HL Deb 27 July 1981 vol 423 cc588-621

5.22 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [Industrial training orders]:

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 1: Page 2, line 31, leave out from first ("of") to end of line and insert ("sections (4) to (4B)").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 1. In trying to devise amendments to the 1964 Act, which itself has been amended by the 1973 Act, and in trying to work out which paragraphs were what, et cetera, I stumbled upon line 31 on page 2. Although I was not seeking to amend that line, it struck me that the wording of the references which I seek to remove were not quite correct and that perhaps it would be more correct to have an amendment on the lines of Amendment No. 1. I beg to move.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for trying to clarify the Bill, although I must tell him, with great deference and respect, that in my view the amendment does not have that effect but, in fact, obfuscates rather than clarifies. The Bill provides new consultation requirements before an industrial training board is established and applies the same requirements to cases where a board's scope is changed or where a board is abolished. My noble friend's amendment provides that the new consultation requirements do not apply to cases where a board's scope is changed or where a board is abolished. This, therefore, would give Governments much greater freedom to abolish or change boards without consultation with the Manpower Services Commission and without the commission consulting the industries concerned.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, may I intervene? I do not think that my noble friend has quite got the point of my amendment. I am not criticising or seeking to make anything different. What I am saying to him, in effect, is that Section 1 of the 1964 Act as amended has a subsection (4) but it does not have a subsection (4B). The amended 1964 Act has a Section 4 relating to levies and Sections 4A and 4B which relate to exemption from levies. All that I am saying to my noble friend is that I am not querying anything except that Section 1 does not have a subsection (4B). It seems to me that it would make more sense—and I am sure that this is what the drafters meant—if it were to say the "provisions of section (4) to (4B)", which does make sense within the amended 1964 Act.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, with respect, I think that the noble Earl is actually replying to the second amendment. This is the first amendment. It is not even technical; it is a matter of punctuation.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I confess that I am working from my brief rather than from the Marshalled List and it may be that I have missed something. However, my advice here, which seems to be clear in respect of what my noble friend has said, is that the provisions in Section 4 relate to levy proposals made by boards under Section 7 and not to terminal levies imposed under Section 9. Terminal levies are imposed by orders made by the Secretary of State without any proposals from boards. So the provisions in Section 4A and 4B are specifically disapnlied from terminal levies by Section 9(3) which provides that a levy may be imposed on employers: whether or not they are holders of exemption certificates".

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I must confess that the answer does not meet the issue that I think is there. I do not quite see the point which the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, made about punctuation. However, perhaps it is just a matter of punctuation. I hope that it is possible, with the speed with which this Bill is being rushed through, that the necessary correction can be made to get the English right. That is all that I am worried about. I accept what my noble friend said about what he thinks the effect would be if the English were right. It is very complicated, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 2, line 34, at end insert— ("(2) Where an order is revoked under subsection 1(b) above, any requirements for employers or establishments in the industries concerned to respond to actions under sections 6 or 6A of this Act shall cease to have effect.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move Amendment No. 2. This amendment follows on from those which I tabled in Committee and as regards which my noble friend Lord Lyell said, at col. 1305, and others, that he thought that I had gone too far. I wrote to my noble friend because I had not received the letter which he had promised me in Committee, and said that if I did not receive one from him I would put another amendment down—namely, this one. He has subsequently written to me a letter dated today, which was a little late.

Indeed, I would take this opportunity to say to the Government that I really think that they have rushed this Bill through. It is not as though it is granting independence to people who have already planned their Independence Day. Perhaps it would have been more reasonable if we could have had a little more time between the Committee and Report stages to allow for the normal exchange of letters, and also a little time between the Report stage and Third Reading. However, that is another issue which perhaps we shall discuss later.

I should like to raise one matter on which I hope that I may get some reassurance from my noble friend the Minister. What we are really concerned with here is to try to establish that when a training board has been wound up, companies in an industry shall not be pursued indefinitely by the Manpower Services Commission to render reports, provide information, tell how they are getting on with their training and so on. Those matters are the real burden of the training board system on companies that are training satisfactorily and are doing it smoothly; they have found them to be pretty intolerable. Indeed, they have found that they have had to employ more staff than they otherwise would have done in order to meet this business of supplying information.

If it has been agreed that the companies in an industry are training sufficiently well for the training board to have effectively done its job and expended its usefulness, then we want to spare those companies from the Manpower Services Commission (which will still remain in being) asking for all sorts of information. That would be tedious for the companies, and they hope now to be freed from that burden. Unfortunately, this letter of today's date, which was written to me by my noble friend Lord Lyell, points out that it is not the training boards—because they will be wound up—that are the problem (I seek to remove their abilities to trouble people); it is the Manpower Services Commission, which he says: has its own powers under the 1973 Act".

Therefore, I have been firing my guns in the wrong direction. Here I return to the fact that we have been rushed, because if I had had my noble friend's letter earlier than this moment, I would have tabled a totally different amendment, which I am not now able to do, for if matters go as the Government wish, I cannot even do so on Third Reading. Therefore, it has been a most unsatisfactory affair and I am extremely sorry that this should ever have arisen.

With that background and notwithstanding my distress, I hope that my noble friend will be able to give me some reassurances that we will not have the Manpower Services Commission bothering companies unnecessarily and unreasonably—in the eyes of the companies, not in the eyes of the Manpower Services Commission because I am sure that it thinks that everything it does is reasonable. I hope that my noble friend will be able to give me that sort of assurance.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I very much take the blame for the delay and for the fact that my noble friend received a letter from my noble friend Lord Lyell rather late. The reason for this was that I was, in fact, anxious to fall over backwards and sideways to try to accommodate my noble friend and have the matter looked at several times to see whether I could meet him, and I spent a great deal of time on it myself. As my noble friend will appreciate, there are of course some pressures and exigencies on business at this time of the year, but in spite of that I wanted to go over the matter with the care that I have just mentioned.

My noble friend Lord Lyell made clear in Committee that on winding up a board we would ensure that its affairs were discontinued and wound up in an orderly manner. It seems to us that it would be inequitable if employers, purely by delay, were able to escape their obligations to the board, and I think that in the letter my noble friend has elaborated information as to what will be the likely procedure at the winding up of a board.

What is relevant here is that if a board were to be wound up, it is not that the Government would be seeing that there would be requirements to provide information of a bothersome, unnecessary or unreasonable character, in the words of my noble friend, or that there would be gratuitous bureaucratic goings-on; but that the requirements would be imposed only where it was necessary to do so in respect of trying to ensure equity between levy payers. In other words, we do not want cries of "It's not fair" from one group or another. Therefore, I think that that acts in the interests of employers and subscribers to a board rather than against them.

My noble friend's other amendment concerns the situation where the Secretary of State has declined—assuming a board is to continue—to make a normal levy order in accordance with that board's proposals. There might be a number of reasons for this, but the most likely next step, if we assume that he intends that the board shall continue, is that he would refer the proposals back to the board, through the Manpower Services Commission, asking for fresh proposals, and saying why he was not prepared to implement the board's original proposals. Therefore, there would be no ambiguity so far as the board would be concerned; it would know what were his objections. There seems no reason whatever why the fact that the Secretary of State has declined to approve a particular set of levy proposals should in any way affect an employer's obligation to provide information to a board.

Again, I apologise to my noble friend if he thinks that he has been unreasonably treated. I have examined the substance of what he seeks to achieve with great care. I do not honestly think that his worries are well-founded, though I very much respect the job that he is doing in airing them. With those assurances, I hope that he will not feel obliged to press the amendment.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much for such reassurances as he is able to give me. Having learned that I am firing my guns in the wrong direction, there is no point in furthering this amendment. I should have said, as my noble friend picked up, that I was also talking to Amendment No. 11. I shall hope that in this rather cross-threading type of argument the message will get through to the Manpower Services Commission that people who are not under training boards do not want questions put to them. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.36 p.m.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 2, line 34, at end insert— ("(3) For subsections (3) and (4) of section 9 of the said Act there shall be substituted— (3) An order under subsection (1)(b) of this section shall provide for the winding up of the industrial training board and may provide for the application for specified purposes of any amount by which the assets of the board may exceed the liabilities and expenses of the winding up.".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a more important amendment. At the Committee stage we had an amendment which was on the same lines, which was moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, who has kindly added his name to my amendment, as has, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. We had a good debate on this subject. At col. 1354 my noble friend the Minister made the major point—at least it was the point that struck me as important—that we were seeking to reduce the powers of the Secretary of State in relation to the costs of winding up, and he said, "This is no new power". That is quite true; it is no new power when one goes back to the 1964 Act.

However, 17 years have gone by since 1964 and in the course of that time good training companies—and that includes a large number, but not all, of the largest companies, and size is important only in the respect that people pay a great deal more money, in money terms, if they are big because most of the levies that are raised are in proportion to the number of employers—and, therefore, many of the big companies have not had to pay, net, anything for the running of the training boards; because they have always received at least as much in grant as they paid in levy, and sometimes a great deal more. Furthermore, since levy exemption came in, they have been exempt from levy, so they have not paid it there. They did not ask for the training board system and in most cases they resisted it. Although there were some enlightened companies who thought that it was a good idea in 1964, they were relatively few. They did not ask for it and they have not paid for it, and now the training board is to be wound up. I am only talking about those which are to be wound up; we are not concerned with the ones that continue in being.

