HL Deb 07 April 1976 vol 369 cc1661-751

3.5 p.m.

Lord LEE of NEWTON rose to call attention to the need for an expansion of training facilities for the skills necessary for industry; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, may I ask permission to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. I notice that there is a goodly array of noble Lords who have intimated their intention to speak and I am very grateful to all of them for showing such interest in what I believe to be a vital question. I notice that there are to be two maiden speeches. I am sure that both will receive the usual very generous reception in your Lordships' House and that we shall be looking forward very much to what they have to say to us on this subject.

A week ago today, on 31st March, we had a debate on the conditions and outlook in British universities, and I tend to look upon that debate as a first part to the debate which I am opening now. I know that a week can be a long time in politics, and that one or two of what Mr. Macmillan would undoubtedly have described as "little local incidents" have taken place since then. Therefore your. Lordships may perhaps need a little reminder of what was said during that debate. Therefore, with apologies, I will quote one or two of them. There is a continuity, as I see it, in some of the things that were said then and what we are debating today. The noble Lord, Lord Fulton, in opening that debate, said he felt that there was now perhaps a certain frigidity in the attitudes of many people towards the universities which had replaced the popular acclaim which sustained them during the expansion which followed the Robbins Report. Indeed a number of speakers in that debate made similar references.

In part, the debate resolved itself into an argument on the question of why that had happened, and so on. It seemed to me that the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, himself supplied the answer to some of those apprehensions. My noble friend Lady Gaitskell asked the noble Lord, Lord Robbins, whether the expansion of the universities had been followed by greater productivity in the country, and the noble Lord replied as follows at col. 1121: I have never believed that there is an exact correlation between the expansion of higher education and the rate of growth of GNP. I do not know any historical examples which show a startling correlation of any statistical respectability."—(Official Report, 31/3/76.) It may or may not be unfair, but when a nation has invested huge sums such as have been invested by this nation in the expansion of the universities, may I say with the greatest respect that they are entitled to expect that there will be a correlation between the two things.

I believe that we are now living in a nation which is sick and tired of a permanent economic crisis, of a failure to expand our economy, of a sinking pound and of a balance of payments deficit which almost seems to dominate the whole of our lives. It certainly expects—and I believe it is entitled to expect—a tangible return on its investment in education, whether that education is described as higher or lower, which leads me to the specific issue of training for skill.

I should have thought that in a manufacturing nation not blessed with a plentiful supply of indigenous raw materials, and therefore utterly dependent on their import—and, incidentally, their import is becoming dearer as the pound sinks—the obvious strategy must be to ensure that when those raw materials are converted into manufactured goods for export they contain a high degree of skilled labour and a small amount of raw material. That may be a blinding flash of the obvious, but I think that at times we do not follow that strategy very well.

Given the productive methods which the technological revolution now makes essential, I believe that we do, and will, require increasingly higher ratios of skilled to unskilled people than ever we had before.

I suggest that since the end of the war we have been less successful than have very many of our competitors in achieving that. Indeed, your Lordships will all recall that each upturn of demand in our economy has revealed a shortage of skilled workers, which has contributed largely to the dreary story of industrial bottlenecks, failure to meet delivery dates, cancelled orders and further reductions in our share of world trade. Indeed, the one thing that one can prophesy with certainty about the world slump through which we have been moving and which we hope is now giving way to an upturn, in which we devoutly trust we shall share, is that we shall be once again confronted with large-scale shortages of skilled labour. Given the higher levels of unemployment which have been quite common since 1966, we may well find ourselves in the utterly absurd situation of having large-scale unemployment among unskilled people and an equally large demand for non-existent craftsmen and technologists—surely the very end so far as planning ability is concerned.

I also suggest that it is unsafe for us to rely on a pick-up of world trade to solve our economic problems, without adequate training for our young people and retraining for very many of our older ones. Because of the time factor, I shall not develop a great deal today the point about the older ones. But many of your Lordships will know that there are parts of this country which, had it not been for splendid planning in the retraining of older people, would be derelict areas of this nation. I am thinking of the North-East, Scotland, Merseyside and so on. Therefore, there has been imaginative planning so far as older people are concerned, but I think that a great deal more has yet to be done. However, today I want to concentrate more on younger people.

We are all knowledgeable of the fact that this is the worst slump since the pre-war 1930s period, and I remind noble Lords that we did not plan our way out of that. We got out of it because of a war, and also because hundreds of thousands of people were retrained for work they had never done before. They came into the engineering industry, for instance, under the dilution agreements which we then signed. I hope there will be no future war, but there will certainly be no dilution agreements to pull us out of the problem we now face. In the Queen's Speech, the Government announced their intention of giving priority within available resources to the vocational preparation of young people aged between 16 and 19. This reflected the Government's concern that, despite the considerable expansion of higher and further education, there remain large numbers of young people who leave school each year to enter jobs with very little or no opportunity for systematic further education or training.

I have been reading some material produced by the Department of Employment and by the Department of Education and Science, and I am grateful to them for sending me those pamphlets which are indeed most revealing. One of the good developments which we have seen is the creation of the Manpower Services Commission, and nothing I say today should be interpreted as a criticism of them because as yet they have had no time whatever to put their ideas into being. I like what I have read about the training and the priorities which they have announced. But the magnitude of the task which they now face is utterly formidable, and the attitudes of many educationists, employers and trade unionists will need to alter quite dramatically if we are to change what I believe is an extremely bleak situation.

In their publication, Getting Ready for Work, the Department of Education and Science inform us that about 750,000 young people leave school each year, more than half at the minimum school leaving age of 16. Some 600,000 of those young people enter the labour market directly, and about half of them receive no further education and very little training indeed. It seems to me to be a complete and utter scandal that that should be the situation we now face. We have recently received alarming reports of the incidence of unemployment among young people, and that means a great many more are not now receiving any tuition under the industrial training boards, which in the main cater for young people working in certain industries.

For a great many years, the Labour Party—and, I believe, both of the other Parties—have been stressing the need for day or block release. Indeed, I think it is about 17 years since the Crowther Committee recommended one day's compulsory release for all young persons in employment. Today it is neither compulsory nor is it even permitted to over 300,000, at least, of those who leave school before the age of 18. On page 12 of, Vocational Training for Young Persons, by the Training Services Agency, it is stated that the proportion of young persons under 18 receiving release was 19 per cent. in 1964, 24.7 per cent. in 1969, 22.4 per cent. in 1971 and 22.6 per cent. in 1973, the latest year for which information is available. I recall that during last Wednesday's debate the noble Lord, Lord Annan, asked my noble friend Lord Crowther-Hunt whether that was the situation and also inquired about the position in certain other nations. I be reply my noble friend gave was that we must compare those figures with some 85 per cent. in Western Germany, Sweden, and other European nations. How, in heaven's name!, do we compete with those nations under the conditions which I have been reciting to your Lordships today?

Those nations have gone ahead not only in those industries where skilled labour is used; a great deal of the training facilities in those nations are offered to young people who are working in what we would term "blind alley" occupations, whose only prospects are as labourers and so on. Our attitude is to write them off as dead. Those nations, however, are training them and giving them the incentive to get into the science-based industries, and in consequence they are reaping that which they have sowed. The result is a huge increase in the number of young people who are training to acquire skills, who are training for science, and so on. Therefore, the kind of training which they are receiving must be the price which we shall certainly have to meet if we are to hope to compete on equal terms with those nations.

I have never been quite certain that we were right to raise the school leaving age to 16. I wonder whether we should have done better to leave the official school leaving age at 15 and then to give three years of theoretical training in the technical colleges, plus practical work in the factories—either on alternate days, or alternate weeks, or whatever. This is an issue which we had better look at, because I for one am dissatisfied. I do not believe that the educational system has adapted itself to the extra year of schooling. If we are to improve upon these dismal figures, I believe that we had better begin to look at the possibility of training facilities in the technical colleges, plus practical work in the factories.

In the summary of their conclusions, the TSA give what I believe is a profound warning of what may well be to come. They say: In the view of the TSA, there is a risk that in the absence of new initiatives the shortfall in the amount of training of adequate standard for young people in occupations requiring long-term transferable skills will actually get worse following the Employment and Training Act of 1973". In a small number of productive industries such as engineering, there is an improved record of day and block release, more especially when compared with the days not so long ago when a few very large firms provided all the training and the rest of the employers creamed off the products as they produced them. I am happy to think that that situation has largely disappeared. However, when we consider that employment in manufacturing industry has probably declined both absolutely and relatively since 1966, while the proportion engaged in administration and in the service industries has increased, what we are witnessing is a movement, or an expansion, of the very industries which provide no training away from those which do. So far as this nation is concerned, there is no future in that kind of movement.

The point may well be taken that, because of the new techniques of the technological revolution, the manufacturing industries can sustain the loss of employees, as have the coal and railway industries. But is it not the case that we are all apprehensive about the degree of capital investment which we have failed to achieve in manufacturing industry? In this respect also we are well behind our competitors. If we were indeed modernising at the pace at which we should modernise, I could understand a quantitative decrease being more than compensated for by qualitative improvements in plant and so on. Therefore, the workforce would not need to be so high. However, we are not providing anything like enough training for the number of people who are entering manufacturing industry. At the same time, we are deploring the fact that we are not giving to those industries the modern equipment which would give a qualitative improvement to the productive methods. In that respect again we are in dire trouble.

While listening to the debate last week, I was struck by the attitudes shown towards manufacturing industries among teachers at all levels, no matter what type of education we are talking about. I listened to the very remarkable speech of my noble friend Lord Bowden, who is Principal of the Manchester College of Technology, a college for which I have the very greatest respect. After quoting the Secretary of State for Education, Mr. Mulley, who had said in another place that schoolmasters had told him, "Of course, our brighter boys don't want to go into industry", my noble friend went on to say: A few months ago I myself lectured to 200 headmasters and asked them why they did not send their students to college or university, to study engineering. They all said the same thing: 'But of course if one of our brighter boys ends up at the age of 30 in a factory everyone, including himself, his family, his friends, and his schoolmates, will account him a failure who could do nothing better.'".—[Official Report; 31/3/76; col. 1193.] I care not how much is spent upon training or education; if we do not change that attitude, there is no point about it all. I am not asking that every boy and girl in every phase of education should be constantly reminded about the job that they will be required to do, but I am asking that there should be a serious and practical approach to the fact that at the end of the day the manufacturing industries provide us with our bread and butter and that we shall be able to afford only the classical education which the wealth production of this nation allows us to afford.

Since my noble friend told the House that headmasters, many of whom are the products of the universities, look upon work in a factory in the way that he described, I believe that the whole question of attitudes towards employment must be reconsidered. One looks back upon one's own life. I can recall that when I first went into a great engineering factory where highly skilled men were swinging huge turbine shafts, lathes and so on, I looked upon them almost as heroes: how in Heaven's name! could anybody accept responsibility of that type? The efficiency, the calmness, the way in which they would accept that this was their daily job was, I thought, the height to which man could aspire in practical manufacturing work. I still believe that, and I should like to see far more emphasis placed upon that kind of work rather than the kind of reaction which I have spoken about that appeared to me to come out of last week's debate.

In Monday's Guardian I read an article that commented on a survey that was carried out by the National Economic Development Office. It claimed that skilled workers—the men interviewed in this case were pattern makers—are leaving factories to take jobs as gardeners, entertainers, carpet fitters and safari park wardens because they feel that they can obtain more security and higher pay in those jobs. I have never disguised from the House my belief in a long-term, constructive incomes policy. If ever I saw the proof of the need for such a policy, it is there. If, indeed, the people upon whom this nation depends for its manufacturing exports are not deemed to be worthy of better consideration than safari park attendants, then I suggest that we are in a very bad state indeed.

My noble friend Lord Bowden mentioned the machine tool industry—I happen to know something about this industry—and the virtual collapse of that industry in the Manchester area. One of the most remarkable things we have seen in recent years is that the shares of one of the greatest components of the machine tool industry in Britain, Herberts Limited, are overvalued at 6p, while the Government put £1,000 million into the motor-car industry. I believe we are getting our priorities wrong when we see that kind of thing happening.

I mentioned the percentages of people receiving any tuition. Within them, the figure for girls is 8 per cent. It seems to me as though some employers regard them not only as a different sex but as a different species. It would seem that it is not considered proper for a girl to learn craftsmanship. I can recall during the war we brought literally thousands of girls and women into my factory and under the dilution agreement a huge percentage of them were, after a while, being paid the skilled men's rate. What a comment on our present position! I doubt whether there are as many women in industry now, receiving the skilled men's rate as there were 30 years ago. That is progress! So 8 per cent. of girls are now receiving tuition.

I started by suggesting that we needed a far greater proportion of skilled to unskilled people than ever before. At a time when most of the heavy work has gone out of skilled work are we really going to condemn hundreds of thousands of girls now leaving our schools to either semiskilled work or work which is not considered as being essential to our manufacturing and export efforts? This seems to me to be utterly tragic. The idea that we can do that kind of thing in 1976 is fantastic in the extreme.


My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question? As we know, the girls want to do this job but surely both sides of industry, the employers and the trade unions, are so prejudiced that they refuse to allow girls to have apprenticeships. Is that not basic to the problem?


My Lords, that has been the position but I doubt whether it obtains now in many industries. As a matter of fact, there has been an increase in the number of girls taking apprenticeships but it is infinitesimal as against the possibilities of the number of girls who are leaving school. I therefore suggest that there must be a vast increase in the ratio. My Lords, I hope your Lordships believe, with me, that this is one of the utterly vital issues which this nation now has to face. I see that my old friend Lord Carr of Hadley is to address the House. He and I have debated this issue—I almost said "man and boy"—in another place: I know that his approach to these things is progressive and I look forward to what he has to say.

In conclusion, I hope your Lordships will find that today we are debating a matter which is quite as vital as being able to lift the capital investment programme; quite as vital as any single issue which this nation can discuss in trying to get out of the shocking position which we are all now in and which we all detest. For upon this will depend how soon we can all raise our heads as a great industrial nation in this world. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, for raising this immensely important subject this afternoon. He does so, of course, from great experience. I should like to reciprocate the pleasure he expressed at the opportunity which I now have for renewing our old friendship in debate on this and other subjects. Quite properly, with the seniority in which trade unionists so well and truly believe, the man preceded me to another place and I am glad that the boy has now caught him up! Like the noble Lord, Lord Lee, I wish to say to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and to the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, how much we are looking forward to their maiden speeches a little later this afternoon. As someone who took this particular plunge only two weeks ago today may I comfort them and assure them that they will find it a warming and not a chilling process.

The essential need for training is better recognised in Britain now than it was 10 or 20 years ago. But I still do not believe that it is given as much priority as it is in other major industrial countries, particularly those whose economic and industrial performance in recent years has been more successful than ours. We are all agreed that the ultimate restoration of Britain's strength and prosperity depends on reviving the competitive efficiency and the dynamism of Britain's manufacturing industries. I think we are all agreed also—although there may be strong differences about how to achieve it—that one of the essential ingredients in this revival is a large increase in the scale and quality of new productive investment in British industry and in the effectiveness with which we use the plant and machinery already installed in our factories.

However, I do not think there is as yet the same widespread and active recognition of the equally important need for an increase in the scale and effectiveness of our investment in people in British industry. In previous attempts by successive Governments of both Parties since the war to get the British economy moving faster, one of the first, most obstinate and damaging bottlenecks we have run into time and time again is a shortage of skilled workers. That shortage causes shortfalls in production. I believe it also plays a serious part in setting off the spiralling of inflationary labour costs. Another handicap which I believe is suffered by Britain as compared with other currently more successful industrial countries has been the rigidity in our pattern of employment—the comparative lack of mobility of workers in Britain between one type of job and one type of skill and another. But with the modern speed of innovation and technological development generally, full employment, now and in the future, can never be achieved by people sticking to the same sort of job throughout their working lives. The ability to secure full employment now depends to an increasing extent on the ability to secure constant changes in the pattern of skills, and freedom, lack of fear and sense of opportunity with which people in their working lives can move from one job and one skill to another.

Fundamental structural changes are going on in the pattern of jobs available in this country. On the one hand there is a considerable, continuing, and I believe growing, decrease in the proportion of unskilled jobs and also in the proportion of skilled manual jobs supplied in the past by the old type of traditional time-serving apprenticeships. Against this decrease there is a continuing increase in the proportion of semiskilled jobs and also jobs requiring technical skills and knowledge. The industrial and economic need for a strong, continuing increase in the quantity and quality of training is therefore clear. But if the industrial and economic need is strong, so also is the social need. Easy access to a wide variety of training courses, both after leaving full-time education and throughout their working life, is surely the best way of giving individual people the opportunity to improve their economic prospects and also to achieve greater satisfaction from their jobs throughout their working lives.

My Lords, I have had the very good fortune in my own political career to have been brought into close contact and responsibility with this field of training on two occasions. First, about 20 years ago now, in my first ever ministerial job, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour—as the Department of Employment was then called—I had the honour to be appointed the chairman of a committee of trade union and employers leaders, a committee which I am proud to say became known, for a period at least, as the Carr Committee. I think all of us believe, looking back, that our Report Training for Skills, which was published about this time of year in 1958, did lead by direct stages to the Industrial Training Act of 1964.

