§ 2.48 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR rose to call attention to the consultative document, Training for the Future; and to move for Papers. The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I rise to call attention to this consultative document which is published by the Department of Employment. Those of your Lordships' House who have never been directly concerned with questions of industrial training may reasonably feel that this is a matter largely of technical and administrative 743 concern and not a question which has wider policy implications of general importance. This would be a reasonable view but it would be a wrong conception. Training is an essential element and has a real contribution to make both towards economic policy and in social policy. It is important for economic policy because, as we are all too frequently reminded, we are suffering apparently from continuous inflation; we have large wage claims, and a continuous expectation of rising standards of living. None of us knows the way in which this greatly important problem can be dealt with, but there is no doubt that training, in so far as it enhances the value of the contribution of work done by men and women, makes it easier to meet the cost of rising wages, and to this extent helps in containing inflation. The greater the value of the work done, the nearer therefore does the increase in the level of productivity match the expectation and the wage demands of people claiming additional pay. Their training can assist us—it is only one element, but it can assist us—with our major economic problem.
§ It can also assist us with our economic problem in a related but slightly different way. There can be little doubt that over the next decade we need to see (as, indeed, over the past decade we ought to have seen) a considerable restructuring of British industry and movement away from declining into expanding types of work. But as we learn anew almost daily, such changes are fiercely resisted—fiercely resisted, in the long run, to the economic cost of the country and of the industry and, very often, of the people themselves who resist. But this resistance is of course entirely reasonable and understandable when men see change in industry bringing them personally to the end of their known way of work and when the future holds little hope for them. It is here that training for an increasing number of people, as our knowledge of how to train increases, makes easier movement from job to job and the application of new technology, on which so much of our economic progress depends—progress which is within our grasp if we could only persuade people that for them personally, as well as for the economy as a whole, such changes are beneficial. Here, too, training has a major contribution.744
§ I said that training was important not only in relation to economic policy but also in relation to social policy. I suppose there are few people who do not support the idea of equality of opportunity, although our interpretation of what is meant by that phrase might well vary considerably. But too often we think of equality of opportunity solely in terms of academic and school education, and of opportunities available for children and for young adults. Yet, over the next decade at any rate, perhaps the most important field for equality of opportunity lies in equality of opportunity for access to good jobs; and access to good jobs means training. So, on both the economic and the social fronts these pro posed changes, and the whole issue of training policy, is of very considerable importance.
§ I would remind your Lordships very briefly of the present situation and what are the criticisms of the present situation before we turn to consider the new proposals and to ask ourselves to what extent these new proposals in fact meet the criticisms of our present state. Your Lordships will recall that in 1964 the Industrial Training Act was passed in order to improve the quantity and quality of training in this country and to spread the cost of training more equitably. In order to do this, under the Minister of Labour were set up industrial training boards—there are 27 at the present time; tripartite boards on which sat representatives of employers and of trade unions and of educationists. Their financial instrument, both in spreading cost and as an incentive to get training done in industry, was the system of the levy and the grant—the best known aspect, I think, of the Industrial Training Act and the work of the industrial training boards. This system has been with us since 1964, and there has been, and there is to-day, considerable criticism of the way in which this system is working, hence the proposed new scheme outlined in the document we are discussing.
§ There are a number of criticisms. I will refer your Lordships only to what appear to me to be the most important and those which are taken up in the new suggestions. A major criticism, which was inherent in the 1964 Act itself, and I think in the attitude of all of us towards training at the time the Act was passed, is that training as we have seen 745 it is concentrated on the economic aspect of training, the benefit to the industry and the national economy; to too small an extent have we taken account of the social aspect and the opportunity which training gives to the individual.
§ This criticism is reinforced by the approach to training embodied in the Treaty of Rome, Article 128, and spelt out in Principles of Training, which has been promulgated by the Commission in Brussels and which to some extent has been reflected in legislation in both France and Germany. There the accent is being put to an increasing extent on the right of the individual to train in order to get greater opportunity for personal development and personal advancement; and this is being laid against the purely economic emphasis which has been characteristic of training in this country. It is not fair to blame the industrial training boards for this, for it was never in their mandate to deal with this aspect. In so far as there was a mandate for training of this kind, it is provided for under the Education Act 1948 and carried out through the vocational training schemes in the Government training centres. It is generally agreed, and submitted in this report, that the number of people in the industrial training centres, even to-day under 20,000 a year, is woefully inadequate to meet the needs of individuals.
§ The second major criticism, also implicit in the legislation as it was passed, which organised training on an industry basis, is that it allows insufficiently for movement from industry to industry. Since the training schemes are organised by industries for industries, it is not surprising that inadequate provision exists, when an industry is running down, to enable men and women to move from that industry into expanding industries. Yet, as I said a few moments ago, this is in fact one of the most important economic and indeed social problems in this country at the present time. A third criticism is that there are gaps: that not all people are covered by the industrial training boards; that there are several million people who in fact do not come under any kind of industrial training board at all. Fourthly, and best known, is irritation with, and criticism of, the way in which the levy/grant scheme has been operating. It is a scheme which, without doubt, has involved a tremendous 746 amount of time and paper work in industry, and at the end of the day the great mass of the money collected, with much labour, is passed back and redistributed to industry itself. It is argued: is this really the most sensible way in which to finance training, and surely it is in itself expensive and time consuming. These, then, are the major criticisms.
§ In the proposals put forward in this pamphlet the Government have two major prongs to attack the criticisms. The first is the training opportunities scheme, which is designed to implement the social aspects of training to meet the criticism that our present scheme does too little for the individual who, realising that up till now his training has been inadequate or that the occupation in which he is engaged has no real future, wishes to take advantage of the new opportunities which are opening up but which will be closed to him unless he can obtain the appropriate training.
§ I think there can be nothing but wholehearted support for the Training Opportunities Scheme, the greatly enhanced scale on which the Government are prepared to finance training and the very much more generous system of allowances which accompany these proposals. I can only regret that although the aim is for 100,000 places a year, in contrast to under 20,000 at Government training centres at the present time, over-modestly the Government are expecting to got only between 60,000 and 70,000 by the end of 1975. It is highly regrettable that in the documents they admit that at the present time they have a long waiting list of something like 10,000 people applying for training to whom they are unable to give it.
§ Having said that, however, I should add that the objective of the training opportunities scheme is undoubtedly to be supported, provided—and this is an important proviso—that the study of future manpower requirements is sufficiontly skilful and accurate to give a reasonable certainty that people will not train themselves for jobs which in fact are not going to exist. It is little encouragement to people to give them grants and the opportunity to train if, at the end of the day, they find there is no job available. It is not very much good in many cases if the 747 job is going to come some months, or even years, after the training is completed, This training requires quick application at the end of the training period otherwise the skills may well degenerate and prove to be of little use when the opportunity ultimately arises. But with that one proviso in my view the Training Opportunities Scheme should be uncontroversial and should b given a very warm welcome.
§ The second prong is much more open to question. The Government propose to establish a National Training Agency to take an over-view of training in the country and to provide the finance, broadly speaking, for the development of training. There is the anticipation accompanied by the running down of the grant/levy system which has been operated by the industrial training boards. This scheme meets some of the criticisms which have been raised about existing procedures. It fills the gaps; it makes it possible, provided that the manpower information is there, to match training needs more nearly to manpower forecasts. But many people think—and I am one of them—that the tendency is far too centralised. Training is diverse; we do not know the answers in many cases, and what works in one case does not necessarily work in another. I cannot but be suspicious of the idea that something as various and as elusive as training needs is well controlled from the centre.
§ Again the text says—and it is no doubt the intention—that the National Training Agency will work through the industrial training boards, which will stay in existence. This is really the crux of the matter: do we wish the industrial training boards to stay in existence or do we not? It appears to be assumed in this document that although the National Training Agency will control the funds, and although, perhaps even more significantly, it will employ the professional staff and second them to the industrial training boards, the work of the industrial training boards will none the less continue. I do not believe that this is so. I believe that if the National Training Agency fulfils the role outlined for it in this document the boards will be greatly emaciated and that their work will seriously run down. It is argued that they have established the idea of 748 training in British industry. This seems to me to be highly optimistic. In some sectors of British industry this is true, but habits do not change as fast as that. The Act was passed only in 1964 and many of the training boards have been set up only in the last three or four years. I believe that unless the training boards are still actively in doing the work that they have done in the past will gradually—or not so gradually—disappear in many areas, and we shall go back to the slothful attitude towards training which has characterised so many areas of British industry in the past.
§ Why do I not think that the training boards will continue to be there to prod. to suggest, to research the very important part on which little emphasis is placed here if the National Training Agency assumes both financial and personnel responsibility for the work of the boards? Because, my Lords, I do not believe that we shall get the calibre of people needed to run the boards unless they are to a large extent still in charge of their own affairs. If they have to go more or less cap in hand to the Agency to get their training programmes approved, then the employers, trade unionists and educationists on the board will say: "We are not prepared to act as agents for the National Training Agency. We are the people who understand best what the training needs here are, and we are the people who should have the last say." But if the money is somewhere else and the control of staff is somewhere else you do not have the last say. I think this would also be so because it seems to me that the tripartite pattern of the training boards still has a great deal to offer. Surely it is an achievement in these days when industrial relationships between management and trade unions are by no means as smooth and easy as they might be, that on the training boards we get trade unionists and employers threshing out this central problem together. Here is an ongoing, worthwhile example of collaboration, with the friction to a large extent taken out of it, which it would be the greatest pity to destroy, particularly at the present moment. So I would hate to see the training boards gradually run down, and I believe this is what the proposals of the National Training Agency in fact mean, despite what it is saying. For this reason I very much hope that the Government will think again about 749 the National Training Agency proposals and their attitude towards the training boards.
§ But I have a much more profound disquiet about these new proposals than the effect that they will have on the industrial training boards. Some months ago another document was produced by the Department of Employment, entitled People and Jobs. This document, People and Jobs, deals with manpower forecasting, with the guidance of individual men and women wishing to explore the labour market and to look for jobs, and it deals with the placing service of men and women in jobs. The powers-that-be have decided, in their wisdom, that there shall be one agency within the Department of Employment which will deal with these three elements—manpower forecasting, careers advice and placing. They have decided that this will be a departmental agency while the national training agency envisaged in this document is a hived-off body, reporting, it is true, to the Secretary of State outside the Department of Employment, financed and staffed—and I think this is excellent—not by civil servants but by men and women drawn from industry and from education.
§ So we are having a new start. But what sort of a new start? We are splitting right down the middle this whole held of employment and training, which is really an organically related whole. Surely it is essential to do what the Swedes do and to have the four facets of the jobs, which are so closely inter-related, in one organisation, not two. It seems to me, reading between as well as reading the lines, that there has been much argument about this. We are told that for the present there may not be this integration. We are told the time is not ripe for some kind of national manpower commission, national labour market board, whatever name you like to use. But why? Surely it is absolutely essential that these aspects of the job should be tied up together and handled by one organisation. Those of us who have watched the work of the Youth Employment Service in the past know how much that work was bedevilled by inter-departmental friction. I do not mince my words. We know there are bureaucratic difficulties about making this kind of scheme work. But if we are starting anew, for goodness sake! let us start anew aright.750
§ Therefore, because above all else I want to see one organisation, not two, I urge your Lordships to urge the Government to think again, not only about the more minor criticisms I have made but also about the need to have one unified scheme, hived off. I am all in favour of that, and I am delighted the suggestion is that it should be largely staffed by people drawn from industry and education rather than from the Civil Service. I am fully aware of the implications of what I am saying. I have seen this work in Sweden. I am deeply interested in the way it is working there. I believe it is along this line that the future lies if we are to have successful use of the men and women of this country, and it is for them, after all, that these schemes are made. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.13 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the Liberal Party for enabling us to discuss this highly important document, which I hope is consultative in fact as well as in name, because then the Government will be able to take some account of the speeches made in this House to-day and the criticism and helpful advice that is coming from knowledgeable people in industry on the industrial training boards. The noble Baroness, in a speech of somewhere near twenty-five minutes, has given us a clear exposition of her point of view, and she has done it, as usual, apparently without reference to a single note, and, unlike so many who boast of their ability to speak without notes, without unnecessary repetition, without straying into the bypaths of parenthesis from which so many of them find it difficult to return—if in fact they ever do—to the main road. The noble Baroness has a lucidity and grasp which I envy her.
It is just over eight years since from this Box I welcomed the Bill which became the Industrial Training Act 1964. I then welcomed particularly Government intervention in a field known to have too many bare patches, in that there was a failure on the part of some employers to engage in any sort of training at all; but they were only too ready to poach the products of firms which did have training schemes for their craftsmen and 751 others. I ended my speech then by saying:This is a small Bill but a vast subject. It attempts not merely to face up to the task of making up for past deficiencies in our training methods, but to reach forward to the requirements of industry 10 or 20 years hence. It tries to lay foundations."—[0FFICIAL REPORT, 6/2/64; col. 284.]Obviously the Government think—and I agree with them—that the time has come to examine what has been built on those foundations. How good is the structure that has arisen from the Act? What are its weaknesses and what is it lacking to enable it to provide the training required by employers and the retraining needed by the economy to enable the redeployment of manpower where technological advance makes that necessary. This last part is very necessary. It is clear that in the future men are not going to do as I did—enter industry at the age of thirteen and expect to be in the same sort of job until retiring at sixty-five or so. It is true I did not do that; I went eventually into the place down below.
But I do not think that the chances of remaining in the same sort of job all one's life will exist in the future. Technological change will mean change of job.
I think that the strongest part of the structure built upon the Act is that of the industrial training boards, which train people for their own industries, and the weakest part that so many people axe outside the scope and influence of a board at all. As I understand it, almost one-third of the working population remains outside the scope of any board to-day. Added to that is the fact that a major difficulty, which many of us suspected would show itself, is that where an I.T.B. is catering for the primary activity of a firm, the need for the training of staff which falls to be parcelled out among a number of boards tends to be dealt with sketchily or not really catered for at all. As one knowledgeable observer has put it:The determination of scope of a board by the major activity of a company has left the responsibility for training in a number of major occupations split between a number of boards, with no satisfactory system of ensuring common training standards or achieving training objectives within those occupations.752 If that is the case, then clearly the Central Training Council has failed to do what it was originally intended it should do. It is probably not the fault of the Council itself, but rather the fault of the limited nature of the Industrial Training Act.
With experience gained as a result of this Act to help us, what now has to be done to relate training and retraining to the manpower requirements not only of to-day but also of to-morrow? During the last few days I have read many of the reports of those engaged in industrial training board work and much of the available literature on the topic of training for industry. Almost invariably reference is made by the authors to the need for a firm statistical base for assessing future training activities within the sphere of an I.T.B. itself. It is also obvious, surely, that when we turn to the wider field there is a need for such a statistical base for an assessment of manpower trends on a nationwide basis. The Government are, of course, aware of this. For example, in the employment document, the one mentioned by the noble Baroness, People in Jobs, a document sub-titled, A Modern Employment Service, we read under the heading of "Manpower Intelligence":A modernised employment service should play a more useful part in providing intelligence about local labour markets.After mentioning that the Department is to experiment in nine areas, it says:As well as making more use of statistical and other sources of manpower information, greater emphasis will be placed on obtaining indications of developments which will affect manpower demand.My Lords, that document—and in my opinion it is also worthy of study by anyone who is interested at all in the manpower problems of this country—ended in this way:The Secretary of State believes that the general direction of the Employment Service by the Chief Executive would benefit if a general council on manpower services' were to he established under the Secretary of State to discuss the main lines of development of all the manpower services. A council of this kind could include representatives of management, trade unions and other interests, together with the Chief Executive of the Employment Service, and those responsible for industrial training. This would ensure that manpower policies were developed on a co-ordinated basis.We are bound to agree in the main with that but it seems to me that everything in that document, and the consultative document we are considering to-day, 753 points to the need for a single manpower agency under one Ministry charged with responsibility for gathering manpower, intelligence for training for job placement and—this is additional to what is mentioned in People and Jobs—for job creation when the employment situation demands more employment provision. I would group all this under one body and I would give it authority and executive power. In that I go only a little farther than did the noble Baroness when she was speaking.
Turning more specifically to the document, I am bound to say that, so far as its assessment of the existing state of training is concerned, I find little fault with it. It boldly admits to failures. It sets out some of the achievements but it boldly admits to failures. But perhaps I ought to mention the chief criticism made of the boards that I have heard from those actively engaged in the work of the industrial training boards. It is that they, the people so engaged, tend to be overburdened by the weight of administrative details and particularly by the amount of detail required in connection with grant claims. That is the sort of thing which is, I suppose, inevitable in the sort of circumstances in which claims based on ascertainable performance have to be made.
So much, briefly, for the assessment of the work under the Act so far. Clearly what now has to be done is to turn our minds to what the document calls "the way forward". Of the four needs set out in paragraph 63 of the document, my biggest doubts arise from the third; namely, thereplacement of the present general levy/grant system by more selective grants for training activities essential to the needs of industries … as a whole".There is no doubt that the imposition of a levy shocked many firms out of their complacency and made them realise that just sitting back and poaching the results of other's training could not go on. Such firms would have to pay, and did have to pay, their share of the cost of training done by others or introduce training themselves up to an acceptable level, which would enable them to reclaim, to claim back, to call back, to grab back, the levy that they had paid. This was something very much to be put to the achievement of the Industrial industry the minimum cost of training 754 Training Act 1964. The problem was placed fairly and squarely on to the board of directors' agenda, for money has to be provided to pay the levy or sufficient training done to ensure a grant return.
The requirement to pay a levy is essential. I think it is still essential to overcome industry's training inertia. What I fear is that if the "stick" and the "carrot" are removed and the stimulus to action is left to the prodding of the national training agency, there will be inevitably a tendency to sit back and leave it to "them". It is a trait of human beings' minds to blame them"—that is, the Government or some such body—or just to leave difficult problems to "them". I do it myself when I can. I would not suggest that such an attitude would become universal but it would be understandable if it became widespread, because we all tend to value something we pay for. And surely it is the case that industry should pay for the training of its own employees.
My Lords, there were some extracts from the report of the Engineering Industry Training Board given in The Times yesterday with much of which I agree and especially this:Although the elimination of levy-grant would of course he attractive to many firms, the engineering industry cannot afford the widespread rejection of responsibilities for developing key skills which would occur if this abrupt step were taken now.…It is not just the size of the 'carrot' which matters. The 'stick' plus 'carrot' scheme still is highly effective. For larger firms, the motivation undoubtedly rests on the existence of the levy and the opportunity to avoid it.In connection with the proposals to phase out the levy/grant system and the retention of the industrial training boards, we shall see boards spending money provided by the taxpayer. And in this connection one wonders whether Government expenditure would be kept anywhere near the suggested figure of £25 million to £40 million a year as the total cost of the Agency's and the boards' work. On the basis of the higher of the two figures I have just mentioned, and subtracting from that, say, £15 million to enable the Agency to provide for the proposed advisory service and for administrative costs, some £25 million would be left for the training carried on by the boards. I understand that in one important 755 amounts to £5 per employee engaged in the industry. That is not, of course, the cost of training the individual trainee but a calculation of the amount spent by the industry when divided by the total of its employees. On that basis, if the figure of £25 million is spread over the totality of comparable employees in the country, the amount available would not be £5 per employee but £1. To maintain the existing standard of training in that industry, the industry that I have just mentioned, with 4 per cent. of the total manpower of the nation, it would require 20 per cent. of the agency's available resources. My Lords, that simply is not on.