It will presumably be the case that training boards are wound up only when they have effectively done their job; that is, when they are dealing with an industry which is training satisfactorily or more than satisfactorily in the vast majority of the firms within that industry. Therefore, we are talking only about those to be wound up under conditions of good training. If it so happens that when it is wound up a training board finds that it does not have sufficient assets to meet its outstanding debts, for the first time companies will run the risk of having to pay something towards this training board that they probably did not want in the first place.

My noble friend when answering my last amendment talked about fairness. I am sure that that is foremost in his mind. This amendment is about fairness. Therefore, I suggest that it is perfectly reasonable to have Amendment No. 3; and if your Lordships would turn to Amendment No. 13, which goes with it, you will see that No. 13 in effect is the one which makes the point most clearly. It will ensure that if a training board is in net debt when it is wound up, the monies to pay for this shall come from Parliament and not from industry. I think that this is reasonable. The fact that the powers have been latent there within the 1964 Act to enable the Government to allocate charges how they wish is something that really does not bear consideration at this date, 17 years later. I trust that all noble Lords will join with me in trying to ensure that there is a fair deal for industry. I beg to move.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I am a little confused by this amendment. Perhaps the noble Lord can help me. I followed the noble Lord—in fact I voted for him—at the Committee stage on his original amendment. It was in fact Amendment No. 14 at Committee stage. The intention of that amendment, as I understood it, was that if a training board had not got enough money, the Treasury had to put the money in. I could see that. It seemed reasonable. The noble Lord has got it on the Marshalled List this time, and it is Amendment No. 13. Therefore, we are going to get a chance to run round that track again.

However, this amendment seems rather different. It is not dealing with deficits; it seems to be dealing with surpluses. It says: provide for the winding up of the industrial training board and may provide for the application for specified purposes of any amount by which the assets of the board may exceed the liabilities …". I do not quite see the connection. If we are to have an amendment to bail out a training board, which I would support, why do we also need an amendment which says that if the training board has a surplus then we have to instruct the Secretary of State to tell them what to do with that surplus. The amendment does not tell us what he should tell them to do with the surplus.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, perhaps I should answer that question. First, the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, did not vote with me because we did not take the amendment to a vote.

Lord McCarthy

I would have done.

Lord Mottistone

The noble Lord did in spirit, perhaps. I apologise if I have put down an amendment which is not as clear as it should be, but Amendments Nos. 3 and 13 were given to me on the advice of the CBI as a package. I understood that Amendment No. 3 was necessary in order to give validity to Amendment No. 13 in toto. It is for that reason that this amendment, which does not appear to be so directly on the point, is there, and that is why I directed your Lordships' attention to Amendment No. 13.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I should like strongly to support this amendment and try to reassure the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, at the same time by directing his attention, particularly as I think the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has sought to do, to Amendment No. 13 and to Schedule 1. These make it plain that we are there dealing with amounts by which the assets of the board may be insufficient to meet its liabilities and the expenses of the winding up, as opposed to the earlier amendment to which the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, was particularly directing his attention.

The amendment which was closest to this last time was that moved by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has said. In my few remarks I do not want to repeat what I then said but rather address myself to the situation as it obtains on the ground. What happens is that companies have training departments, and those training departments have budgets to which they are expected to keep. In the short term training is an option, and there is an enormous temptation when times are hard for those budgets to be reduced in amount. That is achieved by reducing the number of staff who are doing the training. It is training itself which has suffered lately by redeployment of training staff, by early retirement and, in the case of some companies, even by enforced redundancy.

If now, apart from having to pay for the operating costs of training, companies may be required by a levy, from which there is no exemption, also to pay for the winding-up costs of boards to which, as the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, has already said they may earlier not have had need to subscribe at all because of the high quality of their training, then the quantity and quality of training are going to have to suffer further at just the time when trainers and training of high calibre are needed more than ever. I join with the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, most warmly in asking the Government to accept this amendment. If they do not I can only suggest to the House that if the noble Lord presses his amendment, as I hope he will in those circumstances, it is supported by the House as a whole.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I should like to support this amendment and to ask the Minister to clarify what the Government's intentions on expenditure on training really are. If the Government want more money to spend on training it is an odd way to start; to remove quite a lot of potential money in order to pay redundancy payments for people in training boards. In the New Training Initiative, which comes from the Manpower Services Commission and to which presumably the Government give general support, it is clearly said that the MSC wants more monies spent on training. It cannot have it both ways. It cannot expect industry to pay more money for training, and at the same time to help itself—because that is really what it is—to pay a debt which the Government have incurred through their legislation and then charge up to industry.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, may I just ask the noble Lord whether he is wanting to press Amendment No. 3, because I still do not see the connection between Amendments Nos. 3 and 13? If he wants to press Amendment No. 13 I am with him, but he has not spoken about it.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, perhaps I could step into this difficulty between the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and my noble friend Lord Mottistone, though I am not sure whether I really should, because maybe their own fire would hit each other and I should escape unscathed. The facts are that the words in Amendment No. 3 are already in the legislation. Amendment No. 3 therefore works by leaving out words about the terminal levy. While the Government are not happy and do not accept the logic of the amendments moved by my noble friend, I have to say that they are extremely well drafted. In other words we do not have our squabble about the English that we had on the first amendment. There is nothing wrong with the drafting of my noble friend's amendments. What is wrong with them is perhaps the sentiments.

I will now turn to points of rather more substance. I hope to be able to answer the point a little more fully which the noble Baroness had just made to me. Since it is fresh in the minds of the House, may I say that I think again she is making a slight confusion between one's intentions over a field of activity, and the expenses and costs of possibly—I stress that—winding up a particular administrative structure which has been dealing with that activity. In other words, one can be totally sincere, not merely in sentiment but in digging into one's pocket as a Government, about additional training, while wishing to see a particular structure for dealing with training wound up. The terminating of any organisation involves some cost, and I shall argue shortly that it seems to us fair that there should at least be the possibility—we are only in possibility territory at the moment, if I may put it that way—that employers should pay a contribution here.

As my noble friend said, he moved a similar amendment in Committee. I argued then that the power to impose a terminal levy, which has existed since the 1964 Act first created these training boards, should be kept on, and I am still clear that I must ask the House not to remove this power. As I explained in Committee, power already exists to pay from public funds the liabilities of boards that are abolished; nothing going on in Parliament or at this stage of the Bill is altering that. I gave an assurance that we would take account of the very strong representations that were made, not only in this House but in another place, that the Government should not impose terminal levies on the abolition of a board. However, what I cannot do—I could not then and I cannot now—is give assurances that in all cases there will be no contribution from the individual companies concerned. Obviously Ministers are under great public expenditure constraints at the moment, and any money going finds a good home quickly enough in this economy.

Obviously employers dislike paying levies, and many employers would like to be free from boards without paying terminal levies. Indeed, employers do not want to have to pay the operating costs of boards where they continue, though under the Bill it has to be accepted that they will. It is the Government's view, reflected in Clause 2 of the Bill, that where boards remain, it is right that employers should pay their operating costs, as was the position in the period from 1964 to 1975, but we consider that Exchequer support of board operating costs has not been a success. Against that background, it does not seem to make sense that for those boards that are to continue, employers should be levied to pay for operating costs, but that if there is a net deficit on winding-up a board employers may not be levied at all in order to help pay for that.

I can see the force of my noble friend's argument that many companies have de facto been exempt from levy over recent years, and so have not had to contribute towards the industrial training board at all, whether we are talking about its operating costs or about the finance of grants to subsidise training. That will not be the case in future if the Bill goes through. Where a board continues, employers will have to pay through levy to finance its operating costs, most likely as a result of a board using the power under Clause 3 of the Bill to raise not more than 0.2 per cent. of emoluments on a non-exemptible basis; in other words, that the old exemption principle has been eaten into. This is very important because it is inconsistent with Clause 2 of the Bill (which he House has accepted) to deny the possibility of a terminal levy on winding-up a board.