Secondly, as Secretary of State for Employment, much more recently, as well as being responsible for certain activities which caused much more controversy than the subject we are dealing with today, I am glad to say I was responsible for publishing, in December 1971 and in February 1972, the companion documents, People and Jobs, which outlined plans for the modernisation of our employment services, and the second document, Training for the Future, which outlined plans for the further expansion and modernisation of our training services in this country. Those two documents led directly, after proper consultation, to the Employment and Training Act 1973, together with the establishment of the Manpower Services Commission and its two executive arms, the Training Services Agency and the Employment Service Agency.

It is against this background of personal involvement that I would like to express, to assess, and to criticise, although I hope constructively, what is being achieved and what needs to be done. Like the noble Lord, Lord Lee, may I underline that in making what appear to be criticisms, and indeed will be criticisms, I am not seeking to criticise what has already been achieved by the Manpower Services Commission and members of their staffs, because, as the noble Lord said, they have been in existence for a negligible time so far.

The first Act I referred to, the 1964 Act, was aimed principally at stimulating an increase in the quantity and quality of the training carried out by employers for their own perceived needs. It is, of course, a fact that the quantity of the training carried out by employers has always provided, and must always provide, the great bulk of training in this or indeed any other industrial country. The 1973 Act, while seeking further to stimulate the employers' own training efforts, was aimed perhaps principally at two different targets. First, it was aimed at bringing about a massive increase in the training facilities provided by Government themselves; because although the training opportunities provided by Government themselves will always be small compared with the total of those provided by industry as a whole, the Government's contribution is nevertheless a vital topping-up supplement, both in scale and in type of training provided, to that which is provided by employers themselves, particularly, of course, in times of economic depression or structural change.

The second target at which the 1973 Act was aimed was to provide a new organisation for initiating, co-ordinating and guiding our training effort in this country, in which the responsibilty for this and other manpower services in Britain would in future be actively shared by industry, by both trade unions and employers. Perhaps I may say at this juncture—I am glad this is not a very controversial debate today—that one of the few parts of the present Government's economic and industrial policies which I wholly and warmly welcome is that they have continued to maintain and indeed to increase the momentum of the great new surge in our training effort which was put in hand by the last Conservative Government, and which I am sure would have been put in hand by any Government early in the 1970s. This has all-Party support in Parliament and outside, and there is no doubt that improved results are being obtained. But are these improvements yet enough, and are they yet as well directed as they could and should be? I do not think they are, and I want to make some suggestions, indeed some criticisms, under a number of headings.

First, tile training opportunities provided by government itself. In 1970 the Government provided training opportunities for 17,000 people a year. The Conservative Government at that time embarked on a massive expansion of this number to provide opportunities for not less than 60,000 to 70,000 people a year by 1975, instead of only 17,000, and set a target of 100,000 for achievement as soon as possible. I believe we are on target on this expansion. I should like to ask the Government today to reaffirm—I have no reason to think they will do anything else, but I think it would be worth while that the Government of the day should put it on record—their continued acceptance of that target of 100,000. Indeed I should like to ask them whether they would go further and fix a still higher ultimate target in this field for the future. I do not believe that we can stop at a level of 100,000 in this element of the training field, if we are to have in Britain better industrial relations, more effective policies, and generally get results, in human as well as in economic terms, that we want to have.

The second heading which I want to speak about is the one on which the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, particularly dwelt; namely, the really urgent need for more provision for young school-leavers. It is a fact that each year in Britain certainly 200,000, and perhaps as many as 300,000 boys and girls entering employment receive little or no training when they have done so. The noble Lord, Lord Lee, said this was only about half of those entering industry. I sometimes wonder whether it is even as much as that. Whatever the percentage, it is profoundly unsatisfactory, and it compares, as he pointed out, sharply and badly with other countries in Western Europe. The sharp and bad effect shows itself not only in economic performance but in the general state of our industrial relations and the general happiness of our working life. Something radical has to be done to improve this.

Last year, as the noble Lord pointed out, the Training Services Agency produced a discussion paper called Vocational Preparation for Young People, which contained proposals for tackling this problem. What, may I ask Her Majesty's Government, is happening to these proposals? If by any chance the Government and both sides of industry do not agree with these proposals, what alternative proposals do they recommend, when will they be put forward, and when will action be started to implement them? This problem, I repeat, cannot be left unattended if we are to have greater efficiency in industry, better industrial relations and a happier working society.

The third heading under which I want to speak briefly is the need for much more extensive training for adults also. This too is an urgent need because, as I have already stressed, a modern economy, with its rapid changes in technology and type of product means that if people are to remain productively employed they will need throughout their working lives to keep on adding new skills to their present collection of skills, and even at times to change basically from one skill to another. Moreover, many people find that they made a wrong choice when, as young men or women, they started out in their careers, and they need new training if they are to have any opportunity to transfer to a different career and to put their orginal mistake, in their terms, right.

I believe that in this area of adult training further action is required by employers, by trade unions, and by Government. I can only mention one or two areas under each heading. I think that employers must give much greater attention than they currently do as a generality—of course there are always honourable exceptions—to the possibility of upgrading their existing employees. An inquiry was made recently into the nature of the vacancies being registered by a number of employers with employment offices throughout the country. This produced a rather interesting by-product result. It showed that many of the vacancies which employers were registering at our employment offices could have been filled from within their own ranks by their existing employees if only the companies had been more alive to this possibility. So we need in British industry to give a much higher priority, and a much more positive approach, to employment policy.

In the United States of America a recent survey of 62 corporations showed that in no less a third of them the executives in charge of the training and deve- lopment function reported direct to the chief executive of the corporation. That is a most important measure of the importance which they give to the training and development function. On the whole, I am afraid you do not find the same measure of importance given to it in British industry. This is what employers have to do. I think trade unions have to show a much greater readiness to grant full craft status to men and women who receive at least part of their training as adults. Whatever may have been the rightness of it in the past, the tradition that full and equal craft status can be acquired only by serving an apprenticeship between the ages of 15 and 21 is now absolutely outdated not only in economic terms but also in terms of fairness to many individual people. It does not matter when a person acquires his skills so long as he acquires them and, having acquired them at whatever age, he should be fully encouraged, welcomed and brought into full rank and opportunity which his skills command for him.

As for the Government, there are no doubt many things that they should do. I am not making a Party political point here; I am talking about any Government and not just this Labour Government. I think that the Government should give serious consideration to the possibility of following the French example which, under a recently introduced scheme, gives all employees the right to accumulate during their working lives the right to certain periods of release for further training and education. This is a right which is accumulated rather like one acquires rights to redundancy payments and length of notice, and so forth. If we want to encourage more adult training I suggest that this is something we ought seriously to consider in this country as well, although no doubt the exact form of it would need to be different to meet our different conditions. In short, what we must do most urgently is to seek to achieve a position in which training is not seen as a once and for all exercise at the beginning of a person's career, but a position where access to further education and training is available at all stages of working life, and where there is a constant motivation and encouragement to people to make use of what is provided.

The fourth heading I want to mention is the need to give attention to more training for the disadvantaged people in the community. The most obvious category of need here is training for the disabled. Here we seem to have reached a somewhat static situation. By and large, 1975 saw big increases in training, but I am sorry to say that in the field of training of the disabled the number who completed training in 1975 was almost identical with that who completed training in 1974, a mere 3,300.

The needs of other special categories are, I believe, highlighted by the present recession and the unfortunately high level of unemployment. The young school-leavers we have already referred to. May I just say in passing that having had the honour of the chance of launching the Community Employment Scheme, I was delighted to hear the Chancellor in his Budget speech yesterday giving that scheme a still further boost. The other major category which has come to light is the older workers of 50 and over, including redundant managers. We must not think only of this in a production worker, or relatively low and humbler grades of administrative worker. There is a disturbing increase in the number of redundant managers, particularly of middle and older age. It is a feature of our present unemployment that it is hitting hardest the young people immediately on leaving school, and the numbers and length of unemployment among older workers. If we look back to the 1930s, on the whole the people in the prime of life were hit hardest. Everybody was hit hard, but, on the whole, the statistics show that the main emphasis fell on those in their 30s and early 40s. Now it is tending to fall on the really young and the much older.

Then we must face up to the special need for training of coloured people in this country. I do not want to belittle the need for the right sort of race relations legislation. I simply want to say that I believe that, in practice, attention to vocational education and training for the coloured people in this country could do more positive good for the state of race relations than race relations legislation itself. There are many other disadvantaged categories to which I am sure other noble Lords could refer.

Next may I say something briefly about the type of training available, because I have a strong feeling that the types of course available are still too stereotyped. I think in training skill centres the courses are often longer than they need be. They are still perhaps too much confined, for example, to six months' courses on a too limited range of traditional skills. Training courses taken by people are, I suspect, too much determined by what is available rather than by what they feel they want and need; and what is available is too much determined by tradition rather than by a sensitive and flexible response to people's needs. I think that this is particularly true in the field of management training. Within management knowledge is relatively easy to acquire and pass on. But management is a practical skill, and more management training ought, in my opinion, to be training by doing throughout working life. In the field of management we require many more action-centred schemes based on job training which all the time relate theory to practice.

May I mention what could be a delicate subject but I hope will not be taken amiss; that is, the need of training for trade union officials and members. I feel strongly that if we are to get more effective and acceptable management, together with greater co-operation and growing participation by staff at all levels, and generally to achieve really productive progress in what we call in the modern age industrial democracy, then training for trade unions, for their officials, shop stewards and their members, is just as important as training for management. Trade unions are, of course, doing quite a bit about this themselves; but, with respect, I doubt very much whether it is enough, and I therefore ask the Government whether the Training Services Agency has this matter on its agenda because I believe that nowadays, just as other people do in the training area, the unions would accept and could benefit from help.

I notice that some in-company training programmes are using the same material for training both shop stewards and management staff, and that trade union officials as well as managers are playing a big part in giving those courses. I think that common experience and common courses are very valuable in promoting at least a common outlook in the way in which problems are analysed, and one is halfway to getting agreement if one can identify the problem in a common way.

Finally, I wish to raise the question whether we are really using effectively and efficiently the resources which we now devote to training. I am afraid I do not believe that we are; at least, I believe strongly that we could achieve a further substantial increase in both the quantity and quality of training with the resources of men, buildings and equipment which we already have. I have already said something about courses. But what about buildings and plant? I appreciate that it is difficult, but why should colleges of further education be left more or less empty for a good many weeks in the year, during holiday periods? Compare that with our need in this country. I am not satisfied that Government skill centres need all be closed in the evenings; perhaps they are not all closed, but I know that many of them are, or at least were. What about employers' own training establishments? By contracting out training, cannot the Training Services Agency make more use of employers' own training establishments, which are often not fully used by companies' own training needs?

My Lords, this is a huge subject and I have touched, rather superficially, on only a few of the salient issues, yet in doing that I am in danger of having spoken for too long already. I do not want to belittle what has been done or is being achieved, but in my view this is a field in which divine discontent is essential. Whatever else we do in this country, we shall never match the performance of other, more successful, industrial countries until we also match the importance which they attach to investment in people as well as to investment in machines.

4.3 p.m.


My Lords, I wish, first, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, on selecting this very important subject for debate today and particularly for the contents of his speech, with which I entirely agreed. I have made a number of speeches in the past, as have my noble friends—the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—on the need for training and retraining in this country. But today I will spend a few minutes on a slightly different aspect of industrial training—I hope that Lord Lee will forgive me for widening the discussion—on what I might call the software; that is, not the hardware in terms of craft skills and craft training but training to meet the new obligations which are now facing management and workforce alike either because of legislation or by reason of industrial trends.

In many ways this training can be just as important as our conventional craft training and retraining, because a better informed workforce is usually a much more competent one. I want to deal with only two areas of what I have called the software side of training. The first is the training which is required if we are to make participation, involvement and industrial democracy a success. The second area, one which is just as urgent, is that of pensions, in which I have a particular interest, and particularly the Social Security Pensions Act which comes into operation in April 1978 and for which a good deal of training and education will be needed. What a real loss all of us in the pensions movement and indeed in the nation have sustained with the death of Mr. Brian O'Malley, the Minister of State. It is a tremendous loss because he had a great career ahead of him and he had a tremendous grip of his subject. It may not be without significance that the last discussion I had with him, just before he went into hospital, was on the need for widening the educational training programme in order to make the new Social Security Pensions Act a real success.

In the industrial democracy sphere, quite a lot of preparation and training is under way at the moment. The more progressive firms appreciate the need for research and training if people are to understand the business in which they are to be full participants and, what is more important, to get the extra efficiency which the country needs at the present time. A great deal of good work is being done by such institutions as the Industrial Society, by the trade unions and by other agencies, but one gets the feeling that there is scope for a vast extension of educational programmes in this field if we are to produce a state of effective employer-employee relationship and co-operation. I will give only two short examples.

First, I am impressed by the work being done by the British Oxygen Transhield Company. There are main distributors for Marks and Spencer—they run the lorries that deliver the goods—and it is a relatively young company with about only 1,100 employees. About four years ago the company embarked on the task of developing a truly participative system. It formed two committees at national level and a local joint committee at each depot mainly for consultation. The two main unions were brought into the picture right at the beginning, a national agreement was negotiated containing a charter of human relations which outlines the agreed employment policies and which amounts to an industrial relations constitution. During the four years that it took to develop this system—this shows how long is involved in developing these things; this was a four-year programme—a great deal of attention was given to methods of training people at all levels so that the national agreement could be effectively implemented.

This training specifically covered briefing groups, group discussions and group problem-solving; to many people these are entirely new skills. Courses were run by trade union officers, with the assistance of the company, for shop stewards and staff representatives together, as the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, indicated during his speech. The training included developing the skills necessary to lead group discussions and to handle briefing sessions. Emphasis was laid on the need for developing the best form of communication, which lead to a higher sense of commitment on the part of the total workforce. There must be many similar examples but the point I want to stress is that in developing industrial democracy to improve efficiency, the design of the training programmes is of paramount importance.

The second example I take from the public sector and, indeed, from the Civil Service Department itself, and I am glad to see the noble Lord the Leader of the House in his place. As I understand it, for about two years a small group has been working in selected social security offices of the Department of Health and Social Security to improve job satisfaction and service to the public. The first pilot scheme was in Swansea. A small team went to the local office and carried out, with the help of the local staff, a radical reorganisation of that office. There was full consultation and acceptance by the staff, but after a time it was not difficult to identify certain errors, and I give the Civil Service Department full marks for identifying those errors and confessing to them because that it how we learn, by experience. They found that by leaning too heavily on the experimental approach, the team were seen as operating from London and it was seen to be by-passing the regional office in Wales, and this caused trouble. The pace of change was too quick and many staff were left behind and felt uninvolved.

It was clear that a more gradual and deeper approach was needed and this was developed in the second stage, which took place at Wallsend and Wakefield. On this occasion, two small teams each with one of the original Swansea team and a member of the regional staff spent a month in the regional office explaining to the senior staff what the project entailed and thereby enlisting their support and backing. It was decided not to enforce any changes from outside the office. Instead, they would work through the issues arising with the management on the job, in situ. Then the team spent a week in a training session specially arranged by the Civil Service Training College. I feel that that was clever. The result of that approach was quite different. Over a period of months, staff at all levels concerned themselves with analysing and improving their work and methods. This resulted in new counter arrangements, more sensitivity to public reaction and better relations with local authorities and other local social services. There were imaginative efforts to improve training and communications while all this was going on. I understand that the result was a real success. What this amounted to was a continuous system of training and retraining in order to achieve higher standards all the time. Here, believe, there is a big lesson to be learned by the private sector as well as the public sector.

I have drawn attention to these two cases to show that training to improve industrial efficiency need not be costly. Nor need it necessarily lead to increased public expenditure. Much training can be carried out inside an organisation with the help of professional bodies and the trade unions.

Finally, I turn to the question of pensions. In this case, we have to work to a very much tighter schedule and to an earlier deadline. Provision has been made in the Social Security Pensions Act 1975 for all employers to consult their staff on the decision whether to use the State earnings related pensions scheme or to provide a good occupational scheme and to contract out. It is the intention that this consultation shall be real and shall not be a formality, as has often been the case in the past. If so, there is a great deal of education and training of employees, and, indeed, employers, to be undertaken before the end of next year. To the extent that this understanding of what is involved is successful so does the likelihood of there being an improvement in industrial relations and greater efficiency increase. My own organisation, the Company Pensions Information Centre, of which I am chairman, is providing a public service in this educational field, explaining what the Act is about. The Industrial Society and the trade unions are doing the same and we are anxious to play our full part in educating the massive numbers of people who must learn to understand what this is all about and the TUC has produced a very useful booklet on the subject. However, I am convinced that a great deal more remains to be done if the workforce as a whole—employers and employees—is to understand the options which are available and the impact of the decisions which will have to be made on the profitability of the companies, their reserves and so on. It is a massive task and it will be breaking ground in a new field.