Still on the possible phasing out of the levy/grant system, I must admit to finding it a little difficult to understand what is meant by some of the document's suggestions. In paragraph 151 we read:The Government propose to introduce legislation to relieve Boards of the obligation to raise a levy.… It would remain open to Boards to propose some further continuance of a general levy/grant scheme after that date if they were satisfied that this was essential.That seems to me to presuppose that boards might not receive in National Training Agency grants sufficient to enable them to carry on a reasonable level of training. If that were the case and an industry agreed to the continuance of a levy, it would mean that the industry was paying twice for its training: once through taxation, and once through the levy. Surely, if the compulsory levy/grant system is to go, it is not to be expected that the combination of Government and Training Agency would be satisfied to provide grant on such a low scale as to make satisfactory training impossible. I should be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, when he comes to reply, or whoever winds up at the end of the debate, would deal with that point.
On the other aspect of finance I welcome the assurance, in connection with "training to meet the needs of individuals", that trainees will receive adequate allowances during training, and that if they have to move their homes in order to get a job after training, additional financial assistance will be provided. The sort of assistance they get will be vital to the success of training as a help to securing manpower mobility and job changing.
756 The proposal to set up a National Training Agency is to be welcomed, for the Agency is to be given a much more positive role than was given to the Central Training Council by the 1964 Act. But I have some doubts, as the noble Baroness obviously had, about hiving it off, particularly if that means isolating it from the rest of the manpower services and making its connection with the other parts of that service merely through representatives on a General Council of Manpower Services. I fear that such a General Council might be limited to discussion and giving advice to the Secretary of State, rather than to be, as I suggested earlier in my speech, part of a single agency with executive responsibility for gathering manpower intelligence; for training and re-training; for ensuring occupational mobility; for job placement: and for job creation. I am sure that that would not be beyond the bounds of possibility. A small country like Sweden has managed to do it. It is true that their scale is much less than ours—the size of the nation, their industries, and so on—which perhaps makes it easier for them to do it, but I do not believe that it is beyond our power to do that sort of thing, and to bring all these services into a single agency, and an agency with some powers. That would certainly bring coherence to what is now incoherent.
My Lords, there is no time in a speech of reasonable length to discuss every aspect of this document. To some extent I have followed the noble Baroness and stressed perhaps more some of the points she made, while she has dealt so well with some of the points on which I have not touched. I have not been able to discuss every aspect of the document. All I have tried to do is to fasten on to one or two important proposals and to make a suggestion or two. But I am bound to end on a note of praise for those who prepared the document, because it is a first-class work, and it is readable. Its form is such that it does not frighten you, as so many Green Papers and documents of the sort do when you pick them up. It is readable, as I have said, and it is well prepared. It is an excellent work of appraisal of something comparatively new. I am delighted to be able to participate in this debate, initiated by the noble Baroness, on so important a topic.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD DRUMALBYN)
My Lords, first of all I should like to thank the noble Baroness very warmly for calling the attention of the House to industrial training and to this document at such an opportune time when we are in a period of consultation on the proposals set out in Training for the Future, for doing it with such clarity and for highlighting so well the major issues. It is indeed timely to debate this important subject. The House has not debated it for over two years—since January, 1970, when my noble friend Lord Birdwood introduced a debate on the need for industrial training and the working of the Industrial Training Act in what was then recognised as an outstanding speech. I have re-read that debate, and I am glad that some of the speakers in it, including my noble friend Lord Mottistone and the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, intend to speak in this debate also.
I think I can best serve the purposes of the House if I explain the aims of the White Paper, and I hope that I shall be able to draw attention to the issues involved and so get the kind of advice and help that we are looking for from the House to-day. In the past two years, I think that industry has come to feel that a review of the working of the Industrial Training Act was necessary. At the last General Election the Conservative Party committed itself in its Election Manifesto to do just that. There has been a fundamental review of industrial training carried out within the context of the Government's overall manpower policy, and the document Training for the Future is the outcome.
First of all, may I emphasise, as Mr. Robert Carr did when he introduced Training for the Future in another place on February 1, that the proposals in this consultative document are meant for discussion and consultation. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, opened by expressing some concern that this was a consultative document only in name and not in fact. I can entirely reassure him on that point: the proposals in this consultative document are meant for discussion and consultation, except, of course, for the Training Opportunities Scheme itself, about which I shall be saying something in a moment. The proposals are 758 based on the belief that we must have an adequate supply of properly trained manpower if the country is to sustain economic growth and to maintain that growth in the future. As the document says, we need properly trained workers to be available in the right place at the right time. In the past, as the noble Baroness acknowledged, there have been shortages of skilled manpower which have created bottlenecks in industrial expansion ever since the war, and we must do our utmost to avoid that in the future. It is immensely important for the country as a whole, and particularly for the regions and in the context of our entry into Europe, that we should succeed. We must also provide better opportunities for individuals, both male and female, to develop their skills and use their abilities to the full.
The consultative document begins by reaffirming the interpretation that I have just given of the aims of the Industrial Training Act, as formulated by the Central Training Council, and goes on to distinguish the component elements of training policy. It is important that we should be clear about this, because I thought at one point in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, that I detected some slight confusion. The document stresses the clear distinction between training given by individual employers to their own workers to meet their own immediate and foreseeable needs; training going beyond those needs but necessary to meet the foreseeable needs of industry as a whole; training of individuals beyond both those needs to meet national needs; training of individuals to acquire new skills for new and better jobs; and the contribution of education. All these form part of the whole and have to be co-ordinated. But they are functionally distinguishable, and the burden of primary responsibility for them cannot all be laid on the same shoulders.
I should like to deal, first, with the responsibility for providing training facilities for individuals. In this we believe that an important responsibility rests with the Government. I shall deal with that first, partly because the Government have already announced their decision to expand Government-sponsored training, and partly because it is not part of the document, which is intended for 759 consultation. There are two aspects of this responsibility—the purely economic, and the social and economic. As the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, said in the debate in January, 1970:… the economic role of the G.T.C.s is that of providing accelerated vocational training in trades where the degree of skill required and the extent of demand from industry for the products of training is such as to justify substantial Government expenditure in providing off-the-job training facilities". —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21/1/70; col. 210.]This sort of training is to meet future needs of industry which can be foreseen, but which it is not within the capacity of industry, for one reason or another, to provide at the time. That is not to say that the training need necessarily be provided wholly in G.T.C.s, but it is the responsibility of Government to see that training provision is made.
On the social and economic side there are the needs of the handicapped to be considered, about which I shall say a word later. But in this field we are dealing mainly with people who need training because their jobs have been overtaken by technological change, or because they chose the wrong job in the first place, or because they want to improve their skills and status and cannot get the training they require from their employers. The Government have three aims in this area. First, there is a need to provide facilities for training for those who cannot find an employer to train them. Secondly, we must offer people sufficient financial help to attract them to avail themselves of the Government's training facilities, as the noble Baroness made clear. Thirdly, we must try to change attitudes, so that people are more willing to take a course of training and so to improve their chances of getting the sort of job they want, even if it involves moving to another area—and here, again, the Government are giving assistance.
The Government's Vocational Training Scheme has a long history, but the present period of expansion started in 1963. In 1962, there were only 2,500 places in Government training centres. By July, 1971., there were 11,000 places at more than 50 G.T.C.s. There are courses in about 50 skilled trades, mainly in the engineering and construction industries. Most courses last six months. Courses are also run at colleges of further education and private colleges and on 760 employers' premises. Many people who apply for training under the Vocational Training Scheme are unemployed. To encourage them to undertake training, tax-free allowances are paid which are considerably above the rates of unemployment benefit. But even now, with high unemployment, one-third of all applicants have jobs—but jobs with which they are dissatisfied. To encourage people to move to where the jobs are, the Department of Employment's new Employment Transfer Scheme was announced last month. Under the new scheme the biggest help—including a £600 rehousing grant—is offered to workers who have undergone a substantial course of training at Government expense.
The present Vocational Training Scheme has serious limitations. The number of people at present being trained—18,400 in 1971—is relatively small, especially in comparison with the numbers in Germany and Sweden. The range of courses is limited, with few opportunities for training above skilled level. There is a need for better coordination with industry's own efforts. For many courses there are long waiting lists. Accordingly, in Training for the Future a massive expansion of Government training is announced. This will be called the Training Opportunities Scheme. Our aim is to train 100,000 people a year as soon as possible, with an intermediate target of not less than 60,000 to 70,000 a year by 1975. The noble Baroness said that this is a modest aim, but it is no mean task. It will involve nearly quadrupling the number of people in training in the five years between 1970 and 1975.
To reach these targets, the Government training centres are to be expanded, and more use will be made of facilities in colleges and in employers' premises. We also propose that the range of courses available under the new scheme should be expanded. At the semi-skilled level, we want to train more people, not only in a wider range of industrial occupations, but for clerical and commercial jobs as well. At the more highly skilled levels, we would also wish to see greater opportunities for people to prepare themselves for new jobs and new careers as technicians and managers: and to a limited extent we hope to provide 761 more opportunities to train for the professions for those people who missed their chance earlier in life, or to re-train professional people to meet industrial change and technological advance.
I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, said about the need for re-training, and the possibility that people may have to change their jobs two or three times during their lifetime. In all these cases, the aim will be to help the adult individual to prepare himself or herself for a chosen occupation. This may require some training, some education or, more likely, a combination of both. The Government see the education service as having a major contribution to make in the Scheme and its programmes, first and foremost in providing further education; but also, we should hope, in helping to provide some of the training.
The widening of the range of vocational courses will bring especial benefit to disabled people, since the new Scheme is meant to cater for the requirements of the individual, whatever his or her circumstances. We have of course long recognised the special needs of the disabled, and courses ranging from semiskilled work to preparation for the professions have been available to suit disabled people for many years. In particular, the full professional courses which we already arrange for the disabled attract grants comparable to those for mature students. With the introduction of the Training Opportunities Scheme, the range and geographical spread of vocational courses will be greatly increased.
It seems to us that what is needed is a change of attitude on the part of all concerned. I was a little surprised that the noble Baroness did not mention the special position of women. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, in addressing the Institute of Personnel Management on April 28, recognised that the opportunities for training open to women and girls were far too restricted and said that in developing the Training Opportunites Scheme he wanted to provide more training for women. Opportunities for men and women should be equal—and the noble Baroness mentioned this in passing—but whatever pro 762 vision is made it has to be related to the extent to which men and women are prepared to avail themselves of the opportunities.
All this is going to cost money. The noble Lord went into this aspect. In 1970, Government training schemes were costing £25 million. In 1975, when the 60,000 to 70,000 a year level is reached, the cost will have gone up to about £60 million a year. I shall come later to the question of cost under the industrial training boards. Eventually, when the target of 100,000 trainees a year is reached, the cost may be of the order of £80 million to £90 million a year. The Government believe that there is a considerable untapped demand for training, but we recognise that the new Scheme will have to be marketed effectively. A modest campaign for the present Scheme was begun last August. Since then, the number of applicants for training has doubled, from 1,000 a week last summer to 2,000 a week in December. But with the new targets a major effort will be needed to make more people conscious of the benefits of training. We shall also need to pay greater attention to the selection of the most suitable courses to achieve this end.
Another major consideration in this Training Opportunities Scheme is the need for better information about the likely future demand for skilled labour—and both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord have laid great stress on this. Again, I shall come later, when I come to deal with the National Training Agency, to a consideration of whether there should be one organisation or two. Neither we nor other Western countries have been conspicuously successful since the Second World War in forecasting national manpower needs, but in future we mean to do better. We intend to build up local and regional information about the labour market in co-operation with the up-to-date employment service which has been organised within the Department of Employment and is now taking shape. Even when the new Training Opportunities Scheme has reached its target of 100,000, trainees a year it will be making only a relatively small contribution to the country's total training effort, though by no means an unimportant one. At any one time over a million people are being 763 given some form of systematic training in industry, and it is estimated that about two million people a year are given some training in industry. Most training necessarily takes place in industry and will continue to be the employer's responsibility.
That brings me to the proposals for training within industry and a review of the work of the industrial training boards. As the noble Baroness said, the Industrial Training Act 1964, under which the industrial training boards were established, was necessary for two main reasons; namely, the wide variation in the quality of training then given by many employers, and the shortages of skilled manpower which had persistently held up economic expansion since the war. I am sure that most of your Lordships will have read the document, and will have read Annex I, a review of the I.T.B. system As the noble Baronesss said, there are now 27 statutory boards. They employ 5,000 staff and had a total levy income in 1970–71—I do not think this point was mentioned—of over £200 million. They spent nearly £200 million in training grants, £10 million on advisory and other training services and £5 million on administration. As the consultative document says, the boards have great achievements to their credit. Since they were set up, training is considered by ton management and in the boardroom to an extent that it never was before the levy/grant system was introduced.
As the consultative document also observes, the training boards have provided an urgently needed shock treatment to British industry, not least through the levy/grant system. They have brought together management, unions and educationists. As a result, there have been significant improvements in industrial training, and particularly in the quality of training. The proportion of insured young people under 18 getting day release for further education has risen steadily, though not spectacularly, to about one-quarter. The quality of training has evidently improved; new standards and new programmes of training have been introduced, such as that for engineering apprentice craftsmen and technicians; and in some cases the periods of training have been reduced. There is much more interest in management train- 764 ing than there used to be. These are substantial achievements.
The boards have all developed advisory services, and some of them consultancy services. They have also been successful in encouraging smaller firms to establish group training schemes, of which there are now over 700, as compared with 60 in 1964. They cover something like 10,000 firms and 1.4 million or so workers. My Lords, the essential feature of the industrial training boards system is that each board consists of three elements—the employers, the trade unions and the educationists, who are appointed by the Secretary of State to supervise the training activities of an industry and to arrange with further education bodies for outside training and educational facilities to be provided.
The consultative document does not propose any change in that. It assesses the work of the I.T.B.s and reaches the conclusion that for many industries the board system is well adapted to help individual firms with their training needs and to encourage those training activities of value to the industry as a whole; and that much of the work of the boards must be maintained and expanded, in particular the advising of firms, the setting of sound standards of training, the development in conjunction with the education service of good programmes of training with associated further education, and the stimulating of the establishment of group training schemes. However, it also concludes that the general levy/grant schemes should not be regarded as permanent, though in the case of certain activities of particular importance to the economy the need will remain for financial incentives, which should be on a selective basis. Those of your Lordships who attended the debate two years ago will recall that it was at that time generally agreed that the levy/grant system should not be regarded as permanent, although there was a considerable range of estimates as to how long it would be required.
Finally, they conclude that some kind of central organisation will be needed to fill the gaps which the I.T.B. system cannot fill and to deal with occupations which are common to many or to all industries. My Lords, this is common ground: I note that it has been accepted, both by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, 765 and by the noble Lord, Lord Champion, but for the question of the levy/grant system. I do not propose to discuss in detail the reasons given in the document why the levy/grant system should be brought to an end. There is evidence of widespread dissatisfaction with the system, which is reflected by some firms ignoring some of the best work of the boards; for example, their advisory services. Suffice it to say that one of the principal concepts of the levy/grant system was the evening out of the incidence of training costs. The idea was—and the noble Lord referred to this—that if firms did not themselves train workers and apprentices then they should contribute, through the levy, towards the training costs incurred by firms who did, since non-training firms would in many cases recruit workers who had been trained by other firms. But as more and more firms have increased their training activities, either individually or jointly, the redistributive function of the levy has declined in importance.
Moreover, the system tends to penalise those firms or sectors in an industry which have a small turnover of labour. In some cases it has proved difficult to work out a levy/grant system accepted on all sides as fair. Some companies which carry on a variety of activities have had to deal with several boards. At the other end of the scale, the Bolton Committee reported that in their view the machinery set up under the Act wasfundamentally inappropriate to the needs of small firms".Finally, many boards find it difficult to cover all parts of the country because companies under their jurisdiction are in some areas so sparse. But this is not to say that the levy/grant system has not served a useful purpose. On the contrary, it is to suggest that it has served its useful purpose and that the time has come to devise some new methods appropriate to the 1970s while preserving what is of most value in the present system. Subject to the outcome of consultations, therefore, the document proposes to phase out the compulsory levy/grant system after 1972–73.
My Lords, I think I should make the point here that there has been quite a marked tendency towards disengagement from the levy/grant system; for example, 766 by the Iron and Steel Board. There, a large part of the grant was held in abeyance and a small part of the grant scheme, which still operates, covers the key activities—and I tie this up a little, I think, with what the noble Lord was saying. As a result, the current levy rate is up to £4.50 per employee, instead of some £25 per employee which would be required to finance the whole grant scheme. The same has occurred in the petroleum industry, the carpet industry, and the wool, jute and flax industry; and other boards are going in the same direction. So it is not always a black and white question on this matter, and this tendency is very extensive at the present time.
Under the proposals it would still be open to any board to devise a system of grants—and may I draw to the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Champion, the fact that it is the boards who devise their systems of grants and make their plans for the training in industry under the proposals? As I was saying, it would be open to the boards to devise a system of grants and submit it for the approval of the central body (to which I shall come later) where they consider it necessary in particular circumstances to stimulate training in greater quantity or of a higher quality. The noble Lord quoted from the summary. He will find those words earlier in the body of the document, in paragraph 91. Money will also be made available through the central body if necessary to encourage the establishment of group training schemes. Additionally an industry or group of firms could run a levy/grant scheme on a voluntary rather than a statutory basis if they wished to do so.
For the rest, the Government incline to the view that firms are now sufficiently aware of the benefits of training to be able to make their own training arrangements, with the aid of the advice and guidance which they will continue to receive from their appropriate board or boards, and that they may accept the more readily because they are not obliged to conform with it as a condition of getting their levy back. There remain those areas of industrial activity which are not covered by any board and those activities which are common to most, if not all, industries. It makes sense—and I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord 767 Champion, recognised this—to have some form of central body that will not only supervise training for those activities but also co-ordinate the work of the boards as a whole (and co-ordination is not the same as complete control) and serve as a channel for injecting money where money is really needed. The consultative document refers to this body as the National Training Agency. It would co-ordinate the work of the boards, fill the gaps in the present system, eliminate overlapping and stimulate key training activities which might otherwise be endangered. For example, first year, off-the-job training is very expensive and a company may be reluctant to undertake it because the trainees may leave the company before it has received any benefit.
The Agency might also stimulate group training schemes, and there will be other areas of training which will he candidates for support. It is proposed that the Agency should become also the employer of the staff which the boards need for their continuing functions, and it would itself provide advisory services for companies not covered by boards. To do this, the Agency would need to have a strong regional organisation, with branches in Scotland and Wales. This would enable it to co-ordinate training in occupations which cut across industrial boundaries, such as clerical and secretarial work, or to co-ordinate management training.