While I acknowledge that in the recent past many companies have been exempt from levy on the grounds that they have been doing an adequate training job, in future employers will have to pay for the operating costs where a board is retained, and in this situation it seems not unreasonable that the Government should also have the power to ask them to help contribute towards the wind-up costs if they are going to gain fairly substantially by being outside the system altogether. We are, of course, not insensitive to the feelings of employers on this matter, and we are particularly sensitive to those employers who have recently been exempt from levy, for the good reason that they are doing a good job in this field. Therefore we retain the power for the Government to pay the net costs of winding up a board, but we wish also to retain the power to ask for a contribution from employers for the wind-up costs. That, in our contention, spreads the balance of equity quite well, and hope that my noble friend and others who have spoken to the amendment will see that that makes sense. It does not introduce any new great argument of principle and I hope, therefore, that the amendment will not be pressed.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, perhaps at the outset I should try to put the mind of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, at rest and try to persuade him that this amendment is as necessary as No. 13. If he looks at the 1964 Act, as amended, in particular Section 9, which is the one we are seeking to amend, he will see—it is the Employment and Training Act 1973, subsection (3) of which we are seeking to delete, as well as subsection (4), which follows from it—that it starts An order under … this section shall provide for the winding up of the industrial training board"— and this is the point and may provide for the imposition of a levy on employers in the industry, whether or not they are holders of exemption certificates and so on. What in effect we have done by the new subsection (3) to replace the old one is to take out the words: may provide for the imposition of a levy on employers down to "winding up" in the third line from the bottom; so we are really underpinning the removal from the measure of the authority of the Secretary of State, in making the order, to be able to provide for the imposition of a levy on employers in the industry to pay for the winding up. It is therefore consistent with and part of Amendment No. 13; if we had left this in and made Amendment No. 13 by itself, we should have got the schedule to the 1964 Act, as amended, right, without having got the main part of the 1964 Act, as amended. Thus, we can treat this as being a consistent pair and tackle the two amendment together. But if the noble Lord is not happy about that, perhaps he will raise it with me later and ask any questions.

As for the remarks of my noble friend Lord Gowrie, it is really all a question of fairness, and we in industry felt that the 0.2 per cent. to make sure the training boards were paid for was a tough blow anyway. As my noble friend knows better than most noble Lords, industry is going through very hard times just now and is finding it extremely difficult to make ends meet for everything, no matter what aspect of their business one turns to. be it investment or money for paying wages. We all know that industry is struggling. Yet here, at a time when it is struggling most, it is to be asked to pay extra money, on top of what it is already paying; and those of us who really believe that training is essential, as many people in industry do (not only training, but systematic training relevant to the affairs of the business) fear that to get over this, companies in their desperation will say, "Very well, 0.2 per cent. of a levy based on the emoluments of employees; but that will have to come out of the training budget". I think that is what the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was saying.

So this is a singularly bad moment. We have not made a great fuss about the figure of 0.2 per cent., because I know and the Government know that without something of that kind many of the training boards could not subsist, because, working on the old basis, they do not have the resources. We have not made a great fuss about that particular aspect, but if a training board continues it is going to give some advice and some help to companies. Even if the companies do not believe that they need such assistance, it is there if they do want it; and so such a training board does not need to be entirely useless, whatever people may think.

But, if the training board is to be wound up, then why on earth should the companies pay this money under these circumstances? It is not only unfair but in some way it is encouraging people to misuse the monetary resources which are available to them. I suggest that this is not something we should accept; that we should not accept the blandishments which the Government have offered so skilfully and disarmingly. I hate to do this to my noble friend, but I really do believe that this is an issue on which we should test the feelings of the House.

6.1 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 3) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided; Contents, 83; Not-Contents, 93.

Airedale, L. Irving of Dartford, L.
Amherst, E. Jacques, L.
Ardwick, L. Jeger, B.
Atholl, D. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Auckland, L. Kennet, L.
Avebury, L. Kilmarnock, L.
Aylestone, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lawrence, L.
Beswick, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Birk, B. Listowel, E.
Bishopston, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Briginshaw, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Brockway, L. Longford, E.
Bruce of Donington, L. Loudoun, C.
Caithness, E. Lovell-Davis, L.
Collison, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. McCarthy, L.
Craigavon, V. Mayhew, L.
Croham, L. Melchett, L.
David, B. Mishcon, L.
Davies of Leek, L. Mottistone, L. [Teller.]
Diamond, L. Mountevans, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ogmore, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Oram, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Peart, L.
Greenway, L. Phillips, B.
Gregson, L. Rankeillour, L.
Grey, E. Rochester, L. [Teller.]
Hale, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Halsbury, E. Seear, B.
Hampton, L. Shinwell, L.
Hanworth, V. Stedman, B.
Hooson. L Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Howie of Troon, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hughes, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Ilchester, E. Tordoff, L.
Underhill, L. White, B.
Wallace of Coslany, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Wedderburn of Charlton, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Wells-Pestell, L. Young of Dartington, L.
Whaddon, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Kimberley, E.
Allerton, L. Kinnaird, L.
Alport, L. Lane-Fox, B.
Avon, E. Lauderdale, E.
Bellwin, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E.
Belstead, L. Long, V.
Bessborough, E. Lyell, L.
Boardman, L. McFadzean, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Campbell of Alloway, L. Mancroft, L.
Campbell of Croy, L. Mansfield, E.
Carr of Hadley, L. Margadale, L.
Cathcart, E. Marley, L.
Chelwood L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Cockfield, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Cottesloe, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Craigmyle, L. Newall, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Norfolk, D.
Daventry, V. Northchurch, B.
Davidson, V. Nugent of Guildford, L.
de Clifford, L. Onslow, E.
De La Warr, E. Orkney, E.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Orr-Ewing, L.
Dilhorne, V. pender, L.
Donegall, M. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Eccles, V.
Ellenborough, L. Portland, D.
Elles, B. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Redesdale, L.
Ferrers, E Reigate, L.
Fortescue, E. Romney, E.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Gainford, L. St. Davids, V.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Gormanston, V. Skelmersdale, L.
Gowrie, E. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Gridley, L Strathspey, L.
Grimston of Westbury, L. Swinfen, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Trefgarne, L.
Trumpington, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Henley, L. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Holderness, L. Vickers, B.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Vivian, L.
Hylton-Foster, B. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Killearn, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Kilmany, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

6.10 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 4: Page 2, line 36, leave out ("Minister") and insert ("Secretary of State").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Rochester moved Amendment No. 5: After Clause 1, insert the following new clause:


Before exercising his powers under section 9(1) of the Industrial Training Act 1964 (as amended) to make, amend or revoke an Industrial Training Order for any sector or sub-sector, the Minister shall—

  1. (i) consult with employers and trade associations, employee and trade unions representatives, and educational bodies 600 closely concerned with the sector or sub-sector, with the Manpower Services Commission and where appropriate the Departments of Trade and Industry, to ensure that the training arrangements, whether statutory or voluntary, within each sector or sub-sector are capable of—
    1. (a) being the agent to oversee the collection and maintenance of manpower information relevant to training;
    2. (b) identifying incipient skill shortages and other learning needs, and encouraging training of the quality required to meet those needs;
    3. (c) promoting training relevant to organisational change and new technology;
    4. (d) promoting vocational preparation and training schemes for young people in conjunction with appropriate educational and other bodies;
    5. (e) facilitating the reform of apprentice and other training arrangements;
    6. (f) developing the training of managers, professional and commercial staff, and employee representatives;
    7. (g) acting as an agency for channelling Government funds for meeting national training objectives;
  2. (ii) ensure that the sector or sub-sector should have the means of implementing these arrangements by—
    1. (a) having continuing access to sufficient finance and qualified staff with appropriate administrative support;
    2. (b) reviewing progress towards the agreed training objectives;
    3. (c) having sufficient field training staff to discuss with employers the means of achieving the agreed training objectives;
    4. (d) undertaking regular consultation between representatives of employers, employees and education;
    5. (e) providing or procuring any training advice, consultancy or direct training services requested;
    6. (f) maintaining adequate local, national and cross sectoral links;
  3. (iii) publish an Industrial Training Order, as provided for in section 1(1) of the Industrial Training Act 1964, to cover the agreed industrial training arrangements for each sector or sub-sector.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, it might be for the convenience of the House if I speak to amendments Nos. 5 and 6 together. The Government wish to see training put on a voluntary footing wherever possible, retaining statutory training boards only when they judge that this is essential in the light of the Manpower Services Commission's sectoral review, which we understand is to be published in the next few days. On this side of the House many of us would prefer to build on the foundations already laid by existing training hoards. Recognising these conflicting views, the purpose of Amendment No. 5 is to seek a generally acceptable solution by ensuring that all sectors of industry have not necessarily a uniform training organisation, but training arrangements, which can apply to statutory training boards, where these remain, or operate on a voluntary basis under conditions appropriate to the sector concerned.

These arrangements would have to be capable of conforming to certain criteria, which are so framed as to encourage an approach to training that is not simply structural, but which is of an organic problem solving kind that focuses on objectives and achievements. The criteria are set out in sub-paragraphs (a) to (g) of paragraph (i) of the first new clause, and their introduction would have to be preceded by wide consultation. They are identical to those contained in a somewhat similar amendment which was moved at the Committee stage when they commanded general support.

So much for the aims that the amendment seeks to achieve. The means are contained in paragraph (ii) of the new clause. They, too, are substantially the same as those in the earlier amendment, and again they met with general approval in Committee. I would stress once more that these means are flexible and they are designed to accommodate the requirements of large and small individual companies. Perhaps their most important feature is that they seek to ensure the maintenance of adequate local and cross-sectoral links, and they thus recognise that training needs are related to the local labour market and they apply across sectors, rather than being identifiable only on the basis of individual industries.