It does not stop there. The Occupational Pensions Board under Sir Philip Allen—and he seems to be mentioned practically every hour in this House—has done a very good report on solvency, disclosure of information and member participation in occupational pensions schemes. The Board has not recommended a statutory requirement for member participation in the running of the schemes but it has proposed legislation about disclosure of information. It has said that a comprehensive list of information should be available to members and their representatives either automatically or on demand. It has made other recommendations, including that there should be an extension of existing training facilities for member and employer representatives on their pension provisions. It is not much good disclosing information if people have not been trained in how to use it. That could lead to serious misunderstandings unless there is real provision to explain what it is all about.

This is a far cry from the old, paternalistic days which I remember, when the employer treated the details of the pension scheme as something which was covered by the Official Secrets Act. We have moved into the period of more open government and discussion and we have a real job on our hands if we are to train people to make the most of that. I have stressed the need for training in what I call the "software" side of the industry, not to decry the need for training in physical skills but to emphasise that both have their part to play in improving job satisfaction, our industrial and administrative efficiency and, indeed, our profitability. I am well aware of the excellent work being done in managerial training by all sorts of institutions but, no matter how much there is at the moment nor how many facilities exist, it is, in my view, unlikely to be enough to meet all the demands which ought to be made and will be made on these resources in the very near future.

4.16 p.m.

The Countess of MAR

My Lords, this is the first time I stand to speak in your Lordships' House, so I am more than a little apprehensive; I hope your Lordships will understand that. I have neither the years nor the experience of the three previous speakers, though I by no means intend that as a slur. May I ask for your Lordships' usual indulgence? The noble Lord, Lord Byers, has just been speaking about the software in training. I work in the Post Office and I have had immense advantages from the training which it provides. My interest today is more in the hardware side, however.

I live in an area in the West Midlands which was formerly known as the Black Country where, for many decades, the workers have not known what unemployment is. Now they are beginning to realise and to find out what are its attendant hardships. Many of these men and women left school in the 1950s and 1960s when there were more job vacancies than people seeking jobs. Simply because the availability of work was so good, little attention was paid to the acquisition of further educational qualifications and skills. Indeed, many of those who now find themselves unemployed left school with no educational qualifications whatever. The great sadness is that there must been a vast reservoir of ability which remained untapped during those decades. Youngsters were possibly ill advised or lacked motivation in those times of easy money. As your Lordships know, the country is in the throes of a recession and there are many and various ideas as to when we shall turn the corner. My personal feeling is that this turning point will come when we, as individuals, lift ourselves from our apathy and pull together. We rose to greatness through our application, enterprise and ability. These qualities seem to have been swamped by the attitudes of the "swinging 'sixties", when knocking the Establishment with one fist while taking its handouts with the other was in vogue. Those of us who tolerated those attitudes are now having to face the results.

The great ability of our race cannot have entirely disappeared. It needs to be awakened from its dormancy. In some industries there has been stagnation and a lack of forward planning, as well as a general feeling among both workers and managements that because we are British we cannot go down. These industries are now in trouble. Fortunately, we have the example of others—and the noble Lord, Lord Byers, mentioned one or two—who have had foresight and are succeeding despite all the trials of our time. I feel that we need now to take stock. We have almost 1½ million registered unemployed, at least a quarter of whom are suitable for training or retraining in the skills required by industry for the present and the coming years. There must also be a large number of people who are under-employed—people of ability who have been unable fully to utilise their capabilities and are unaware of the many means available to them for advancement.

On the other side, we have the resources for training in a great many trades and skills. Private establishments run by industry itself, technical colleges and skill centres run by the State can be found side by side, occasionally even duplicating facilities. Technical training requires extensive capital equipment. Tools and machines in workshops are in operation for at most one-third of their capacity and in many instances for less. We need some form of co-ordinating force to bring together the capital and manpower resources required to provide training and our wealth of native ability. Physical expansion may prove to be necessary. Monetary expenditure clearly will. I understand that it costs about £2,000 to put a person through a 26 weeks' training course at a skill centre. This is a small investment, as the likelihood of his being placed in work after training is greater than if he had remained on the register of unemployed.

I am told that the placement success rate varies from region to region, and obviously factors such as this, the motivation of those wanting training, and the question of their ability to complete the course must be considered at the time of selection. There is no point in training a person in a particular skill if there is little demand for that skill from employers and little likelihood of his obtaining a job, either at once or after the lapse of a short period of time. Money spent now is likely to be more than repaid in the future by the growth in the expertise held by the workforce, We must be prepared to move forward to keep up with the constant changes brought about by technological innovation, and to train people in new skills as their old ones become redundant. This is something which is particularly important in the West Midlands where things are changing considerably. We have only to look to Sweden to observe the benefits of a continuing commitment to training in industry. My Lords, there is no doubt that a more rapid expansion in the training programmes than was planned is required, though we must beware of using training establishments as a social dumping ground in order to reduce the unemployment figures. Our slender resources must be extended, but not exploited.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is my very great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on her maiden speech. In my opinion, it had all the virtues. It was presented with great charm, it was based on knowledge and experience and it was just the right length for a maiden speech. I am sure that I am expressing the wishes of all your Lordships when I say—and I really mean this—that we hope that the noble Countess will frequent this House and make many contributions to our debates.

Secondly, I want to render my thanks to my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton for giving us this opportunity to debate such a nationally important subject, and for presenting his Motion with such great knowledge and vigour. Thirdly, I have to make an apology to your Lordships, because I will be unable to stay until the end of the debate owing to an engagement arranged a considerable time ago. I mean no discourtesy to your Lordships' House by so doing.

My Lords, the reason for my brief intervention in the debate is that during my business career not only did I have a strong belief in the value and importance of education, but I endeavoured to put that belief into practice. Therefore, I welcome recent developments, particularly the establishment in 1973 of the Manpower Services Commission and its Training Services Agency. As those of your Lordships taking part in the debate no doubt know, the Training Services Agency co-ordinates the work of the 24 industrial training boards and provides assistance and advice with the object of maintaining a high and appropriate standard of training, which is so vital. We must train not only workers, but also training officers.

As your Lordships know, the Training Services Agency also has a vital role to play in those areas of commerce and industry not covered by the work of the boards. Therefore, it is clear that considerable progress has been made over the past decade in the provision of training by both Government and industry. But the training of new entrants into industry is only one aspect, albeit an important aspect, of training.

Two other categories must be considered. One is the retraining of those, who for one reason or another, have made the wrong first choice of career and have perhaps landed themselves in a dead-end job. This has already been referred to by my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton, and by other noble Lords. Such people must be able to have a second choice, to retrain for a job that really interests them, and for which they have genuine aptitude. Second is the retraining of workers from declining industries, such as textiles and industries in which over-manning is rife; for example, the docks and the steel industry. Unfortunately, new and expanding industries that are labour intensive, rather than capital intensive, are not so easy to determine as those that are declining.

In my opinion, if we are to make the best use of our manpower and to help make our industry more competitive, several million people will have to change their jobs in the next decade. Therefore, I welcome the recent and projected expansion of the training opportunities scheme which is run by the Training Services Agency. This scheme caters in particular for those who want to train to a higher level of skill.

The noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, quoted figures similar to those I am about to quote; namely, that there were 29,000 training completions in 1972, and that this figure doubled to 60,000 in 1975. As the noble Lord, Lord Carr, said, the aim is to reach 100,000 as soon as possible. In my view, above all it is vital that we do not let what might be described as the "gold watch" mentality dominate our thinking. Long service, though often valuable to companies and a natural source of pride to individuals, is not always a virtue.

For too long the worker has been led to expect that he has a lifetime's entitlement to work in a particular firm, or industry, or area. More people must overcome their understandable reluctance to move to a new district and a new community. Of course, we all know the importance of housing; how important a factor it is in mobility, particularly, I am told, when workers have to move from the industrial North to the South, where council housing may not be so easily available. In my opinion, both the Government and the trade unions have a vital, educative role to play. Full employment today cannot mean full employment in the same job in the same area during a worker's lifetime.

In conclusion, my Lords, I am sure your Lordships will all agree on the value of training and particularly for new skills in expanding industries. We must recognise, and give credit to, what has been already achieved under the Governments of both Parties. Above all, we must never lose sight of the importance of the quality of the training provided, as well as the numbers receiving training.

4.31 p.m.

The Earl of NORTHESK

My Lords, I stand here very much in awe in attempting to deliver a few personal opinions and ideas. I am afraid I shall not be able to emulate in any way the debating skill of some of the previous speakers. It is quite obvious that they have had a great deal of training. While I am of course most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, for introducing this subject, as I had expected most of the discussion has so far been concerned with industry in the accepted meaning of that word. But agriculture is an industry as well, and this gives me an opportunity to say one or two brief words about it. I hope I may be forgiven if what I say appears to be too detailed, but this is perhaps the only way that I am able to demonstrate the plight of agriculture and also, perhaps, hopefully, two possible ways of introducing training and re-training to people in industry as well.

Agriculture and its allied trades are in need of extra training facilities, especially in some particular skills. It is true to say that there is a considerable number of agricultural schools and colleges, that machinery manufacturers also run courses and that there was at one time in the past the Agricultural Training Board, all of them providing excellent training facilities. Although I am not conversant with the number of personnel that these organisations produce, I am very much aware, purely from a practical point of view, of the lack of trained people in a number of specialised skills, for some of the machinery in agriculture today is highly sophisticated and tech- nical Perhaps I may give an example. In order to facilitate the collection of milk from farms by bulk tankers rather than by means of the old-fashioned churns, all dairy fanners, by and large, are obliged to keep their milk in large, refrigerated milk tanks until the tanker calls daily to collect the milk from their farm. In order to save space and finance, a farmer normally buys a tank sufficient to hold only the amount of milk that his cows will produce in any one day; but this refrigerated vat is a complicated piece of equipment, and like even the best of machinery it can from time to time go wrong. When this happens the milk is not cooled sufficiently to allow the tanker driver to take delivery of it, or, at worst, the milk turns sour. In either case, of course, this means a considerable loss to the farmer.

I suppose it might be suggested that the farmer or the herdsman—and these days I must say, of course, the herds-woman as well—should be able to cope with problems such as these. But I would suggest that it would not really be practical or possible for the farmer or the farmworker to be an expert in all the very many technical skills that are part of agriculture today; and, therefore, fairly naturally, the farmer has to resort to outside expert help. It might also be thought that this is very easy to obtain—just by calling out the local electrician or technician. But the local people are very rarely trained to cope with the complications of some of the present-day farm equipment; so it can happen that a farmer may have to wait for two or three days before he obtains the services of the man that he requires. This may seem a very small incident, but taken over the whole country, and when one considers all the other breakdowns or complications that may occur to milking plant, to combined harvesters, to grain-drying plants or to the other highly sophisticated equipment that the farmer has to use, one sees that it must result in a considerable overall loss on a national scale.

It is not easy, I admit, to see a solution to this problem, because I do not believe it would be right to spend a considerable amount of money on training people solely to look after the needs of agriculture, for some of this equipment is used during only a part of the year, and it is only then that it is at risk. Therefore, it would be senseless to suggest that there should be people to service only that equipment and then, for the rest of the year, to remain idle. Nevertheless, rather than having to resort to attempting to obtain someone from many miles away, there is a need for many more local experts to maintain that plant which is in constant use; namely, milking plant, temperature and humidity controlled pig or poultry units, electronic and automatic feeding systems, incubator and factory systems and such things as these. When this sort of equipment breaks down the delay in getting it repaired can, as I have already said, cause considerable loss, not only in production but also, in some cases, of the animal itself and, therefore, a loss of capital. As there are in any case considerable numbers of mechanics, electricians and other craftsmen in all parts of the country who all have the basic knowledge of their craft and of similar and more simple equipment, but who do not have the particular expertise which is so often required by agriculture, what, then, therefore, is the possibility of producing a scheme that would induce would-be technicians, or even possibly provide an incentive to existing technicians, to take the necessary training to service agriculture more efficiently?

My Lords, to turn to another aspect of the difficulties in agriculture which are causing even more concern, probably, as I have already mentioned there exist a large number of excellent colleges which provide training facilities—I might add, primarily to farm management rather than to farmworkers. Far be it from me, therefore, to criticise what they are doing, because they are doing an excellent job. Nevertheless, on looking through the "Situations Vacant" column in a local newspaper I saw that, out of 63 advertisements for farmworkers, 45 were for people to look after farm stock—that is, cattle, sheep and pigs.

Every year it is the practical experience of the farmer that the stockman or woman is becoming more and more difficult to obtain. Such a job frightens many people because of the long hours and the tie imposed on those who look after animals; and in some respects, and pos- sibly to overcome the dedication that arises, a real interest is required. I do not believe that you can train people to be efficient in any particular skill without first creating an interest. For instance, not long ago when I was farming very much more actively, than I am now, and when schools were smaller and more localised and possibly the teachers had more authority over what they were allowed or not allowed to do—and far be it from me to question the rights or wrongs of that—in those days we used to have parties of school children from all over the country visiting various farms and having explained to them the general principles of stockmanship and other farm skills.

One was constantly amazed at the ignorance and lack of understanding of even the simplest things and of where, for instance, many of their basic foods came from. Nevertheless, it was a rewarding experience both for the farmers and, I believe, for the children because the interest shown by the questions that were asked was quite remarkable. More important was the fact that a number of those children used to return to the various farms, my own included, to ask for holiday jobs, and not only for holiday jobs but also for advice on obtaining permanent jobs in agriculture. It may be that it is not considered appropriate these days to take children from the centre of places like Birmingham and London out into the country and introduce them to a different way of life; but unless these children are given the opportunity to see for themselves what working on a farm is like there is really no way for them to obtain the necessary interest and dedication.

Farming almost always seems to be the Aunt Sally in any Government's policy and it often feels that it is a forgotten industry. It may be that, because the land and the animals dictate in such a way that they demand to be looked after, it becomes impossible for agriculture to partake in what I believe is called "industrial action". Agriculture has a magnificent record for increased production and in every other respect. Therefore, if I may say so, I hope that if any consideration is given to increased training facilities, agriculture may have it fair share.

4.46 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join in the congratulations already offered to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on her interesting speech. I thought that here we had one Lady who needs no training in verbal skills. I should like to be the first to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, on his speech which I think was a model of its kind because he gave us the depth of his practical experience and knowledge. He gave some positive and useful suggestions to us and, with all that, he was commendably brief. I hope that we shall hear from him again.

In listening to this debate this afternoon I have been very conscious, as I think many of your Lordships have, of the, in some ways more momentous, debate going on at this time in another place. I must say, listening yesterday to the Chancellor of the Exchequer—which I did for the first time from the standpoint of the excellent accommodation provided for your Lordships—I had much the same reaction as had Mr. Peter Jay this morning in The Times. I thought that I was back in 1964. It seemed to me that the Chancellor on many occasions was talking very much in the way that Chancellors spoke in the days of the National Plan. We had the same 4 per cent. growth rate, the same concentration on bottlenecks and the need to overcome those bottlenecks and the same imprecision as we had in 1964 and subsequently on precisely how those bottlenecks were to be removed.

I think that I would agree entirely with Mr. Jay when he said that it was hard not to be reminded of the National Plan of 1965 which in much the same way set out what splendid economic results could be achieved if output were to grow at 4 per cent. a year while the balance of payments came back spontaneously from a large deficit into equilibrium. What the National Plan conspicuously failed to explain was how the balance of payments was going to be made to come back into equilibrium with the economy expanding at the rate envisaged. I think that in many ways we are back in that situation. Once again we are being told that we are to have a given rate of expansion. We are being told what the bottlenecks are; and one of the bottlenecks we are being told today, as we were told in the 1960s, is the bottleneck on skills, which bottleneck is to be removed by training. But once again we are not being told precisely how the skill gap is to be removed and precisely how the mismatch is to be corrected.

In many ways this is not surprising. It has taken us a long time to create the kind of institutional framework required in order to tackle this problem and, along with the remarks made earlier by the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, and others, I would not want to say anything against what I now think are the excellent institutional arrangements that we have for tackling this problem under the Manpower Services Commission. But, as has also been said, it is too early for us to be able to judge the impact that the Manpower Services Commission is making.

The point I want to raise is how far we are right to go on in a position in which we assume the objectives for the Manpower Services Commission and the priorities for the Manpower Services Commission which we pick up from those institutions from which we have copied the Manpower Services Commission. What we have done is to borrow a Scandinavian model. The Manpower Services Commission is a Scandinavian model. It looks increasingly like the Swedish Labour Market Board and it is designed to follow out much the same kind of policies. I think it worth speculating for a moment on just how accurate, comprehensive and suitable those policies are for this country.

The first assumption of the Swedish model is that early in the upswing in the period of economic growth, skill shortages develop which, as the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, said, cut off the growth process and lead to an increase in the inflation process unless there is at that time a skill reserve—in particular, a craft skill reserve and especially in those parts of the country where those skills will be required. The second assumption is that even at the top of the upswing there will be a progressive problem of regional imbalance and structural unemployment which can be solved only by a massive infusion of retraining. Unless this retraining is of sufficient size, the unemployment problem will remain, even at the height of the upswing.

