§ 5.28 p.m.
§ Baroness Turner of Camden rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether the proposals contained in the White Paper Employment for the 1990s (Cmnd. 540) are likely significantly to improve training, employment prospects and employment conditions, in view of the heavy reliance on employers, deregulation and non-statutory bodies.
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I am afraid that this debate has been deferred on several occasions but I am glad that this evening we shall have the opportunity to debate this important White Paper at a fairly early hour. The House should have the opportunity to debate it. It has already received a certain amount of publicity, most of which is concerned with the specific proposals on training, a 889 subject on which many noble Lords have much expertise and pronounced views. Before I come to those proposals however, I think it important to look at the White Paper as a whole, since it sets out in some detail the Government's view on industrial relations and employment generally. I think that the training proposals should be considered against that background.
§ The paper begins with an analysis of the labour market and the problems which it faces. Few, I think, would disagree with what is said here. We are told that three powerful forces will fundamentally alter our approach. They are: demography, global competition and changes in the nature of employment itself. The most radical change will be the relatively low number of young people in the labour market. There will be far more pensioners to be supported by far fewer workers.
§ In the opening chapter of the White Paper there is a welcome acknowledgement of the needs of women. We are told that industry will have to adapt to the needs of working women with families. I intend to say a little more on this issue later. There is a paragraph about ethnic minorities and also one about older workers. It is suggested that employers should be looking at a more flexible approach in considering how best to utilise the talents of older and experienced workers who wish to continue to work beyond the age of 60 or 65.
§ I believe that many older workers, anxious about being put out to grass as they see it and, believing that they still have something to offer, will be glad of this acknowledgement, although there should still be an option to retire earlier if people wish to do so.
§ The White Paper then addresses itself to the technological advances which have been made and asks what kind of jobs we shall be doing in the 1990s. It points to the competition which we shall face after the single European market becomes a reality. It will open up to British business a market of 320 million consumers, but of course European companies will also be able to compete.
§ However, the paper then proceeds to look at what it calls "barriers to employment". There follow several paragraphs dealing with the Government's industrial relations and employment policies which in my opinion are extremely self-congratulatory. The graphs show a decline in industrial stoppages, but the point as to whether this is directly due to the legislation introduced by the Government, or to heavy unemployment, or, indeed, to a decline in manufacturing industry employment—it now stands at 19.9 per cent. of the workforce as against nearly 60 per cent. of the workforce in service industry—is not addressed.
§ There is also a matter which has often been raised in this House; namely, the tendency of the Government creatively to redefine the statistics by constantly changing the regulations governing entitlement to unemployment benefit.890
§ Baroness Turner of Camden
My Lords, the paper continues with a statement for which it produces no evidence whatever. On page 15 it says:Managements who recognised and negotiated with trade unions were less likely to experience job gains and more likely to suffer job losses than managements who did not. In general, trade unions tended to push up the earnings of people they represented while blocking the improvements in productivity which are needed to pay for those…earnings".Many large concerns which have always recognised unions, and continue to do so, have had little difficulty with industrial relations. I was personally involved in productivity bargaining on behalf of the members I represented way back in the mid-'seventies, indeed, even before that.
I know that in general unions have accepted new wage structures, have ended demarcation schemes between grades and skills, have accepted performance-related pay, and so on. Not that that always avails them much. The other day I met a group of trade unionists from Plessey's on the Isle of Wight. They were lobbying Parliament because of their fears about what would happen if Plessey were taken over by another company. They said, "We have done everything we are supposed to do. We have no demarcations, we have performance-related pay, we have co-operated on productivity because we want the company we work for to be more profitable and competitive and still no one thinks we have any right to be consulted about a takeover; we are the last people to be thought about".
Of course those people are justified in feeling that way. Employees do have a right to be considered in such situations, but there is no indication of it in this White Paper on industrial relations. Anyone reading the paper would be left with the impression that the main barrier to employment was the existence of free trade unions. For example, in paragraph 212, it says:Trade unions need to come to terms with the fact that many employers…are prepared to recognise and negotiate with them only on the basis of single-union and no-strike agreements".I should like to ask the Government why it is apparently all right for workers to strike in Poland but quite different in Britain—not even, apparently, after surmounting all the hurdles and undertaking all the procedures set out in successive pieces of employment legislation.
The Government have made clear their deeply anti-union bias in the paper. They are even against those unions which have dutifully followed their precepts; that is, changed rules, elected officials and followed procedures with regard to disputes, and so on. In future, says the White Paper, individual staff members will count for much more. But it was because the individuals counted for so little that unions became necessary in the first place. Moreover, individual employees have not only had no additional rights accorded to them by the Government, but those which they had, at least those in relation to their employers, have also been diminished. For example, it is becoming much more difficult to take individual issues to the industrial tribunal. Indeed, it is even more true now that individuals need collective backing if they are to be able to exercise the rights they have, let alone gain any more.