The consultative document discusses briefly whether the Agency should be constituted within the Department of Employment or as a separate body, independent in its day-to-day operations, working within an annual budget approved by the Secretary of State and subject to any general directives that he might see fit to give. There are as always advantages and disadvantages in each alternative and I shall be interested to listen to any advice that noble Lords may give in the debate. The Secretary of State, too, will be interested to read it. On balance, the Government are disposed to favour the second alternative—an Agency separate from the Department—mainly on grounds of flexibility of operation and of staffing considerations. If all the staff of the boards are to be employees of the Agency, there 768 are clear advantages, from the point of view of their relations with industry, in their being outside the Civil Service. It is thought, however, that the control of the Agency should rest with a chief executive and a board of executive directors responsible to the Secretary of State and working closely with the C.B.I., the T.U.C. and educational bodies and authorities. The Agency would draw its funds from the Department of Employment and would operate within general guidelines laid down by the Government through the Secretary of State.
As noble Lords will recall, and as the noble Baroness recalled, it is the intention of the Secretary of State, expressed in the consultative document, People and Jobs, to set up a Council on Manpower Services to consider matters of policy in the development of manpower services, including training. As this is done, there would be no place for the present Central Training Council, since the Secretary of State would be advised on training matters by the Council on Manpower Services. The document pays tribute to the contribution which the C.T.C. has made to training, but the choice is plainly between an advisory and an executive central body. There is clearly a need for a central body to unify responsibility over industrial training so that the Government's training efforts and those of industry could be viewed as a whole. In this way it would be possible to deal effectively with the problems of training workers leaving declining industries to take up jobs in expanding industries, of those parts of industry not covered by the boards and of co-ordination of those activities common to many industries. The regional organisations of the National Training Agency will also be able to work closely in touch with the regional industrial development officers of the Department of Trade and Industry.
The Government's review was concerned primarily with the arrangements for industrial training and particularly with the industrial training boards and the Government vocational training service and I have thought it appropriate to focus on these in my speech. But the Government fully recognise that the proposals could have far-reaching implications for the several other interests affected, and notably for the education service. I think 769 it is no exaggeration to say that an essential element for the success of the Government's new proposals will be the willing co-operation of the education service, continuing in the tradition of collaboration that has been built up under the Industrial Training Act. The Act has meant considerable changes and developments for the service, especially for the colleges of further education, and the service has responded readily and extensively to cooperate in the work of the boards. The new proposals could mean further changes and development, and the views and comments of the service are being sought.
At this point, during the consultative period, I would say only two things. First, the Government firmly believe that the service has a continuing, and indeed increasing, role to play in helping people to prepare both for their first and for subsequent employment; and, secondly, despite the different statutory bases for the provision of training and of education, we would wish to see education and training interests working even more closely together in those fields where they have the common aim of helping people in their work and their chosen career.
My Lords, I want to say a few words about the choice between a single agency to cover the employment service and the training service, and the two that we envisage. I do not myself believe that it would lead to the kind of trouble that the noble Baroness has in mind if there were two. I do not think this was much to the fore in the Government's choice, because they mention in the consultative document the obvious advantages of having the whole thing within the Department of Employment. But there are practical difficulties involved here, especially on the employment service side—difficulties so far as premises, staff and so on are concerned. We do not foresee that we should be able to achieve this unification, even if we want it, in the immediate future. We are aiming to get these training services into operation so that they can come into effect next year. Once the consultative period is ended the Government will go ahead and make firm plans for the organisation of industrial training, and we do not believe it will be possible to get the sort of unification that the noble Baroness has in mind in that 770 time-scale. The aim is to ensure that, broadly, men and women can get the training to do the jobs that they want to do and do them well, so as to get satisfaction and to give satisfaction in their jobs whatever job they do—be it manager, operative, shop steward, salesman, export clerk, cook or whatever—and that our industries, on their side, will have an adequate supply and the right balance of trained workers to meet the needs of the nation and our overseas customers, no matter what changes may take place in technology and in the world.
My Lords, that is the aim that we have to keep before us. We believe firmly that it was much more advantageous, from the point of view of consultation, to put forward a specific plan so that it could be examined and criticised, while indicating other posibilities at the same time, than it would have been merely to put forward a set of alternative courses. I hope that this approach has the approval of the House and I look forward to listening to the comments that will be made. I assure the House that whatever is said will be most carefully considered.
§ 4.11 p.m.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
My Lords, first, may I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for giving us the opportunity to discuss this vitally important subject this afternoon. The purpose of my brief intervention is not so much to discuss the proposals contained in Training for the Future as to call attention to a vital aspect of our arrangements for training which this document seems to ignore. This, my Lords, is the question of providing adequate facilities for training people from overseas, especially from the developing countries. Before I go any further, perhaps I should declare an interest. I am Chairman of the Trustees of the Overseas Students' Advisory Bureau. This is a charitable Trust, grant-aided by the overseas development administration and is concerned with helping overseas students to find practical training vacancies in industry and commerce. For most of the students helped by the Bureau training is of the utmost importance. In most cases it forms an integral part of the course and unless it is available they may not be able to obtain a degree or diploma, or indeed derive full benefit from their studies.
771 In my view, the importance of providing practical training for people from overseas, whether they are students or trainees who come to the United Kingdom as a result of firm-to-firm arrangements, cannot he over-emphasised. It is a matter of enlightened self-interest and also our moral obligation to the less-developed world. It is fully justified on grounds of self-interest because the provision of such training acts as a powerful aid to export promotion. This was widely recognised and underlined by the 1969 survey by the then Board of Trade which showed that the great majority of businessmen regarded such training as useful on commercial grounds. In spite of this, in the opinion of many our national effort in this field has been far from adequate. The case for training people from developing countries is equally strong on moral grounds. It is, I believe—and I think that many share my opinion—one of the most effective and cheapest forms of foreign aid.
The document under discussion puts considerable emphasis on the importance of a skilled, well-trained labour force for Britain's economic progress and health. This argument, however, applies with even greater force to the developing economies where even the most basic skills are in desperately short supply. In view of its importance as a means of export promotion and of helping poorer countries, I find it extraordinary that this document makes no reference at all to the training of overseas people. The emission is all the more remarkable because the implementation of some of the proposals put forward in Training for the Future may well have the effect of reducing the number of training opportunities available for overseas citizens. Thus in paragraph 118 it is stated that the proposed National Training Agency will seek to make full use of spare training capacity andto negotiate mutually acceptable terms with the employers concerned.While the full utilisation of surplus capacity is clearly desirable this could, in the absence of any special provision, make it even more difficult for people from overseas to find training vacancies. I of course accept that the main concern of the Department of Employment is for our own manpower. However, it seems to me that it would be extremely short 772 sighted to neglect the needs of students and trainees from other countries when reconstructing our training arrangements.
This training of overseas people should not be regarded as a fringe activity but should form an integral part of our training set-up. Clearly there is room for argument and discussion about the best way to achieve this objective. Perhaps one solution would be to enable the proposed National Training Agency to exercise its functions on behalf of overseas people as well as home trainees. Perhaps some other arrangements could be found, such as the implementation of Section 14 of the Industrial Training Act, which would enable the industrial training boards to make special provision for the training of overseas people. My aim this afternoon, my Lords, is not to put forward a solution but to urge that the problems of training people from abroad are given the serious consideration that they deserve before any decision is taken on the future organisation of training in the United Kingdom. Before I sit down, I should like to apologise to your Lordships' House that because of a longstanding engagement out of London I may have to leave the House before the debate ends.
§ 4.20 p.m.
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down will forgive me if I do not follow him in the interesting subject that he has developed. But I should like to say that I wholeheartedly agree with what he has said, whether we look at it from the point of moral obligation or, as the noble Lord put it, enlightened self-interest. The training of people from overseas is obviously of tremendous importance and is greatly valued by those who come: indeed, it was only last Saturday that I was lunching with a group of 30 or 40 people, largely from overseas Commonwealth countries, but also others, who were in this country just for that purpose; and to realise the value that they place on the opportunities given to them here is something of which one can be proud. Having said that, I should also like to add my thanks to the noble Baroness for having introduced this enormously important subject. Like the noble Baroness—I hope that I am not being presumptuous—I doubt whether the importance of the subject is always 773 sufficiently appreciated in the country as a whole. I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having recognised the importance of the subject and on having produced a document which, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has already said, is handy, extremely readable, well produced, informative and a valuable basis for discussion.
Certainly a review of the situation at this stage, some eight years after the 1964 Act, is called for. I realise that the period for consultation—February 1 to the end of this month—may be regarded as a fairly reasonable period; but I would still hope that my noble friend, following the discussions not only in this place but elsewhere, and the many representations that we all know have been made to the Secretary of State, if he feels that more time is needed for consideration of these matters, will not be too rigid about the deadline of the end of May. What we all want, surely, is not to pay too much attention to the deadline, but to get the right answer to this highly complicated and enormously important subject.
I am afraid that I shall have a few doubts to express on the proposals as they are presented to us in the document. The document, as I see it, can be said to deal with three aspects of related subjects: first, there is the training or retraining of the individual; secondly, the training for industry, whether an industry or firms within an industry; and thirdly, the contribution that education has to make. If my remarks are primarily directed to the training in industry and industrial firms, I hope it will not be taken that I do not equally recognise the importance of the individual training, whether it be as the document itself describes it, for "national economy needs", or whether it be for social reasons.
Before I come to the industrial side, may I say that I welcome the training opportunities scheme; I think it is excellent and must be developed. However, I would ask and urge, as others have done—it is a difficult aspect—that the numbers planned to be trained should be related in the greatest detail practicable with the numbers required. It is easy to say that, but it is extremely difficult to bring it about. Forecasting in this field is difficult, and I am afraid that what I have seen so far includes a certain amount of crystal gazing. How disheartening it 774 is for an individual who takes a training course in a particular subject only to find that there is no job for him covering that subject. Nothing could be more disheartening and disruptive to a man's or a woman's career. I was very much aware of this difficulty when I and my colleagues were investigating the shipping industry in the committee of inquiry into shipping which we completed two years ago. We spent a great deal of time on the subject 'of training and the related matter of education—several chapters of the Report dealt with it. But we were always up against the difficulty of being told how impossible it was to find out the detailed requirements of the different categories of individuals that had to be trained. I mention that as an example.
On the question of the contribution of education, I am glad that reference to this has been introduced into the document, because I should have thought that a happy or successful career of an individual will be largely dictated by how the transition period between education—whether schools or colleges—and industry is planned and works out for him. If the transition is easy and happy, it will make an enormous difference to his career. Obviously a great many people are doing a lot of planning and thinking on this subject: it is not a new subject. But I would agree with those who feel that there is room for a considerable amount of further research.
I now turn to industry. I have some doubts about the proposals here, and perhaps they are more doubts of timing than otherwise. Undoubtedly, the 1964 Act—and this has been generally agreed, I think, to-day and in other documents that I have seen—did a very good job of work. I think that great credit is due to members of the boards, to staff, to firms, to trade unions and to others for the way in which they have worked, and for the fact that as a result training standards generally can be said to have risen substantially. But have they gone far enough? Clearly they have not. The question therefore is whether, to use the phrase in the document, the "shock treatment" that the 1964 Act provided has been used long enough or whether that shock treatment should be allowed to go on for a little longer? My own opinion is that it should be allowed to go on rather longer. I think there is a long way to go in two respects. 775 There is a long way to go not only, and naturally, in the improvement of training, but there is a long way still to go—I regret to say this—to sell the need for training to industry. Many firms have accepted the importance of this and are doing magnificent work in training, but that, I am sure, is not 100 per cent. true. There are still many people in industry who need to accept more readily the importance and the consequences of training. We have a long way to go before we can say that our training in industry is second to none in the world.
So I ask the question: is this the time to phase out so quickly the levy/grant system? Speaking for myself, I doubt it. I have listened with great care to what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn said. He gave me a little comfort on this point, but I still think that the Government are a little lukewarm about the continuation of the levy/grant system. I am perfectly well aware that a great many firms would like to see it go. There are many alleged criticisms: it is said to be wasteful and some of the training is said to be irrelevant. It is said to be time consuming as regards the filling up of forms, and so on. It is said to be costly. I can well understand that it may bear rather harshly, as the Bolton Committee said, on many of the smaller and medium firms; but are those grounds of criticism necessarily as applicable to-day as in the early days of the operation of the Act? Criticisms, once they are sown, tend to die hard—I am sorry; I am rather tending to mix my metaphors! —but I wonder whether some of these criticisms did not arise for two reasons. One was inexperience on the part of the boards and the industries concerned and, secondly, there may have been some over-enthusiasm, which is laudable, of course, but perhaps people were trying to do things on a bigger scale and rather more quickly than current knowledge would allow. At any rate, if my information is correct, and as I think has already been said this afternoon, the causes of many of these criticisms are already being ironed out and will be removed. There is still scope for the improvement of procedures, just as there is scope for the improvement and development of the training itself.
Therefore I should like to ask another question: if the levy/grant system lapses 776 very rapidly in 1972/3, will the same rate of improvement of training continue? I am well aware that many employers, like myself, would doubt that it would, and there might well be a slowing down in the rate of operations. Obviously, so far as the larger firms are concerned they are more than capable, if they have the will, of looking after themselves, and many of them have magnificent training schemes capable of training perhaps not only for their own needs but for those of smaller neighbouring firms as well. But if the system is removed I wonder, despite the mention of group training schemes and so on, whether for the medium and smaller firms the situation will be quite so favourable as it is now. I believe that the difficulties they are under could be removed now, but the advantages to be gained might still be available.
In my view, the success of any training board depends primarily on a quite intimate knowledge of, association with and responsibility for, the particular industry that it serves. It must be part and parcel of that industry and it must be held in respect by it. I am not for one moment saying that these finer points are necessarily kept in mind by every industrial training board throughout industry—I have no doubt that they come in for quite a lot of criticism from time to time—but this must be the aim, and there is certainly room for improvement. However, under the proposed role suggested in the document, whereby the National Training Agency will assume a measure of control because it will control the purse strings, I wonder whether there is not a real danger that some training boards will tend to lose some of the impact on the industries that they serve; more especially (as the noble Baroness suggested) that with this change some of the more senior members of the industry might decide that it was not worth their while serving on the boards. In that case what would happen? I see the danger that the training board might tend to draw away from its particular industry when it should be concentrating on that industry's specialised needs, and move across to the more general and more remote atmosphere of the National Training Agency. If that were to be so, I doubt whether the board would carry the same weight with companies in a particular industry.
777 Having said that, I would add that I am certainly not against the establishment of the National Training Agency because, apart from the training board, it has very important work to do. There is the Training Opportunities Scheme, which is immensely important; there is management training, and there is the important work, which others have emphasised, of facilitating the movement of individuals from one industry to another where one industry declines for technological or other reasons. And, of course, most importantly, there is room for a degree of co-ordination, so long as it is not mandatory, between the work of the different training boards—co-ordination in order to avoid needless duplication. That could be helpful. Despite what my noble friend has said, I am not at all happy about the suggestion which I believe is implicit, that the training boards might tend to acquire more and more control from the National Training Agency. I do not like this idea, but I am afraid that it might become inevitable.
On the subject of the Agency itself (I do not think this point has yet been mentioned), I realise that the task of the Central Training Council is coming to an end, but I cannot see why it should not be developed and given a new role so that it might become, in effect, the National Training Agency. It might have to use, in commercial terms, entirely new Articles of Association; but why should it not be used as the nucleus of the Agency? It is extremely disheartening for any body—and I have had some experience of this—whose members have worked together over a number of years, a body which has created a corporate sense among its parts, to find that it is to finish completely and that something else is to be put in its place. Even if individuals, because of their experience, are transferred from one body to the other, surely the Central Training Council could be used as the basis.
To sum up, my Lords, I would say to the Government: "Do not, please, weaken the training boards' autonomy". If the autonomy is weakened the effectiveness will be weakened. What we need more than anything are boards which are increasingly expert in their particular industries, increasingly specialised. This is particularly the case, as the noble 778 Baroness pointed out, not only because of the increasing sophistication and specialisation of the equipment that goes into industry but also (and I say this without any sense of criticism) because of the increasing cost of manpower. Therefore specialisation of the Board becomes more than ever important. The Board wants to be master in its own House financially, and that implies that there must in some degree continue to he a statutory levy/grant system. I hope that the Government will think about this very seriously and, if they do not entirely go back on what is proposed, at any rate be more tolerant of continuation of the levy/grant system.
Ultimately it could be that in an ideal world the Government's present proposals are right; but we have a long way to go before we reach that. If that is our goal, let us work to it slowly, step by step. The document, as I see it, is trying to do things too quickly on this particular aspect. What we want is not to run too quickly and then find that we stumble; we want to have quicker, really first-class training, so that we can say that our industrial training is second to none in the world.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, like other noble Lords, I welcome this Government document, particularly because it opens up the possibility of discussion. I should welcome it more fully if I felt assured that it was going inevitably to expand training in total, but I am not quite so certain of that. In order to establish the first point that I want to make I have to give utterance to a few platitudes. The first is that there are these two forms of training: internal training for work on specific processes, machines and so on. For example, a company which wants to train its export salesmen will have to do it itself; it cannot rely on external people. If it wants to train people to operate particular processes it will have to do it itself. Then there is the external training. That is a quite different category which is concerned with motor mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, computer programmers, teachers and so on.
One could almost describe these two types of training, internal and external, as one being for the production of goods 779 and the administration of those processes, and the other for the services; but I am not quite sure that it falls neatly into those two categories. One is no substitute for the other. They are different and we need both. The feature that I notice is absent from the document is a reference to the fact that in periods of full employment, when labour turnover is high and companies are expanding, the emphasis falls on internal training and the demand for places in Government training centres falls away. In general people who can get work accompanied by in-company training do not volunteer for Government training centres. I notice that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, drew attention to the fact that some one-third of the places presently occupied in Government training centres in a period of grave unemployment were taken by people who already had jobs. This is a result of the failure of people to see opportunities for promotion in the firms that employ them; that is why they are going to Government training centres. In periods of unemployment we get high use of Government training centres and in periods of full employment the demand on those training centres seems to fall off.
The data to support these contentions is largely in the document before us. Rising unemployment resulted in an expansion in the number of those in Government training centres from the derisory figure of 1,900 in 1962 to nearly 10,000 in 1971. Now, in the face of a million unemployed, the Government are proposing to take the places up to 100,000—quite rightly—to meet the current situation. I am not criticising that for one moment. In presenting this plan for future training there has been a failure to take into account the very important twin variables of the level of unemployment and the level of activity in the economy. This failure also goes some way to explain, incidentally, the apparent failure of the training boards. One quotation from page 50 of the document says:The second two surveys were held at a different time of the year from the first and there have been other detailed differences, but the broad indications are that the approximate numbers undergoing training on a given date were 1·4 million in 1969, 1·6 million in 1970 and 1·2 million in 1971.There is reference in the document to the fact that the increase of training 780 in industry since the inauguration of the Industrial Training Act in 1964 has been only about 15 per cent. What the Government do not realise is that if it had not been for the industrial levy the fall in the number of people being trained internally in industry in these past two years would have been much heavier than it has been. It is the levy which has maintained internal training in the face of a situation where there would be a great inclination on the part of most companies to stop doing training in order to save money because they found themselves in stricken circumstances. I do not think that these factors have been taken properly into account in drafting the document.