The third assumption on which the Swedish Labour Market Board is based is that during the whole of the growth cycle there are to be certain groups which have difficulty in finding a employment: the unskilled, the young, the disabled, the over-fifties declared redundant and so on. Therefore, the Training Service must specialise in a counselling service for their special needs. Finally—and this is something recently added to the mix, I would say—the Labour Board concept argues that if the Government are to be allowed to moderate the upswing of the cycle by forms of demand management which will have some impact, there must be special provision for job creation so that the full employment effects of demand management are not going to be felt to their fullest extent in the trough of the downswing.

These are the basic assumptions of the manpower model. As I have said, by an expanding training agency, by the new placement service, by co-ordinating all this under the Manpower Services Commission, we now have a system for expanding and developing training and placement which is as good in institutional terms as that which exists in most other countries. If we had had that in the middle 'fifties and early 'sixties it would have made a significant contribution by now to the process of economic growth.

The problem is that, as is quite a reasonable assumption to make in other countries like Sweden, it assumes that the basic problem of training and skill and mis-match is an exogenous problem from the point of the growth process itself. It assumes that you can fire growth process by some other method, and then you will come up against certain constraints which skill shortage produce, and if only you can blow through those constraints with a training programme the growth process will continue. It is almost as though we had a kind of oil-can view of training: what we need training for is not to produce the growth process, but to allow the growth process to move forward. Indeed, in our present situation we are in danger of having a mixture of an oil-can view of training and a pumpkin approach. It is almost as though we thought that almost overnight by enough training, properly arranged, we could turn workers who are not needed into workers who are needed: that we could turn pattern makers into computer operators, dockers into oil technologists and car workers into the group we need most in industrial relations today, first-class labour lawyers.

The problem is that although retraining is essential, although it is needed, what is needed more in this country is the conviction that the training process can contribute more directly and specifically to the growth process itself. What we need to believe—and what those who run the Manpower Services Commission need to believe—is that there will be jobs waiting when the retraining process ends. This is the basic dilemma underneath the retraining process, and it is the basic insecurity of those who undertake training at the moment.

Unless we can believe this, and unless somehow training can assist in this process, there will be no way of solving the problem of structural imbalance or the problem of regional unemployment until at last somebody in this country invents the magic product. What we need most of all in this country is the magic product; a product which only Britons can make; the product which is labour-intensive; the product which requires skills in large numbers very much for men over 50 located in some place North of the Wash. The trouble is that what the world is producing are products which anyone can make, products which are capital-intensive, products which are produced as well by girls as by men, and products which, on the whole, managers are producing in Surbiton and Slough. This is our basic problem.

It is for these reasons that I suggest it is time to ask a new question about training, and about the facilities and the institutions of training. It is time to ask not what does growth mean for training, but what can training do for growth? To so ask is to focus away, I regret to say, from those displaced or threatened by economic change—important though they are—towards those who are still at work, and particularly towards those who are at work in positions of authority; in positions where they can make some impact on the credibility of the growth process. What this means—as has been said by speakers on the other side of the House immediately before me—is focusing on management.

If we can find a way, by raising the skills of British management, to increase their performance by 5 per cent., 10 per cent. or 20 per cent., the economic miracle of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke yesterday might in fact come to be. If we could find a way so that the less effective of British managers knew about and were competent in the skills of market forecasting, materials handling and production control, if they were as skilled as the best in the social problems of gaining consent for the kind of changes they need inside their plants, then the economic miracle would be on its way.

I shall be told that management development has been accepted now as a special concern of the MSC and TSA. This is perefectly true. In the five-year plan of the MSC they say that they are taking management development as one of their specialist concerns. I wonder whether they give it enough priority, and whether the suggestions they make in their document, which is mainly to suggest the Agency itself will merely strengthen the number and abilities of their specialist management development staff, really represent coming to terms with this major problem. I should also be told that increasing management development and training is the job of the business schools, the polytechnics and colleges of further education.

The reply to that is that they are mainly effective—and many of them are effective—in respect of new entrants and, at the bottom of the market, in respect to foreman training, commercial training, accountancy training and so on, and not on-the-job training of existing managers at middle level. This is an area where the business schools, polytechnics and colleges of further education have not managed to make much of an impact. I know this is so in respect of one area, the area of my own concern: industrial relations. I know that this is so in respect of management training in industrial relations partly from my own experience of this and partly because I recently served on a Working Party of the NEDO office on industrial relations training under the chairmanship of the late Pat Fisher, the late Manpower Director of NEDO.

At the cost of boring the House for two moments, I should like to reiterate the conclusions of that Working Party. They discovered that there had been no significant expansion of training for management in industrial relations over the past five years. They discovered there had been no significant improvement in the quality of management training in industrial relations over the past few years. They discovered that there were a relatively few good firms who in fact obtained good value from their industrial relations training for managers, but only if it was part of their overall industrial relations policies, only if top management were involved and only if the specialised industrial relations negotiators were prepared to take time off to participate in the courses. They also found that there is an enormous need for effective textbooks for managers in this field. These textbooks do not exist. Bodies such as the Social Science Research Council cannot fund them because they are not pure research. Publishers these days cannot afford to finance them, either. Therefore they will probably continue to be unavailable. The Manpower Services Commission, following the publication of this Report through the TSA, has undertaken to look at the central suggestion in the report for the creation of an industrial relations resource centre.

I am merely talking about industrial relations and management training in industrial relations because it is my own area of concern. I suggest that there are many other areas in management training where we should put the central focus in the next five years; that it is time for us to ask what training can do for growth rather than what growth means for training. Bernard Shaw said in St. Joan that a miracle is either an act that creates faith in the faithless or one that reinforces faith in the faithful. What we now need are a series of acts from the Government which create and sustain our faith in economic growth; and acts in the field of industrial training are some of the most important.

4.59 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, I should like to congratulate the Countess of Mar on her excellent speech. I am sorry she is not in her place at the moment. I noticed that the sun came out as she rose to speak, and I hope that it will continue to shine on her in the future, and we shall hear many more excellent speeches such as she made today. I should also like to thank the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, because agriculture is extremely important. In fact I believe I am right in saying it is the largest single industry in the country with the smallest workforce. I agree with him very much about children and others visiting farms. When I was doing my casualty training in Islington some years ago, one of the things we did was to take children down to farms, and I agree with the noble Lord that it was extremely instructive—indeed, sometimes shocking—to realise how little they knew about how their food was grown and where milk came from.

May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, that I am delighted that he should have introduced this debate today and I should like to congratulate him, if that does not sound impudent, on his speech. I agree with him entirely about school-leavers. As he may remember, in another place we were, I think, both against the raising of the school-leaving age, because we knew perfectly well that anybody could stay on if they wished to. At one time, 20 per cent. of the 15-year-olds went into Her Majesty's Services and I think it is a very great pity that this was stopped. This was most beneficial to them because not only did they have the Service training but most of them also had some skill training before leaving the Service.

I should like now to refer to the question of women and employment, because I was very interested when on 17th December last year the Manpower Services Commission stated that there should be more training for women, to give them a much greater variety of work and work of better quality and that, in particular, there should be more opportunities for women to train for management, the professions and as technicians. I thought those were very important recommendations. I also thought that the Training Services Agency's document was well set out and very readable. During the war, I had the opportunity of working in Royal Ordnance factories and of doing welfare work in some of them; and I realise how monotonous a great deal of such work can be for women. But if, for instance, engineering jobs are broken down, women are capable of doing intricate work in the engineering line.

I have also looked at the survey of the training of men and women in Europe, and it is interesting to note the difference in attitude between the Europeans and ourselves. For example, six countries in the EEC favour the younger woman rather than the older woman. This country, together with Ireland and Denmark, favour women over the age of 55; and the graphs give interesting contrasts here. All the EEC countries agreed that vocational training showed discrimination against women, particularly on the question of studies. According to the list, this was the lowest percentage in all the nine countries.

Women in this country form 39 per cent. of the working population, but few have received any formal training either in industry or in the skilled occupations. I think it is a great pity that school careers officers are not given special training, because I have found that many of them know little about industry and are often apt to persuade girls to go into what might be called the "normal" jobs for women. Women are turning away from what I call the monotonous jobs. They want to show their skills because they have had far better education than used to be the case. I think, too, that women's magazines must bear some of the blame, because they do not help women at all to accept the idea that they might take jobs other than the ones normally considered beneficial for women.

Recently, during the period of unemployment—I may say that I am living in the country now—I have been able to decorate my house purely with the help of women, none of whom had done this kind of work before. I can tell your Lordships that it is extremely well done, and if anybody here would like to come and visit my home I shall be pleased to show them what has been done.

Facilities in different countries are varied. For example, as regards crèches, if we want to get more women to go out to work it is most necessary that there should be more facilities for their children. More flexible hours are also needed, it would appear from these reports. The Training Opportunities Scheme tries to meet the needs of individuals, but I do not think it has been very successful. I feel a little more should be concentrated on those who have not had the opportunity of training when they were younger and who now need some training for the work they might wish to undertake.

In 1975 the TOPS courses took 60,000 people to train, but only 44 per cent. of them were women. Women are in training for lathe-turning and plumbing, for electric welding and sheet metal work; and they have been very successful. But the demand is still for clerical and commercial occupations. The professional and scientific services, the distribution, insurance, banking and finance sectors mainly concern work which is done by women. The percentage there is very much higher than it is for men. Of total technician levels, 27 per cent. are women and most of them are medical and laboratory technicians. There are 18 per cent. of them now working with computers. But it is electrical engineering, transport, textiles, mechanical engineering and chemicals which employ the highest proportion of men.

Five years ago I persuaded the Admiralty to admit women apprentices into the Royal Dockyards. This, of course, is very largely a man's preserve, as your Lordships will know. The experiment has been intensely successful. Rosyth were the winners for the first year—perhaps I should have mentioned that I gave a cup to encourage the women and to give them something to work for and to look forward to. Portsmouth was next; and I am pleased to say that Devonport has won this year. Recently, the Royal Marines at Devon-port had trouble with their electricity, and much to their astonishment—I think they were astonished because they even told me about it, and I am not living there at the moment—a woman came along and did the electrical repairs. What is more, it was agreed by everybody that she had done those repairs more quickly than was usual. Therefore, I think that if women are given the opportunities they are capable of doing many jobs which have so far been considered only suitable for men.

When one turns to the skill centres, 17,000-plus men trained there in 1974 and only 87 women. Women fared rather better in colleges of further education. Over 21,000 people were trained, of whom 16,000 were women. Then there are the employers' establishments and the residential training colleges. Here again, 45,000 men were trained, with 17,000 women. There is in France a very able woman whose name is Mlle. Varese. She is Director-General of the Social Affairs Committee for Action in Europe. She has stated, I think quite correctly, that discrimination begins in childhood and education; and she has said in particular that education needs rethinking. This has been proved by our own Manpower Services Commission, because in July 1975 they said that the number of women in skill centres in 1974 was 0.51 per cent. of the total trained. In 1975 the percentage was only 0.52: that was in the first quarter. There are 9 million women working in this country, only 2.5 per cent. of whom join trade unions. Perhaps one of the reasons why they do not get on as well as they should is because they do not have the backing of the trade unions concerned. And women are often blamed for absenteeism, yet I gather from reading various reports that the figure for women is no worse than that for men—in fact, the average period of absenteeism for women is one week, whereas the average for men is 2 to 3 weeks. This has been proved in a number of factories that I have visited, where I have found that women rarely stay away from work unless they are really sick.

There is, of course, the other side. I should declare an interest here because I am President of the Institute of Qualified Private Secretaries. The idea of the Institute is to train women to be good administrators, and I think that those of your Lordships who are concerned with industry will agree that without a really good, qualified secretary many men would be completely lost. When I go to our periodical conferences, I am amazed to learn what our members do and how powerful they are in their firms. I am very glad to know that the City and Guilds courses, in respect of which the Lord Mayor of London has been kind enough yearly to present certificates to those who qualify—both men and women, of course—are now progressing. It is extremely important that this training should go on, because industry needs administrators.

Women are able to turn their hands to very many different jobs. I should like to cite one very eminent woman gynaecologist who decided, when she was having children, that she would study for the Bar. She has now become a qualified barrister and is on the Bar Council. I mention that fact because any training given to women is not wasted, as is so often thought. I understand that under Article 5 grants are available from the Social Fund of the EEC, and I should like to know how much has been given for the retraining of women because, as has been said, there is not very much money.

To end on a lighter note, I do not know whether your Lordships read an article in the Daily Telegraph of 6th April, headed "Spared blushes cost women their pay parity". It read: Women quality control workers at a Kraft cheese factory were refused equal pay because the management barred them from using a catwalk between two departments—to spare them embarrassment in case men working below looked up and saw their legs". That is rather old-fashioned, because most women now wear either tights or slacks so it was not a very valid argument. But it meant the difference between £30 a week and £42.45 which their male counterparts received. In this case, Mr. Connor, the area organiser for the Union of Shop Distributive and Allied Workers, said: We have been trying to get Kraft's to give equal pay for women workers in their quality control department at their Kirkby works". Another excuse given by the firm was that women could not do the bacteriological work which has to be done at night. One of the women said—and I do not know whether this report is accurate—that she thought this rule should be changed and that women should be allowed to work at night. But she added that the company does not have a licence for women night workers. During the war, women worked day and night in the Royal Ordnance factories, as I know because I visited them.

There was an interesting article in the next column of that newspaper, headed "Angry men stay out on strike". It appears that 200 labourers went out on strike because they wanted equal pay with women. That is the other way round. Some of your Lordships probably listened to the report on the radio. I do not know how that problem will be solved, but we shall have some difficulties under the Sex Discrimination Act. I realise that we shall have to work out this problem gradually but, with your Lordships' wisdom, we may eventually be able to find some solution.

Finally, I should like to say that I am a member of the Advisory Committee on the Employment of Women at the Department of Employment, and I should like to give my thanks to Miss Orton, the Secretary, and others who advise the Committee, particularly at their meetings.

5.13 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we owe a debt of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, for introducing this debate. Also, I must add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords to the noble Countess, Lady Mar, on her maiden speech which was delivered with great clarity and precision—qualities which I admire and seek to emulate, not always successfully. I should also like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, particularly because he introduced the subject of agriculture into a debate which could easily forget all about that industry. I shall, of course, speak about agriculture and agricultural training; but, while it is in my mind, may I say to the noble Lord, Lord Byers, that I, too, know about the model office experiment in Swansea and Wallsend. I visited both offices. I went to Swansea in the early stages and was able to see some of the difficulties which emerged; then at Wallsend I saw how the team had learned with very great success from what they had found at Swansea. That is a fine example of consultation at all staff levels and the team deserve to be congratulated.

With regard to what the noble Earl said, there may still be people up and down the country who do not know or do not seek to discover what happens in agriculture, particularly in the sphere of agricultural training. It is true that, in the sphere of training as in other matters, agriculture—which is perhaps the greatest industry—lags behind others. Other industries had their apprenticeship schemes long before agriculture thought of introducing one. Indeed, when I worked on the land I learned the job the hard way. A farm worker usually followed his father who taught him the jobs. One went with horses and dragged behind them the wagons, ploughs and other equipment and learned how to use them. A farmer's son often learned the job the same way, except that in later years a farmer's son was usually sent to one of the agricultural institutions.

A number of people in the industry and I were concerned about the lack of facilities in the industry in a number of directions, including training. In this respect, my friends and I were supported and heleped by forward-looking people on the other side of industry. We wanted to achieve some kind of training machinery and we thought we could establish an Apprenticeship Council, which we did with the help of my noble friend Lord Hilton—who, unfortunately, is not here because he is very ill indeed—the noble Lord, Lord Netherthorpe, and the noble Lord, Lord Woolley. We had our first meeting in 1948, but it took some years to decide how to proceed, and we began operations in 1953. We had three chairmen from then until the time the scheme finished, who were the noble Lord, Lord Woolley, Basil Neame and finally myself.

About six months ago, I signed the last certificate which went to an apprentice who had gone through the Apprenticeship Council training scheme. During those years we saw a number of apprentices go through the three-year course and achieve certification, and by 1973 the number had reached 2,000. By the time I signed that last certificate there had been about 2,800 apprentices. Those certificates meant that those people would qualify for a plus rate under the Agricultural Wages Board orders because they were able to show that they were craftsmen.

In 1971, we changed the title of the scheme to the New Entrants' Apprenticeship Training Scheme and responsibility for its continuation passed to the Agricultural Training Board. The Agricultural Training Board was not itself an easy thing to achieve. We had a long hard battle but, thanks to the wisdom of far-sighted people, including those I have mentioned, we eventually got the Board. But almost from its inception it has been faced with the problem of insufficient funds to do the job for which it was established. Initially there was difficulty about getting money through the levy scheme, but I do not want to dwell upon that aspect. That difficulty was at last overcome by a changeover from a levy scheme to a direct Government grant as part of their support system for agriculture. But there can be no doubt at all about the importance of the Board and the contribution that it is making and will continue to make to the well-being of the industry, for the existence of the Board ensures that new corners to the industry and others in the industry are properly trained to craft standards. Indeed, the Agricultural Training Board has just announced an extension of its existing system of direct cash support for proficiency testing.