In its revised form the amendment takes account of objections that were raised to the earlier amendment, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, who was critical of a paragraph which sought to place on the Secretary of State a duty to publish criteria for acceptable training arrangements in each industrial sector. At that time I endeavoured to assure the noble Lord that his fears were misplaced, but the best way of dispelling them seemed to be to exclude altogether the offending paragraph from the revised amendment, and so that is what has been done.

I would prefer criteria for each sector to be published, but that is not a matter of crucial importance. The only essential requirements are that training in future, whether it is carried out under statutory boards, or through voluntary arrangements, should be capable of achieving the objectives set out in paragraph (i) of the new clause, and that each sector of industry should have the means of implementing such arrangements in the way specified in paragraph (ii).

In the earlier amendment there was another paragraph that was not challenged in Committee. That paragraph sought to ensure that every major sector of the economy, including the public services, was provided with the training arrangements set out in the new clause. I continue to feel that training outside industry is woefully inadequate, but I am advised that if provision were made in the amendment for sectors of the economy other than industry, and a clause was accepted by the House, then in another place a further money resolution would be required. Only the Government can move such a resolution, and with the current pressure on resources they might be reluctant to move it. I do not want the amendment to fall eventually only for that reason, and because what we are all mainly concerned about is industrial training, a paragraph dealing with other sectors of the economy has therefore also now been taken out of the new clause.

If for a moment I may turn to Amendment No. 6 containing the second proposed new clause, I would say that the words in it first appeared at the end of the amendment moved in Committee. However, it, too, has certain funding implications, and that is why it now forms a separate amendment. I see no reason why this further clause should not be acceptable to the Government, because if training arrangements are to be capable of what is set out in paragraph (i)(g) of the first new clause—that is, of acting as an agency for channelling Governments funds for meeting national training objectives"— or if, in the national interest, training arrangements are sanctioned by the Secretary of State in pursuit of objectives that go beyond the industrial sector concerned, either the Government funds will already be available, or the Secretary of State will presumably make them available to finance training for which he has thus taken a responsibility. Even so, the words in question now form an altogether separate clause, so that in the case of any unforeseen difficulty the second amendment, after being moved, could be withdrawn, or possibly need not be moved at all.

Returning to the first amendment, I hope that the revised form in which it is now framed will enable the noble Earl to accept it on behalf of the Government. In Committee he questioned the need for training arrangements to be subject to review in the courts and for the full panoply of the judicial system, as he put it, to be brought into play. I trust that on reflection he will feel that such language was hardly appropriate and that it is unlikely that these matters will be put to such a test. Certainly I would have thought that the risk of the law not being observed in this case is much less than it is in matters affecting, for example, the closed shop, picketing, and secondary action, on which the Government legislated last year with support from these Benches. But I am content that the same test should be applied in each case. The point is well put in A New Training Initiative, the MSC's consultative document, paragraph 47 of which states: Legislation works best when it supports or enforces what is widely regarded as desirable and acceptable". I cannot put it better, and both the document and that statement are immediately relevant to this amendment.

It is indeed a matter of judgment whether or not there should be statutory criteria to safeguard the future of training in this country. That is the question which we must decide on this occasion, with rather more of your Lordships present than was the case in Committee. I would only remind the House that at the Report stage of the Bill in another place, where there was moved an amendment which sought to introduce statutory obligations far more stringent than those contained in this amendment, the basic principle that I am now advancing was supported by a number of Conservative Members of Parliament, who had participated in earlier discussions in the Standing Committee, and who clearly know a great deal about training. One of them suggested that the Government should themselves consider bringing forward a new clause having objectives similar to this one. The Government have not seen fit to introduce such a clause, but the House now has an opportunity to remedy that omission. Improvements in training have certainly been made since the 1964 Act, but in my view we must make sure that the ground thus gained is not now lost.

I suggest that there is one further positive point of great importance to be made in favour of including this new clause in the Bill; that the framework outlined in paragraphs (i) and (ii), and especially the need for each industrial sector to maintain adequate local, national and cross-sectoral links, might well prove helpful, even essential to the Secretary of State in the increasing attention that is now rightly being given by the Government, most recently I understand by the Prime Minister only this afternoon, to training in this country, particularly in the case of young people.

My Lords, I think that I have just about finished. There was one other point I wanted to make, and it really enables me to end where I began. This amendment represents a sincere attempt to seek a consensus among us so that in future, irrespective of the political complexion of the Government of the day, there can be continuity of policy in this vital matter of industrial training. I beg to move.

6.21 p.m.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I want to support this amendment with every possible force, because it seems to me it has been moved with admirable modesty and clarity by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. I believe it is an unanswerable amendment. We are not asking for the specification of published criteria to define the aims or outputs for acceptable training arrangements, which was that part of the previous amendment moved at the Committee stage which, as has been said, was objected to by noble Lords on the other side. We are taking out the extension of the area to cover, for example, the public service; that has gone. We are moving as a separate amendment those parts of the original amendment which dealt with the raising of monies.

Therefore this amendment comes down to a simple commitment on the Government's part to a consultation process. It really specifies that before the Secretary of State abolishes an ITP he should carry out a consultation process. "Well", you might say, "that's in the Bill already". Yes, but it does not say in the Bill already what he is consulting about and what the certain things are he could be looking for in this consultation process. That is what this amendment does, and I should have thought the things put in the first part of the amendment about the collection of information, the identification of skill shortages and promoting vocational preparation where all things that the noble Earl in the first part of his Second Reading speech said that the Government support. Therefore I cannot see why there should be any objection to that part of the amendment.

The second part of the amendment merely asks the Government in the consultation process to ensure that the sector or sub-sector should have the means of implementing these kind of aims. It spells out again, I should have thought, a whole series of very simple, straightforward and non-controversial points which the Secretary of State would genuinely wish to take into account.

As was said by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, on Thursday the Manpower Services Commission, we believe, will unveil their sector by sector review. I should have thought that anyone would expect the Manpower Services Commission to be guided by these kind of principles. They would be very foolish if they were not, and I should have thought that the Secretary of State, in reviewing what the Manpower Services Commission does, would be guided by similar principles.

Therefore, the only possible reason that the Government can have for rejecting this amendment is because they say, "Trust us; we don't want it written down, we don't want to be bound by it. We agree with it, but trust us". I suggest that we have here a very broad level of consensus which the Government ought to listen to. They ought to listen at least at one stage in this Bill to what is being said on this side of the House, and supported on the other side of the House, both here and, as the noble Lord said, elsewhere. It is the disease of not listening; it is the malady of not marking that is the defect of this Government, and I ask them to listen to this amendment.

6.24 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, both the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, in support, very fairly said that we were returning to the same ground we covered in Committee in a slightly more limited sense, as I fully acknowledge. I do not want to repeat my remarks at the Committee stage, particularly as, just as one should not seek a false consensus, one should not seek false confrontation.

I agree with most of what the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and indeed the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, have said. I think the difference is not simply that the Government are saying, "Trust us"; the Government are saying that it is really inconceivable that the kinds of criteria being mentioned in these debates would not be part of a consultation process by an operating arm responsible to Government and also responsible to a tripartite body like the Manpower Services Commission. But we have a deep philosophic suspicion, if you like, of confusing policy issues and practice issues in a legal statute.

The noble Lord, Lord Rochester, said: "Well, what about picketing? What about secondary action?". He reminded the House that he gave us his support for those provisions in the Employment Bill, now the Employment Act. I would respectfully suggest that that is a very different area. There, under our step-by-step approach, we were dealing with precise, agreed and targeted abuses. We were trying to prevent sin. Here, we are trying to encourage virtue. I think all of us agree that the law has a role in the prevention of sin; but whether a statute law has the same force in the encouragement of virtue I personally rather doubt.

If I may be allowed one general and possibly rather subjective observation, one of the irritations which modern Parliaments cause both the judicial system and the country as a whole is the tendency of successive Governments—and I do not think we are guiltless, though I think Labour Governments tend to be guiltier—to insist that one cannot govern, one cannot express or undertake a policy, unless one immediately gives it statutory force or effect. It is, I think, all part of the dubious principle of appealing to one's activists: "Of course we meant what we said, we made a law about it."

But, my Lords, good practice in industry, whether it is in the wages field—as I am sure the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, with all his experience would agree—whether it is in the field of participation and industrial democracy, or whether it is in the field of training, seems to me not to be achievable by statute law. Some of our opponents are giving the impression that if only one passes the right kinds of laws one could legislate such evils as inflation or unemployment out of the system. Would that we could! There would be overwhelming majorities for such laws. But think of the disappointment when it was found that the law was operating in an area where it could not give very great effect.

The Earl of Longford

If the noble Lord will permit me, he may regard it as a quibble, but if he is going to talk about training he is getting quite close to education. After all, the principle of compulsion in education has long been accepted.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, what has been accepted is not compulsion as to what is taught or how the education is conducted but the age and broad structure, the age of the pupils and when they may leave school and the provision by statute for their schooling. I would suggest that that is a very different form of compulsion or form of statutory undertaking from what we are discussing here.