Conservative policy over this issue of training has been rather pragmatic and too much based on the short-term. During the 'fifties when unemployment was low, the Conservatives failed to realise the value of Government training centres. I believe that they reduced their number. Perhaps the Minister can confirm that when he replies to the debate. They closed them down; because there was full employment they did not feel that the centres were needed. Their thinking which led to the levy—and all praise to the Conservative Government for introducing the compulsory levy scheme—was the growing need for internal training, and so long as the two were not thought of as exclusive alternatives well and good. But there has been a tendency to think in that direction and that is what characterises the document. We notice the proposed vast expansion of places in Government training centres, coupled in the same document with the abolition of the compulsory levy. Why do the two things together? Why not maintain the levy? Admittedly, the practices of the industrial training boards and the Act itself unquestionably need modification. We know that there has been some corruption over the administration of this Act. We have to close loopholes and prevent people from getting money to which they are not entitled.
We have to improve the whole set up. If we go ahead and abolish this compulsory levy—and here I join with the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—we shall see a rapid fall in internal training, which may pick up a little if we get back to 781 the figure of 400,000 unemployed but it will never reach the levels which are required in industry. I am going to make a prediction, which is always a dangerous thing to do, but I dare to do so. If the Government succeed in getting unemployment down to a properly low figure—let us say, 400,000—and have by that time established 100,000 places in Government training centres, my prediction is that over half of them will have no candidates to fill them. It is on these grounds that I plead with the Government to think again.
The lines on which their thinking might be directed are these: to retain the statutory levy for these training boards, with, I concede, substantial modification of the Act which no doubt is necessary. Then, in order to create the flexibility needed so that the places for external training and for internal training can adjust themselves to differing levels of activity in the economy, they should consider the idea of getting the industrial training boards to give within large companies, during periods of low activity in the economy, the sort of training that would otherwise be organised in the Government training centres. One can see the possibility of large firms which are not taking on new employees—and indeed may be paying off existing staff—having internal training facilities, unused, which could be redirected on to the training of people sent to them by the Minister of Employment—people who would otherwise, if the Government's plan were followed, go to Government training centres. This would provide a much more efficient use of resources, and I believe that the Government could find the way to increase the number of external training places very much more quickly right away if they ascertained how many firms would be prepared, in return for payment out of the levy, to train people in the crafts that are usually taught in the Government training centres. This is an alternative use of the same resources according to fluctuations in the economy.
In the document, on page 44, paragraph 142, a rather confused sentence in an otherwise very clear document reads:But if there is legislation to relieve the Boards of their duty to impose a levy and to ensure that a Board does not impose a levy unless this is supported by a consensus within the industry, those conditions would apply to 782 all levy proposals after those arising from the grant schemes of 1972/73.What I gather from that sentence is that compulsory levies will not continue, unless there is a consensus of opinion in support of them, after 1972–73. This is highly cynical stuff. Many Members of this House know very well that among chief executives and those who take decisions of this kind—and it is their opinions which the Government are seeking—there is the utmost bias against any scheme which imposes upon them the duty of paying and of filling up forms. This has always been so, and I am afraid always will be so. The unfortunate aspect is that those chief executives who are most against compulsory levy schemes are usually those least prepared to take part in voluntary schemes.
What the Government are saying is: "Ah well, of course, if industry shows a desire to go on with the compulsory levy scheme, then we will perhaps consider going on with it." Yet they know very well that if they put the matter to a referendum, which is what they are proposing, the answer will be, "No. Don't go on with it." It is always so. They also know, I think, from their own experience that if an attempt is made to run an industrial training board on the basis of hopes about the decisions chief executives will make with regard to making voluntary payments towards the expenses of running these boards, then it will be impossible to run the hoards properly, because all the good staff, in the light of the uncertainty as to what will happen, will not stay with the boards. You cannot run great organisations for doing serious jobs in the hope that industry in succeeding years will voluntarily "cough up" the necessary funds. It is cynical to suppose that you can go on in this way. So if the Government say, "We will go on only if there is support from a consensus ", it means condemning these boards to decline, and ultimate extinction, and so losing the means by which great strides in internal training have taken place since the passing of the 1964 Act. If it is impossible to get those strides by levy, some other means will have to be devised; and they do not appear in this document.
Another point I would make is that I thought the present Government were against referenda—and this is a form of 783 referendum. It is cynical to propose that we use referenda in one situation, when the Government hope to get the result they want, and to turn down a referendum in another situation where they expect to get the result they apparently do not want. I am sorry, but there is a lot of truth in what I am saying.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to intervene. He is making a great point about this, but is it not possible to envisage a situation where it is to the advantage of some firms in an industry to do the training and to others to pay for the training to be done? They would agree together that it was of advantage in those circumstances for this to be most easily done by means of a levy. I do not see that there is anything cynical about this. It may be right or it may be wrong, but it is not cynical.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, so long as the levy is compulsory this is a good basis for co-operative endeavour, but if it is left to those who have a sense of duty and conscience to pay, while leaving it to others not to pay if they so desire, it will not produce a balanced scheme, and there will be some firms carrying the burden for others, as was always the case in the past in industry. It is very important that this point about a continuation of the levy, admittedly not in exactly the same form as now, should be seriously considered by the Government.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I think the noble Lord has now revealed an apparent misunderstanding of the proposal here. The consensus would of course be required for continuation of the compulsory levy.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, I regard the term "voluntary levy" as a contradiction in terms; I am sorry. I come from industry, and a levy, to my mind, is a compulsory levy. That is what I am speaking in favour of; and I am talking against a voluntary levy because I do not think there is such a thing.
784 I now come to a quite different point but I regard it as most important. The type of university course which is carried out in a university with which I am associated as pro-Chancellor (I am saying that to declare my interest) is the thin sandwich course. The noble Lord has also been associated with the same university. The thin sandwich course was largely pioneered in this country by 10 colleges of advanced technology, and they have all since become universities. This is a type of education that is of enormous value to industry. It is indeed supported very fully by the Confederation of British Industry in various statements they have made about it. Many of these technological universities have since partially or wholly given up this type of sandwich-course training because of the difficulty of finding places for their students, which involves finding places for students to work in industry, in the Civil Service or in various other occupations, one term out of every three.
One of the main factors in helping firms to provide this facility and face the expense of doing so (because it costs firms a considerable amount of money) is this ability to recover the cost from the training board, as against the levy which they have paid. If one abolishes the compulsory levy there is little doubt that the difficulty of finding places for these students is going to increase very greatly indeed. I would go further. I seriously warn the Government that there is a possibility that this necessary and estimable form of undergraduate training might well disappear. It is an extremely important form of training. For example, at the university about which I am speaking—Brunel—the number of graduates whose first employment is found in industry is 70 per cent, of the total number of graduates leaving the university. That is double the university average.
This question of undergraduates' first employment is a matter of concern to all who have studied it. One of the reasons is that students regard employment in industry as a rat-race, but those who have an acquaintanceship with industry know better. In any case, they are more mature as a result of their working experience and are much more acceptable to employers in industry. That is why thin sandwich schemes are so important. It is because I firmly believe (and this is 785 an opinion shared by many people concerned with this form of university education) that the abolition of the compulsory levy system will result in an increased lack of availability of places for these students that I ask the Government to think again.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, the gratitude which the House owes to the noble Baronesss, Lady Seear, in enabling us to discuss this vital subject to-day is boundless. She opened the debate with a superb speech, and it has been followed by speeches from a number of experts in this particular field. I certainly do not count myself as an expert, but being associated with a firm of management consultants, naturally this is a subject which interests me. This subject is being debated against a background of very disturbing unemployment figures and of unemployment which is affecting both skilled and unskilled workers. Therefore the need for training, whether it be Government training or in-training or any other form of training, is more and more vital. I believe that the value of this consultative document is that it is challenging. It is compulsive reading and it will encourage firms and organisations of every kind to take a long, hard look at their training methods. Whether or not the document as a whole will command universal recognition and support is quite another matter.
I should like to say a word about the National Training Agency, which is mentioned on page 40 of the document. The danger of this Agency is that it is likely to become somewhat remote, and one of the important aspects of industry and commerce to-day is that of communication: communication between management and the shop floor and communication of ideas between companies themselves. I am a little worried that this Agency may dispel that communication aspect. Can my noble friend say whether on its management committees, for example, there will be any consumer representations? This is surely important at a time when the customer is more and more becoming a vital part of industry. Without the customer neither industry nor commerce can, so to speak, "tick". Also, it would seem that not only executive from industry but also non-executive directors and trade 786 union representatives should be co-opted on to this body, because while I am sure it has the best of intentions it needs advisers who can give advice objectively. Much the same applies to the role of the management consultant in training. Every reputable company has its in-training before Government training or, indeed, before consultants are called in. There is so often the need for a second opinion, and it is here that the extramural bodies can be used so effectively. So I think these suggestions would give "teeth", so to speak, to this vital aspect.
Paragraph 79 raises the problem: where will the authority come for developing training in industry first? Take, for example, training in the chemical industry. One remembers the old saying: "Whoever pays the piper calls the tune ". I will not try to follow the noble Lord, Lord Brown, in his discourses on the levy, because this is obviously one of the most sensitive parts of this whole document. It is perhaps only right that everybody should pay towards the levy, but it is not only the Scots who may say "Well, if we pay, what are we going to get out of it?" After all, industry as a whole expects to get back something for which it pays.
§ LORD SAINSBURY
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord for a moment, surely one of the criticisms of the levy grant system is that it is a paperwork transaction—that the people who pay most levy get most back, because they are generally the firms who do the training. So it is surely not accurate to say that firms do not get something back. Surely most of them do?
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, I think the noble Lord may well be right; he has much more experience of industry than I. But one wonders whether some firms, at any rate, get back comparatively what they pay in. The complaint I have heard is that they do not. The whole problem of a levy, whether here or in any other capacity, is that one can never please everybody, and I do not suppose any Government, whatever document they produce, will ever get this completely right.
It is also vital that there should be the closest possible selection of people to be trained under these schemes. The need at the present time for training in industry 787 and in commerce is perhaps greater than ever before. I should like to support very much what the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, said on the question of overseas training. This is quite vital. Leaving aside the Common Market more and more companies over here are becoming internationally involved, and quite clearly training needs must be geared to this aspect. I am not suggesting that we should subordinate our training here to overseas training, but certainly management consultants should bear this in mind. My own company is involved here; we have done a good deal of overseas training, and this may well bear fruit for the future. So long as this training is for British companies it is surely a good thing. We are living in international times and the more discussions there can be and the more exchanges of views and ideas, surely the better, whether this comes into the ambit of the document or not.
In conclusion, may I say that we shall never have a completely satisfactory setup in the training field. Management in this country has been knocked and so have trade unions, and to some extent rightly. But the training which we give in this country, bearing in mind that training is a relatively new thing and that the 1964 Act was revolutionary, is something of which we can be proud. I would certainly hope that whatever the shortcomings of the document (and many have been mentioned) we in industry and commerce, in all its spheres, shall all work as well as we can to make this whole document operate smoothly.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, in my contribution to this debate I propose to concentrate mainly on the subject of management development and training. I have to declare an interest in this, as I am at present and have been for some years chairman of the Advisory Council of the Portsmouth Polytechnic School of Management Studies, which has been designated a regional centre for management education for the South of England. Although these regional centres are not mentioned in this document, they fit closely with the pattern there proposed. In paragraphs 40 and 41, for instance, it is suggested that for some purposes a regional organisation covering firms in a variety of industries is more 788 effective as compared with training on an industry basis countrywide. This applies very much, in my opinion, to management education, particularly in the smaller firms which cannot run in-company courses. In each firm it is necessary to have someone who is responsible for keeping under review management development and training, and this person needs to be someone who understands these problems and how they can be dealt with. Such a person must also be fully aware of the objectives, the organisation and management style of the concern.
In a large firm such a person is likely to be a senior member of the firm, provided that there is a suitable person with the proper skills and knowledge, but he must also have an ability to detach himself from his environment and from his personal feelings about things so as to be completely objective. In the medium or small company it is unlikely that such a person can be found within the company. He needs to be, as I said, someone with the requisite knowledge and skills, but also he needs to be able to put himself alongside the firm and act as adviser and guide, not just on one occasion but on a continuous basis. Members of the staff of these regional centres for management education are, many of them, well-equipped to do this, and in fact are already in this relationship with firms in many cases.
In paragraphs 98 and 99 the importance of management development advisers is stressed, and it is stated that the National Training Agency would wish to consider what could be done to improve the availability of these advisers. Any such service could well be based on these regional centres. I fully agree with the statement in paragraph 98 on the importance of on-job training for management. Training for management is not a purely academic subject, and the most effective form of management training involves close integration of the formal training with training on the job. This again needs close contact between the people doing the formal training and management supervision on the job. If a firm is large enough there may well be a requirement for in-company courses, and these are recommended in the document. To my knowledge, these regional centres—at least, some of them—are 789 already collaborating with firms in providing in-company courses, the formal and on the job periods being planned jointly in conjunction with the managements of the companies concerned. Formal instruction and case studies are guided by the staff of the centre and of the company itself, as is most suitable in each case.
So far as the smaller firms are concerned, the courses may have to be run on a multi-firm basis. This is quite possible, but again there is the need for somebody—and I suggest a member of the staff of the regional centre—to keep in close and continuous contact with each firm to see that the periods of development on the job and in the classroom are properly integrated to meet the requirements both of the firm and of the individual. Such a type of course may continue over an extended time, up to, say, three years, consisting of periods of formal instruction interlarded with work on the job. The periods of formal instruction may be anything from three days to three months. Not only does it enable management development and training to be properly integrated, but it also avoids people being taken away from the job for too long. The smaller the company, the greater is the difficulty of allowing people to be away from their jobs for extended periods. Thus, a course consists of a number of modules which can be arranged to suit the requirements of a firm or even an individual It is, to my mind, a basic fault of too many of the management courses available in this country at present that they expect people to be released from their normal work for longer than is practicable, and they do not provide for development and training on the job to be properly integrated with what the person is learning in the classroom. It is no good somebody going on a course and learning some sophisticated technique and then going back into an environment where there is nobody capable of supervising him in that work, and with management which does not understand what it means anyhow. Management education must be an integrated affair carried on over a period of years throughout the manager's or potential manager's working life.
The regional centres, therefore, can play a major part in improving the standard of management in this country, 790 but they must be used properly. They should not be expected just to run full-time courses, but should be encouraged and helped by the National Training Agency to provide the advice which this report regards as necessary, to help with guidance on the development and training on the job as well as the formal training, which may be on a company or multi-company basis. There is no reason, too, why such a service should not be on a fee-paying basis, and in fact the regional centres provide this at present.
There is one question I have to ask in relation to the whole of this management training; that is, what Government Department is going to decide the priorities for it? This document is issued by the Department of Employment. It clearly has considerable responsibility in relation to management. It was the Department of Employment which produced the Code of Industrial Practice, yet the main resource for management training lies in the colleges of further education and they come under the Department of Education and Science. The National Training Agency may or may not be separate from the Department of Employment, but there are other bodies, too, concerned with the allocation of resources in this field. There is the University Grants Committee and there are the researeh councils—in particular, the Social Science Researeh Council. I feel that it needs to be made clear who is responsible. The noble Lord, Lord Drumablyn, referred, I believe, to the fact that there would be some element of coordination applied by the Department of Employment, but this will have to be related to the deployment of resources which are also the concern of other Departments. I feel that there is a need for an overall Government view on the policy for management education.
There are two further points that I should like to make: first, in connection with the industrial training boards. I believe that they have, on the whole, done a good job. They have caused firms large and small to examine and consider their training needs even if the result is to provide opposition. But I cannot agree with noble Lords who object to the droping of the overall compulsory levy, and I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Brown, has read the Bolton Committee Report. I have not a copy with me, but so far as I remember there are 820,000 791 small firms in this country employing quite a high proportion of the working population. I am afraid that I have not the figure with me but the evidence of that Report is quite firmly against the compulsory levy.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord? Prior to the introduction of the levy, this very large number of small firms to a very considerable extent relied on their bigger brethren to train men for them. Indeed, I think this happened in many cases, but the Report makes it clear that many of these small firms have specialist requirements which are not related to anything that is provided at present by the training boards. I think nearly all internal training is special; it is the external training which is general.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I know that under many of the training boards the small firms have been omitted from the levy and the levy has not been applied to them; but in many cases they are the firms that need the training most. From this Report it appears well established that the training boards have not, up to now, met their requirements.
The other point in connection with the training boards which I should like to emphasise is the need for ensuring that training is provided for the common requirements of industry where industry does not voluntarily provide it for itself. One field with which I have had experience is the computer field and there the situation was that relatively few companies in the country provided proper training for computer programmers and systems analysts, and employment agencies have admitted to me that they deliberately advertised for people from these concerns, though, of course, they did not mention it specifically in the advertisements. As a result, to my knowledge some of these firms had ultimately to give up their training services, or at any rate to cut them down, and rely on advertising for experienced systems analysts and programmers for themselves. Clearly this is an undesirable situation, because it leads to an escalation of salaries and wages to such an extent that when supply catches up with demand people find themselves out of a job. But as I understand from the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, the Government have 792 this in mind and will take action when necessary. On the whole, therefore, I welcome this document. I have confined my remarks to one or two aspects of it, but there is in it much that I find worthy of comment and commendation.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord who has spoken with some authority on the part of management and he quoted from this excellent though not, I think, always cogently, written pamphlet, Training; for the Future. He quoted the section on "Management Training" and in paragraph 99, which is talking about a National Training Agency and its functions, we see that it says:Among the problems which the Agency would face in this field is the supply of management development advisers"—as the noble Lord has hinted and indicated. I do not want to be repetitive, so I am missing parts of the paper which everybody can read, but the last sentence of paragraph 99 is:The Agency would wish to consider what could be done to improve the availability of management development adviceI want to ask the writers of the pamphlet how much co-operation they have had outside with trade union organisations and educational organisations of the type of the noble Lord, including (and this may sound strange) the City and Guilds organisation which has been in existence for many years and has produced an expert group of lecturers, teachers, men of practice. In fact, the insignia of the City and Guilds is considered a higher qualification than a university degree for men in specific parts of industry because they come into industry with the fresh air of practising in the industry and also the academic qualification that is needed to understand the skills.
If I look about this elaborate building in which we are now, and look at the beautiful carvings here, I see examples of crafts and skills that for the top-level carvers and the men who made the roof depended on a knowledge of solid geometry and of trigonometry, and also on a certain knowledge of algebra. I do not know why they cannot build a proper box bridge to-day without smashing it, but surely it is the case that to-day, in this age of computers, they are building 793 worse than our grandfathers did—and my grandfather helped to build one of the biggest bridges in Wales, the eleventh highest in the world, which they have blown up. In this Beeching-ite age when they want to get rid of all our railways they blew up the railway that was carried over my grandfather's bridge. God knows why it was blown up because they are now walking from one end of the valley to the other!
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
Poor old Crumlin!
To come back to the point, what I have been saying is very cogent because there is a certain pomposity and assumption about the practice of producing pamphlets. I will not declare an interest at the moment but I will soon link with the firm. We are stifling ourselves with Xerox letters at the moment. Now firms are getting this marvellous machine, the Xerox, and they are turning out millions of leaflets and they pretend they are producing. It is not production at all; it is not even a sheet anchor. In many cases it is dragging the poor body corpus of the company down to the bottom of the deep sea of bankruptcy.
Let us see what the City and Guilds tell us are the characteristics of the City and Guilds; and I want to make sure that organisations like this that have the "know-how" are approached by Governments, whether Liberal, Labour or Conservative.