In future, the Board will be able to make grants to everybody who comes within the scope of a new scheme which goes beyond apprentices and can help those people who are studying work in other directions in agriculture. Also, it has the enormous advantage of contributing to the industry's future manpower needs. At the end of 1974–75, the number of apprentices and new entrant trainees was just over 4,000, and there is every indication that the corresponding figure for this year will be greater. Indeed, up to March 1976 it was around 4,700, so the number of people who are coming into the scheme is increasing quite rapidly and significantly.

The noble Earl has mentioned at least one of the problems which the industry must tackle namely, the lack of skill and of technical knowledge to deal with certain problems. Indeed, the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service, among others, has identified these problems. They have also been highlighted in the farming Press, notably in the Farmers' Weekly of 16th May, 1975. This article starts by saying: Dont misunderstand us". I want to underline that. The article continues: We believe that the United Kingdom farmers are efficient—top of the league, in fact—experts in their field who can teach other industries a thing or two about using resources well". What they say about farmers I will claim for farm workers as well. However, the article outlines some of the findings of the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service about the shortfall in terms of what profit, income and production could be made in agriculture in certain sectors. For example, it tells us that the uncontrolled foliar disease of cereals costs the country £50 million. It says that losses through a badly set combine harvester, "likely badly setting a lawn-mover", cost the country £23 million; that hay waste in making, storing and feeding costs £105 million; that potato damage in handling and storage costs £25 million; and that the inaccurate application of sprays and fertilisers costs £30 million. Other items are listed, too, and the article goes on to say: This is the best part of £900 million". That is a very great deal of money to lose. Obviously training is the answer and must be developed.

So far as the economic policy is concerned, the Government's White Paper, Food front our Own Resources, which was published a year ago underlines what I am saying. Paragraph 17 of the White Paper states: Agricultural workers will have a key part to play if higher output is to be achieved. Looking to the future and to continuing advances in technology, the level of skills within the workforce will assume increasing importance and workers will need adequate incentives and the facilities to acquire and sustain the necessary standard of skills. Incentives are a matter for the industry itself, whether on the part of individual employers and employees, or nationally through the medium of the Agricultural Wages Board which has paved the way with its premium structure for craftsmen and graded workers. In addition, the industry needs young recruits. In 1974, there was a record level of recruits to the Agricultural Training Board schemes for new entrants. The Government are concerned that the Training Board should have the resources necessary to fulfil its part in equipping the industry with a sufficiently large and skilled labour force. As I have already indicated, not only is it recognised that the need for training in agriculture is there, but I can say with certitude that it is a fact that there is an increasing demand. The annual report of the Training Board contains evidence of that. In his foreword the Chairman, Sir George Huckle, says that the problem is not to get more trainees but to ensure that the demands for training which the industry makes upon the Board can be met out of resources. In the introduction to the report it is made clear that the estimate given by the Board last year about the amount of increased demand was an underestimate, and it looks as though that will continue to be so.

As the Government document says, the Board has to have sufficient resources to enable it to do the job for which it was established. In 1974–75 the Ministry of Agriculture provided a grant in aid of £1.6 million from the Annual Farm Price Review to finance the Board. In arriving at that figure, the Minister was aware that the Board's budget for the year totalled £1,995,000 but he took into account the Board's working capital which at 1st April 1974 was £555,000. Subsequently a supplementary grant in aid of £225,000 was paid to the Board to cover additional expenditure, due to inflation. But it is not only inflation which is reducing the value of money and, therefore, requiring more; it is the increased demand and the increased staff needed to supply that demand. The excess of expenditure over income for the year was £443,000 which reduced the working capital to £122,000. The total expenditure for the year was £2,309,000 which exceeded the budget by £314,000. As I said at the outset, the problem of insufficient funds to do the job for which it was established has been a factor in the situation. The changeover from the levy system to the direct Government grant system certainly simplified and made more easy the funding problem, but I believe that despite the £99,000 inflow through the Manpower Services Commission at the end of last year there is a need for a more generous response by the Government through the Commission. I hope that the Government will take that point seriously because training in agriculture is just as important as training in any other industry.

The noble Lord. Lord Lee of Newton, mentioned the problem of time off—the day release courses and the block release. We and the Board have been concerned about that point, and it is rather nice to be able to say that in agriculture time off increased from 10 per cent. in 1961 to well over 30 per cent. 12 years later. But there is still plenty of room for improvement. It is a good fact that employers are more co-operative than they used to be, although some areas are more backward than others. But I believe that as the orginal intention was that day release—block release—should be made compulsory so there is a need for a mandate to be placed upon the industry—I will not say on employers only, but on workers too—to take advantage of block release.

Finally, the Hudson Committee, which was called the Joint Advisory Committee on Agricultural Education, suggested that the local authorities should wherever possible relax barriers to allow what I will call "free trade" in student places. It means that students would then be able to attend the course in which they are interested even if it was outside their educational administrative area and there was nothing near to them to which they could go. I believe that this, too, is an issue of some importance and it may be that the matter should not be left entirely to the good will and the understanding of local authorities but perhaps something mandatory should be done here as well. I am grateful to your Lordships for listening to me and I repeat my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Lee, for having introduced this debate.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, would like to express congratulations to the noble Countess and to the noble Earl for two splendid and relevant maiden speeches, and I echo the thoughts of others in hoping that we shall hear them again on many occasions.

I also wish to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, for introducing this Motion. It enables a number of us to take a direct look at the problem and, as I wish to do, to take an oblique look at it. In taking an oblique look at it, we ought perhaps to consider it relevant to examine the strengths and weaknesses of our competitors in international trade. But before we do that we ought to look inwards at the labour force. Unless, as many other noble Lords have said, we can convince the youth of this country that the future of the country is in their hands, then the provision of training courses is really quite academic.

So I pose the question: how are we going to arrest this great flood of young people into white collar occupations: young people who rush in to study psychology, political science and the so called social sciences? These are subjects which have no material end product, and quite frankly they require only a modicum of memory in order to pass the examinations. To counter this, it seems to me it is only the thrill of acquiring technical prowess which will replace this trend, and it is the projection of the adventurous nature of new inter-prises which will convert youth to travel the rough road of technology from which we hope to achieve material abundance.

As your Lordships will see, there is no shortage of young people attracted to the thrill of winning oil from beneath the sea. But how can there be any glamour in working on a production line at the end of which is a motor-car which one never sees? Is there any glamour left in the coalmining industry? There could be, if the industry was geared for exports. At the moment we have a directive from across the Channel which suggests that we ought to stockpile the coal: to pile coal as temporarily useless mounds won by human endeavour from the bowels of the earth. What a prospect! But, convert those stockpiles into exports and then we give a meaningful character to mining. Germany needs 30 million tons to make up its industrial shortfall. Where do they get it from? From Poland. Why not from us—but, my Lords, at our prices. Japan cannot exist without about 90 million tons of coal. She gets it from all over the world. Why not some from us? If we were exporting coal there would be no problem of wage awards to miners. The miners would be paid not with paper money but with hard currency won by exports.

The bureaucrats will say, "The noble Lord is talking a lot of nonsense". Nonsense, indeed! There are already machines which can double the output of our coal mines with the present labour force. Therefore, I say, attract young men into the mining industry, where they will become highly skilled, machine-based miners. What we have to do is somehow or other to get this message across from the top in order to breach the generation gap and to infuse into the youth the enthusiasm for doing something really worth while other than pushing pieces of paper from one office to another. I repeat: the essence of this Motion is to get the message across the generation gap and to infuse the girls and boys who are in school now—not those just going out into occupations.

I also venture to suggest that it is not irrelevant to scan the post-war years in the context of this Motion. Germany was the mainspring of a geo-political venture to creat a military empire. At the end it was left with a disciplined labour force which it then turned towards developing a geo-political industrial empire. There is nothing wrong with that. In the same way, Japan set out to form a military empire and failed, but with its disciplined labour force it then created an industrial empire. The Japanese empire shows no sign of relaxation. The German empire is showing the inevitable signs. It is a well established fact that no land-based country can develop any kind of empire indefinitely. Only an island can so do. At the moment, pockets of unemployment appear which mark the end state of growth of a land-based empire of any kind. Here we see Germany and ourselves with hardly what one would call pockets of unemployment, but they are symptomatic of the fact that the traditional characteristics of an industrial scene need radical change. So I suggest with all humility that it is a moment in time when we should consider, not politics, but new ventures; new ventures to creat the thrill of developing new expertise, of expanding one's energies when one is young, and directing those energies into areas which have no limitations.

I recently published two maps showing the trade routes of Great Britain in 1939 and the trade routes of Japan in 1972. The one map was a mirror image of the other. This, my Lords, I respectfully suggest, poses the central problem. Do we try to recapture those trade routes or do we go into those areas of the world into which the Japanese cannot enter? I suggest we do the latter. But to do this we have to have a rationale and to have it all at our fingertips. I therefore respectfully suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they might give serious consideration to the formation of an international enterprise board. The first task of this board, as I visualise it, would be to harness the trade attaché system throughout the world, and to have trade attaches with great industrial experience who become not only the salesmen of British products but also the touchstone for telling Britain what it should produce and where the markets lie in which it can be sold.

So I end with the point at which I began; namely, let us get across this gap, let us get into the youngsters of this country enthusiasm for creating new things. That is the first big obstacle. The training facilities are there. We have the Requirements Board with all its money to develop the research and development necessary to accommodate any new idea. So I suggest that in presenting this debate the noble Lord, Lord Lee, deserves more than our congratulations; he deserves our grateful thanks, because it has given some of us an opportunity to express optimism, based on the belief that Britain is still a country with imagination, drive and genius.

5.43 p.m.


My Lords, almost exactly three hours ago the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, rose to call attention to the need for an expansion of the training facilities for the skills necessary for industry. He has been very much congratulated on that. I would congratulate him on the power and the vigour with which he presented his original speech, which set the tone of what has been an excellent debate. I would also wish, of course, in the traditions of this House and out of personal pleasure, to congratulate the noble Countess, Lady Mar, who made her maiden speech this afternoon, and also the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. When one's own maiden speech is recent one remembers the neryousness that accompanies the first venture.

Sir Arnold Weinstock, who is the managing director of GEC, recently blamed the teachers in the schools of Britain for the difficulties facing the economy. In an article in The Times Educational Supplement entitled "I Blame the Teachers" Sir Arnold said this: Last year engineering employers failed to recruit as many apprentices as they wanted because not enough school-leavers achieved adequate educational standards. I think at the end of this debate, or moving towards the end of this debate, we should examine this serious remark and give it the attention it needs. Weinstock voiced other misgivings. He said that the products of our schools were illiterate, they were innumerate, they were lacking in the basic skills, they were inarticulate, and, most seriously of all, in the context of this debate, they were biased against industry.

I now must confess my own interest, as a teacher serving in the education service and coming occasionally to this House, and as a member of an association of teachers. I say that I do not think the teachers need fear the charge which has been placed on them by Sir Arnold Weinstock. They should look at it, they should analyse it, but they should not fear it. I am proposing this afternoon to take a little of your Lordships' time, in this very important debate to look at the question.

Sir Arnold Weinstock also said the teachers themselves, because of the nature of their disciplines and training, had an anti-industry bias, and they reflected this and passed it on to their pupils. He said that they should concentrate on the development of sensible attitudes to productive work and the effective teaching of the basic mathematical and literate skills. There is no one here who would disagree with that contention. It is the major job of the teacher, and one which the teacher has long recognised, to produce the fundamental basic skills because without them no one is able to fit into any sort of life at all, much less contribute to the community life of others.

Teachers know the difficulties that are involved in transition from school to industry. Very little has been said about that this afternoon because the specialists here have been concentrating at other levels. But they have not shunned industry; there is no sense in which the main body of teachers in the schools have shunned industry. They have seen their first task, and should always see their first task, as preparing their pupils for life, for living. Of course, work is basic to life and living. So any teacher would be a poor teacher who did not see it as part of his work to orientate the pupil within his class towards the industry which is the basis of the community in which he is to live.

I want to go on and say this. There have been a number of schemes for easing the transition from the schools into industry. These schemes, many of them put together under the generic title "link courses", have been composed of elements such as refresher courses for the pupils of lower ability who will be going out into the lower reaches of employment. When I say "lower", I mean only in the specific sense that I have been careful to lay it out here, in the educative sense. There are also very important link courses with colleges of further education, a very important aspect of our recent educational development. In these courses in 1975, 40,000 pupils of the schools of Britain actually were introduced to work taking place in colleges of further education, and they received some very basic benefits from that which will ultimately accrue to the benefit of British industry. For example, they worked with adults, many for the first time working in an adult environment with others. They used specialist equipment which would not be available to them even in the specialist departments of their sometimes highly developed secondary schools. They worked to industrial discipline, a very important thing for people going into industry, and they contacted other workers.

The principal of a college of education in West Wales told me the other evening that one of the most important by-products that he had found of the "link" courses was in a general philosophical, educative, as well as a specific workshop sense; because, he said, the young people going into his college were surprised to find men of 30, 40 and 45 and even 50 years of age following courses in their own time and in the firm's time in order to make themselves better workmen. These lads were saying to their teachers "Why is this? We did not realise that men went back to school of their own accord in order to re-equip themselves and qualify themselves for the new technologies". So there was a spin-off, which is too often forgotten when we list what has not been achieved in the educative service towards preparation for industry.

I want to go on to take up points which were very carefully expressed by my noble friend Lord Lee, and by the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, on the other side of the House. They very carefully expressed their assessment of the raising of the school-leaving age. They did not condemn it in an out-of-hand sense, but they expressed some concern that the high hopes for the raising of the school-leaving age had perhaps not been met in some of the achievements in education. We could all go further than that, really. We could say that there are people in some areas, industrial conurbations and elsewhere, who are deeply concerned that some of those staying on after the raising of the school-leaving age have not had the benefit from it that some of us had hoped for. I would go even further than that. But I want to say to my noble friend, to the noble Baroness, and to the House, that things have not stood still since the raising of the school-leaving age, and there have been many developments, some of which I shall outline this afternoon.

The system used in the raising of the school-leaving age concept was to give work experience. If your Lordships are interested you will find a publication which will give further information about this, on work experience in secondary schools. I can give a specific reference to it when I come to it in my notes and I will feed it into Hansard. These schemes allow pupils to work in industry, in commerce, and in public service, under the Work Experience Act 1973. In their last year of compulsory schooling many pupils are getting great benefit because they are following such schemes. They are meant to give insight into the work situation. I go back deliberately to this article of Sir Arnold Weinstock, a very important industrialist, who finally sneered at some of the schemes which were being carried out in the schools as, "amateur attempts at vocational training". I want to say that they are not amateur attempts; they are carefully researched studies upon which some of the finest brains, from both industry and experienced education, have been brought to bear in order to do something about integrating and linking the school, the community, and the school and the industry upon which the community is based.

I go on to say that such schemes are not aimed only at pupils of limited academic ability. Sometimes we tend to think only in terms of such people, and of such schemes. On the other hand, we may, in the context of the earlier debate last week which was close to this subject, think in terms of those people who are highly equipped academically. I want to say here that it is my belief that there is a real need for the education services of this country to look again at the broad mass of the people, within the two extremes in the schools, to see whether the funds which are being spent on education are in fact going as they should be, and enough of them, to this broad band of middle-range ability; because a great deal of British industry is carried by the broad middle banders of this world, a great deal of the talent is the talent which was overlooked earlier, perhaps even in the industry itself, and certainly in the schools to which many of these people went originally.

I can now give your Lordships the reference I was looking for earlier. It is a pamphlet published by the National Union of Teachers and called, Work Experience in the Secondary Schools. I have studied this and other pamphlets in preparation for this debate and if it were only that the schools were giving these young people experience of visits to industry and that sort of thing, and leaving it there, it would not be of much value, but in fact the schools themselves prepare very carefully. There is advanced preparation; there is post-course discussion, and there is course content assessment carried out in the schools.

Teachers see two benefits in such schemes for industry and for the pupil. They bridge the gap between school work and industrial work, and they mature those who are participating in the scheme. May I point out one way in which they do that. They show the pupil of the school that the school is a community organised around him, when very often the workshop is a place to which a man goes and in which he puts his time, and where it is not in fact organised specifically for him. Here they see a fundamental difference between the school as a workplace and industry as the workplace into which they will eventually go.

I think that it is at this point that some attention of your Lordships and of others might be focused. I believe that industrialists fail to convince us, some of the time, that they are aware that industry too, in exactly the same way as the school, exists to serve the community. The most caring of them realise this, and the most caring firms and the smaller firms take in their stride the challenge; but some give us the impression that they believe industry simply exists in order to make profit so that that profit might at some point be ploughed back into the community. We must all of us moderate our views, and we are in process of so doing in this crisis, but I wanted to make that one specific point.

The noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, referred to the City and Guilds of London and the Institute Foundation courses. She referred to one aspect of them. I want to refer to several: the work initiation course, the work experience course, careers guidance on selected theme courses, and motivation from work experience, which is channelled back into classroom studies and benefits the whole of the curriculum, an aspect which we sometimes forget in our industrial relationship questions. There are pilot guide courses under the City and Guilds which are mainly based on colleges of further education—some in secondary schools, but lacking the specialist equipment that colleges of education can provide.

The Inner London Education Authority has a Working Party operating at the moment, and a report on this can be seen in The Times. I seem to be backing The Times today, although The Times has never noticeably backed some of the ideas I have been putting forward. On 2nd April, 1976, The Times reported on the Inner London Education Authority's Working Party report, which is concerned to improve educational provision by schools and colleges for the low-achieving 15 to 19-year old group. Groups of children of all ages visit factories and workplaces, and there is also general school provision for prospective employees who visit the schools regularly and take part in careers guidance. In case I should have been too hard on the industrial context itself, I discovered that the CBI runs a scheme seconding teachers to commercial and industrial undertakings in order that they, the teachers, might be given experience of workshop conditions. But few local education authorities in this period of crisis have responded. They may lack interest. I think it is more likely that they lack funds. I am certain that they would not lack response from many teachers who would be very interested in widening their experience and expertise.

Industrial staff and teachers have requested joint meetings, and they suggest that industrial training officers might be seconded to schools. There is a further suggestion that I might make, again with a personal interest, that the network of teacher centres, some 580 to 600 of them, set up throughout the country, might be used as bases where men from the middle management of industry and from the shop floor of industry could meet with members of the schools' senior staffs and from the classroom floor in the schools in order to interchange ideas of joint benefit. I come back to the point that schools are acutely aware that the standards of basic academic skills of school-leavers are not high enough. So we make that point ourselves, because we do not need, as I said originally, to fear it. We do not burke the issue, nor shirk the problems. Secondary schools have remedial departments in order to cope with that, and under the Bullock Report each school has to evolve a language policy across the curriculum.

Perhaps your Lordships will bear with me at this late point in the debate, and I think within my time, if I were to say that teachers and educationists are now much more interested in language as the key to the wholye learning process than as a discipline in itself. It may well be that some of the difficulties that have been touched on in this debate are difficulties of communication, are difficulties across culture groups from which people find it hard to communicate because they do not have the expertise in linguistics that they have the right to expect after five or six years in secondary education. To look at that question we have to examine not just the teachers, not just the scholars, not just the schools, but the whole educative system and the financial granting provision made to education in this country by successive Governments.

Having said that language is the key to the whole learning process, may I go on to say that it is no longer sufficient to emphasise memory skills. Here I pick up a point made by my fellow countryman, the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn. I apologise to anyone who is offended by the fact that of late a great many Welshmen appear in so many holes in this House. First-hand experience of work and leisure contribute to the curriculum; pupils actually participate. Curriculum innovations by teachers, by the Schools Council, by other bodies—the Welsh Joint Committee in the case of Wales—and by other academic boards aim at developing self-reliance, decision-making, problem-solving and self-evaluation. Unless they are being pompous, those would seem to me to be the very skills for which industrialists are looking on the workshop floor, and there sits in front of me one to whom I am glad to pay tribute, my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek, who for a very long time has been arguing the need for what he calls "the democracy of the toolbox", envisaging an articulate workforce able to contribute properly and adequately to the processes of industrial development.

Such skills, if acquired, are much more valuable to the adolescent than are those educational dexterities that should be taught in industrial training schemes. I do not want to see the schools becoming places where they are teaching the skills and dexterities of industry; what they want to be doing is developing the range of the personality so that the skills can come naturally in the proper context. And anybody who knows the coalmining industry of Wales, or the structure of the industry based on that, knows that they have for long had their ladder of education where lads going in, whatever their promise, have had that promise developed within the structure. There are many other industries which do as well, and I do not hesitate to say that there is a very good record of that by industries in the public service, which have done a great deal to educate a great many people beyond what was originally considered to be their potential in terms of their contribution to industry.

I will not go on about the breakdown of the courses. I could give details of the composition of courses that are being followed leading up to careers guidance, but I leave that subject because course choices have to be widened, and I am moving now to the sixth-form level from the general school. Courses have to be widened because more young people are staying on at school. Some are doing this voluntarily, and this we welcome, and some are doing it under the pressure of a lack of employment; they are staying on at school because there is nowhere for them to go. As a result, some of our sixth forms have become very much bigger and they have had to widen the scope of the offering they make, and so there has been a development of courses to take account of these larger sixth forms—not that the academic ones among them should have less academic content but that those who are not designed to follow such courses should have courses of their own, running in parallel. For example, in Walsall these courses are orientated to the community. When I was doing my note reading and was being advised on this matter, I discovered that in Walsall there are CSE courses in leather technology which are relevant to that area and that they are run through to examination level. I take up a point made by the noble Earl, Lord Northesk, in his maiden speech, about the agricultural industry and a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Collison, who spoke from a lifetime of service in that industry, when I say that in Pembrokeshire there is a Mode 3 examination syllabus agreed at secondary level worked out in the teachers' centre and applied to all the secondary schools under which rural education studies are followed on an environmental studies basis and a Mode 3 examination result is given so that prospective employers within the industry can find out what experience people have had of farm visits. There are a great many courses in rural schools based on the farmyard and the neighbouring college of agricultural technology. There is a 16-plus involvement in social and community projects, which are themselves valuable, and I have mentioned the principle of a technical college in this context.

The Llanelly College of Further Education has a middle management course which attracts some 40 people from the local industries, many coming from small firms, and these people, aged downwards from 45 to 21, are people who have begun to be active on the shop floor, in a managerial or trade union sense, and they get the benefit of a specific course which is partly residential, and they work there, under the guidance of people who have been recruited from industry into the teaching force in order to pass on their expertise.

When Her Majesty's inspectors examined the subject of careers education in 1973 they found that in British schools it was inefficient. Only 25 per cent. of schools carried careers education for all or some of their pupils; that is in the third year of their education, when the choices are made. About 72 per cent. of schools carried them for fourth year pupils and 48 per cent. carried them for the fifth year. We were told that careers teachers had minimal training for their jobs and inadequate support resources. That was a serious challenge made by Her Majesty's inspectors; a serious criticism of the linking of the school with the community. Since then, however, there has been a tremendous improvement.

I gather from signals which I am receiving from my Front Bench that they would welcome the debate drawing to a close, so I will conclude my contribution by saying that, simultaneously, local education authorities created their own careers service. It was to replace the old youth employment service, which in some cases had done a good job, but both developments have been and are being frustrated by the old curse of a lack of funds, and, when we come down to it, what we are doing is not blaming individual elements within the teaching service but blaming the lack of sufficient funds, or perhaps an analysis of the application of those funds already available to see whether they can be redisposed within education and to achieve the things that we all want.

I do not think that the acquisition of basic skills and adult attitudes in pupils will solve the problems of British industry. I take comfort from a remark made by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander, in an earlier debate who also blamed the system but who said that the plain fact was that we had over-invested in the minority who went on to full-time and higher education and that we had under-invested in the great majority who had a major contribution to make to the economic growth of Great Britain.

My Lords, I end by drawing the attention of noble Lords to a problem from which we in West Wales suffer. We have there what I choose to call, borrowing from the Italian, the growth of "white widows". I have in mind an area de populated by lack of employment opportunity. Very often when criticism is made of the man who does not want to work, it is not remembered that there are a very great many people who want to work but cannot find work, and that there are a great many people who go to work all the time but who are very much under-rewarded for doing so. In the extremities of this country—in West Wales, to name one—we have had for all my lifetime chronic unemployment levels, and they are rising high at the present time. There are other high employment levels, higher than the English ones, and I recited them in the last debate in which I took part.

Some men wanted to work so badly that, having sensed the beginning of a new technology in Pembrokeshire with the arrival of the possibility of Celtic offshore oil development, they tried to involve themselves in that development at every level; they joined the big construction companies and learnt new techniques. Many of them were paid very high wages and when the refineries had been built and the piers constructed, those men went away overseas, leaving behind their wives and children. A very high proportion indeed of the school children in many of the peripheral areas of Britain are the children of "white widows" who are bringing them up in homes with one parent while the fathers, all over the world, are trying to continue to earn the money at the levels that their new skills have made them capable of earning.

It is the next generation, however, that worries me, and that is what this debate is all about. As a new generation comes along and as we enter a new half century, will we discover oil in the Celtic Sea in the same proportions, percentage-wise, as it has been found in the North Sea, only to find that we are bringing in men from outside, from other parts of Europe—from Norway, Spain and all over—who will be following up, as our men are following up, their opportunity because our own young people have not, in the interim, been trained to meet the challenge of a new development?

Your Lordships have been very patient. It was Montaigne who said that every man is three things: that is what he thinks he is himself, what other men think he is, and what he really is. I believe, with the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn, that, if a man is given a opportunity during his working time to discover the true potential which is in him, and if that, in turn, is allied to the expansion of his industry and he gets the credit and some of the profit from it, he will find himself and, in so doing, will release a new energy into Britain's affairs.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I must begin by congratulating the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and my noble friend Lord Northesk on their splendid maiden speeches. My noble friend suggested that he needed training and that perhaps we did not. I should have thought that his brevity and pointed remarks, as well as those of the noble Countess, had something to teach us. I shall therefore endeavour not to detain your Lordships for too long,. I should also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, for having introduced this subject. It is some time since we had a debate on industrial training and today's discussion has ranged far and wide and has produced one or two ideas. However, I have some things to say towards the end which will not he so appealing in this context.

My reason for speaking is that, for the past 6½ years, I have had the great privilege of being Chief Executive of the Distributive Industry Training Board—a most interesting, exciting and thoroughly worthwhile task and one from which I have learnt a great deal. I shall endeavour very briefly to mention some of the main lessons which I have learnt. The first is that everybody feels he is an expert on training. Everybody also feels he is an expert on education. Everybody tries to argue about the difference between the two. I shall not attempt that task. However, one thing I have learnt in that connection is that, speaking very broadly, those who are the more expert are those who are the closer to the job in which the training must be done. On the whole, the further away one is—and, when we get to Westminster, we cannot be further away—from the task for which training has to be devised and for which training needs have to be established, the less likely one is to be able to give good advice on how it should be carried out and on what sort of resources should be provided for it. That is the first lesson I have learnt. Perhaps I may in that context also say that I trust and believe that the Manpower Services Commission and its agencies will remember that, if they have not already discovered it, and carefully endeavour to use their resources and their interest in such a way as not to impose ideas on people who may know a little better than they do or who may be nearer to the task.

Again, I feel that it may be helpful to Governments—and here I speak of Governments in general regardless of Party—not to pressure bodies such as the Manpower Services Commission to produce rabbits out of a hat when they really have no hat. There is a slight tendency for people to say: "We have set up a great organisation and it is therefore bound to produce the answer for us: why, for example, aren't all the young people in the further education colleges?" The noble Lord, Lord Lee, made that point. There are all sorts of reasons for that. One cannot suddenly make young people appear in the further education colleges by devising the Manpower Services Commission, its agencies, the training boards and so on. It does not happen in that way, but there is a tendency to feel that it should do so.

A key matter, as I believe I have discovered during the last few years, was that we found ourselves talking not so much about training as about the development of human potential for which training is but a means to an end. Speaking in business terms, perhaps one should speak about the development of human resources. It is interesting that a manager, who is sometimes described as a controller of resources, will spend much time, energy and money on the problems of developing his material and financial resources, but will take the development of his human resources as something any fool can do. I shall not plug that point, but the most important lesson is that it is the development of human potential which is the key to the problem.

The question of how that is best done depends on the attitude of mind of the people involved—the attitude of mind of those whose potential could be developed, of those who manage them and of those who run the company in which they work. It might perhaps be better to say the enterprise in which they work, because this applies in all sorts of activity, and even to your Lordships' House. The attitude of people is what governs whether one will get results from training. The results if training is properly applied can be a greatly improved profitability in a profit-making organisation and a greatly improved sense of achievement and wellbeing on the part of the people in the enterprise. I think it very important that we should raise our ideas above the rather mundane level of simple training and should think in that sort of way because, if we do so, it will be easier to get the priorities right.

The next point which we in the Board discovered was that management training is much more important than the training of junior staff. All too frequently, junior staff are the ones who are trained. They are let loose with expensive machinery and therefore there is a feeling that they must be trained. They are the ones in whom the trade unions take an interest and they are the ones in many industries for which there is a good record past training for whom people automatically think training must be available. All too frequently, too, firms think that they have met the training requirements and done all that is needed if they have a good training programme for the new entrant, the junior staff and, just possibly, for the chap who is made a supervisor. In point of fact, however, the lesson which we learnt was not only that the training needs to be primarily for managers but that, roughly speaking, the more senior a person is the more he should be trained. We have recently suffered the sad death of one of our Members on this side, the noble Viscount, Lord Montgomery. Nobody questioned his approach to the task of training. He would not allow any general or field marshal of any nation who served with or under him—and I first met him when he was in NATO—suffer the thought that they themselves did not require training. The more senior they were, the more rigorous the training he imposed upon them. That attitude of mind is what we need in this country in enterprises, in businesses and in the Government service alike. It is not until—and this we discovered—the chief executive of an enterprise himself wants to be trained, that one can know that one is on the way to establishing the right attitude in any enterprise. That is the key.

In view of my opening remarks I am watching the clock very carefully, but apart from what I have just said I must add that management training is needed not only at the very top but also in the middle. All too frequently some middle managers will resist training, partly because they feel that they lose face by admitting that they require it, and partly by genuinely feeling that they do not need it. One of the biggest areas of difficulty is in both divising the correct training form and then persuading the middle managers to undergo it. It is the need for training that must be established before it can be decided what training has to be done. It is the need for training that must be worked out before it can be decided whether the resources necessary to do the training are available.

Therefore, it is necessary to identify what everybody has to do, because until that has been identified—and this includes the chief executive; perhaps it includes your Lordships, too—the training need cannot be established. Until the training need is established the training plan cannot be devised, and until the training plan is devised it is not known what resources are required to carry it out. It is a simple, logical process; and it is that simple, logical process that was the next important thing that we learnt.

The other thing we learnt was that there is a great waste of resources in this country, particularly in the further education system, as has been touched upon by several noble Lords. Quite often this is felt to be due to the fact that recalcitrant employers will not send the young people to do the courses, or that narrow-minded employees will not do the courses, and so on. All kinds of arguments are created to explain why young people will not do training which ought to be done. As the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton, reminded us, countries in Europe, like Germany, have further education programmes which, on the face of it, are vastly superior to ours, and they seem to have no difficulty. I believe that the Germans have been undertaking further education since 1912 on a compulsory basis, but that is not the point.

The point is why these resources, although they are there, are not used. I suspect that the reason is more deep-rooted than might appear, and this was touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Energlyn. He said that what we require are successful enterprises which young people will want to join. Your Lordships will recall that he talked about exporting coal and putting a different complexion on the coal industry so that people want to go into it. When people go into a successful firm, they will listen to arguments about training and about going to further education colleges. But sadly, on the whole, there is in this country too much of a feeling that enterprise is not a particularly good thing. I was extremely disappointed that in that otherwise excellent address on television the other night the new Prime Minister missed out what, for me, are two key words. One is "enterprise" and the other "opportunity". He did not mention either of them. I trust and believe that this was an oversight, and not due to a deep-rooted lack of thought on his part. But if it were, God help us!

I have some doubts which perhaps I might mention briefly. The Motion refers to the need for an expansion of training facilities. Like my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley, I suggest that we should use what we have before we start thinking of expanding. I believe that in this country, though probably not in all areas, we have a great deal of training facilities which are not being used to the maximum extent. We really ought to concentrate on that aspect before we think of expansion.

There is also the question of expansion of day release. I have already talked about this matter, but I wish to repeat a point. The day release problem will not be solved by saying that something ought to happen. Things do not happen that way. People will not go and do something just because they ought to; there must be a fundamental reason for doing it. That means that the courses and facilities provided by the further education colleges must be the kind which satisfy the needs of the potential customers. The colleges must develop an attitude of mind which calls upon them to go out and sell their facilities to potential customers; not expect the customers to come flooding in just because they ought to.

At the start of my speech I said that I was delighted about this debate but that towards the end I might make points which were perhaps at variance with that remark. What I mean is that on both sides of this House and on both sides of another place, we are, in general, in entire agreement on this question of training. The various Acts of Parliament put through by my noble friend Lord Carr of Hadley, and inspired by him in the earlier stages, have had all-Party support in both Houses, and since I first had the privilege of sitting in your Lordships' House I have attended perhaps half a dozen extra debates on this subject. But none of this seems to have achieved very much.

We must ask ourselves why the attitude of the country towards training is not more effective. Why, we must ask, in many cases do people not want to be trained? Why, in many cases, do employers not want to spare people to be trained? It seems so obvious to me and to most of your Lordships, but why can those involved not see that the development of human potential is the key to the success of this country? There must be a good reason for this. We ought to tackle this matter. We ought not to think whether it is a good plan to put such and such a programme across, or whether the latest publication produced by the Manpower Services Commission is a good thing; what we ought to do is tackle the matter at source. There is this great agreement at the rather distant level, and this comes back to the point that I was making earlier; namely, that the further one is from the firing line, the less useful one's thinking is on the practicalities of life: Perhaps it is that. I believe that we should investigate why people are reluctant, and we should accept the fact that it is no good going round exhorting them to do things when they do not want to do them.