We come back to the fact that the various tests proposed in this amendment—litmus tests, if you like, with which I find myself in agreement—would be subject to judicial review. It seems to us that the right way to decide whether voluntary arrangements are adequate to replace a statutory board is for the Government to take a decision as to whether or not these arrangements are satisfactory; that the Government should take that decision in a publicly-informed way, based on the expert views of the Manpower Services Commission and based, too, on consultations and discussions with those closely concerned; and not by any manner of means, having taken that decision, to say, "Trust us", but to be answerable for that decision through Parliament in the ordinary way—and this is provided in the law as it is at present.

I should have thought, too, following something said by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, that no one with any experience of the MSC. whatever criticisms we can all make from time to time of that body, would imagine that it would not necessarily take tests of this kind into consideration, whether in a sector by sector review, as we shall shortly see, or whether as part of its ongoing work in this whole field. But, inevitably, any attempt to set out in statute the tests of the adequacy of voluntary arrangements will fail to make sense in some circumstances. For instance, paragraph (ii) of the proposed new clause requires the Secretary of State to ensure that each sector where a statutory board is going to be established or abolished should have the means of achieving training objectives by being able to undertake certain functions—and these are functions which are clearly within the power of any statutory board. But the Secretary of State cannot ensure anything as regards voluntary arrangements, because by definition these are voluntary, and if they are voluntary he simply does not have powers over them.

If I may take another important instance, the first new clause here presupposes a distinct training organisation for every sector of the economy with its own staff and administrative support. This is required before even rather minor changes of ITB scope are made. This might not be appropriate for some industries where there are a few large companies that do the industry's training adequately without outside inter- vention. I think these two points about the text of the proposed new clause are not quibbles or pedantic, but demonstrate the very great difficulty we get into when we try to accept for the sake of argument the voluntary principle, as your Lordships did in Committee, but try to pin it down, as these amendments try to do, in statute.

Having said that, I should like to give some encouragement or some earnest to the House. The House will, I am sure, feel that the Government should give evidence that voluntary arrangements are adequate to meet essential training needs before any statutory training board is abolished, and I can give an absolute assurance that our intention is to do so. When my right honourable friend the Secretary of State first asked the Manpower Services Commission to review training arrangements, he spelt out quite specifically the criteria upon which his final decision would need to be based, and I do not think there is any disagreement between us as to the validity or good sense of the criteria. We have also gone further and spelt out some of the functions that we would expect voluntary training arrangements to have if they were to meet these criteria; for instance, monitoring training needs and arranging action to alleviate them, setting up-to-date training standards and working with unions and education bodies.

The commission, as we have been told and as I can confirm, has been examining the proposals for voluntary arrangements against these specified tests or criteria. They are perfectly free to bring other tests to bear. I expect their report will spell out what additional tests they themselves have applied. I am sure that that report will form an excellent basis for wide public and parliamentary consideration of future training arrangements; and the whole nature of training in this country, and the part that the MSC and the boards play in it, make it extremely difficult for any Government, even if they were so foolish as to want to do so, to ignore this criteria.

I am sure that that is the right way to proceed, and that the acceptance of these amendments would really intrude rather deeply into the voluntary principle without, as it were, in any sense changing what would happen in the field. With that, I would ask your Lordships to resist the amendments if they are pressed.

6.36 p.m.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, I very much hope that the House will support this amendment. I think we would all be encouraged by the latter part of the noble Earl's speech, in which he was indicating to us a real concern about the standards to be applied by the voluntary bodies, and for this, I am sure, we shall be grateful. But I do not think that that answers the point that we have made, requiring these standards to be embodied in the legislation. The reason why I say that is that I ask the noble Earl to think ahead as to what is likely to happen after these bodies have been established. The fact of the matter undoubtedly is that inside industry there are some people who have been leaders in training inside each sector—some firms which have been leaders, which have pioneered new training and who care a great deal to see that this should go on. There are others who do not care at all; who would have done nothing unless they had been prodded. This goes for inside companies as well: there are always some people who are keen on pushing ahead and some people who want to drag their feet.

If these criteria are embodied in legislation, the pro-training lobby inside the industry and inside the company can point to it in the Act and say, "Look, you have got to do this because it is in the Act". When the first initial interest in the organisation has passed, unless there is something there to help the people who want to keep the impetus of training going and to have such a provision in the legislation, which is the greatest help to the people who want to keep the impetus going, then when all the other burdens crowd in on industry, when the Government have taken all this money out of the training budget with which to pay the redundancy payments, and when all the other things have happened, it is going to be increasingly difficult for the pro-trainers to beat the anti-trainers inside the voluntary body inside the organisation. To have it in the legislation would greatly help the voluntary people who want to push training.

Lord Kilmarnock

The noble Earl referred to the Government's philosophy, and the Government are in a philosophical difficulty over when, where and how far to intervene in many aspects of our national life. Laissez-faire is nostalgically pursued. In this context it is called voluntarism, and then a stream of qualifications and modifications of the beloved principle have to be introduced to meet the realities of the 'eighties. Against this background it seems to me that the new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, is of positive help to the Government. He has withdrawn his suggestion of national criteria put forward at the Committee stage, thus taking account of the objections advanced both by the noble Earl and by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. Personally, I think such criteria will have to come in the not too far distant future. But on this occasion Lord Rochester has avoided any attempt to undermine the central principle of voluntarism. He has, so to speak, given it the benefit of the doubt, and has provided, or is putting on offer, a very useful mechanism for buttressing it and for providing it with certain safeguards if and when it fails to live up to the Government's expectations.

I said at Committee stage that I thought it unfair of the noble Earl to describe Lord Rochester's amendment at that stage as a straitjacket. It might have been better described as a corset the strings of which might have been tightened only if the anatomy began to sag. This is not even a corset; it is a nice loose-fitting garment to which the Government should not take exception. If all goes well, it might not even need to be taken off the shelf. Yet I think it may be useful to the Government in a number of ways.

As regards (i)(a) and (b) concerning collection of manpower information and the identifying of incipient skill shortages, there can be no doubt that this sort of information is vital if the MSC is to do its job. This has been stressed in all its recent reports. How on earth is it to do this in sectors where an ITB never existed without some sort of statutory underpinning such as is provided here.

Then again we have sub-paragraph (i)(d), which may be of considerable assistance in the implementation of the Government's declared intention to improve the youth opportunities programme. We shall welcome whatever improved training provisions for school-leavers the Secretary of State has been able to obtain from his colleagues, on which we understand an announcement has been made in another place this afternoon. I am only saying that Lord Rochester's new clause will make it easier for the Government to put their good intentions into effect.

Next, subparagraph (g) is important. It appears from the MSC's last corporate plan and from its annual report, for 1980–81 that the proposed saving of £90.8 million on the board's operating costs is to be spread over two years, that is £45.4 million in 1981/82 and 1982/83 respectively. That still leaves £53.7 million in the kitty of each of those two years will be devoted to the category "services to industry training bodies". Much of this will presumably be made up in training grants which ran at something like £35 million in 1980–81. These grants were spread over all the boards, some of which, at least, will fold if their operating costs are to be withheld. How is this money, therefore, to be administered in such cases other than by the consultative arrangements Lord Rochester's amendment provides? Incidentally, it is interesting to note, or I was interested to note, from the small print in table 9 of the MSC's current report that only about one-quarter of the so-called operating costs are in fact spent on administration, that is, only some £12 million across all the boards; the rest goes on training and advisory services other than those contributed by the Government through the MSC. That seems a modest cost to pay for the nearest thing we have to a national training network.

The Government may be coming to the same conclusion themselves. It was reported in the Observer yesterday and in the Financial Times this morning that the Government were going to set aside an extra £20 million over two years for the ITBs. One wonders what for. Is it possible that this Bill is being overtaken by events before it becomes law? We await enlightenment. In the meantime, I suggest to your Lordships that for so long as we are obliged to dwell in this area of uncertainty the new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, is a thoroughly sensible safeguard, and I hope that Members from all sides of the House will support it should the noble Lord decide to press it to a Division this evening.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I very much appreciate the sense that is behind the production of this amendment. Indeed, sub-paragraphs (i)(a) to (g) are exemplary in their summing up of what is needed as the basis for good training, and I entirely agree with that; but I hope the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, will not wish me to go any further in his support in view of his great kindness in supporting me in Amendment No. 3, because I so much agree with my noble friend the Minister. It is not for us to backseat drive through this sort of technical detail. Really, you are covering two things; you are covering the statutory bodies which remain, and the voluntary bodies.

As you know, I had the great privilege to be the first director of the distributive industry training board. If there had been something like this in the 1964 Act I would have been appalled and so would my board. We were proud of our independence to serve our industry, to find out its needs and help them to satisfy them, and we did not want to have this sort of thing. One of the joys of the 1964 Act was that it did not go into that sort of detail. It had its broad criteria, and nobody would object to that, but they were much broader than this. So I think even a training board, particularly when it has been going for nearly 20 years in some cases, would not wish suddenly to be told to do things that it probably thought of 15 years ago. Furthermore, when it comes to the voluntary training organisations, for the very good reasons that my noble friend advanced, they are even less likely to want to take to this sort of "busying" from a centralised body.