The aim of the City and Guilds of London Institute is the advancement of technical and scientific education as a service to the individual, to industry and to the nation. The Institute was founded in 1878 and derives its present authority from a Royal Charter granted in 1900….Through its own teaching institutions, the Institute provided for the future technologists and managers in industry…I am going to miss out large chunks, because most noble Lords here are aware of the work of this Institute, but there is a marvellous list of qualifications that men and women are given. Among them is the "threshold of management", which can be given, as the noble Lord also requested, on a part-time basis, where the man still stays in his industry and gets back to it two or three days a week, and does not come back to industry as an 794 intellectual and lacking wisdom. He comes back, like Antaeus, with his feet on the ground; and he grows stronger the more he keeps in contact with his craft or industry. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, is very kind and has written me a number of letters at different times, and I hope he will let me know whether use is being made of the magnificent know-how of the City and Guilds and its aims and work, and whether it has been consulted here.
Having the joy of not having to repeat what everybody else has said before, let me skip through half a dozen points in about ten minutes and then sit down. First of all, I am delighted that Governments are waking up to one fact. I know that the Conservative sides of the world will not admit this, but in this acquisitive society there is no longer any such thing as pure private enterprise. If training and skill were left to private enterprise, the rags of our behinds would be beating our brains out; we would not have the production and skill in training because they would not consider there was profit in it. In other words, they say, "We don't want Governments to interfere with us", but when there is "something for nothing" they want it much more than the council house dweller, and they get a bigger ratio of refund. Out of that levy, some firms have had 90 percent. back, and it was whispered to me while I was muttering that some firms have even had 110 percent. of the levy back because they have had initiative and used the grants that the Government are giving. All I want to emphasise is that we have reached an age where pure private enterprise alone is not enough.
I do not want to frighten noble Lords into thinking that they are listening to a Welsh Methodist Marxist, and that they are facing a dialectic revolution in this sedate House. I simply want to say that the day of complete private enterprise, except in a rag and bone shop, or the cobbler's, or a sweet shop, is finished.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
I agree. Consequently, we have to co-operate with big industry in getting training. The greatest investment any nation can make, whatever its politics, whatever its Government, whether Labour, Conservative, 795 or what-have-you, is investment in people. I therefore welcome these two pamphlets, and particularly the cogent way in which the noble Baroness opened this excellent little debate. I welcome this pamphlet People and Jobs and I welcome Training for the Future, the pamphlet under discussion. There has been some constructive—the word "criticism" sounds harsh —some constructive comments put before the Minister, and I welcome the document for that reason. Whatever we say here, this Government, like others, are beginning to realise, and have realised, the fundamental need for the whole nation to get down to the brass tacks of keeping and improving the nation's skill. For instance, we must remember that people do not stay static. Several million people change their jobs and learn little new skills each year. The figures that I have read in the pamphlet are that 2 million people every year get some kind of training, even if it is only six or ten hours, on how to use a new machine.
We want to keep those skills. I want to get rid of this horrible snobbery in the universities and the sandwich courses, that people think that by going to university, and a university alone, they are the élite. A good old hedger and ditcher —and I watched a beautiful bit of hedging the other day—has to acquire his skill from childhood, and it may take six, eight or ten years of training, which is as long as the training of a skilled surgeon. Indeed, no surgeon could make as beautiful a hedgerow as I have seen in some parts. In other words, let us realise the value of creative skills, at whatever level they may be, and in our educational and training schemes try to cut out this stupid snobbery that has entered into the educational system. The polytechnics, the City and Guilds, and the other types of training courses are of paramount importance.
I happen to belong to a firm dealing in pharmaceuticals, biochemistry and pharmacology, and we ourselves nay for men to get their Ph.D.s at university. After they have completed two or three years on researeh with us—and some researeh resulted in a technological breakthrough which has gained for this little firm a Queen's Award—they are paid to attend at university by the firm, not so much to keep the men for ever but 796 because they then can go on to the great skills needed in biochemistry, pharmacology and so on, and they are there for the benefit of the nation. That is natural in some kinds of industry.
I come now to the question of the world and the men in it. The world to-day is a global village. When things are not mentioned it implies one of two things; it is too much trouble to mention them or they are not worth mentioning. When we talk of training and labour do not let us think that we are talking of a white empire, or only of white men. We now have a problem in that industrial belt which, if I draw a line from Liverpool through North Wales and come roughly parallel down to the Thames, contains about 80 percent. of Britain's production in that industrial axis. There are working there tens of thousands of coloured workers of all nationalities. These coloured workers must also be thought of in these training schemes. They will not always be simply the hewers of wood and drawers of water. Consequently, I want the Government to see that these courses are wide open for those people as well.
There is one further small point and my notes have finished, and I will then wait to hear with interest my noble friend opposite. Coming down in the car to-day I switched on the News and, thank God!, the people around me had suppressors on their cars so I could listen. It is an anti-social society that we are living in these days. I tried to listen to some good music on the radio the other day, and could not get it. If any noble Lord is after a prize—you may not know it now, but it will probably be on the tape by the time you get outside—the Government are offering £2,000 for suggestions on how to help small firms. The Bolton Committee Report was mentioned by the noble Lord. In other words, it is good to see that the Government are looking at this area of production. Whether or not we go into the Common Market, we have to live in a highly competitive world. Without being Chauvinistic—and God knows how can a Celt be Chauvinistic about Britain!—all I want to say is that this nation can be very proud of its skills.
I will tell your Lordships a little story. I think I have told it once before. When I was in Wuhan travelling from Peking 797 by train to Vietnam and Hanoi, I met an old engineer Mao was bringing in with the Russians to build a bridge over the Yangtse River. The old boy spoke English like I do, but with a Chinese intonation. He said to me, "Where do you come from?" I told him, "Wales". He knew it. Mao had dragged him in at 76 years of age, and he qualified in his engineering degree at the Imperial College of Science in 1910. He paid tribute to English engineering schools. But what upset me was that, because of the silly strategic levies against selling goods to China, I was travelling in Hungarian rolling stock instead of British. America would not allow us to sell railway carriages to China at that time. I still think that our best course, without exploiting the world, is to pioneer our skills, and 1 hope that whichever Government brings that about will be successful.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
My Lords, I am sure that the House has enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek. He spoke about Wales but, having been a friendly opponent of his in the North-West of England for a quarter-of-a-century, I had always looked upon him as a North-Westerner rather than as a Welshman. I am quite certain that lie cannot get away from that. I am glad that he is now fully converted to private business, and I am sure that he will make a very good contribution to any company with which he is connected.
It is just two years since the Government inherited the problem—I am not making any excuse—of rapidly rising unemployment. Inflation was also going ahead at a rate not seen for many years. We know that the then Prime Minister went to the country in the early Spring, when he could well have soldiered on for another 11 months. I often wonder why he did not, but I suppose that he was farsighted enough to see the problems with which my noble friends are now having to deal. The present Government have made misjudgments in estimating how large the unemployment figures would be; I think most institutions did. But the fact is that the Government are to-day showing determination to reduce unemployment, which is an economic waste. In 1970, less than 17,000 people received Government sponsored training. That 798 is far less than in many continental countries. The noble Lord, Lord Champion, referred to Sweden, which has done a great deal. But it is probably easier for a country of compact size to show good results. However, the aim is to train something like 60,000 to 70,000 by 1975.
It is extraordinary that to-day the country is getting more production than two years ago, with a reduction of 400,000 in the labour force. I know of one group which has reduced its labour force from 66,000 to 58,000 in the last 18 months, and production has gone up by 10 percent. Over the last quarter of a century, industry as a whole has been employing far too much labour. Many of the great motor car companies kept people on in the thin times because they realised that, otherwise, it would be difficult to get them back when business improved. But to-day, with high wages and high expenses, no firm can afford that luxury and there is hardly a firm of note in this country which is not putting a fine comb through its whole organisation to see where savings can be made. We see an example of that in the contentious matter of containers. But we must progress if we are to be competitive in Europe or anywhere else. Yet, in spite of the million unemployed, there are still shortages of skilled labour in many parts of the economy. We must try to make the maximum use of every available person, man or woman, if we are to raise our standard of living.
On training centres, it is important that planning of future requirements for different skills throughout the country should be based upon accurate and reliable forecasting, which takes realistic account of the effect of individual mobility and job preference, as well as of trends in industrial and regional development. One of the problems in our country is that a man can probably get a far better job if he is prepared to move 300 or 400 miles up North. Of course there is always the housing problem, but, by and large, even without that the British people do not have an inclination to move any great distance, except perhaps the Scots who usually come down to the South. We must adjust ourselves for the future. The younger people are probably facing this problem more than our own generation did, in being prepared to move to a job as they do in America, where they 799 move a thousand miles, and think nothing of it, to improve their position in life. But, as I said, there are grave shortages in many spheres of the economy
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, is the noble Lord really suggesting that people should dig up their roots, leave their homes and take their children in order to go to industry, rather than take industry to people?
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
My Lords, I was not saying anything of the kind. I do not think the noble Lord can have been listening, because what I said was that frequently, if a man was offered a better lob in another part of the country, he was not inclined to move. Of course I recognise that we have to bring industry to the people in the New Towns, in the development areas and elsewhere. I think the noble Lord, who is probably well versed in this matter, knows that people do not have the inclination to move—and we understand that—but like to stay put. Anyhow, I really do not differ from the noble Lord, because I think we are agreed that, in the main, one has to take jobs to where the people are.
I should like to ask my noble friend what action is being taken to influence trade unions' and employers' policies and attitudes, so as to facilitate the employment of people who have successfully undergone re-training. I understand that in the chemical industry, with which I have connections, the trade unions at top level are quite co-operative. The same can be said of the employers, although I believe that some re-thinking in many directions is required by them. Industry will have to supplement training, as has already been done in a great many cases. The noble Lord who preceded me spoke about doing away with university sandwich courses, but did not quite finish what he was going to say. I hope that sandwich courses will not finish. I think that they are invaluable for training purposes vis-à-vis the universities or the polytechnics and industry, and I hope that they will be increased rather than done away with.
§ LORD HARVEY OF PRESTBURY
My Lords, I was not quite clear, but I 800 am very glad to have that assurance from the noble Lord on that point. The training boards in many industries, particularly in the chemical industry, have established close collaboration with industrial representatives at all levels. The chemical industry is probably a model industry in this respect. This has frequently taken the form of industrial representation on working parties set up to prepare recommendations for the training of different occupational groups in the industry. There are possibly too many boards set up. Could not the whole set-up be streamlined? For example, could the rubber industry not be allied to the chemical industry? I think there would probably be a better quality if there were fewer boards. As is acknowledged in the document, the levy/grant system has provided an initial impetus to more effective use of training. However, this has now altered in usefulness and is in danger of being unnecessarily cumbersome for the further returns which can be expected from it. There is now general recognition that the early phasing out of the system is necessary, and that the I.T.Bs. ought to begin to make a different kind of contribution to training in industry.
Regarding the National Training Agency, in the case of management and clerical training the objectives need defining. There should be specific links with business schools and polytechnics. The proposals on the systems of finance to be used raise fundamental questions. There are some fields where a National Training Agency could make a vital contribution, despite the flow of money and other resources made nationally to all forms of industrial training. Little is known about the real returns which result from this. There is also little real knowledge about the best way to ensure the efficient transfer of training and knowledge, so that industrial efficiency at all levels is improved. Both problems are closely related and would benefit from further research, which can be coordinated only by an organisation with a national "one-view" in this field. However, the proposals contained in the document give little indication of whether this would be one of the benefits resulting from the National Training Agency's work, or of how it would influence thought and action in this direction.
The chemical industry has been moving ahead. There are fewer and fewer 801 labourers—and I use the word in the accepted sense. Occasionally, you now have a man controlling a building twice the size of this room from up on a platform—one man, with masses of dials, carrying a tremendous responsibility. This man is as highly qualified as any professional man in any other field. Of course, the capital investment per man in the chemical industry is probably one of the highest in the world. Plants have become more sophisticated and automated, and this trend will continue whether we like it or not. It is going to happen; and people have to be more skilled and more trained. That is why it is so necessary to do what we are discussing to-day. For example, workers go from school to the Stretford Technical College. They are sent there by the company for a full year at the company's expense. Then they go back into industry, and they go to the college again every week, one day a week, for another three years. They have nearly four years' training at the technical college and with their firm. Then there is an examination which has been organised by the Chemical Industries Association. This will need to continue; it has been going on since 1953.
To come to the future: will the training for a craftsman be as sufficient as it is to-day? I think it will, so that he will become a multicraftsman—something far beyond the narrow field to which he is probably confined to-day. He may be skilled in mechanical and electrical or even instrument engineering—covering a wide field and being capable in it all. He will then be a super-craftsman; but this will bring him up against a problem which must be sorted out by the trade unions. I hope that noble Lords opposite who have influence will bring all the influence they can to bear to give these men the recognition they properly deserve at the end of their very long training. Plans for training are only part of the strategy for full employment, but they are necessary. As was said earlier on, even when unemployment is low I think this training should be a continuing factor in our economy. It is a vital part of our economy.
I should like to say, my Lords, that I think the document we are discussing to-day has been excellently drawn up. 802 There has been real thought and attention given to it. It is attractive to read; in fact, it is one of the easiest Government documents I have ever read. Normally you get halfway through such a document and put it away, but this is a splendid document and I think the Government are to be congratulated. I should like to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, who opened this debate, for her speech; I thought she made a very fine contribution. My Lords, I think this has been a well worthwhile debate. I hope legislation will follow at a very early date and that it will be given a high priority in the coming Session of Parliament.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, I think that any student of politics surveying the activities of your Lordships' House would feel it a little incongruous that far more of your Lordships are interested in dogs coursing brown hares than, it appears, in something on which the entire future prosperity of our country really depends. I think a student of politics would also, perhaps, be interested in the propensity of the present Government towards infanticide. We had a very notable example when they set up the Consumer Council during their previous Administration and then proceeded to kill it under this one. This time they are not going quite so far as that. The industrial training boards have not been in operation a very long time, as the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, pointed out. Some of them were established only some two or three years back; others a little earlier in the scheme. But now the Government come along, and they do not actually want to kill them off, but it seems to me that they want to emasculate them.
I feel that we have had perhaps not quite a critical enough analysis of some of the possible effects of the proposals which, if they are not amended, the Government presumably will put forward in an Act. I know that it is regarded as almost discourtesy to introduce a political note into these discussions, but I think it is quite unrealistic to be discussing the matter of industrial training without taking into account the reactions and the feelings of those who are likely to be trained; in other words, very largely —though of course not exclusively—the 803 members of the trade unions in this country. The T.U.C. held a special conference on April 5 to discuss this very Report. So far, I think no noble Lord has made any reference to that whatsoever; and I will in a moment refer to one or two of the criticisms which the T.U.C. made of the Report.
Coming nearer to the grass roots, I think your Lordships should be aware of the impression which has been made in certain areas of industry by the Government's proposals in this field. I have here the April issue of The Highway, which is one of the publications of the Transport and General Workers' Union, of which I have been a member for many years. I think it is only right that your Lordships should be reminded that people do react to proposals of this sort and that we must take their reactions into account. I will read a few sentences from this front-page article, just to try to bring this into perspective. We have had a good many speeches from the management side: I think we should at least be aware of what some of the feelings are on the union side. It says here:Government plans for sweeping changes in the industrial training system are a pay-off by the Tories to the bosses".Your Lordships may think that that is just tendentious; nevertheless, it is a very genuine feeling.
This particular article has special reference to the road haulage industry, and it quite fairly describes the proposals in the pamphlet for the phasing out of the levy/ grant schemes for the training boards, which will become advisory and standard-setting only. It goes on to say:There are more 'pirates' on the road than tolerable hauliers, and when the levy goes training is likely to go out with it".Then, the member of the union on the Road Transport Industry Training Board says:In the past six years we have been able to raise the standards of the transport driver simply because we had the full `co-operation' of the transport industry. That was given because they were forced to provide training. The Government plan could be a death-blow to real training in the professional transport industry, and I would think "—says Alex Kitson, the officer I am quoting—that the majority at least of hauliers are laughing up their sleeves about it".804 He then goes on to point out that the money now to be allocated to training will be largely from taxation, which means that it is open to cuts at any time the Government feel that they have to economise, whereas, of course, the levy is paid by the industries themselves; and he also points out that the levy produces some£200 million a year and that the Government are proposing a very much reduced figure for their training activities.
I have read those extracts, my Lords, not because I necessarily agree with all of them but because I think it is very important for us to realise the sort of impression that the proposed Government action is likely to make on the shop floor, at a time when industrial relations are, after all, such an extremely important part of our public concern. I think the reason why there is this political feeling is that there is a sense that the Government are giving way to certain pressures. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, quite rightly said in his opening speech that the Government undertook this survey into training in part because of the pledge given in their own Election Manifesto. It may not be beyond the recollection of all your Lordships that there was strong criticism at the time when the Conservative Government themselves brought in, and then implemented, the 1964 Act. There was strong resistance then, and there has continued to be strong resistance from the smaller firms in industry; that I think we all recognise. But I think there was also what one might call a Poujadiste element, too. I believe I am right in saying that it was Mr. Enoch Powell himself who referred to "the great training robbery"—meaning of course, the levy. Again, I am not saying that all this criticism of the Government is necessarily justified, but it is there in people's minds. So I think that in this context one must look with very close attention indeed at the proposals put forward in the Paper.
One of the first criticisms was made, I think very strongly, by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, as to whether this separation of functions as between training, on the one hand, and manpower estimation and placing, on the other, is justified. I know that there can be differences of opinion on this point: it is not a simple problem, but many people have 805 grave doubts about it. When both the C.B.I. and the T.U.C. share anxieties on this point one must believe that there is some substance in it. The T.U.C. come out strongly in favour of a unitary system for manpower as a whole, including training, prognostication of needs, employment advice and placing services. In their minds that is the sort of pattern that they would wish. The C.B.I. are not quite so emphatic, but I am sure that your Lordships will have seen their statement on April 19 in which they say:If a serious mismatch between training opportunities and job opportunities were to develop, this could not only be acutely discouraging to the individuals concerned but also a source of embarrassment to both Government and industry.It is quite plain, reading between the lines, that there are members of the C.B.I. who are also worried about this proposed division of functions. I do not think there is necessarily a strong political point there; but there is a very important matter of organisation for our industrial future which is at stake and which needs a great deal more discussion than it seems to me that it has so far received.
Turning for a moment from that matter, which I consider to be one of most serious importance, 1 would point out that there are also the proposals, as we all know, for the complete reshaping of the industrial training board set-up. These proposals, too, have come in for a good deal of criticism from those who have had great experience in this field. As my noble friend Lord Brown said in what I thought was an outstanding speech, no one pretends that the present situation is satisfactory. We recognise, as the noble Earl, Lord Courtown, emphasised, that there are certain areas of training which are not really suitable for the 27 or so different boards and which should be undertaken on a different basis, be it regional or whatever. Office skills of all kinds, from clerical to managerial, I should have thought were in that category. We are also at one on the difficulties of some of the smaller firms. But I am not sure we should weep too many salt tears over them, for, as my noble friend Lord Champion said, in the days before the present schemes many of them were guilty of poaching, and necessarily so. Perhaps they had to poach to live, like sonic others. But one is very much 806 concerned lest the Government are throwing out the baby with the bath water; because they say in the document that for large, well-defined industries the present system is on the whole very good. Why, therefore, because it is not perfect in other directions, should we go as far as the Government appear to wish to go in emasculating it? To do as the Government propose can have serious consequences.