6.28 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that the House enjoyed the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. His speech contained much that was based on experience from the post he held. Strangely enough, I believe that part of the answer to the question he asked is contained in a little pamphlet on the case for community service for the young adult. The case is put forward by the English Speaking Board. The pamphlet says: …the discipline of knowing how to learn, rather than the doubtful discipline of constantly needing to be taught. is one of the things in a transition period that is really needed. Sometimes I think that this is often forgotten. I must sympathise with the House. We have had a long and fascinating debate. The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, has been present throughout. As a university teacher and lecturer she always has something useful to say to your Lordships, and I assure her that my speech will not be too long. If I were to speak at length I should only be repeating much that has been said.

As has been said many times already, we are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton. I was quite honoured when he said to me, "Will you take part in this debate?", because I know how important this is to him. To the noble Countess, too, I would say how much I enjoyed her cogent, precise, constructive and—I use the wrong adjective, but since she is so beautiful I shall still use it—delicious speech. As for the farmer, I would say that I am a country bumpkin myself who was taught in a village school in West Wales how to separate milk. Yes, we did practical things in those days because we had to. Our boots were thick. I used to have home-made boots at ten shillings or five shillings a pair made by the village cobbler. We were taught practical things, redolent of the country—and the redolence was sometimes delicious despite the pigs and the cows that would be running round the fields.

We have moved away from that in this sophisticated world which used the unfortunate phrase, "You've never had it so good". I do not want to make a political point about it because we all said it, and it was said on farm, in factory and politically. I think we made a big mistake in emphasising that material amoral phrase, "You've never had it so good". What are the consequences today? I hear lots of things on my car radio. I heard a fellow of just nearly 16 grumbling about the job he was going to because he had to get up early in the morning; it was too early for him. He could hardly speak English. He was illiterate and completely innumerate (and I am not going to blame the teachers; I shall come on to that) and when he was asked how much a week he wanted he said, "Thirty quid"—be used the word "quid". It made me see stars. What is happening to the world when somebody of 16 with no qualifications at all expects to step out of the schoolroom into industry and earn that amount of money? It is not his fault; it is something which is wrong in the nature of the society in which we are living.

How delighted I was with my noble friend—not when he referred to me; I do not mean that—when he referred to Sir Alan Bullock's report of the Committee of Inquiry into Linguistics. It can be obtained in the Printed Paper Office, and it is a magnificent report. He smites this down at the beginning, and I think this entire debate revolves around it. It is strange that my noble friend should pick it up; but I quote his words on page 79: The purpose of reading is the reconstruction of meaning. A good reader is required to engage in critical and creative thinking, relating what he reads to what he already knows". This is, of course, what he should do; he should relate these things. This is the first skill. No matter what anybody's skills may be—and the noble Lord, Lord Platt, as anybody who has read his fascinating little book knows, has gone through a world of surgery, medicine, physician and music—and no matter whether they went to a public school or to a little country bumpkin school in a remote part of Scotland, Wales or England, their skills all began when they mastered the art of reading. I do not know when I learned to read. I think I could read when I was about three and a half to four. I had a funny old grandfather who used to bump me about telling me what words were—and some of them were not very good ones, either! I sincerely believe that the mastery of the English language is neglected today. The inarticulate people I sometimes hear being interviewed casually in the street—I could weep for them, because they cannot bring their mother tongue to bear. If they come out of school at 15 or 16 like that, how does one expect them to go into the progressive skills and training needed in modern industry?

We know about the need for the expansion of training. Quite a lot has been said about it, and it would be simply platitudinous for me to repeat it now. The country needs these skills; and true education or training—whatever definition people may argue about philosophically—is needed. Once you have the basic numerate skills and the basic mastery of the skills of reading—and here I am with my noble friend Lord Lee—then the need arises for more vocational skills. We should get rid of the snobbishness which is given to a man who may have his City and Guilds Gold Medal, which is equal to any degree. We must get rid of that innate snobbishness which seems to have grown up. It was not there at the beginning of the 19th century, because then we had the old mechanics institutes. As an extramural lecturer myself, I was working with Dick Crossman and others, and also Pachmann, who was at Oxford. We did a lot of extramural work in the adult education field; and out of the old mechanics institutes grew men who developed those great 19th century skills. If you look at some of these men—the Telfords, the bridge-builders and the others—they may not have had deep academic education, but they had learned the art of mastering the things that they had to deal with, and they had the courage to puzzle them out. Today, no children seem to want to puzzle a thing out; they get bored.

Here I want to come to the defence of the school teacher, teaching in a world that is surrounded, as it is, with the attractions of television. Kids know more about the world at five years of age than I knew at 15, because they are brought up with a series of images. Why learn to read when the television "yap-yaps" at you from two years of age until you are about 90? When you are from two to about ten you keep it on all day, and when you are about 70 to 90 it is your only friendship because everybody else has died. We have a world where literacy is less important than image building. I have never studied this in depth, but I think research should be made into it. In some way it is affecting the art of study in depth. The trivialisation of the reality of life is due to the saturation of life by television—or so I believe. I had better qualify it by adding that because it sounds a bit pompous.

Now the tragedy of vandalism. Everybody talks about it, but I have got my copies of The Listener back to 1933—it used to be the best threepenny magazine on the market—and I was looking at a report on juvenile delinquency in 1931. It was there, and some of us here are old enough to remember it. There was the grumbling about the teachers, there were the Weinstocks of 1931 saying, "I have had children from school who cannot read, and neither can they write". That has been going on through the ages. Sometimes the parents themselves say, "'I have got two of the biggest rascals you could possibly have". They cannot manage two, but in my day they expected a teacher to manage 80. The children were crowded like animals in a pen. What dignity, what creative thinking, can you give to one poor teacher who deals with 30 or 40 children? It is now 30. In my day—I will not tell you my first job—we had 80 kids in one class. I was fortunate to be a moderately good rugby player, and I used to bounce them around a bit. I did not really hurt them, but you are not allowed to do that today. We have become soft in the teaching; and I think that if Britain wants to regain its place we must start that energetic discipline—I do not mean the fascist approach—that joyously brings to a young man the art of learning without being taught by somebody else; because the road is open, his mind has been made creative.

I have two other points, and then I will leave it to the noble Baroness opposite who sits patiently waiting. I think I must make this case, because everything else, more or less, has been said. Without sounding too critical, may I put it in an interrogative way? I have got masses of figures, but it would be foolish to quote them tonight. Are we being a little foolish about defence expenditure? Everybody says, "More on guns, more on ships, more on planes". All right; but if you have an illiterate crowd of people without a knowledge of electronics, who are innumerate and who can hardly read or write, what is the good of the sophisticated instruments of modern life?

Have no illusions: in the 19th century elementary education started with people like my great-great-grandfather—not the one who was the champion milker of Wales, but the one who took part in engineering with Crochet Bailey. If he let some yobo drive his engine who did not know how to read, for example, the words "Put oil in every month", or "See that the water reaches this level", then he would "bust" the engine. It paid him to give a donation to the local church school and to support elementary education and he stressed "elementary" for he did not want them to learn too many secrets. People were taught to read and write not through any altruistic motives, but because if they were not taught then all the sophisticated steam engines—and we had 289 of these before the rest of the world had any—would have gone up in the air because the people driving them could not read or write. Like medicine and isolation hospitals, reading and schooling became a necessity.

I can name our greatest defence, our greatest wealth—and I shall again quote Ruskin's famous essay, Unto This Last from which comes the phrase: "There is no wealth but life". While we are talking here, there are 11 million schoolchildren in 37,000 schools in Britain. But I am looking now at another age group, the in-between group, those on the threshold, those between the ages of 15 and 16. We must fill in that year. It must not become a lacuna; it must not be left blank. Some of the money spent on defence may well be shifted over to training here—and the noble Lord is looking at me with his farming point of view in mind.

Farming is one of the front lines of our defence. We should have people trained. If the figures given by my noble friend Lord Collison are correct—they are magic figures but figures of a great loss in agriculture, sometimes because of the lack of skills—then money which is spent, even if we dip into the defence pool, on retraining and pushing forward the point of view of my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton would be money well spent.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, it is always tempting to gate-crash into a debate after my noble friend Lord Davies of Leek has spoken, but I owe an apology to the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, for intervening after taking my name off the list—but it was done from proper modesty, because I had not the time to do my homework. I will make only a very few, brief comments. My noble friend Lord Lee, in his excellent and comprehensive speech referred to the universities debate as a curtain raiser to this one. That is so true. He also referred to the fact that really our educa- tion was run on a caste system, the universities and the schools, and that there was still class feeling about industry and our attitude to industry. I remember many years ago when the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge were described as semi-monastic sporting clubs. That is really quite a description of how our education stood, say 50 years ago.

My noble friend Lord Lee mentioned the loss of women to the engineering industry. I was most interested in this, because during the war my husband and I visited any number of factories and there were the women in engineering factories working hard and absolutely loving it. So that there is no excuse, no arguments about its being too hard for them. They enjoyed it and they should still be in these industries if we need them. We have referred during the debate to the training needed for graduates; but I should like to stress the fact that training is needed for school-leavers. If we want to educate most of our children and more of our children to a higher level than we are doing at this moment, then we have not to use the arguments against comprehensive education, we must give up using the arguments of elitism and simply advocating direct grant schools and private education and all those things, because our task today is to educate as many children as possible to their highest potential as this is what the scientific and technological age requires.

The noble Lord, Lord Carr—and I have his pamphlet which was the only one I succeeded in reading before I came here—stressed, I think, the role of the employers. I hope that I am right in thinking that he said that the role of the employers in retraining and training was more important than the Government role. Perhaps I was wrong about this, but the conclusions in his pamphlet when comparing the differences between training in Britain and France, Germany and Sweden, showed that the role of the Government is much stronger in the training there.


My Lords, may I briefly say that the point I was making was that in terms of the sheer volume of training the role of the employers is the massive majority: but the importance of the Government role, although much smaller, is very great indeed.


My Lords, I am not trying to denigrate the role of the private employer or the employer generally, but this is what I read in Lord Carr's pamphlet. In these countries there was more money spent on industrial training. This pamphlet was published in 1972. I believe there have been many changes and we have become much better about this now. I think the noble Lord, Lord Byers, asked for training in economics for trade unionists—


My Lords, it was not me. It was some other noble Lord.


My Lords, I apologise. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking. This is one of the bees in my bonnet. Trade unionists need and require training and knowledge in economics. It was the noble Lord, Lord Carr, who asked this. Finally, I wish to add my congratulations to the very practical maiden speeches which graced this very interesting debate.

6.48 p.m.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, the hour is already late and your Lordships will not want to hear me for very long. I should like to add my congratulations to those given to the noble Lord, Lord Lee of Newton. It was extremely timely of him to introduce this debate and in such a practical way. Knowing the industrial "stable"—if he will forgive that term—from which I know the noble Lord, Lord Lee, came, and how he was exposed in early years therefore to a first-class industrial training, in the days when industrial training was not the fashionable subject it is, he spoke with great authority based on years of experience. I also join in in congratulating the noble Countess, Lady Mar, and the noble Earl, Lord Northesk. How nice it was to hear the noble Countess, Lady Mar, talking so obviously from personal experience of a practical kind, about which she had plainly thought a great deal. The freshness of her speech owed so much to the fact that it came directly out of what she herself had experienced.

My Lords, what I want to talk about this evening is the importance of stressing training as an element in a macro- economic policy. Training should not be regarded as something which is just added on as an optional extra when the rest of the economic strategy has been discussed. I listened in another place yesterday to the extremely interesting speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hoped at one point—but I was disappointed—that he was going to make the point about training as an element in his economic strategy. He got up to the fence and then did not quite jump. I do not think the point that training is an integral part of our economic strategy is incorporated into our thinking about economic development. It is about that that I want to talk this evening.

We have to ask in what areas and for what purposes are we training. The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, made the point very strongly that it is no use training unless there are jobs at the end, and jobs at the end depend on the successful development of industry. He was putting the responsibility on management training, calling attention to the need for management training, believing that only when managers were adequately trained would there be the growth and success in industry which would indicate the areas in which training was needed further down the fine. I agree with him that management training, and a more professional management—a greater degree of professionalism throughout industry—is something we greatly need. I do not think you can just leave it at that. That is just one aspect of making sure of getting the industrial success without which it is a waste of time and a source of great disillusionment to train people.

We have to look at our training needs in three stages: what we need to do immediately; what we need for the middle term; and what we need for the long-term economic development in the country. Before Christmas the Training Services Agency produced a publication in which they drew attention to what they called persistent job shortages, jobs which they are unable to fill. In a debate before Christmas I asked the Government what steps were being taken to train people for these jobs for which there was a persistent shortage, and I asked what success they were having. I had an interim statement from the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, in reply to that question. Christmas is quite a long time ago and, so far as I know, the persistent shortages still persist. If they do not, it would be interesting to know whether the situation is better. At least we could be told what the Government training facilities have done to see that these shortages have become less dominant than they were; what training facilities have been provided; what the response there has been to the training facilities; and, if there has, not been a response, why not and what are we doing about it.

The list given in the publication—I will not read out all the items because time is short—included occupations such as those of accountants, systems analysts and computer programmers, nurses and certified midwives, electrical and electronic engineers, engineering draughtsmen, personal secretaries, shorthand writers and shorthand typists, et cetera, other typists, office machine operators, postmen, mail sorters and messengers, chefs and cooks, waiters and waitresses, ladies' hairdressers, sewing machinists, tool makers, tool fitters, markers out, sheet metal workers, et cetera. These are jobs of a wide range of skills. They are not jobs just at the bottom level of the occupational hierarchy. A great many of them are jobs which are widely spread across the country. The demand for such people is not concentrated in particular geographical areas.

This publication came out at the end of 1975—four months ago. Could we know what has been done through the training services, and with what success, to fill these jobs? I have said before in your Lordships' House that it is ridiculous that we have achieved the most extraordinary hat-trick: Not only have we unemployment and inflation—which we used to be told was something we would not have together—but we have unemployment, inflation and shortage of labour. I would add to that an example of another kind of shortage of labour. I will not name the company, but it is in the Home Counties and exports over 60 per cent. of its output—and we are talking about export-led recovery. It is in high technology. It is turning down orders because of a shortage of labour. This is an absurd situation. In the immediate present we should be focusing on filling these vacancies and using training as a means to do so. May I say in connection with the company which is turning down orders that this is, in part, a housing problem. When I last spoke about this, the noble Lord, Lord Jacques, agreed that there had to be a blitz on the housing problem where it was holding up essential economic development, and it is linked with training. When the training has taken place, unless you can find housing in which people can live where the jobs are, then the training once again is wasted.

Turning from the immediate situation to the middle distance, in the Budget speech yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that, so far as manufacturing industry was concerned, he was anticipating a growth rate of 8 per cent. Some of us may think that this is starry-eyed optimism, but there is a lot of slack to be taken up. Even if it is not 8 per cent., if the rest of the Government strategy is to be successful there has to be a considerable growth rate in manufacturing industry. As soon as we begin to get anywhere near 8 per cent.—indeed, long before we get near that percentage—there will be an accute shortage in a number of key skills. It will be unforgivable if we get caught again. This as happened again and again. The country will not forgive the Government if, having been warned so often by experience and words, they fail to see that these shortages do not recur. I have asked in previous debates what the shortages would be if we had a 1 per cent. increase in the growth rate. I would add to this: what will be the shortages if we have a 3 per cent. increase in the growth rate, and a 5 per cent increase in the growth rate?

This is what I mean by saying that training should be part of the macroeconomic strategy. If you are planning—as the Chancellor of the Exchequer said—an 8 per cent. growth rate in manufacturing industry, there should be a related programme for training based on anticipation of skill shortages, and using all the resources, which are considerable, at your disposal, to see that those shortages do not arise. Now is the time to do it. The need to use training countercyclically is very important.

The point has already been made that people do not accept training when the labour market is brisk, when there are plenty of jobs that pay well to be obtained by just walking up the road. With all the income policies in the world, once the labour market looks up all sorts of jobs will begin to pay very well, as everybody knows. Then people are not going to undertake training. The time to put people into training is now, when jobs are difficult to get, based on an anticipation of what is going to be needed. There is this immensely important middle term programme which is needed linking the economic development with the training programme, to match the expectations which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave in his Budget yesterday.

Then, there is the even more important long-term picture. Nobody in their senses, if they were starting from scratch in this country, would have the kind of distribution of manpower and capital resources that we have. We have inherited it; it is part of our misfortune of having been the first in the field. We have inherited a most inefficient distribution of resources. We know that we need a restructuring of industry. That restructuring has to be geared to retraining. We need to focus our resources on the high profitability industries. It cannot be achieved overnight, but it can be done in a planned way over a period of years: encouraging people from industries in which there is a very low level of profit and, in future, very little expectation of improvement in profit, into industries which are in the high profitability category. If that means capital-intensive industry, so be it, because if we have high profitability and capital-intensive industry, this will create the surplus of profit out of which we can buy the services both public and private which are very labour intensive and which we all want but cannot afford at the present time. We need to look at the kind of industrial structure we should like to have in this country and to move steadily towards it, using training as an instrument for getting there.