When we sit in Parliament we tend to develop a sort of air that our deliberations are so splendid that everybody must at once think they are good. Most of the people in the country think they are absolute nonsense. I am very sorry about this. And if they do not think they are nonsense they say, "I had thought of this already. What are you telling me to do it for?" So fundamentally I disagree with this, and I would certainly not joint the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, in the Lobby as he kindly did with me just now.

There is only one thing that comes out of the Minister's contribution to this debate that did worry me very much indeed. If I understood him aright, in order to make a sort of sop to the mover of this amendment he said, "Well, of course we will be taking jolly good care to see that the voluntary bodies do all the right things", or words to that effect. I may be misquoting him, and he will forgive me if I do, but perhaps I can once again remind him, as I did in the Committee stage, of his remarks to me at Second Reading. I am quoting from col. 1303 of the Official Report, of 15th July, which in its turn quoted from col. 140 of 30th June. My noble friend then said: He asked me whether the Government were requiring a collective training organisation in all cases. The Government will not necessarily insist on collective training organisations in all cases". I do hope that my noble friend can reassue me that this is still the view of the Government and that it will not be necessary for companies in particular types of industry, where they take a particular form which we discussed in Second Reading, to feel that it is obligatory for them to have a centralised voluntary organisation of one sort or another. If he could reassure me, I should be grateful.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I tried to make it clear—he must check this carefully with Hansard tomorrow—that voluntary is voluntary, but that of course the Secretary of State has spelt out the criteria which the MSC can look at and which he will take into account as he examines their advice about whether or not a board should be wound up. But I do not think I was in any way soppier than that.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl, but perhaps I should just finish by saying that basically this is a great conundrum. If you come to think of it, there are very few areas where this sort of thing is being inflicted on people. For example, if you take the qualifications for personnel officers, which the noble Baroness knows better than anybody else in this House, that is not in a statute. That is laid down by the Institute of Personnel Management, by agreement with its members, but it does not appear in statute, and I think perhaps it is going a little far to put this into the statute. I think it needs more to be in a relevant part of the qualifications for personnel managers or training officers. That is the sort of place where these details need to be.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. If I may endeavour to respond to the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, first, while his views are fresh in my mind, I find it rather difficult to follow his argument. If it is that all these things are already within the compass of statutory boards, I cannot see why he should oppose their being included in a clause such as this. However, the difference in the situation now is that the Government are seeking wherever possible to introduce arrangements on a voluntary basis, and it is that situation with which we have to contend. I should have thought that everybody would feel that the arrangement spelt out in this first clause was essentially flexible—it might even be said to be loose—in the form of a framework. It does not even amount to an organisation. The operative word in the clause is really "arrangements"—that there should be training arrangements.

We are in a position where there have been statutory training boards; there have been statutes going back to 1964. We are not starting in a green field. The aim of the Government, as I understand it, is now to circumscribe those statutes severely. What I am concerned about is that once the law has been modified in this way, we shall go back in degree at least to the situation which obtained before 1964. In a time like the present with severe recession—and this was the comment made both by my noble friend Lady Seear and myself in response to Lord Mottistone's amendment—we may go back to a situation where training is reduced, to the great detriment of the nation.

So far as the noble Earl is concerned, I do not think that I need to respond to his criticisms concerning voluntarism. That was done by my noble friend. But he talked, as I understood it, of the distinction between large and small firms and said that it is all very well to have these arrangements with large firms, but what about the small ones? The industry I know best from experience is the chemical industry. I should think it perfectly possible for that large number of small firms which are within the chemical industry to come under the scope of the Chemicals and Allied Products Industry Training Board, as it is called, to be accommodated within arrangements such as those suggested. They could be accommodated by external training resources, by services provided by consulting agencies, by staffing through consultants with good track records in training, and so on. I will not weary noble Lords by amplifying this aspect.

The essential point I want to make—and I come back to the point I made at the beginning—is this: we are in circumstances where many people are saying, "Let statutory training boards continue", and many others, particularly the Government, are saying "Let there be more voluntarism". We are seeking to take advantage of the opportunity in this vital area to gain some co-operation.

Last Friday the Secretary of State, as the noble Earl well knows, called for a second industrial revolution. That was to be based on co-operation between the Government, unions and management. Here we have a glorious opportunity to obtain that co-operation and to involve representatives of education as well. There is the further opportunity (to judge from the attitude taken in another place by a number of Conservatives to the issue underlying this amendment) to gain at least a measure of agreement in this vital area between the political parties. I am sorry that the Government do not seem minded to reach what I should have thought was a reasonable consensus in this matter, and I feel obliged, in the light of the support that I have received from many quarters, to press this amendment.

6.55 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 67; Not-Contents, 91.

Airedale, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Amherst, E. Kilmarnock, L.
Ardwick, L. Lee of Newton, L.
Auckland, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.
Aylestone, L. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Lovell-Davis, L.
Beswick. L. McCarthy, L.
Birk B. McGregor of Durris, L.
Bishopston, L. Mayhew, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Noel-Baker, L.
Byers, L. Ogmore, L.
Caradon, L. Oram, L.
Collison, L. Peart, L.
David, B. Phillips, B.
Davies of Leek, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Diamond. L.
Donnet of Balgay L. Rochester, L. [Teller.]
Elwyn-Jones, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Evans of Claughton, L. Seear, B.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Stedman, B.
Gifford, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Gregson, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Grey, E. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Hale, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Hampton, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Hanworth, V. Tordoff, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Underhill, L.
Hooson, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Houghton of Sowerby, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Hughes, L. Whaddon, L.
Irving of Dartford, L. White, B.
Jacques, L. Wilson of Radcliffe, L.
Janner, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Jeger, B. Young of Dartington, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Caithness, E.
Allerton, L. Campbell of Alloway, L.
Alport, L. Cathcart, E.
Avon, E. Chelwood, L.
Bellwin, L. Cockfield, L.
Bessborough, E. Colville of Culross, V.
Boardman, L. Colwyn, L.
Brabazon of Tara, L. Cottesloe, L.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Craigavon, V.
Craigmyle, L. Mancroft, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mansfield, E.
Daventry, V. Marley, L.
de Clifford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Dilhorne, V. Mottistone, L.
Donegall, M. Mountevans, L.
Dundee, E. Northchurch, B.
Eccles, V. Onslow, E.
Elles, B. Orkney, E.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Orr-Ewing, L.
Ferrers, E. Pender, L.
Fortescue, E. Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Fraser of Kilmorack, L.
Gainford, L. Portland, D.
Gardner of Parkes, B. Rankeillour, L.
Gormanston, V. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Gowrie, E. Redesdale, L.
Gridley, L. Reigate, L.
Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. Romney, E.
St. Aldwyn, E.
Harmar-Nicholls, L. St. Davids, V.
Henley, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Holderness, L. Shannon, E.
Hornsby-Smith, B. Skelmersdale, L.
Killearn, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Kilmany, L. Stradbroke, E.
Kimberley, E. Strathspey, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Swinfen, L.
Kinnaird, L. Trefgarne, L.
Lane-Fox, B. Trumpington, B.
Lauderdale, E. Tweedsmuir, L.
Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Loudoun, C. Vickers, B.
Lyell, L. Vivian, L.
McFadzean, L. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Mackay of Clashfern, L. Ward of Witley, V.
Macleod of Borve, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 6 not moved.]

Clause 3 [Exemption from levies]:

7.3 p.m.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 7: Page 3, line 19, leave out ("or") and insert ("by them and, if and only if, the employers concerned so wish, those").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to talk to Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9, 10 and 12. At Committee stage I had somewhat similar amendments down and my noble friend was persuasive on the fact that he required the powers to extend training as one of the criteria for levy exemption beyond the employees of the particular company concerned; that is, beyond those in the employ of the company to those in employ in the industry. I sought to have "and in employ in the industry" removed. My noble friend persuaded me that in the case of what are known as "transferable skills"—which at the time I pointed out that I thought were pretty mythical anyhow—assuming for the moment that they exist, it would be necessary to have these extra powers which the Government have added to the provisions of the original 1964 Act, as amended in 1973. So in order to accommodate my noble friend—and I hope that this will appeal to him and make him sympathetic to my amendments—I have left it in, as it were, so that it should cover those in employ within the industry but not within the company, but that their training should be voluntary; that is, that companies should be asked to undertake the training of people not specifically in their own employ but within the industry only on a voluntary basis. That is the sense of Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10.