These have been recognised by the C.B.I. in their paper and also by the engineering industry's training board, whose statement I have here. Incidentally, this was not among the industries to which the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, referred when he mentioned the reactions of the various industries to the paper. The engineering industry board points out that a relationship of very great value has been built up during the period in which the industrial training boards have been functioning. This is a tripartite relationship between the employers, the trade unions and the education authorities. It is very much feared that if one is not careful this valuable relationship may be considerably weakened. Not only that; it is pointed out that if the industrial training boards of the future are to become largely advisory and standard-setting and only to a much diminished degree executive, and in particular if their financial control is to be largely, though not entirely, taken from them, people of real substance and seniority in industry will not bother to serve on them. It seems to me that this is a very important aspect of the situation. One of the advantages of having a levy which the employers have had to pay from their own pockets was that they had a strong interest in making certain that they got value for money. If what they get is a grant from the taxpayer, then, human nature being what it is, they will be far less concerned, and instead of putting forward a senior director as a representative they will take some, let us say, relatively middle-grade officer and send him along to represent them. This may have a serious effect on the quality and momentum of training.
Therefore I beg the Government to think very carefully about the overall way in which they appear to wish to tackle the problem of the industrial training boards. The should certainly amend—we are all agreed on that—but 807 should not be anything like as comprehensive as they seem to wish to be. Again I am fortified in this view by the sort of reaction that one has had over a wide spectrum of informed opinion on this idea that one can do without the levy, or, for practical purposes, do without the levy except in special situations.The Times newspaper, for instance, said:The assumption that the shock treatment which the Government considers has already done the trick is uncertain, to say the least. It would be an awful waste to undo much of the good work of the last eight years.Again, one may look at the engineering industry training board. I quote from this because they are responsible for so much of the industrial training effort in this country. They do not come out entirely against the Government's suggestion but they say:An abrupt cessation of the levy/grant mechanism and its replacement by a limited range of grants at a substantially reduced level and from central funds would result in a serious reduction in essential training effort. Many employer; support the view that a serious set-back would be bound to occur and some have expressed the view that the industry would gradually revert to the situation which existed before the 1964 Act.That is a very serious statement to be made by what is, I suppose, the largest industrial training board in this country. Again the C.B.I. have to make it clear that the majority of their members would prefer the training levy to come to an end; but they have also made it plain, in the statement to which I have already referred, that a considerable number of their members are of the view that if the levy comes to an end much of the effectiveness of the present training system will be diminished. It would be interesting to know the breakdown of the "pros" and "antis" in the C.B.I. membership. One suspects that the "antis" are very much the smaller firms and the "pros" are very much the larger ones, but I have no authentic evidence for that.
Therefore one must ask the Government to take these criticisms from a wide spectrum of informed opinion very seriously. Merely because they have something in print, however nicely it is printed, should not make them believe that that is the last word. I hope that they will allow sufficient time for really adequate consultation and will not feel 808 that because they have said that they must have legislation—or, at any rate, that they will be putting the plans into effect next year—they must rush into things. They may be doing more harm than good and damaging something which should be improved but which certainly has not outlived its usefulness.
My Lords, I have just two more points to make. One is to support most warmly what my noble friend Lord Sainsbury said about providing training opportunities in industrial and commercial matters for students from overseas. I think it a great pity that, so far as I am aware, no mention is made of this in the document, and I hope very much that the Government will take this matter seriously. It is something which is not just a question of our natural public duty to people from developing countries but also, as has been pointed out, it is very much in the national self-interest. It is not something one can normally expect individual firms, or even industries, to undertake unless they happen to be part of a large group which has overseas interests. It is something which I think is of national interest, and therefore a national duty, and I hope that some proper financial provision will be made—possibly on the aid budget, but I would not pre-judge that. At any rate, a proper place should be found for it.
I was delighted that the Minister made reference to a certain subject and I was astonished that the noble Baroness. Lady Seear, did not: that is, the position of women so far as industrial and commercial training is concerned. After the noble Baroness's triumph the other day on the Anti-Discrimination Bill, I was surprised that, in a sphere in which there is such gross inequality of opportunity, she should not mention it.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, it had occurred to me that if I omitted to make any reference to that subject, it would call more attention to it.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, if that was the subtle reason I entirely accept the explanation; but I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, referred to it. I had a notion that possibly he, or his advisers, had been reading a document presented to the Prime Minister and to the Secretary of State for Employment by the National Joint Committee of Working Women's Organisations, which feels 809 very strongly about this matter. If your Lordships study the annexes to Training for the Future closely, you will be able to work out the figures for yourselves, but to save you that labour I would just remind your Lordships that, so far as apprenticeships is concerned, in very round figures, the proportion of boys going to apprenticeships is about 40 per cent. and the proportion of girls a little over 7 per cent. Of the girls three quarters go into hairdressing apprenticeships. I am well aware that a number of occupations which are commonly regarded as women's work do not carry apprenticeships, so perhaps it might be a better indication of the true balance of opportunity if one looked instead at the day release figures. There one will find, again in round terms, that about 40 per cent. of boys of 15, 16 and 17 years of age obtain day release, and just over 10 per cent. of girls. So it is quite plain that in what one might call the public sector, girls are at a tremendous disadvantage in comparison with boys so far as training is concerned.
I was also glad to hear the Minister say that part of this is due to the unchanging attitude towards the kind of jobs which girls should undertake. The time has surely come, as the working women's organisation points out, to have some fresh thought on this matter. I think it starts in the schools, where the kind of education thought suitable for girls does not necessarily qualify them for the greater variety of jobs which otherwise would be open to them. I hope very much that, through the activities of the working women's organisations and other bodies, we shall have a much more vigorous policy so far as both education and also the training of girls is concerned. Conversely, I think that the education of boys will have to be modified in future, because although at the present time women are still in the majority in the population, if one takes the age groups under 40 one finds that men are now in the majority. This means that unless we adopt polygamy or live in communes, men in future will have, to some degree, to be equipped for domestic life. This might be taken into account in their education, and I see no reason why they should not have some training in domestice management. But I think it highly desirable that girls should have a more 810 broadly based education in future. I am surprised—although, as I say, if your Lordships will search through the annexes you will see some of these self-evident truths—that with such gross disparities the authors of a document on training hardly refer to it. I can only say, therefore, that that part of the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, pleased me because it showed that at least he was aware that here there is a genuine problem.
To sum up, my Lords, my own feeling is that it is a very good thing that we should discuss these matters. I am very much afraid that the Government may be under pressure from certain directions to which they may submit, and in so doing they may be disposed to undertake changes which are far more fundamental than I believe is called for by the present situation.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, it may be rather difficult at this late hour not to be repetitive, and if I am perhaps your Lordships will accept what I have to say as more of a reinforcement than a repetition of the speeches of previous speakers. Notwithstanding what was said by my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn, particularly in connection with the document being consultative. I must confess that I started off at its publication in February in a questioning attitude about why at this time the document had been published. I thought that perhaps it might have been considered that the usefulness of industrial training boards, under the arrangements in the 1964 Act, had come to an end. I thought that perhaps the disappointingly high level of unemployment might have had an effect also; and I remain, I fear, slightly wedded to that view because I do not think that, after only eight years for some boards and two or three years' work of other boards, the true worth of their work has yet to be realised. In the industry in which I am I know that the realisation of the benefits of formal training are only just becoming apparent.
I find it difficult also to treat the document as truly consultative in that it appears to me to be largely a series of proposals which, after a decent interval of time, would be implemented; proposals which alter fundamentally the 811 whole basis of training as set out in the 1964 Act. Notably, for the first time these proposals in the document bring a very active Government intervention into industrial training. Had the Government wished to become even more deeply involved, then I think it might well have been better had they gone further and used this opportunity for the replanning and restructuring of training to have brought in the establishment of the Manpower Planning Commission which has been discussed so many times.
The document describes in some detail as a specific object the training needs of individuals. I am afraid that one's enthusiasm for training individuals may result in training them absolutely for redundancy. As workers come out of industry with high redundancy it appears to me that they grab at any straw of retraining, irrespective of whether upon the completion of that retraining there will be a job. The enlarged operation of an increased number of G.T.C.s is to be welcomed, because in the very nature of their operation, which basically has been craft and skilled training courses, they have always been, and are likely to be, located in areas where local unemployment is greatest and a local identification of immediate re-employment is possible. Any broader based use of the G.T.C. system is, I feel, likely to be lost.
I find it rather disappointing not to have found quite positively in the document the body that is going to be responsible for the identification of the future industries. I should like this evening to he able to reel off three or four emergent industries which are going to demand huge labour forces in 1985. I fear that I am not that clever. But I think that somebody has got to be that clever. An identification of the training needs of 1980 and 1985 must he made and the plans for that training laid right now.
Again, the document lays stress on the needs of an individual. Not only is the training required to equip a man or woman, boy or girl, for a job, but I believe that it has a more social object. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, in her opening speech, which I found tremendously interesting, drew attention to what is normally called job satisfaction, job enrichment; that is, the need 812 for improving a man's basic skill in the job that he has already learned. I believe that training boards have been able to do this improvement work extremely well. I think of an auto-electrician, well versed in an ordinary wiring circuit and dynamo system of power, who has been upon a conversion course to learn of a printed circuit in a motor car and an alternator. I suppose that before industrial training began that man might well have found himself out of a job because he did not know about an alternator or a printed circuit. To-day he goes on a conversion course; and he does not, just because he has learned a wider piece of skill, immediately demand more money. Were he so to do, it would necessarily detract from an employer's sending him on a course. To a great extent, this particular factor is being achieved with the wholehearted and ready co-operation of trade unions. A number of noble Lords have emphasised the close association that has been built up through the platform of the neutral training board council between the trade unions, educationists and employers. At a time when perhaps this relationship is a little strained, I should he reluctant to make any changes in the training set-up that would curtail, or even destroy, any of the relationships that have been so arduously built up. I do not think this is a situation that we can possibly afford.
If one wishes to reassemble, as it were, individual training requirements and national training requirements, then a co-ordinated body is required, and I suppose that the National Training Agency could well be that body. I feel, however, that there is a danger to be guarded against, and it is that such an Agency might well take a too executive role, centralising the control of differing industries without a full understanding of the requirements of individual industries. The fear of the creation of a "Mr. Big" in training is, I think, a real one; and when we consider the antagonism that individual boards and their chief officers created in the minds of some people in certain industries—an antagonism which has diminished only after some years of close co-operation between the boards and the industries—the recreation of a new "Mr. Big" in training would, I think, have a rather unhappy I effect.
813 I am not at all happy with the idea that the training staffs of individual boards should be brought under a central umbrella and seconded out. I have a keen regard for many of the people working in the different boards; and most notably the Engineering Board and the Road Transport Board, where their officers have developed a keen sense of co-operation and identity with the individual industries. If men are to be sent from a central agency, it is going to take a good deal of time to build up the trust required to undertake training operations in a particular industry.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting him on that point. Surely the common-sense thing would be that the boards should retain their existing staff, at any rate, very largely and they would simply become employees of the National Training Agency. This is the way in which it would be done. I do not think there would be any suggestion that the National Training Agency would post people all round the place, just as it thought fit.
§ BARONESS WHITE
My Lords, this is an important point, and perhaps the noble Lord could develop it. Who has the right to hire, fire and promote?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
The conception is that the people would be employed by the National Training Agency. They would be seconded and completely responsible to the training boards. So presumably they would be hired only on the recommendation of the training board.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, it is one thing to be responsible to the training board; it is quite another, in the last analysis, to face the possibility of being sacked by the central hoard. That is the point I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, is making.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, may I remind your Lordships that this is not a Committee stage, and that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will be speaking again at the end of the debate.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I am grateful to noble Lords, who I am sure have been wanting to 814 help me in this matter. I am perhaps a little more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for bringing us back in train. I meant exactly what I said, and I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn for attempting to clear the point. I do not, however, accept from my noble friend that his interpretation of what will happen will in fact happen. I believe that a man works for his nearest master. The man on the shop floor will work for his foreman, not for some chairman in the top office; and you move up the scale accordingly. So the employee (if I may call him that) of a training board works for that board. As the noble Lord, Lord Brown, said. "The guy who pays you has the right to fire you"—and this may not be the body in whose company you are enjoying your life at the time.
If one accepts that there should be a unified scheme—and the Swedish example has been mentioned in this connection; incidentally, it may be of interest to noble Lords to know that although the Swedish scheme is much lauded, they are very envious of our industrial training centres, of which they have none—it may be that the Government, in considering whether these training centres will have a useful purpose in the future, may well consult again with the Swedes to find what their view is.
My Lords, I cannot conclude without some mention of money. I believe that most noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon have drawn attention to the levy/grant system. It has been described as "crude", as "stick and carrot" and as having had "a shock effect"—with all of which description I would agree. It is for this reason, and for this reason alone, that I would continue the levy/grant system in some form or another. I cannot agree with those who say that we have now made a permanent change in the attitude towards training. I do not think this is so. I really do not mind how a man gets to a training centre: even if it is only to recover the levy, at least he has got there and some value will be gained from that. I believe that there must be a direct financing by participants, whether this is done by an overall levy on the industry or by any other method. I seriously 815 believe that there must be this participation in the cash end of the training. Perhaps it is a little disappointing that those boards which have raised the level at which the levy is currently to be applied have excluded, according to figures given in the Bolton Report and mentioned by Lord Courtown, so many small businesses which are in such dire need of training. These small businesses, whether they are specialist engineering firms or "sweetie shops", must be brought back into the training fold, for the benefit both of themselves and of their employees.
One last point: I cannot see how £40 million can be stretched to cover the proper needs of all the participating boards, agencies or people involved. I was going to quote some figures but I have in my memory that the noble Lord, Lord Champion, quoted a series of figures. We can all read them to-morrow, and I think that, in essence, they showed that currently the amount per head allocated for training is £5 but that under these proposals there will be left something like the figure of £1 per head for training. My Lords, we have to look at something considerably in excess of £5 per head if we are going to do something more useful than we have done in the past. If the Government will take real note—and this, I am sure, is what my noble friend Lord Drumalbyn meant when he assured us that all the points which had been raised will be brought to the attention of the various boards, societies and so on—then I think we can quite easily get the whole of the proposals into a more acceptable and useful shape.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I must first declare an interest because I have the privilege of serving the Distributive Industry Training Board as its chief executive. I am therefore very closely connected with training boards and hope I shall be able to contribute to some extent to to-day's debate in your Lordships' House. I should like to start by thanking the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, very much for introducing this debate at this time. As other noble Lords have said, it is a particularly timely moment for such a debate. From the depths of my heart I commend to the Government the views expressed by my noble friends Lord Rochdale and Lord Lucas of 816 Chilworth. What they have said expresses almost precisely my own view, and all that I need endeavour to do now is to fill in the gaps. I hasten to add that had these views been expressed by my noble friends then coming from them perhaps they would carry rather more weight than when coming from a hack training board man like myself.
I should like very briefly to invite your Lordships to look at why we have a training Act at all. This matter has been touched upon, but there are a couple of points which I should particularly like to emphasise. You may remember that in the 1950's it was felt that there should be more training, and the Government of the day set up an Industrial Training Council to exhort people to do training; but that had no effect. This was because those people who were operating training said: "Jolly good! We are doing what the Government want and we will go on doing it," but the others simply put the piece of paper into the wastepaper basket. So it was deemed necessary at that time to have a system by which some teeth might be given to the means by which the need for more effective training could really be brought home to people.
The other point which is particularly important is that the duty of raising the levy (because this was the means used) was given to a group of people taken from the industry; and they were taken in part from the employers and in part from the employees. When we hear that the views of the industry must be obtained— and I shall be coming back to this— later I think that the Government seriously need to decide what they mean by "the industry". Do they mean the levy boards or the trade associations, or do they mean the industry as their predecessors described it in setting up the boards which took people from both sides of industry and charged them with the responsibility of raising the levy? They also included educational members, but they did not have this particular responsibility. If one is to consult the industry it is surely necessary to be reasonably certain that one is embodying all and not just a part of the industry. The situation that we have reached to-day is, as my noble friend has just said, that some eight years elapsed before the first boards were set up, 3½ years since my board was set up and 1½ years since my 817 board became fully operative. I wonder what has changed to make the Government say in their document in paragraph 31 that there is a view held by "probably the majority … that a permanent shift in attitude in British industry has been secured".
I know that one has to be careful about using unparliamentary words—particularly in view of what happened at the start of our proceedings to-day—but I am afraid that statement, so far as it applies to the people with whom I am concerned, is not true. I question why the Government, sensible as they are, put in a section and based much of their case on an imagined situation which has in it no depth of truth in general at all. There may be isolated points in which there has been a permanent shift in attitude. There has certainly been a shift in attitude, but the permanence is so incredibly doubtful as to make one wonder why it has been included. I suspect that it could be due to two things: first, it may be that the Government were advised that the training board system of financing did not work; it could be that a certain amount of alarm was felt at the fact that some of the training boards are rather heavily in debt—and it is a fact that must not be avoided, for this is the case. However, one must remember that when the training boards first started the concept of what they could and could not do was very different from what we now understand. They were told that they were to spread the costs more evenly. It was unfortunate that the word "costs" was used because in practical terms you can only do with the levy/grant system what the levy funding allows you to do because it is your sole source of income. The grants must therefore be related to the levy in some way or another. It was quite easy in the early days of the boards for people to be misled by this cost business and they found themselves in a difficult situation because they found that grant claims greatly exceeded what they could afford to pay. All that is water under the bridge and though it is true that mistakes have been made, I described this matter in a speech on the occasion of your Lordships' last debate, in January 1970, as something which was a brave new experiment, and that I still believe it to be. The trouble with experi 818 ments is that sometimes people make mistakes. The situation now is that we know about the mistakes, and all the boards are very conscious and aware of the risk that they run of allowing their finances to run away by not being wholly sure that the levy income can cover it.
You may say in effect that the experimental period is over. The methods by which we operate are, so far as possible, wholly watertight in financial terms. Before leaving that point, I should like as a special plea to recommend to the Government that they give serious consideration to writing off the debts of those boards which have excessive debt positions. This would be fair because to a certain extent when they made their mistakes these people did so with the understanding of the Government of the day. The Government have money at their disposal for this purpose under the Industrial Training Act 1964, and I suspect that the burden of a heavy debt is much more of a disincentive to listen to the word "training" than the payment of a levy. I therefore ask the Government to give particular thought to that suggestion.
I have dealt with the first reason why I think the Government committed themselves in this document to what is a statement of doubtful accuracy. The second reason is that the levy payers have represented to the Government that the payment of the levy is intolerable; the paperwork is intolerable, and therefore the system should be done away with. This is an understandable situation. The levy payers are having to "cough up" money; but in the first place, one purpose of the training Act was to make them think about training because their money was involved. This is so, and of course they complain. It is significant that when we had our debate in January 1970 objection to the levy was never mentioned once by any speaker. In some cases firms had been levied for four or five years longer than the firms with which I am associated to-day. Why was no objection voiced? It was because noble Lords did not think that there was any chance of the levy being abolished. If you suggest that you are going to do something and ask somebody about it he would probably agree 819 with your view. For example, I like whisky; I think the tax on whisky is much too high. If the Government were to come to me and say, "We are thinking of abolishing the tax on whisky; do you think this is a good idea?" I should answer, "Yes". Furthermore, I would probably be able to buttress that answer with such suggestions as, "Yes, indeed; I cannot think why it has not been done before"; or "The tax on whisky is intolerable; it is an interference with my liberty as an individual to drink what I want to drink". I could go on in that vein.
