HL Deb 12 July 1973 vol 344 cc836-40

3.37 p.m.


My Lords. I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Drumalbyn.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [Establishment of Commission and Agencies]:

BARONESS SEEAR moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 14, leave out ("ten") and insert ("twelve").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with the permission of the House, I should like with this Amendment to discuss Amendment No. 3 to which it is obviously related. Your Lordships may remember that on Committee I moved a somewhat similar Amendment to this clause. It was defeated after a Division but it received a considerable amount of support from both sides of the House. I have revised the Amendment and now return to the attack. The reason for this Amendment is the very great need, as I see it—and I think this view is widely supported—to ensure that on the Commission there are people who have professional experience in the training field. During the debates on the Bill a number of people have made the point that representatives nominated by the organisations listed in the Bill to serve on the Commission would not necessarily include people with detailed professional knowledge. It is vital that there should be such people on the Commission if it is to be a powerful and effective body. There is a great need to have a Commission which is well-informed and able to take a line of its own vis-à-vis the Minister, the training boards and other organisations in the country. Unless the Commission is composed of strong professional people I do not see how it will be able to do its job.

The Amendment I am now moving is part of a general criticism which is reflected in all the Amendments that I moved during the Committee stage. We believed that in the National Manpower Commission we were going to get an organisation which would have a great deal of freedom of action; which would have power and authority to get things done quickly with the minimum of red tape; which would know what it was doing and which would get on and do it. Unless the Commission has people of the calibre and with the experience that it needs, this will not happen. It seems that the Commission is not going to be of that order. We have vet to know the personnel of the Commission; we have yet to know who the chairman is going to be. It needs to be a very strong and experienced person, supported by strong colleagues, if the Commission is to be anything other than a figurehead. But if the Commission is to be merely a figurehead, then we shall have been grievously misled and we shall return to the attack.


My Lords, these Amendments go rather further than the Amendment the noble Baroness moved in Committee, for they seek to enlarge the size of the Manpower Services Committee by two, and they also require those two members to be appointed after consultation with organisations whose membership is directly involved in training in industry or commerce. Noble Lords will have noticed that the Amendments rather destroy the symmetry of the Commission in two respects. First of all, they alter the balance between the people with trade union knowledge and people with employer knowledge. The Manpower Services Commission has been carefully designed to preserve that balance. There are, in addition, local authority representatives, and one from education.

The other point is that the balance is also altered in the respect that the pattern of consultation is different. In the one case the text says that The said Commission…shall consist of ten persons appointed by the Secretary of State…after consultation with such of the organisations mentioned in that paragraph as he considers appropriate… Then it goes on to say:

  1. "(a) as to the three members, organisations representing employers;
  2. (b) as to three other members, organisations representing employees ".
Here we say: as to two members representing organisations whose membership is directly involved in training in industry or commerce". Noble Lords will see that this is not in the same pattern as the other two.

I cannot advise the House to accept the Amendments. In the first place, in the Government's view it is essential that if the Commission is to be effective it must be kept small. I certainly realise that the difference between 10 and 12 members is not in itself necessarily critical in that context, but the whole point is that an increase of the kind proposed is not just an increase in members; it also affects the balance of interest in the Commission—indeed, that is precisely what the noble Baroness wants—and it follows that it is very likely to lead to pressure from other interests not represented on the Commission that they should be represented. It is also almost certain to lead to pressure from those interests which are already on the Commission that their representation should be increased so that their relative position is not worsened.

The organisations which I think the noble Baroness has in mind are organisations such as the Institute of Personnel Management and the Institution of Training Officers. Membership of these organisations is drawn from the management side of industry and commerce, and it is probable that giving the members of such organisations two new places on the Commission would lead to pressure for additional workers' representation, and this, in turn, to pressure from other interests and so on. Secondly, I think it is right that, while people appointed to the Commission are likely in practice to have had experience of employment and trading, as I pointed out in the Committee stage, it is not desirable in the Bill to lay down that a separate category of persons should be appointed because of their membership of particular organisations whose members are drawn from people with such experience.

The noble Baroness said in Committee —and I think she repeated it to-day—that membership of such an organisation and the ability to take a broad view (an ability which will be essential for members of the Commission) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I entirely agree with that. But it does not follow that one should specify that people with this particular experience, and in their capacity as such, should have two places reserved for them on the Committee. In my view and in that of my right honourable friend, it is the ability to take the broad view, as the noble Baroness has said, that is the first essential: that is what we should look for first and foremost, and we ought not to restrict our field of choice by requiring the membership of a particular category of organisations as a condition of membership. No doubt it will be difficult enough to find the right people to be members, anyway. I pointed out to the noble Baroness that it was virtually certain (I think in her previous Amendment she had required rather more—three, I believe—with these special qualifications, and she now has modified that to two) that there will be people with this particular experience coming up as a result of discussions with the C.B.I. and the T.U.C.

To sum up, my Lords, I think it is undesirable, in terms of the balance of interest in the Commission and the possible effect upon its size, that two extra places should be created and specially reserved for members of organisations specified in the amendment. I can only say to the noble Baroness that I believe that when we finally arrive at this difficult task of selecting the people who we think will take this broad view she will not be dissatisfied.


My Lords, this is not a big issue, and I realise that it is unlikely that this point of view will be incorporated in the Bill. However, I should like to make the point that very often it is assumed that people nominated by the employers are the same as the professional managers. The professional managers have a great deal to contribute. They know how to take the broad view and they are not "tapped" to the existing machinery to the extent that they should be. However, as I say, I realise that this provision will not be incorporated at this stage, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.