In the case of Amendment No. 12, it seems to me and to those in industry who advise me that if the Government are asking a company to take on extra people who are not specifically their own employees—and indeed some of the bigger companies certainly have the resources to do this—it would be only reasonable for the Government to pay for that. The object of Amendment No. 12, which is in effect a new one from the Committee stage because I had not thought of adding the point at that stage, is to say: "Yes, all right: let us have training of people in the industry and let us have it done on a voluntary basis, but when we do let the Government pay for it." I beg to move.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, my noble friend has indeed modified the amendment he moved in Committee, which then sought to preserve the present situation under which the criteria for getting exemption from levy have to relate to the needs of particular establishments of employers. He is now proposing to allow these exemption criteria to relate to the wider needs of industry only if individual employers agree. I am indeed most grateful to him for trying to move towards the Government's position. I can assure him that the Government are sensitive to the views he has expressed and to the fears of some parts of industry that wider exemption criteria will be used to make them pay for unnecessary training. We do not think that these fears are likely to be realised, but, if they were, the Government could prevent levy exemption proposals from being put into action. That is why I should not think that my noble friend's amendment would be necessary.

We propose in Clause 3 of the Bill to allow training boards to set exemption criteria which relate beyond the needs of individual employers to the total needs of their industries. We do this in the belief that some boards would need this power to meet needs which would not be met if, as it were, one totted up the whole sum of training done by individual employers.

As paragraph 9.19 of Outlook on Training said, in some industries which have a relatively high proportion of employess with transferable skills requiring lengthy training, it may not be possible for a board to ensure that enough people are trained if their board is required by statute to exempt employers wholly from a training levy. The industries in which statutory boards are most likely to be retained are probably those with training needs that cannot in fact be satisfied by the sum total of individual employers' efforts. So giving boards the power to set exemption criteria going rather beyond the needs of individual employers seems to us to be a useful lever in industries of this kind. It would give boards leverage over employers to raise their training provision or to get more levy to finance the training needed.

What my noble friend proposes, in our view, would tend to undermine this. If employers were given the choice, as he would like, between having exemption and not having it, they are pretty well bound to opt for exemption, and therefore the boards would have no leverage whatsoever. I have tried to justify why that leverage would be necessary. But I would again stress, as I constantly do in respect of this Bill, that Clause 3(1) is an enabling provision. It does not mean that boards are obliged to put forward proposals for exemption certificates based on these wider criteria which we have been discussing. They can, if they consider it appropriate, still propose that their exemption criteria should continue to be restricted to the needs of the individual establishment. I would certainly envisage that some boards would not need to set exemption criteria going beyond these individual establishment needs. If a board did propose to do so and if, in our view, it was unnecessary to do so, we simply would not approve their proposal.

I can assure my noble friend, however, that we will proceed with the greatest caution on this matter and will take very full account of any views expressed to us by industries where wider exemption criteria are proposed. I hope that that assurance might lead him not to press this amendment.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, may I just ask my noble friend whether he spoke to Amendment No. 12 as well, or has he a little more to say on that subject?

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I was speaking to the package of Amendments Nos. 7, 8, 9 and 10. I rather anticipated that Amendment No. 12 would be taken separately, but I am grateful to my noble friend for correcting me. He took Amendment No. 12 with his first package. All I have to say about Amendment No. 12 is that the legal powers already exist for grants to be made to employers, and already are used to channel Government money to those employers who provide training which goes beyond their immediate needs. So we have certainly no intention of withdrawing those powers.

Indeed, though this goes a little wider, the Government are spending £30 million a year in grants as of yesterday—rather more as of today—through the MSC and ITBs, to employers for the kind of training that my noble friend has in mind. In fact, whenever, looking back to our debates on the last amendments, we talk about voluntarism this is not, with respect to the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, laissez-faire. It is a mixed economy and the Government intervene at the margins very substantially indeed. I should like to be on record with that.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to my noble friend, particularly for his concluding remarks. I shall read with great care the report of what he has said, and will see that it is widely read in the appropriate quarters. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 8 to 13 not moved.]

Schedule 1 [Miscellaneous amendments to Industrial Training Act 1964]:

7.14 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie moved Amendment No. 14:

Page 12, line 28, at end insert— ("and (c) for subsection (3) there shall be substituted— (3) Without prejudice to the generality of subsection (5) of section 1 and subsection (5) of section 9 of this Act, an order under either of those sections may vary or revoke an order under subsection (2) of this section.". 4A. At the end of section 12(1) of that Act there shall be inserted the words "and the order imposing the levy shall make provision as to the time within which such an appeal may be made".").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Mottistone moved Amendment No. 15:

Page 12, line 28, at end insert— ("( ) (a) For paragraph 3(a) of the Schedule to that Act there shall be substituted:— (a) a number of persons appointed after consultation with such organisations or associations of organisations representative of employers engaging in the industry as appear to the Minister to be appropriate; (b) an equal number of persons to those described in subparagraph 3(a) above appointed after consultation with such organisations or associations of organisations representative of persons employed in the industry as appear to the Minister to be appropriate. (b) Paragraph 3(b) to the Schedule to that Act shall be designated "3(c)". (c) In paragraph 5 to the Schedule to that Act, the first paragraph reference shall be to paragraph 3(c).").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, at the Committee stage there was an exchange between myself and my noble friend the Minister and, indeed, the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. Both eminent noble Lords on the Front Benches sought to persuade me that the worries that I had over this part of the Bill were unfounded. However, I read very carefully the report of what they had to say and I came to the conclusion that the Bill as it stands could create the condition which we had in the distributive industry training board in 1971, when we had an equal vote of the employers' side and the trade union side—that is, nine people each—and there was an impasse which eventually had to be settled by the Secretary of State.

Paragraph 3(a) says that there shall be an equal number of employers' representatives and employees' representatives, and we are talking about a majority of those two. If the levy is to go up, the employers will all gang together to prevent that happening, so they will be equal to the others and there will be an impasse. If the levy is to go down, the trade union side will, in the normal course of events, all gang together so that the other side will not be able to outvote them. It seems to me that unless you split the definition of employers' representatives and employees' representatives, so that the added bit of paragraph 5 refers to paragraph 3(a) and employers only, you will not get this marginal majority for employers which both my noble friend the Minister and the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, told me you do get. My Lords, I beg to move.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I have absolutely no objection to this amendment, except one—that it does not seem to me to be needed. I agree with my noble friend that it is desirable where employers are providing the money for boards—operating costs as well as money for grants and other training expenses—that employers should have a controlling voice in the way in which that money is raised. It is, if you like, the John Hampden principle as we put it at Committee stage. In Committee in another place we accepted an amendment which achieves this.

Paragraph 7 of the schedule to the 1964 Act empowers an industrial training order to regulate a board's procedure. All industrial training orders do, in fact, do this and Schedule 2 to each order, which concerns matters relating to the appointment of members and board proceedings, requires there to be a majority of people entitled to vote before a motion is carried. On matters relating to the imposition of a levy, only employer and union representatives can vote. The amendment in paragraph 5 to paragraph 5 of the schedule to the 1964 Act is not intended to override this requirement, but to be read alongside it, so that in addition to a majority of all the members entitled to vote, a majority of the employer members must vote in favour. Therefore, my noble friend's point, with which I heartily agree, is met and his amendment is not necessary.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, will look at the position last time. I still maintain that there was a difference between us, but that he was wrong. But if he will look at the position now, there is no difference between us and, as the noble Earl has said, it does not really matter whether we have his words or the words that are proposed in the Bill. The present position is, in effect, a kind of 2X + Y situation; that there should be an equal number of employers and trade unionists, plus a number of educationists. What he is proposing is that there should be a number of persons who are employers and an equal number of persons who are trade unionists. There is, in effect, no difference.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, the only difference is the reference in paragraph 5 to paragraph 3(a) which, without my amendment, talks about the totality of people, excluding the chairman and the educationalists. My splitting of it, putting the employers into paragraph 3(a) without altering paragraph 5 (except in another respect to make it conform) would push the point more firmly. The matter is not of sufficient importance, because in the event overriding control is very difficult to exercise, for me to wish to push it any further at this point. Perhaps, though, my noble friend would get his officials to have a rather closer look at it to see whether or not something is lacking in this area. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Then, Standing Order No. 43 having been suspended (pursuant to Resolution of 21st July), Bill read 3a, with the amendments.

7.21 p.m.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass—(The Earl of Gowrie.)

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I want to pause just for a moment at this stage, at this time of night, to specify, as I see it, the nature of our disagreements. As I understand it, there is no disagreement about the definition of training needs. A definition of training needs has been given in the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Rochester. It is not all that different from the specification of training needs put forward by the noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, in his Second Reading speech. There is no real disagreement that we need the institutions to produce this training and that we need an expansion of the quality and quantity of training. There may be some slight disagreement between us as to how far training is collapsing—what is happening to actual training—but there is no difference between us about training needs. The difference is about how.

We on this side of the House, not only the representatives of my Party but also, I believe, the representatives of the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party, are saying that if you look at most of the other countries in Western Europe—at Sweden, France and Germany, at our major competitors—you will see that training needs are met by an increased involvement of the State. Whether the money is raised through a levy or through taxation, the Government have to take an increasing responsibility for specifying and achieving training requirements. This has been the case since 1964. Even at the top of the boom, private industry could not provide the training needs. That is more than ever the case today. This is the way in which most Western European countries are reacting to their own training crisis.