891 Incidentally, how strange it is that in this talk of industrial relations and the way in which disputes should be resolved, there is so little reference to arbitration. The role of the Central Arbitration Committee has been gradually diminished by the Government. It has been written out of most legislation. Can it be that the Government do not like arbitration because, occasionally, independent arbitration will find for employees?
It is clear that the Government are in favour of total deregulation—hence the accompanying consultative paper about wages councils, which it is proposed to do away with, and the comments on the European Community's social programme. In the Community it is recognised that work people have a right to organise and to bargain collectively via their unions and a right to be consulted and involved. But that appears to me to be counter to the philosophy of the White Paper.
The Government see a further barrier to employment in what they describe as excessive pay. Ways of determining pay have to be changed, they say. "The going rate", "comparability", "cost of living", and so on, have to go—they are outdated concepts. Yet many of those concepts themselves derive from the market. The response of many London-based institutions to the skill shortage in the South-East has been to introduce larger London allowances. "Comparability" is bound to figure in the minds of employees when endeavouring to sell their skills on the market. The Government attack national agreements, but they often simply provide a framework within which local variants are negotiated. Indeed, the current earnings growth rate of 8 per cent. to 9 per cent. is not directly attributable to nationally negotiated rates; negotiated pay settlements have been running at between 5 per cent. to 6 per cent. over the past three years.
However, there are significant differences between occupational groups, with the highest paid groups gaining increases above 10 per cent. and the lowest barely keeping pace with inflation. Salaries of top executives averaged some 18 per cent. uplift in the year to July 1988, with chairmen and chief executives averaging some 26 per cent. in the same period. What has happened is that, if you were well off to start with, you are much better off now; but, if you were poor, you have remained poor. The "trickle down" effect has simply not happened.
Against that background, we should consider what is proposed in the consultative document on the wages councils. We have already had a Wages Act which eroded the powers of wages councils and reduced their number. Those still existing cover industries which are in general poorly organised and with large numbers of workers from ethnic minorities, often the most vulnerable. That is not to say that wages councils are perfect, because clearly there are anomalies, as the consultative paper says. But, without some form of regulation, poor and vulnerable people will simply be abandoned to exploitation. Indeed, the net result may be further claims for social benefits, and why should employers who are unwilling to pay a decent wage be subsidised in this way?
892 I turn now to the section of the White Paper which is specifically concerned with training. Everyone appreciates the overwhelming need to provide adequate training for the 1990s. What is at issue—and my Question raises this specifically—is whether what the Government are proposing is the right way to go about it.
In September, the Government wound up the area manpower boards and announced their decision to abolish the Training Commission. I believe that that was an over-reaction to the TUC's decision at its Congress early in September not to co-operate with the Employment Training Programme. The TUC General Council revised that decision fairly soon afterwards. It is probable that it was the Government's intention all along, and the TUC Congress decision merely gave them the excuse. The most recent Employment Act effectively broke up the tripartite nature of the commission by providing for a great many additional employer representatives. It did so despite opposition from all sides of your Lordships' House when the Bill was before it. The Training Commission's functions have now been absorbed into the Training Agency. There is to be a National Training Taskforce comprising eight employers and four others. At a local level there will be training and enterprise councils formed by local groups and led by employers. That is the important point about the training proposals contained in the White Paper. It envisages throughout that the training will be employer-led. We are justified in querying that proposal.
It is in employers' interests to ensure that there is a skilled, trained workforce; but whether it is safe to leave it merely or mainly to employers is another question entirely. Successive governments—not just Labour governments—have found that that was not so. The Act which introduced the industry training boards was introduced by a Conservative government. Some of those boards, such as the Engineering Industry Training Board and the Construction Industry Training Board, have been held to be successful. It is now suggested that they be transformed into non-statutory training organisations. Consultations with employers' organisations in their sectors is apparently proceeding. We should note, of course, that the consultation is with employers' organisations and not with employee organisations in the same sector.
The industry training boards proposed for abolition have performed some valuable functions in the past. The Off-Shore Petroleum ITB, for example, should retain the ability to ensure adequate health and safety training, especially in the light of the Piper Alpha tragedy. The construction industry board can play a role in the area of health and safety. Again, it is an industry where accident rates are unacceptably high. That is a matter which has been raised on several occasions in your Lordships' House. Both the EITB and the CITB have expressed opposition to the paragraphs concerning their future roles and have expressed concern lest there should be a lack of national co-ordination and a deterioration in the standards of training offered.
There are several good reasons why an employer-led initiative may not work. For example, employers' 893 main interest in training is their own commercial interest. They are willing to train for their firms' immediate needs but rarely look beyond that. Secondly, employers' training efforts are too often constrained by the poaching of trained employees. Why should they train to benefit their competitors? That has the effect of making training a cost rather than an investment. In the nature of things, it is hardly likely to be otherwise.