However, if we are to do this, we cannot force people to do it; we have to make people see that it is worth their while to move in this direction. The first step would be for the Government to make clear that they want to achieve this kind of restructuring and that they want to concentrate our precious resources of manpower where they will be used to the best advantage for themselves and for the country as a whole. I believe that if that was made clear to people and if the path was mapped out to show people where they are and how we should proceed to get to where we ought to be, with training incorporated into this as an essential ingredient in making the translation from our present deplorable situation to the kind of set-up we could have, then I believe we should begin to get the response to the training opportunities that we need to have. But there has got to be a big difference between the overall rewards of the people who are going into the more profitable industries and into those industries which we need to develop and the rewards of the people who stay where they are in declining industries which are bolstered up in one way or another and enabled to go on in areas where we ought to be thinning out, if not shutting down.

So for individuals there must be a real incentive to move. Other countries have been able to do this, and any amount of money (I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that) is paid to re-train and re-house people to go into the industries of the future, into the high profitability areas of the future, and out of the low-profitability, declining industries of the past, instead of bolstering them up, which is what we tend to do—because at any given moment it is always easier and politically more satisfactory for the time being to go on in that way, and of course we live "in the time being" again and again, and never get on with the changes we need to make. So it must be made plain to individuals that this is something which is very worth while for them: in other words, to make changes. Anyone who has ever been concerned with the teaching world knows that you cannot just do things without training. People have to be made to see, "This is where the advantage for me lies."

People also have to be convinced that this kind of social change is absolutely essential if the country is ever to do more than merely have a spasmodic recovery and then sink back into the kind of situation we are in at present. This must happen, and there must be social support for it to happen. I believe that support would be forthcoming if the Government were to give a lead and to operate their training on the required scale, with enthusiasm, and as part of a real economic plan for making possible the recovery of this country and putting it permanently on a sound basis. If such a lead were to be given by the Government, then, not at once but over a few years if need be, more and more people would move in the direction in which it is necessary that they should go.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, first of all I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Lee of Newton for putting down this Motion, and particularly would I congratulate him on the way in which he moved it. I would also congratulate the two maiden speakers on their appropriate and very concise speeches, and join with other noble Lords in hoping that we shall hear from them often in the future. It is also a pleasure to have leading for the Opposition for this occasion the noble Lord, Lord Can of Hadley, who is known as a man of moderation and a man with great experience of training, whose views we respect even when we disagree with him.

It has been agreed in all parts of the House that in the post-war period we have had a persistent shortage of skilled labour. That shortage, in some parts of the country and in some trades, has existed even in the depression. I believe that two main causes can be identified. The first is a tendency on the part of employers to underestimate their requirements of apprentices and other labour for training. They all feel that, in so far as they have underestimated, they will be able to "top up" from the adult market if necessary. Consequently, when they all want to top up, the adult market is not there for them to top up from and there is indeed a shortage.

Particularly is there a tendency to underestimate requirements in the depression. Page 6 of Vocational Preparation for Young People, a discussion paper produced by the Training Services Agency, shows a graph in which the intake of apprentices follows exactly the curve of notified vacancies, so that the numbers of apprentices go up and down with the cycle. The same document gives us a probable cure for this particular problem. My noble friend Lord Lee read part of the quotation, but not all of it. On page 19 the Training Services Agency say that it, …considers it very likely that in the absence of a new initiative there will be a continuing shortfall in the amount of training of adequate standard for young people in long-term transferable skills, and that there is a real risk that this will actually get worse following the 1973 Act. The Agency suggest that the best hope of securing a radical improvement would be through measures which enable individual employers to be refunded the full cost of all training off the job, at any rate for the first year, through a collective funding arrangement of some kind and which also makes decisions about numbers, subject to sonic form of influence going beyond the short-term outlook of the individual employers. That, I believe, would go a long way towards the solution of the particular problem. I am informed that the Agency consider that the full cost for the first year of off-the-job training should include not merely the cost of training but also the wages paid to apprentices taking the training.

I believe if there were that kind of cost-sharing we might, at least in part, overcome our principal problem. But there is a secondary problem, which is lack of opportunity. In any country it is inevitable that there will be places where young people want to be trained for a certain skill but the facilities are lacking. That is inevitable. But in a country in which there are depressed areas with huge populations the whole problem is made very much worse. That is the problem we have. We have areas in the country where young people desire certain training but cannot get it unless they move home almost immediately after leaving school. That is a problem we have to tackle.

This is a matter for the training boards. I think we should tackle it in places such as Newcastle and Liverpool by having training centres, so that we can bring together young people from the whole neighbourhood—say, within 20 or 30 miles—for training. Their selection should be in consultation with a future employer as well as with the training board. There should be an understanding on both sides, on the part of the youngster and the parents, that he or she will take employment with the firm as an apprentice after, say, a year in a different part of the country; and on the part of the training board and the employer that a place will be reserved for that individual. That would also deal with the problem of the depressed areas in a way in which it has not been wholly dealt with up to now.

Our main problem has been to move industry into the depressed areas. We must also, at the same time, try to move people out, but if we wait until they are middle-aged and thrown out of work that will be too late. If we try to move them when they are young there will be a better chance. Fifty years ago a brother of mine, at the age of 17, was moved from the North-East to be a toolmaker on the West side of London, and he has been doing that job there ever since. It is something which can be done and which has been done, but which has not been done on the necessary scale. Also, it has not been done in the rather delicate way I have suggested. Instead of moving a youngster straight from, say, the North-East to the South-East, let him first be moved 20 miles away for one year for training, and then let him go to the place where he will find his work. If we tackle that second problem in that way we ought to get some results.

I should now like to say a word about group training associations which have an important place in our training work. The Training Services Agency gave these attention almost immediately after its establishment. It is of the opinion, quite rightly, that the development of group training associations would facilitate not merely the pooling and saving of resources, but also the employment of specialist labour, such as training officers. A good deal of work of that kind had already been done by the industrial training boards, but the Agency issued guidelines in order to speed up the formation of those associations and there has been marked progress in the last 10 years. In 1964, there were 60 such associations, while in 1975 there were 750 covering 1,500,000 employees, or 10 per cent. of those under the industrial training boards. These associations can be of very great value, especially to the small employer, and this progress so soon after the establishment of the Training Services Agency—but bearing in mind the work done by the training boards earlier—is to be commended. I would say at this stage to the noble Lord, Lord Carr, that all of the proposals for the vocational preparation of young people are at present under discussion between the Manpower Services Commission and the Government, and I believe that we can expect progress relatively soon.

I should now like to come to the question of girls, which has been mentioned by many speakers. They go into different employment from that of boys. Since the formation of the industrial training boards, giving us the levy grants system, the percentage of boys going into apprenticeships has increased from 36 per cent. in 1964 to 43 per cent. in 1974, and there has been a corresponding increase in the number receiving further education. But, in the case of girls, the percentage has remained fairly static at 6 to 8 per cent. Very few girls go into apprenticeships, but what we must bear in mind is the fact that, to a far greater extent than boys, girls have full-time vocational training before they go into employment. The youngsters receiving full-time education before they go into employment are predominantly girls, rather than boys. So that whereas the boys get the training while in employment, the girls tend to get a good deal of their training before going into it. That is because of the nature of the employment into which they go. For example, while only 7 per cent. of boys go into clerical work, 40 per cent. of girls go into such work and many of them have had some vocational training before they start employment.

Nevertheless, this is a matter which has received the special attention of the Training Services Agency, which is of the opinion that there should be much more, broad-based training for junior occupations, especially for girls, and it visualises the possibility of pilot schemes. It believes that such training should not be only in the occupations where girls tend to go at the present time, but also in the occupations where the employment of girls is rare. They have in mind even the skilled and technical levels of the manufacturing and construction industries, and the possibility of some kind of incentive schemes to encourage firms to give girls off-the-job training, particularly for technicians. At the present time they are in consultation with the engineering industry's training board, with a view to agreeing an incentive scheme for girl technicians in that industry. I should explain that I am advised that technicians are people who have a job that is somewhat different from skilled craftsmen, in that they usually need to have higher academic qualifications and are concerned with the planning of the technical work, rather than with the actual doing of it. Consequently, it would seem that there is scope for girls among technicians.

Baroness SEEAR

My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt, but is the noble Lord implying that girls would not be capable of doing technical work?


No, my Lords; I am not implying that they would not be capable of doing it. I am implying that they would more like to do technicians' work than apprentices' work. That is my opinion, from my contact with the girls. I would also agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Vickers, that there is certainly scope for the employment of girls as electricians—possibly more as electricians than as engineers. She asked about grants that have been paid to this country by the EEC for the training of females. I am afraid that our records are so carefully non-discriminatory that I cannot tell her how much we have had for girls as distinct from boys. This is information which would have to be dug out, and I should have to write to the noble Baroness.


My Lords, will my noble friend agree, in regard to the figures that were given earlier, that of all the developed nations Britain has the lowest number of 16 to 19-year olds in compulsory full-time or part-lime education? It was not stated that the figure is as low as 20 per cent.; and whereas four boys in every 10 get day release, only one girl in every 10 gets it.


My Lords, my noble friend should he content with making one speech, and should not make one in the middle of mine. I do not contest those figures in any way, but I was going on to say, as my noble friend Lord Lee pointed out, that it was stated in the Queen's Speech that the Government intended to give some priority to vocational preparation. I am informed that a good deal of the work which is necessary in order to come to conclusions as to the best way in which this can be done has already been carried out and that we can expect shortly a public Statement. Following that Statement, my guess is that there will be pilot schemes.

I wish now to turn to the Training Opportunities Scheme which deals with adults of 19 years and upwards. This Scheme has a dual purpose. First of all, it has a social purpose, in that it provides opportunities outside employment for those wishing to acquire new skills. Also, it has the economic purpose of facilitating the mobility of labour between trades. The training is done in three ways. It is done first in 58 skill centres, which I regard as a fancy word for "training centres", and another 14 centres have already been authorised. There are about 60 courses in those training centres. The second avenue of training is provided with the co-operation of 700 colleges of further education and, thirdly, with the facilities of about 200 approved employers for training on the job. When these three sources of training are added together, the number of courses available is increased from 60 in the skill centres alone to 500, taking together the three kinds of facilities that are available.

The increases have been spectacular. In 1971, the number of adults going through the Training Opportunities Scheme was 15,500; in 1975 it was 61,000; in 1976 it is expected to be 80,000 and will, 7 hope, include some of the training which the noble Baroness has in mind. I should also like to give to the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley, the assurance that the target is still 100,000; and I am advised that it is an immediate and not a long-term target. In reply to the noble Lord may I also say that the former craft courses have been much expanded and now include operational and commercial skills—in particular, management skills. Special facilities are made available for redundant managers. That answers a question which was asked by the noble Lord. Those who are interested in the retraining of women will be pleased to know that more than 40 per cent. of the retraining that is taking place in the Training Opportunities Scheme concerns women, not men.

A number of points were raised which are associated with the Training Opportunities Scheme. The question of the training of shop stewards was raised by the noble Lord. It is known to the Government that some of the training boards are undertaking this training, and it is known to me personally that some of the colleges of further education are undertaking this training in co-operation with the TUC which have provided the syllabus. I think that the training of shop stewards should be undertaken more systematically and on a bigger scale, and it is my intention to ensure that the suggestion which has been made is directed to the attention of the Agency. I would say the same about training for participation in pensions. These questions should be directed to the attention of the Agency and I will undertake to ensure that they are so directed.

On the question of immigrants, may I point out that immigrants were particularly identified in the five-year plan which was published by the Agency. To return to the training of shop stewards, may I also reply to a point which was raised by my noble friend Lord McCarthy. The Training Services Agency has secured the agreement of the Manpower Services Commission to the establishment of an industrial relations training centre to promote the training of managers in industrial relations. There has, therefore, been more progress than the noble Lord realises.

I come now to the special measures which have been taken in 1975 and 1976. Throughout 1975, the Chancellor made available to the Manpower Services Commission an additional £70 million for training. As a result of those special measures, an additional 30,000 places of various kinds have been made available. First of all, 12,000 grants have been made available to firms which are willing to take apprentices over and above their normal or planned intake. Secondly, special steps have been taken to continue the training of apprentices who otherwise would have been made redundant. In some cases, their training has had to be continued off the job; in other cases it has been possible to find them a suitable job. Thirdly, 7,300 awards have been made to the industrial training boards for young people who want apprenticeships but who have not yet found an employer. The intention is to give training off the job to these young people prior to their being placed in apprenticeships. Fourthly, 1,000 grants have been made available to encourage employers to promote industrial training for college-based, sandwich course students. Finally, 6,300 special grants have been made available to encourage employers in the construction industries to recruit more apprentices. They have perhaps been the most hard hit in the last few years.

So far as the 1976 programme is concerned, up to now the Chancellor has made available an additional £55 million and in its communications to the industrial training boards the Manpower Services Commission has identified three areas of special concern. First, it has identified and given top priority to those cases where some incentive would permit training to continue where otherwise there would have been redundancy. Secondly, it has identified the preservation of under-used training facilities. Thirdly, it has identified medium-term training below craft level as requiring particular attention.

Next, I should like to say a word about Sweden which has been mentioned by two or three speakers. I understand that Sweden has two principal methods of training. First of all, Sweden does not have an apprenticeship system such as we have in this country. That has practically gone. In its place, Sweden provides training in the upper secondary schools, and this takes place immediately after the end of compulsory schooling—maybe for up to two years. I believe that gradually we shall move towards that situation, but I hope that we do not move wholly to it. I have always taken the view that the most valuable training is that which takes place on the shop floor. The only danger of on the shop floor training is that sometimes it is not provided; there is pretence at training but it is not provided. Consequently, the advantage of off-the-job training is that there is some guarantee that it is being provided. However, I still have a good deal of confidence in on-the-job training and hope that we shall never go so far as the Swedes have gone, which would mean that our apprenticeship system would virtually disappear. However, we are moving in that direction, and as we mechanise more and more, it is inevitable that we shall.

The second trend of training in the Swedish system is the labour market training, which of course is quite similar to our Training Opportunities Scheme but on a much bigger scale. Our Training Opportunities Scheme has extended very greatly in the last few years, as the figures I have given have shown, but it would have to extend at five to six times the present level to get anything near the Swedish level. That cannot be done overnight. I think we must appreciate that a training and educational system within a country's economy is part of that economy, and it is not something one can change overnight without a great deal of dislocation. There are psychological problems. Before we can get to the stage which the Swedes have reached in this labour market training we should have to do a good deal of work in persuading our people that it is good for them to re-train, and sometimes good for them to move after they have re-trained. This work has to be done by all possible agencies before we can ever do labour market training on the same scale as the Swedes; but the progress of the Training Opportunities Scheme shows that in this respect also we are following the same line as the Swedes. We are getting there slowly.

I should like to refer to the speech made by my noble friend Lord Bowden in the debate last week. He made a speech which was remarkable for its interest and information, but it was almost a heartbreaking speech—a speech which no one could either hear or read without sadness. Here was a man who had built up one of our foremost faculties of engineering and he was finding that with all the possible facilities there, with one of the best institutes in Europe, he had empty places because the number of British people wanting that training had so badly fallen off that places were now available to overseas students and to some extent were not being used at all. I also had a good deal of sympathy with his analysis of the causes, but when he ended by blaming the Treasury, as we all do, I thought that was going a bit far. I have been in communication with him and have pointed out that for the last four years at least there has been a 100 per cent. depreciation allowance on plant but it does not seem to have encouraged very much investment. I think it was only last night that the noble Lord replied: "Oh yes, but that is replacement at historic cost. What about the replacement value?" My reply, which I am giving now, is that in deserving cases there have never been more or bigger grants available than there are now.

I should like to conclude by giving the House some more optimistic figures than the noble Lord was able to give. In spite of everything that has been said, we should note that whereas in 1963–64 only 6,000 graduates went into industry, in 1973 there were 12,000. In 10 years we doubled the number going into industry. So our efforts over the last 10 years have not been as bad as we thought, and let us hope that they will be even better in the next 10 years.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, when I tabled this Motion for Papers in the hope that your Lordships would debate it, I give you my solemn word that I had no idea we were going to have an apprentice Prime Minister. I am much concerned about his training and his skill in the future and, that being so, I could not possibly advise him to do anything better than to read this debate. If I may say so, I think the House has been absolutely at its best; the quality of every speech has been first-class. All had something to contribute on a vital and important subject. Your Lordships today have placed this subject squarely as one of the great issues which cannot possibly be neglected if we are to achieve that which every one of us wishes to achieve in seeing our economy go ahead at a faster pace. I am most grateful to everyone who has spoken in the debate, and most sincere in expressing my gratitude for the way in which your Lordships have received this debate and the really constructive approach which every speaker has made to it. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.