The Government reply is "voluntarism" or, as the noble Earl has said on several occasions tonight, "intervention at the margin"—a phrase he used during our Second Reading debate—to oil the wheels of industry. This seems to us to be nonsense. It seems to us to be quite implausible to believe that the training needs of this country can be solved by the Government intervening at the margin. We do not think that this is what happens now. Nor do we think it is what the Government announced in another place. We think it is a complete illusion to believe that intervention at the margin is going to deal with the problems of training in this country.

The most strange differences between us are the assumptions which the Government themselves—a Conservative Government, a laissez-faire Government, a profit-oriented Government—foster upon industry: that industry will do this training, that industry will train when there is no commercial reason why they should. The fact is that very large and profitable companies in this country live by poaching. The whole of commercial television poaches skilled labour from the British Broadcasting Corporation. Almost all of the small airlines poach from British Airways and the Royal Air Force. The fact is, as noble Lords on this side of the House have said in the past, in the good old days everybody poached from Metro-Vickers until Metro-Vickers found that it was not worth their while training for everybody else.

There is nothing wrong in this. There is no reason why any firm should train anyone if there is no commercial justification for it. Whether or not a firm trains people depends upon where they are in the product market, whether they are a product leader, upon their internal promotion policy, upon the situation in the labour market. It has never been the case that we could rely upon firms, looking after their own profit maximisation and commercial interests, to create the volume and type of training that this country needs. And this has not been the case in any other major European country. Even the Government see this now, although they have got this Bill and have to justify it and explain it in some way.

If one thinks of what is in the new training initiative, what the Government are suggesting for vocational preparation, for retraining the redundant for the so-called knowledge skills, it is impossible to believe that these things will be achieved without an increasing interest of the Government and an increasing involvement of the Government in the training process. Yet next Thursday, if they stick to their guns, the Manpower Services Commission will publish their sector review. They are bound to say that some boards are essential and should go on. But we do not know what the Secretary of State will say. The future of those boards will still hang over. We shall not know until the Secretary of State pronounces.

The commission are bound to say that it is too early to say whether or not some boards should continue. Much depends upon the effect of the depression on training and upon the length of the depression, which we do not know. Much depends upon the demands of the new training initiative which is not yet off the ground. Time will be required to see what sort of voluntary associations are likely to develop, if indeed the Secretary of State decides to abolish a particular industrial training board. Therefore the only result, at a time when this country needs increasing involvement in training, will be a period of doubt and of confusion.

Industrial training and industrial training boards have been put by this Bill in a position not unlike the characters in the third act of Outward Bound who knew that they were doomed but who did not know until they got to the end of the voyage what the examiner was going to say: whether he was going to tell them to go up, down, sideways or back to life. The difference is that in Outward Bound there was only one examiner who, in the third act, gave his decisions. But here we have three examiners. First, we have the Manpower Services Commission; then we have the Secretary of State; and at the back of it we have the Government themselves, because the Government themselves have today, in ways that we do not have detailed knowledge of in this House, unpacked a package of industrial training measures. Some of those measures undoubtedly will involve more money for industrial training boards. Some of them will involve a very considerable increase in the activity of industrial training boards. Yet, thanks to this Bill, industrial training boards are looking towards a further period of doubt and uncertainty. Meanwhile, this irrelevant, divisive, ambiguous, nonsensical Bill gets a Third Reading.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, may I say just a few words which have not, I think, been said by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy. I am sorry that we have not reached a greater measure of agreement. We on these Benches continue to feel that there is a continuing place for the law in terms of the operation of arrange- ment, as I tried earlier to say, applicable either to those statutory training boards which remain or on a voluntary basis which will ensure that training goes on in a satisfactory way. The arrangements that we had in mind were loose. The requirement was only that they should be capable of doing certain things, rather even than that those things necessarily in every case should be done. But we have argued that out; there has been a representative vote on it and the Government have won through. I fear that in the increase in training that there is bound to be in the times in which we live, they will come to regret that there is not, under a system of voluntarism (if we may call it that) some framework within which they can operate and I think we shall all come to regret it, but there is a genuine difference of opinion here and that is that.

I should like to conclude on a happier note by thanking the noble Earl for the courtesy which he has shown, as usual, in the handling of this Bill, and particularly for the way in which he supplied us with notes on it. I always find them very helpful—not that they really were on this occasion because I think I handed them to my noble friend Lady Seear at an earlier stage and they are probably buried in the recesses of her capacious briefcase, so I have not made much use of them since. However, we appreciate the kindness of the noble Earl in that regard.

Lord Mottistone

My Lords, perhaps I may briefly say that this is an enabling Bill. I do not agree with the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, at this stage. The question is how the Government use the enabling Bill and perhaps I may leave my noble friend with the thought that industry is very concerned on two points. One is money that we have talked about and the other is unnecessary back-seat driving in this general area. I hope that in drawing up the orders in due course this concern will be given the fullest possible consideration.

Lord Kilmarnock

My Lords, we on this Bench would like to associate ourselves with most of the misgivings which have been expressed by the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and also to associate ourselves with the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, in his remarks and express our appreciation of the notes which have been circulated by the Government to make easier the consideration of this Bill.

I always have it in mind that it was a Conservative government which introduced the 1964 Act and also the 1973 Employment and Training Act, both of which made provisions for training in this country which are now largely being abandoned. We must hope that before long the Government will see their way to return to the basic principles which they themselves helped to establish in those two Bills.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I am grateful for the thanks which have been expressed in regard to the notes on clauses and for the kind words which the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, used about me. I am only sorry that I have not made one thing clear and perhaps I may take two minutes at the end of the consideration of this Bill to try to make it clear.

We have tended too literally to go down the road of a rather imagined division—a division between the proponents of laissez-faire or voluntarism and the proponents of intervention. It is not good enough for the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, to quote me out of context about intervening at the margin. Some margin! It is a very big margin indeed when we think of the total costs that devolve on Government. But there is a piece of jargon in my trade which is known as "deadweight" and which is roughly the tendency of Governments to ask taxpayers to pay for services or activities for which other bodies would be prepared to pay in any case unless they find that the Government obligingly come along and help them out. Successive Governments have to take that into account as they try to stimulate activity. I am not against stimulating activity in this way, by subsidy or by intervention. Most of my work as a Minister in a large spending department, with a budget approaching £2 billion in these days, is interventionist in character.

What slightly grieves me is the implication, particularly in the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, that because of a difference—I would suggest that it is a rather minor difference—about the interpretation of statute law and the role of statute law in a plural industrial society, and in respect of the proceedings of a plural industrial society, there is in some way a tearing up of a cherished Conservative principle for some temporary adoption of a Liberal principle (using that term in its 19th century sense rather than the sense in which it has come to be known). Nowadays Liberals are thought of as being rather an interventionist party, whereas they used to get government off the backs of the people whenever they could.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, if I may intervene for a moment, of course Liberals—and even his great master, Adam Smith—always accepted that there were circumstances in which intervention had to be supported.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, I think all of us accept that and certainly the earnest of the Government's intentions in this regard is not simply their rhetoric, although I for one welcome any progress away from invervention, because we have had too much of it. The real earnest is the money that is being spent. Certainly I do not think we can be accused of not taking these responsibilities at all seriously. All I am trying to say is that what we put into statute and what we put into policy may not be distinct, but there may be a distinction or difference of view as to what you should exercise in policy and whether that exercise of policy should be framed in statute.

The only other thing I wish to say is that behind this Bill is a fact of our society. It is that we had industrial training procedures which allowed those who behaved themselves, who trained well, who serviced the needs of their industries—and others, because poaching has a productive part to play in the ecology of the forest as well as causing difficulties—to opt out of it. That was an exhausting and bureaucratic and expensive procedure, given that so many people were allowed to opt out of it and that the level of exemption was so high. We think that, as a result of the passage of this Bill, the intervention will not simply be at the margin, but it will be where it counts. Under the Secretary of State it will still largely be in the hands of an operating arm which is tripartite in character and which is not known for any philosophical attachment to laissez-faire, which is to say, the Manpower Services Commission. What we are doing is to cut out dead wood and dead weight in the interests of economy.

On the subject of economy, if we were to take on totally what the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, and his party propose—I think the noble Lord, Lord Kilmarnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, and the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, are a little more ambiguous about this (not merely at the margin; even if it is a substantial margin)—that money would affect industry somewhere else. We should have to act in terms of higher levying of one kind or another, higher taxes of one kind or another or higher borrowing and higher interest rates of one kind or another. So many industries in this country have proved themselves capable of dealing with training; our training difficulties tend to be in declining industries where new training procedures and new training needs are beginning to be identified.

Therefore, the sum total of my view is that it would be misleading to put this Bill through Parliament with the air that there is a very strong disagreement between the various parties or people concerned about training. There is some disagreement about the role of statute, but I think where the need for better training and more cost-effective training is concerned we are already on the same side.

On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons.