Lord's speech and bring it to the notice of the Ministers concerned.

The noble Lords, Lord Williamson and Lord Fleck, drew attention to the way in which the Carr Committee was hindered by the inadequate occupational statistics available. My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour is conscious of this deficiency and has made proposals to industry for the collection of statistics which should go a long way towards giving a clearer picture of the occupational structure of industry. The noble Lord, Lord Fleck, asked about the three-year course for apprentices at Stowe College. The three-year experimental course mentioned by the noble Lord has the approval of both the Scottish Educational Department and the Ministry of Labour—who sat as assessors on the Scottish Technical Educational Consultative Council which recommended the introduction of the course. It is a new departure in this country and is still in an early stage. It will be some time before conclusions can be reached as to how to develop it. It is proposed to make the course the subject of scientific research by continuous assessment of progress throughout the three years. It has been suggested also by the noble Lord, Lord Fleck, and in the last speech by the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that industrial training is so much part of our educational process that the Minister of Education should be made responsible for it rather than the Minister of Labour. It is true, of course, as my noble friend said earlier in the day, that all training is part of what we call education and, moreover, that there is everything to be said for the basic first year's training being given in special training schools removed from the demands of production. But for the whole training to be given under these conditions would be both unsatisfactory and highly expensive.

Production work under normal industrial conditions is an essential part of training, and it must not be overlooked that, by contributing to production, the trainee is also helping to meet part of the cost of his training. So, important though the educational element is, the main emphasis must inevitably remain on what is done in industry. This is why I think that it is the Minister of Labour who should continue to be the responsible Minister. But, needless to say, my right honourable friend will continue to work in the closest possible co-operation with his colleagues, the Education Ministers, and he will certainly not reject the idea of a co-ordinating advisory council.

The White Paper refers mainly to the training of the young and, in particular, of apprentices. School-leavers constitute by far the largest potential supply of skilled manpower and it is therefore right that the Boards should turn their attention first to them. But the powers of the Boards will cover all forms of training. The boy who enters industry on leaving school has a working life in front of him of about 50 years. Given the pace of technical change to-day, how can one possibly guarantee that the kind of work a boy is trained to do at the outset of his industrial career will still be needed at the end of it? New skills will be needed and old ones will decline, just as the riveter has given way to the welder and the blacksmith to the motor mechanic. Some industries will contract while others will expand.

It is a terrible thing for a skilled man to find that his skill is no longer needed. But it is no use trying to prop up dying industries. What we have to do is to help men and women who are faced with this problem to obtain new employment—and, if necessary, to acquire new skills—in the expanding industries. This sort of readjustment is likely to be needed on an increasing scale. The training and retraining of adults will therefore have to be accepted as a normal part of our industrial life.

At present most of the training and retraining of adults is done by individual firms themselves. But the Government play a part. Training in about 40 skilled trades is given at the 13 Government training centres run by the Ministry of Labour. So far, the numbers trained at these centres are not large—something less than 4,000 a year at present—but, as my noble friend said earlier in the debate, three new centres are being established in areas which are particularly affected by redundancies in the coal-mining industry. My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour announced in another place a few days ago that he was prepared to enlarge the rôle of the Government in this field as new industries start up in the areas of high unemployment. Those industries will wish themselves to retrain many of the people they take on, but the Government should provide a safety net to ensure that all those who need and can benefit from training do not lack the opportunity.

My noble friend the Leader of the House referred to the opposition which the Minister of Labour has received from some of the unions concerned. We all must hope that this will be overcome, as without an adequate supply of skilled labour there can be no industrial expansion. Just as important, the livelihood and well-being of many men and their families are at stake in all this. I think that we all should agree with the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of London, with the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, and with my noble friend Lord McCorquodale of Newton, that on these matters with which we have been dealing this afternoon we are dealing with people, with individuals, and that people are more important than productivity. Let me repeat that the speeches made in this debate will be carefully studied. I think that it would be true to say that, on the whole, the afternoon's proceedings in your Lordships' House will have encouraged my right honourable friend the Minister of Labour, both by your Lordships' reception of the White Paper and by the assurance that, in advancing as quickly as possible, he will have the advice, the support and the co-operation of your Lordships' House.

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, in opening this debate, I ventured to say that many of your Lordships were more expert in the field of industrial training than I am; and so it has proved to be. I am sure that the speeches to which we have listened this afternoon will be of real help to the Government, and also to many people in industry and the education services, in filling in the policy of this White Paper. I think your Lordships will agree upon two things: first, that it really is necessary to do something on a scale which is different from what has been done before, though building on the past; and secondly, that the kind of plan which is outlined in the White Paper, though one may agree with it in broad outline, is bound to raise a tremendous number of extremely difficult administrative problems.

That being so, what are we to do? A number of your Lordships have said, "Apply sanctions". If I remember rightly, the noble Lord, Lord Citrine, said that he had found planning commonly fruitless without sanctions. That may well be true, and I believe that it is necessary to have sanctions in reserve. But, in my modest experience, planning is also fruitless without enthusiasm. What I hope is that there will be among the public in general enough enthusiasm for a great advance in industrial training to carry along with it the objections which we shall meet without doubt in one quarter or another. It was my hope to persuade your Lordships that that enthusiasm can come only if (in the words which my noble friend Lord Carrington has just used) we prefer people to productivity. I believe that that is the only way in which we shall carry forward a great movement. If it is seen that this is being done for the young people of the country and, in another aspect, for redundant workers, then we shall get the production. We shall get the agreement on these difficult problems concerning the boards, however they may be modified.

I have but one other thing to say. I remain adamant in my opinion that to continue drawing a line between education and training is now against the public interest. I regret very much if attempts should still be made to say that there are two responsibilities, one responsibility in the factory and one in the technical college. The truth is that the training of workers is being done more and more in technical colleges. The training of building workers is an example. There is no valid separation between the two. I do not judge whether that means a single ministerial responsibility—that is a matter for the Government to work out—but I join very much with my noble friend Lord Todd when he said that we now must work out for technicians (I am sure that they come within the ambit of industrial training) a coherent educational policy that goes far beyond any particular kind of technician. If we do not do that, we shall not get these technicians. Therefore, I hope that the educational side, even if it does not win the whole battle now, will receive more supporters as time goes on, because in the end the educational element will have to be predominant. I thank your Lordships very much for all the wonderful, well-informed speeches we have had. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion and the request for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.