This in effect is what has happened about the levy. It has been suggested that it may be abolished and, of course, the levy payers agree. Coming back to what I said earlier, I suggest that the Government should think seriously as to whether the basis on which they formulated their plans is a true one. Before I leave the matter of the levy, may I suggest one further point? So far we have seen in the document, though we have not heard much about it in the speeches in this House to-day, what is wrong with the levy; it interferes with people's true appreciation of training. et cetera. What has not been described, and what does not appear in the document, are the advantages to the levy payer. The most important advantage is that they have a clear right and an easy method of controlling the levy.
We as a training board are under permanent pressure from our levy payers to keep the levy and our costs low. People write to me practically once a month on that type of ground. This is something that they can do. If they are not going to have their training funded through the National Training Agency from the central Exchequer, it will cost them, we are told, at least £40 million. Many people have questioned whether this sum is enough—for example, speakers to-day, the C.B.I., the T.U.C., the Institute of Personnel Managers. It is possible that there will be more money spent on the general framework of training through the industrial training boards. It could well be therefore that, instead of having £200 million, roughly, collected from them, of which only £16 million is spent on administration and training services while all the rest goes back into grants, 820 they will have quite a large sum—shall we say £60 million?—taken from them through their taxes, and they will not really have an easy way of controlling that at all.
It is much better for them to be able to grouse to us, whom they can attack; and their grouses are not as numerous as all that, my Lords. In the last two years I have had only 80 letters forwarded to me from people complaining to their Members of Parliament who have forwarded the letters on to the Secretary of State. That is 80 out of something like 18,000 levy payers and 35,000 people to whom we have written in the first place to find out whether they should be levy payers. So it can be said that we have interfered with 35,000 people and only 80 of them have bothered to complain in this way. In addition to that, in the last three years I have had, perhaps, a couple of hundred letters from people who have complained to me personally or to my chairman. But what is interesting is that I have been able to deal with these complaints myself. It is not a great task; there is not a great upset. Furthermore, out of these complainants the earlier ones are in many cases now satisfied. We have visited them, we have explained to them what we are doing, and they are getting on with training and demanding our services further. So, many of these complaints cancel themselves out. Probably, therefore, the complaints from individuals can have been given a greater emphasis in the Government's mind than is reasonable.
I want briefly (and I will not keep your Lordships much longer) to touch on one small point which I think is concerning people and has not been mentioned in this debate. It is this. Supposing the Government think again and do not compel people to abandon the levy principle in 1972–73. There is, perhaps, in some people's minds—though Heaven forbid it should happen !—a danger that the Government might change and we should find noble Lords opposite in charge. Some people might think that they might take the view, "Oh, we've got these people with the levies. We'll put them all up", and whereas the present Secretary of State with his powers under the Act is encouraging Boards to put down their levy, which in some cases is very reasonable, it could be that a Labour Secretary 821 of State would take the opposite view; or this is the thought. I personally in speaking of these levies would like to dispel that idea. I do not think there is any chance whatsoever of that happening. It would perhaps be nice to have reassurance on that point so far as it can be given, but I think the risk of that would be very small indeed, if there is any risk at all.
My next point is this. What, if we are to retain the levy, is it suggested that we should do? I believe that as the training boards know their industries through and through, in a way that the Department of Employment does not and the N.T.A. will never be able to because they will not be close to the grass roots, they are the people, surely, gradually to work out the levy. There are two ways in which this can be done, and both might well be done concurrently. Some boards are already working towards it. One is a process of disengagement, where you disengage people who are training better than average and where the purposes of the impetus are no longer relevant; and another is gradually to reduce the levy so that eventually there is practically nothing left for grant and most of it is going in services, the levy going down to the 0.1 or 0.2 per cent. level, which is perhaps rather more tolerable to people. That sort of thing can happen in due course.
All boards have their different problems. That is why we have different boards for each industry, and all boards therefore will have their own assessments as to how this should be done. You may say, "Why should the boards decide?" The answer is that they represent the industry; the board members are taken from the industry, and they will make as good a judgment as anybody as to the rate at which this kind of procedure should take place. This, surely, is a much more reasonable way and I would suggest to my noble friend on the Front Bench, if I may, that it is much more in keeping with what I should have called Conservative philosophy. It leaves the matter in a decentralised fashion; it leaves it to be decided by people who are actually close to the job. That, surely, is the attitude which generally from these Benches we like to encourage, instead of having a great central juggernaut whose contact with reality is unlikely to be very deep.
822 I will not hold your Lordships for very much longer, but I would say a brief word about the N.T.A. itself. I believe that there is a good reason for having an N.T.A. and its principal purpose should not be only to run the Government training centres. If we are to give this increased opportunity to individuals, that will be very necessary, but it is absolutely vital, as certain noble Lords have said, if this is to happen, that it is done with a true knowledge of what the need is; and so a thoroughly expert body is required. My noble friend who spoke before me said that he was not clever enough to solve the problem of the big companies in the future. But at least he posed the problem. This is the kind of question the N.T.A. will have to get down to. It will find that it will receive very good basic advice in working as a partner with, but not as a superior to, the training boards as regards their own resources, because the training boards are more likely than anyone else to know what is happening in their industry with regard to training needs in the future. In fact it is very difficult for anybody to forecast training needs in the future, but at least if one tackles the problem the training boards are probably better able than anyone else to provide the kind of information required. I hope that if there is to be a body looking after the Government training centres, and forming, one would hope, the nucleus of the manpower body which has been recommended vaguely in the consultative document, and more thoroughly and firmly by the T.U.C., the N.T.A. could well develop into such a body and look after the whole question of the training boards and opportunities for people all over the country.
The last point I want to make is that in the document there is reference to the idea that the N.T.A. should develop its own regional training system to supplement the work of the boards. As I understand it, this is to take on those areas which have not got training boards, such as banking and insurance, which escaped by the skin of their teeth through the change of Government, and certain other areas which probably need training just as much as, or more than, those people who are under training boards. It is partly to do that, and to deal with the very small people who are below the cut-off points of the various training boards. I do not believe that it would 823 be good use of the country's money to build up a regional system of this kind. One would have to tread delicately in this area.
So far as the small firms are concerned within a training board's orbit, I believe that as the training boards get on they will be able to work towards providing facilities for those firms. There will have to be a little more flexibility in their operation. I will not bore your Lordships with technicalities about employers and employees, and the Bill which was before Parliament and died as the Government changed, but I think that if we could be allowed to give a service to the small people—as I think we can—and particularly to ally them to group training schemes, where these are set up, this is the kind of situation we want to encourage. I would mention, in passing, that in the last 15 months my training board has got the rudiments of a hundred group training schemes under way, and I think this is something with which the consultative document agrees. I should have thought that an expansion of that sort of body to engulf the smaller firms and possibly take in the loyal staffs, if they are not in a training board in a local town, would be a better way of going about things.
To sum up, my Lords, this document does not impress me. Certain noble Lords have said what a very good document it is. Compared with the average White Paper I would agree; but as a document which tells the truth, which gives the right emphasis to facts—there is a whole page of comment on training boards, most of which gives the wrong impression—as a document which is trying to set out the basis for a new plan I think it is rotten. I am sorry to have to say this to my noble friend, but I believe that the general concept of developing the Government training centres was a good thing. I do not believe that now is the time to "muck about" with training boards. I would say: "Give us at least another five years and then have another look at the position."
§ 7.1 p.m.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, I propose to dwell briefly on only one aspect of training, which I have already raised 824 on more than one occasion in your Lordships' House, namely, the technical training of overseas students, chiefly those from the developing countries. I am encouraged to do so by two sentences at the end of the document Training for the Future, which of course has been referred to, favourably and unfavourably, by nearly all noble Lords this afternoon. In many ways it is an admirable document—and certainly from the point of view of style—admirable, that is, save, from my point of view, in one notable respect, for, as the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and the noble Baroness, Lady White, have said, owing to some extraordinary aberration it does not even mention the problem presented by the training of overseas students. There is no mention whatever. I hope that does not mean that the Government are becoming "inward-looking", which is always a tendency which they seem to detect (usually wrongly) in their European partners. Anyhow, we read at page 5 of the documentGovernment schemes will never compare in scale with the provision"—they mean the provision of training—by employers themselves, since they aim at filling important gaps in the system, and not at taking over functions which properly belong to employers. However,"—and this is the point—experience in certain other Western European countries … suggests that there could well be room for a much larger contribution by the Government to the provision of training facilities for individuals.The reference to the performance of certain other Western European Governments is indeed apposite, and perhaps the noble Lord who is to reply might confirm what is, I believe, a fact (and I am quoting O.E.C.D. figures) that the Western German Government now provide getting on for eight times as much in volume of training (that is to say, training as measured in man-months) to officially financed overseas trainees as we do. This compares with less than twice as much in 1965. If the Germans can do this, why can we not do it? That is a simple question. Is it not possible that we can learn something from the German system of training which, if we may judge from the figures given on page 62 of Training for the Future, seems in any case to be far ahead of us in a general way? How, then, could 825 we suitably arrange for more practical training to be given to our overseas students from the underdeveloped countries, who, as we all know, are for the most part (apart from a few hundred sponsored ones who have already been placed in training in industry) crying out for practical training rather than for theoretical knowledge, which usually they cannot put to any very good account when they return to their native lands?
As it seems to me, the problem—and of course I simplify; one has to in five minutes—really resides in the willingness of our industrial firms to take on additional trainees over and above those whom they are already training for their own purposes. I am referring, of course, to trainees from abroad. Naturally, by and large, they will do no such thing unless they are compensated. Therefore, why not compensate them? Why not allocate (shall we say?) £1½ million for financing, say, 1,000 students in courses of industrial training, and another £1½ million for financing the training of another 1,000 overseas students in commerce, finance and so on? The £3 million, which after all is a trivial amount in it way, would presumably be taken straight out of the overseas aid Vote, and certainly it would do much more good than most direct aid seems to do. Most of your Lordships would agree with that, at any rate. What is therefore surely wanted, apart from persuading the Treasury that the £3 million would be well spent, is a central agency which will administer the scheme, and the proposed National Training Agency seems, on the face of it, to someone who, admittedly, does not know much about it, to be admirably suited for this purpose. Of course it would work in conjunction with the Council for Technical Education and Training in Overseas Countries (known as TETOC) and the Overseas Students' Advisory Bureau (OSAB), over which the noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury presides with such distinction.
I know it will be said by some that such a block allocation of funds might be dangerous as tending to admit that almost everybody from overseas, however ill-fitted, would have a sort of right to technical training in our factories. But this would really not be so. Only those students who had satisfactorily completed at least a year's course at an approved 826 technical college would be eligible. In other words, it would be the duty of, I should think, the National Training Agency to produce the limited number of bodies for whom provision would be made, in conjunction and in co-operation with the educational authorities concerned, who know all about these people.
My Lords, it all seems quite simple to me—so many things seem simple to me which afterwards turn out to be very complicated—given the cash and given the will: above all, given the will. After all, we are not considering vast sums of money or huge numbers of foreigners; only about 2,000 out of the 70,000-odd students in this country and about 1 per cent. of the 0.7 per cent. of our gross national product that we now reluctantly devote to aid as a whole. It is only a question of a few deserving young men and women—potential engineers, technicians, architects, accountants and so on—mostly from the Commonwealth who have voluntarily chosen Britain as a kind of foster parent and who would be the best possible ambassadors for British goods on return to their own countries if they were able to put their acquired techniques to profitable account, which now they are so often unable to do. I have said this before, more or less, and I say it again: to those people we often at the present time refuse even the crumbs which fall from our rich man's table.
Nor need we be alarmed by difficulties in the way of administering the necessary grants. Why should we be? Each trainee placed with a firm would presumably have to be given an allowance, and the firm itself would be given so much for the additional expense of training him. That need not be a very large grant, if there are already a substantial number of trainees in a given firm. In a great big firm with many trainees one or two additional chaps from the Commonwealth would not matter very much; it would not be a great strain. With smaller firms it would be more so, and no doubt the grant would have to vary at the discretion of the Agency by arrangement with the firms. All that would be wanted would be a few competent officers in the N.C.A. and good will on the part of the training officials in the firms. I do not see why this should not be forthcoming.
827 Finally, I would once again observe that what is urgently necessary now, surely, is some common Western European policy regarding the education and training of overseas students generally. For a sensible common policy—and now we are going into the Community surely we ought to aim at one—would go a long way to impressing the underdeveloped countries of the firm intention of "Europe", of which they are often so suspicious, to pursue a liberal policy of aid, and not to conduct, as in the past, a policy of rival nationalism which had such terrible effects before the war.
Having said that, I rather hope that this afternoon the Government, in addition to confirming the figure regarding Germany which I mentioned earlier on, will at least hold out some hope of now proceeding on the broad lines I have suggested. Usually on such occasions I get afterwards a very polite and well drafted letter from the Department concerned, explaining to me that after profound thought the bureaucrats have reached the conclusion that all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I should, however, be surprised if there were official complacency as regards the technical training of overseas students; but if there is, I would urge the Government to discover what the various High Commissioners with whom they are in contact feel about it. In any case, the present rethink on training as a whole in this country obviously presents an occasion for a complete reappraisal of the allied but not unimportant question of the training of our young overseas friends and guests, and I hope the Government will at least examine the possibilities of making real progress in this general direction.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ LORD COLLISON
My Lords, may I apologise to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the House for intervening at this late hour, but my problem is the usual one: I am never quite sure that I can get here. I will not detain your Lordships long. I do not know whether any noble Lords have mentioned agriculture, but I rise to say a few words on behalf of training in that industry. I have, of course, an interest: I am at the moment the chairman of the Agricultural Apprenticeship Council. That Council 828 was formed some years ago by long-sighted and responsible people from both sides of the industry in order to give the industry some training facility which it had not got, to raise its status and standing and raise the status and standing of the people in it, to bring it into line with the other great industries of our country which have had their apprenticeship arrangements for many years. Now the Agricultural Training Board has been set up, again the result of a campaign coming from both sides of the industry, and I am, as it were, the night watchman. My Apprenticeship Council is to come to an end in about two years' time. We are seeing the present apprentices through, but after that the job will be done, as it is now, by the Agricultural Training Board.
Of course, we had our problem as regards financing. As noble Lords in the industry will know, there was some difficulty with the farmers in relation to payment of the levy. Someone with the wisdom of Solomon discovered a way around that one, and the finances are now found as part of the Annual Price Review. That works very well. We are now somewhat worried as to what the future of the board is going to be in terms of money, in view of the relatively small amount of money which is going to be allocated by the Government for training over the whole field. I believe it is a fact that many people still do not understand that training for agriculture is just as important, and some of us think more important, than for many other industries. In my youth people went into agriculture, both as farmers and farm workers, and they learned the job by doing it. We learned it, I have always said, the hard way. That was possible in those days, but with the highly developed techniques we have in farming to-day, the highly sophisticated machinery, the very precise allocation of scientific knowledge through the farmer and the farmworker, it is no longer of any use, and training for our industry is really essential and we want to see it go on.
In particular, I am sure that it is going to be even more important in the future because of our entry into the Common Market—which, incidentally I approve—and the competition which is going to develop and increase as between our own farming industry and the farming industries of the Continent. If I may say 829 so, I do not think that there is going to be any problem in agriculture (which has been voiced this afternoon) in terms of training for redundancy. I think most people who are knowledgeable about agriculture and have observed the rundown of the labour force have now reached the conclusion, and I am sure rightly, that if we are to be able to compete with the countries of the Common Market, if we are really to go on improving our efficiency—and we can still do that—we cannot do it if the labour force declines any more.
That brings me to my last point, which is that in agriculture I think we have a special case. I know that maybe other industrial people could claim this for their industry. But agriculture is different in the sense that farming units are very small; the majority of farms employ only one or two men, and when it comes to training both my apprenticeship council in the past and the training board now has to find individual farmers prepared to train individual workers, not for themselves but for the industry, and we have therefore had to make arrangements to see that the farmers receive some compensation for what they do. We also in our industry have a structure of training machinery, if I may call it that; we have our farm institutes with technical training on day release, we have our agricultural colleges, and most of the universities, too, have agriculture as a part of their work. So the structure is there, and I think the two things combined make a very good case for agriculture being treated as a separate entity in terms of training. I believe that the arrangements could allow for this, and in my view this should happen.
There is one final point that I would bring out, I hope clearly; that is, that training in agriculture is perhaps more important to the agricultural worker than in any other industry. Of course, my knowledge is very largely centred on agriculture, but I do have knowledge elsewhere in industry. Farm workers, in order to achieve a plus rate—and we now have a wage structure which again forward thinking people in agriculture worked for for years—have to become craftsmen; and they become craftsmen as a result of taking proficiency tests after having been an apprentice or having gone through the training board. So 830 it is important for the workers that the training facilities are there for him, particularly on entering the industry. The Agricultural Training Board has been able to cope with the inflow of workers up to the end of last year, but I know that they are worried about the future possibilities. The demand for training—thank goodness! for the industry's stake—is increasing, and there is some worry on the training board about the financial arrangements being sufficient to carry them. I hope that the Government will have regard for agriculture just as it has to have regard for industry and the efficiency of the nation as a whole and will bear in mind what I have tried to say this afternoon, simply because I think agriculture ought not to be left out of this debate. I again apologise for having taken up your Lordships' time.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will agree that my noble friend's apology is not necessary. I should like to add my warm support to all those who thanked the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for the way in which she initiated this debate and I should also say it is to the credit of the Liberal Party that they made this day available. It has been a critical debate but always constructive. It has also been a non-Party debate, although the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, seemed to be under some compulsion to make a sideswipe at political opponents whenever he could. I have no doubt that otherwise noble Lords have spoken from a non-partisan standpoint. Having said that, I think it is fair to add that the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, has been in a minority of one so far as most of the points that arose in this debate are concerned. However, we were grateful to him for the way in which he explained what this document is about.
There were certain points upon which we could all agree, including the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn. First, that the 1944 Act has resulted in significant benefits to industry as a whole and to individual workers, as well as helping towards a more enlightened and constructive attitude on training. Secondly, I think we agree with the proposal in the gracious Speech of October 1970 that the time is now right for a review of the work of the industrial training boards. We can 831 also agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Champion, and the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, and others said so well, that the document we are discussing is attractively produced and readable and would appear in certain respects to be proposing further improvements in the national provisions for industrial training. The question is whether the proposals in the document are in the right direction or whether they go far enough.
My Lords, here the area of agreement diminishes rapidly. While I know there is scope for argument as to whether a consultative document should result from discussions before drafting, it is somewhat unfortunate that the document has been produced, as I understand it, without any consultation at all with any employer organisation, with any trade union, or, so far as I can make out, with any educational body or professional organisation, or indeed with the industrial training boards themselves. The noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, made a gallant attempt to produce evidence to support the contention that the time is now right to wind up the training boards so far as the levy/grant system is concerned. I would have thought it a little premature to be quite so dogmatic as the noble Lord appeared to be about the date for phasing out. After all, no industrial training board has had more than seven years' experience with the levy/grant and some have had as little as two years. The noble Lord spoke of the iron and steel industry, but I doubt whether that can be taken as being typical, and these unnamed small companies, though important, do not necessarily outweigh the evidence which comes from the larger companies.
It is worth recalling what the Minister of Labour, Mr. Godber at that time, had to say when introducing the Industrial Training Bill. He said in November. 1963:It is on the industrial training boards … that the success of this policy will depend.The Minister went on to say:The financial sanction will be, and is directly intended to be, a powerful weapon in our board's hands.I cannot believe that it can be claimed that the levy/grant has so completely done its work, and that all companies in all industries are so alive to their responsibilities that they are prepared to begin 832 or continue adequate training schemes without the use of this essential weapon.
My Lords, I hope that the Government—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, will be able to assure us of this—will take into account what has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, by Lady Seear, by the noble Lords, Lord Brown and Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, all of whom have very great experience in these matters. It is relevant also to read what the Engineering Industry Training Board has to say because they, too, speak with some certainty in this matter. They say in the Summary of Conclusions which they submitted after their study of the document:The Government's conclusion that there has been '… a major change in the attitude of a large section of British industry to systematic training' and the consequent assumption that the training position is relatively secure, is not valid for the engineering industry.They also say:whatever the general position, the change in attitude in the engineering industry is not substantial and permanent and the training situation is consequently by no means secure.All this, I suggest, must be borne very seriously in mind.
I do not wish to provoke the noble Lord, Lord Drumalbyn, into another major speech, but I wonder whether, in the light of his emphasis upon the phasing out by 1972–73, he will clarify paragraph 144 in the document, where it is said that:It would not he desirable if the phasing out of general levy/grant schemes were to have a significant adverse effect on training or on the level of education resources committed as a result of the boards' training activities.What exactly is meant by: "It would not be desirable"? Are they going to be phased out by 1972–73 whether it is desirable or not, or will there be second thoughts on this point? A revised combination of direct grant and industrial levy might be a possibility. I agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, had to say about that; but in the light of all that has been said here this afternoon it would seem to be a retrograde step to phase out the system to the timetable proposed.
There would be one other incidental casualty from any phasing out by that 833 date. Although he found it difficult to be friendly to his political opponents, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, I think was potentially very generous to industrial partners, and I thought he was paying a compliment to what had been done by the trade unions in industry. He told us that when we talk about industry we should think about the two sides of industry, and it is a fact that the Industrial Training Act is the only piece of legislation where the trade unions have been given equal opportunity with employers for both advice and control of a measure of industrial activity. At a time when everyone appears to want the trade union movement to assume social and industrial responsibilities and in an area where all would agree they have fully lived up to the responsibility placed upon them, it would seem a most regrettable step to terminate this most useful and hopeful arrangement. We might also spare a thought, as my noble friend Lord Champion reminded us, for the most valuable statistical information about manpower resources which has been coming from the industrial training boards. Do we really want to discard this unique source of knowledge? Will the new arrangement fill this need as adequately?
Although I understand the discussion document to envisage that boards will remain in existence it would be only in an advisory capacity. I am sure the Minister would agree that the combination of workers' and employers' representatives, together with educationists and professional staff, has produced fine results in most boards. Moreover, there have been results not only in fulfilling the function immediately required of them, but also in solving wider problems as a result of growing knowledge and respect of one side of industry and another because of this working together.
I think we do accept, as I understand it, what has been said about the need for a shift towards centralised planning and control. The I.T.B.s of course cannot deal with the problem of re-training. It is a fact that industries with the best record of industrial training are too often in areas where employment opportunities are contracting. One has in mind the engineering and coal-mining industries, for example. So for re-training and for training for the new industries, and for 834 the training of disabled and handicapped, there is a whole new field of work waiting to be done by a new centralised board. But I suggest that we have to look at this problem from a more widely based standpoint, and with a much more positive organisation in mind than that indicated in the discussion document. From that standpoint the new body would have to operate as an active and integral part of a national economic policy designed to expand production and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, put it so well, to ensure the maximum utilisation of available labour. It would need to have clear responsibility for job placement. It would need to be relieved of the responsibility for the payment of benefits.
In Mrs. Castle's time a decision was taken to reform the services of the D.E.A. and to provide for the administrative separation of benefits and of job placement. We have had a White Paper, but one would like to know—and it is relevant to this discussion—when these reforms are to be implemented. Once they have been implemented, it will be essential to expand and improve the job placement services, together with this task of training. There is now a ratio of one placement officer to every 143 workers unemployed. This compares with a ratio in Sweden of one officer to 15 unemployed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, we have a good deal to learn from Sweden. In that country, at least one-third of the unemployed are undergoing re-training at any point of time. I think this is probably even better than the example given to us, quite rightly, by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn. A similar proportion in this country to that of Sweden would mean the creation of something like 300,000 training places, and a minimum of 150,000 places, even if we brought our level of unemployment down to 2 per cent. Considering these figures, we can immediately see that the apparently optimistic proposal in this document, of 60,000 to 70,000 places by 1975, is not, as the noble Lord and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, said, as generous as would seem at first sight. Moreover, as others have said, the proposed £25 million to £40 million a year to provide selective grants does not nearly match the present 835 £185 million a year now going into this work as a result of levy grants.
I want to emphasise again that it is not good enough simply to talk about training unless there is a much more imaginative machinery for the placing of the trainee in a useful job. Nothing is more frustrating to the individual, more wasteful to the economy, or potentially more dangerous to society, than training a human being who, inevitably, will be unable to use the skills that he is given. If the social objectives are unrelated to the creation of employment opportunities, it is doubtful whether these training schemes, on balance, would be an advantage at all.
Here again, my Lords, we should turn to the work of the Swedish Manpower Board. The Swedish labour market board has developed re-training as a positive instrument in economic planning. The policy of expanding job opportunities during periods of relatively high unemployment and reduced economic activity has proven most valuable. Moreover, the flexibility which they seem to have, the ability to set up temporary facilities for training in particularly hard hit areas, is something that we should study. As one who has been interested over many years in the work of the Cooperative College at Loughborough, I should like to say how much I agree with what was said by my noble friend Lady White, by the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, and by my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek about the need to have proper provision for training overseas students. At the College to which I made reference, the Co-operative College, about one-third of the students are always from overseas. I have always been absolutely convinced that, on the basis of the work that has been done in that field, the College has been more than justified. If we could expand similar work under the ægis of this new arrangement, it too would yield immense benefits.
I finish by thanking again the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and, as my noble friend said, her Party, for their contribution to this debate. One hopes that we shall see, outside Parliament as well as in it, much more interest and discussion on this subject, because it is, as others have said, a quite vital aspect of our national economic life. I hope, too, that 836 we shall see this discussion in its proper and widest possible context, and that if not this Government then its successor will bring along plans for National Labour Boards charged with duties not only of co-ordinating training but of ensuring that the trainee is actually used in a productive job.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, as we come towards the end of this long debate at a late hour, I do not think you will want me to comment in detail on each of the speeches that have been made. May I just say—and I say this very sincerely—that we are extremely grateful for the criticisms and comments that have been made on this document. They have been made with moderation, and they have gained all the more from that fact. There have been some disagreements, for example on the level of places that should be provided in the vocational training scheme. I do not disagree about that. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, started by saying that she thought that 60,000 to 70,000 was modest. The noble Lord, Lord Beswick, projects Swedish experience and says that we should have 300,000; but the noble Lord, Lord Brown, thinks that 200,000 might, in certain circumstances at any rate, be too much. That is all part of the criticism, and all those thoughts have to be weighed. It just shows the kind of problem with which we are dealing.
I thought that perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, was a little unkind to my noble friend Lord Mottistone. He took healthy swipes all round, but I thought he reserved the severest strokes for the consultative document itself and the Government; he called it "rotten". I think the reason is simply that he thought, if I may put it in this way, that the document was rotten at the core; that the main basis on which the decision was taken was wrong. I do not complain of his thinking that. I thought he made an admirable and a most informative speech, and I am sure that all he has said will be considered extremely carefully. The point is that we are all agreed that the purpose must be to secure an adequate level of training. That is the purpose from which the Government start. If it can be shown that the Government's proposals are not going to achieve that objective, and if the purpose 837 can be shown to be achieved better by the retention of the levy, whether in whole or modified, so much the better. We have to achieve the objective, and we will take away everything that has been said and look at it in that light.
I would say to my noble friend Lord Mottistone, only that it is difficult to generalise from experience in one industry. Experiences vary so much. The Department of Employment has received literally hundreds of complaints forwarded from Members of Parliament alone about the levy system. I quite realise that in any kind of big organisation one always expects to get a certain level of complaints, and it would be quite wrong to judge an issue on the basis of those complaints alone. I shall not repeat what I said earlier. I was sorry to hear the noble Lord, Lord Beswick describe the proposals as dogmatic. They are not intended to be. They are a summary of the evidence which the Department of Employment has had, and in its view the balance—
§ LORD BESWICK
My Lords, I used the word "dogmatic" in relation to what I understood the noble Lord said about the 1972/73 deadline.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I beg the noble Lord's pardon. That of course is a narrower issue. Perhaps I may come back to that in a minute or two. I think the point which has not come out sufficiently clearly in the debate is that under the present scheme £200 million is being paid out in the form of grants. If the grant were taken away, then we hope and expect that the level of expenditure would be maintained by the momentum in industry istelf—this is the criterion—with a slight deduction because there would not be the same administrative expenses involved. The point to which I am drawing attention is that a comparison between the £200 million and the £25 million to £40 million is an entirely false one, because the £25 million to £40 million is on the assumption that the greater part of the £200 million will continue to be spent by industry. But it will not be collected in the form of levy and handed back in the form of grant. This would be the aim of ending the levy/grant system, and I gather that we are generally agreed that, sooner or later, it should come to an end—by evolution, I 838 think my noble friend Lord Mottistone said—over a period of time.
May I say a word to the noble Lord, Lord Champion? He pointed to paragraph 88 of the consultative document, which suggested that the levy/grant should be phased out but that it would be open to boards to propose further continuance of the levy/grant if it were essential to industry. He suggested that this presupposed that the boards might fail to obtain an adequate grant from the National Training Agency. I do not think that is necessarily so. An industry might want to continue the levy/grant as a means of sharing the cost of training, which rightly falls on the employers in an industry. This was an important objective of the 1964 Act. Over most of industry it is no longer being fulfilled, but there may be small sectors where it would still be very important to the employers concerned. I think the noble Lord, Lord Champion, also suggested that the £25 million to £40 million a year proposed for selective grants for key training activities and other continuing work of the boards will not be enough. The Government accept that it is very difficult indeed to estimate in advance how much will be needed, but I should like to make it quite clear that there is nothing sacrosanct about the figure of £25 million to £40 million. As the Secretary of State has said, we shall not spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar.
My noble friend Lord Rochdale mentioned the need to relate the numbers trained under the training boards' scheme to the numbers required by employers. The Government entirely accept the need to do all that we can in this field. We have no intention of training people for unemployment. That is a phrase which I remember from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Delacourt-Smith, two years ago. We have a very good record of placing trainees under the present Government's vocational training scheme. A few months ago, about 90 per cent. of trainees were being placed within three months of completing their course, despite high levels of unemployment in general. It would be more difficult, of course, with the much larger numbers of trainees which we hope to achieve, but we should make every effort to succeed in this.
The noble Lord, Lord Sainsbury, and the noble Lord, Lord Gladwyn, raised 839 the question of the position of overseas trainees under the new arrangements. I can give an assurance that final decisions will not be made before the position of overseas trainees has been fully considered. They will be taken fully into account. I accept entirely what was said about the economic value, and indeed about the general political and human values, of this. I do not think that the increased use of spare training capacity under the vocational training scheme, and soon under the training boards' scheme, will increase the difficulties of overseas trainees. The Department of Employment makes use of relatively large units of spare capacity—say, a dozen places at a time—whereas overseas students are generally placed in ones and twos and are often even supernumerary to the establishment. In addition, overseas students are usually at a higher level of training—often graduates—than people trained on behalf of the Departments of Employment and Industry, so their interests do not really clash. I quite acknowledge that there are difficulties, but it would be the object of our policy to see that they did not clash in future.
I was grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brown, for drawing attention to sandwich courses. I was particularly pleased to hear him, with his very great experience in industry and at Brunel University, speaking of the great value of those courses to industry. The Government agree about the importance of sandwich courses and are aware of the concern which has developed in recent months over the difficulty in finding places in industry for the students' industrial period. Certainly some boards have included such courses in their schemes. The Government have made it clear, in paragraph 144 of the document, thatIt would not be desirable"—and this is the point which the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, raised—if the phasing out of general levy/grant schemes were to have a significant adverse effect on training or on the level of education resources committed as a result of the Boards' training activities.This is in a passage dealing with transitional measures, and follows immediately upon the sentence which states that:It would obviously be important not to bring Boards' grant schemes to an end before arrangements to replace them, so far as may be necessary, are in operation.840 I think it fair to say, first and foremost, that the success and continuance of the sandwich course must inevitably depend upon industry's own recognition of the value of the courses to industry. In addition, the proposals in the document include the very important selective grants for key training activities.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, industry recognises the value of students of this type, but when you take a student for five months you cannot tie him to come back to you. In taking students for a sandwich period in their university education you are therefore training them not for yourself but for somebody else. That is the difficulty.
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
Yes, my Lords, I recognise the difficulty. I know that at Brunel University, for example, there are two types of student: those who come sponsored by industry, and those who come straight from school with the object of going into industry. I quite agree that there are difficulties. But there seems to be no reason why boards, and the National Training Agency, should not where necessary support sandwich course places in industry, making grants as for any other key training activity.
In a very penetrating speech the noble Baroness, Lady White, made a number of references to the comments of the T.U.C., the C.B.I. and the Engineering Industry Training Board. My Lords, if I could deal with this in a word, I should like to say that such criticisms are valuable to the consultative process, and all these comments will be given the most careful consideration—and, of course, there will be direct consultations with those concerned. In this connection I might also say to my noble friend Lord Mottistone that my right honourable friend is going to see the chairmen of the training boards. I do not know if my noble friend is aware of this yet, but before very long my right honourable friend will do this; so he will hear exactly what the training boards, severally and collectively, think should be done.
My Lords, I want to say just one word to my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I think he is unduly worried about the possibility of domination by the National Training Agency. It has to be borne in mind that the National Training Agency will be working on guidelines 841 laid down by the Secretary of State, who will be consulting with all the other Departments involved; and at the end of the day it could also be subject to general directions. I am sure it would not be the wish of my right honourable friend that a "Mr. Big" should develop in the National Training Agency and dominate the whole field. I think my noble friend can rest assured about that.
I was also asked about the general question of the status of industrial training boards. This is a very difficult question, and I take note of everything that has been said here. I would only say that I am sure my right honourable friend agrees entirely with the Opinion that has been expressed here, that the relationship within the industrial training boards between the trade union representatives, the employers' representatives and the educationists is of vital concern for training in the country as a whole, and I am quite sure that this will be constantly borne in mind. My Lords, I think I have spoken for quite long enough.
§ LORD BROWN
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, can he answer the question I asked him, about the growth of training centres, or the reverse, during the period 1950 to 1963?
§ LORD DRUMALBYN
My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord. There was a decline in the number of training centres from 23 in 1951 to 13 in 1962. There are now 52, and this number will rise to 64 by 1975.
I hope that I have covered most of the points. I see my noble friend Lord Courtown in his place. I saw him dive for the door a short time ago, and I am glad to see him back again in his place. I am very glad indeed that he raised the question of management education. The emphasis of the document is on management training and development within industry. This is where we believe the Agency can make a significant impact. The Government are conscious that in such activities close links will need to be built up with the field management education, and with those active in this field. I am not sure whether my noble friend is aware of this, but Ministerial responsibility for management education rests with the Education Departments, 842 and the proposals in the document envisage no change in this respect. At the level of central Government, there would be full consultation between Departments on the general policy guidelines for the Agency, and the Agency may need arrangements for consultation and liaison on more day-to-day matters touching the education service. We are awaiting the views of the Education Service in these matters, but as I said in my opening speech the Government hope to see this link between education and training strengthened despite this alteration in the statutory basis.
My Lords, on that point, I do not want to wake the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Leek, but I was going to say to him that not only did I appreciate his speech very much indeed but the Secretary of State for Education and Science and the Secretary of State for Scotland have invited the views of the education interests on the Government's proposals for industrial training, and the City and Guilds London Institute is among those bodies whose views are being sought. With those explanations, I should like once again to thank the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. She has done a real service in giving your Lordships the opportunity to comment on these proposals.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ BARONESS SEEAR
My Lords, I am sure that the best contribution I can make now is extreme brevity. There are many points raised in the debate on which I should like to comment, but I will restrict myself to three points which I wish to make very briefly. I believe that it has emerged from this debate that there is grave apprehension about excessive centralisation; and, if I may say so, of all the areas of training to which centralisation is inappropriate, management training is pre-eminently the one that I would have stressed. There is far too much difference of opinion and lack of evidence about what is really required in management training, and to choose this area to be dominated by the National Training Agency, even in consultation with regional education authorities, seems to me peculiarly inappropriate.
The second point I would make, responding to the noble Lord who spoke previously, is that it is not so much a question of the maintenance of the levy: 843 it is a question of the maintenance of the responsibility and authority of the training boards—and that is a very different matter. Some of the training boards themselves are highly critical of the levy, and indeed, as is well known, a policy of disengagement has been started by a number of the training boards in order to minimise the importance of the levy. They are keeping the levy in reserve to use in cases where it would still seem to be necessary as an incentive for training. I believe it has come out of the speeches of noble Lords throughout this afternoon and this evening that we do not accept that the position of the training boards will not be fundamentally undermined by the proposals in this document.
If I may pinpoint one particular issue which came up in connection with staff, the appointment of staff is vital in this area if the responsibility and authority of the training boards is to be maintained. It was argued that the staff would be the staff of the training boards, although they were to be paid and posted by the National Training Agency. With the noble Lord, Lord Brown, I do not believe that people are the staff of the training board if they are appointed and paid by the National Training Agency. Moreover, the document itself underlines this, because it says that the staff under the new system will have a better career structure. This means that their career advancement is controlled by the National Training Agency: this is the way they get a better career structure. If their advancement is in the hands of the National Training Agency, then it is to the National Training Agency and not to the industrial training boards to which they are seconded, to which they will look and to which their loyalty will go. This point alone, if none other, would fundamentally undermine the position of the industrial training boards.
844 Finally, my Lords, there is the question of the single unit. This is an organic job in which the four factors are interrelated. I would only repeat that it seems to me absolutely right that we should follow the Swedish system; that we should have an integrated system; that this integrated system should be hived off, and that the employees of this hived-off unit should include a considerable number of people from industry and from the trade unions, and should not be fully staffed by civil servants. I fully realise the difficulties that this suggestion entails, but I believe this to be absolutely essential if we are to have the kind of agency that we really want.
Having said that, my Lords, I should like to thank everyone for the response that there has been to this Motion. I think we can all agree that we have had an extremely interesting, worthwhile and, to me, very informative debate. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.