Furthermore, a well trained workforce depends upon having a well educated workforce. There is little about education in the White Paper and what there is is narrowly vocational. There is a vital need to expand secondary school education in mathematics and science, and, in particular, to see that women are encouraged to take up courses in those areas traditionally regarded as male.
I should like to mention the efforts of the Equal Opportunities Commission, of which 1 was until recently a member, and, in particular, to refer to the campaign "Women into Science and Engineering" initiated by the noble Baroness, Lady Platt, when she chaired the commission. The WISE campaign, as we call it, which continues, played a valuable role in encouraging girls to study those subjects which have traditionally been regarded as most appropriate for boys and to seek jobs in engineering and allied industries which have been traditionally male-dominated. Here again, the Engineering Industry Training Board has played a valuable role and can continue to do so.
Women, despite a decade of equality legislation, still occupy the least skilled and the poorest paid jobs. Moreover, although the White Paper recognises the need to retain women in the workforce and to provide training, nevertheless it does not address the problem of the provision of support services. It does not, apparently, envisage a role for government. While employers are exhorted to provide crèche and nursery facilities, the Government continue to tax employees who benefit from such facilities as if they were an employment "perk". I raised that point in Question Time earlier today. That policy should be changed. I hope that the Government will look at it again. There is a role here for government. Why should there not be some form of publicly funded provision? That was somehow managed during the war when women were required in the workforce. There is no reason why that should not happen again.
There there is the question of resources. Will the resources to be made available be adequate to provide the level of skill training that is required? While employers clearly have to pay their share, there is a need for an adequate input from the Exchequer.
Finally, we have too often been told that we are a low pay, low skill, low-tech economy. The White Paper does not deal adequately with that situation because its proposals all stem from the basic philosophy of deregulation. Removing all protection from the low-paid, encouraging management not to deal with the unions and to attempt an individualistic approach, plus pressure on unemployed people to take any kind of job or lose benefit, will not make for better relations, for better training or for a skilled workforce.
894 The White Paper is directred towards ensuring that employers have a workforce that has 1Deen trained and operates in a society where the current divisions which exist between the well-off and the poor will be increasingly widened. Despite its gloss and its graphs, it is an inadequate White Paper.
§ 5.46 p.m.
§ Lord Elibank
My Lords, I should like to start by congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, on her perseverance in ensuring that the debate has taken place. It may lack the excitement of soccer hooliganism but it is arguably more important to the country's future.
In a paper as comprehensive as the 'White Paper that we are discussing it is only possible to pick out and comment upon certain isolated points. That is what I propose to do in what I hope will be a reasonable space of time. There is a general assumption, not only in the White Paper but in the press and in discussions, that everyone is trainable. In the literal sense that may be true, but there are those on the lower rungs of our employment pyramid who in any practical sense are untrainable. There are those who do manual work, whether it be out of doors or in the office, or who perform jobs in the service industries whose capability of benefiting from the type of provisions that have been set out in the White Paper is minimal. It is moreover a group of our citizens that is increasingly threated by the advance of mechanisation and computerisation. It is a group for which the future is looking increasingly bleak.
To state the problem is not to come up with a solution. The only possible practical alternative is to delay mechanisation deliberately artificially to maintain jobs for those of our citizens. That involves an additional cost. It is commercially unattractive and it would have to take place with the benefit of some form of government subsidy, which is unlikely to be forthcoming.
That group, in which there is a substantial and growing number of people, is one of which we should not lose sight entirely when we come to contemplate employment in the 1990s and the training for those who will fill that employment.
One of the main thrusts of the paper, rightly, is on the demographic changes that will take place and the drop of about 25 per cent. in the number of young school-leavers. There is one aspect of the run down in numbers entering employment and in their replacement upon which I should like to comment. On that point I appreciate that I may part company from the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden.
I am worried at the moral pressure that is being brought to bear on young mothers in our society to rush forward and fill gaps in the workforce. They are exhorted to put their babies in crèches and get back to work as quickly as possible. I do not deny for a moment the right of any woman or any man to seek employment if that is what they wish to do, whether this be as a junior typist or a senior executive. However, granting a freedom is rather different from the kind of moral pressure that exists and is exerted upon them today. In a society where there is so much social turbulence and juvenile crime, that is getting our national priorities wrong.
895 Fortunately there is a reservoir of labour available which the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, has already mentioned and which is mentioned in the White Paper. That reservoir is those over 55—men and women. For many decades now it has been the depressing experience of most of us that those over 60, to some extent those over 50 and, even more alarmingly, over 40 are over-age for many jobs. That is particularly true for junior management jobs which have to be filled both in the private and in the public sector. It is absurd, as we know. The older people may perhaps lack the intellectual charms of their juniors, but they more than compensate for it in reliability, experience, honesty and integrity. It is a matter for considerable satisfaction that their attributes are now beginning to be recognised, not from any particular sense of virtue but more because of simple necessity in that we have to fill the gaps in the workforce.
One of the features of employment in the 1990s which hardly affected my generation is the great insecurity which most of our younger citizens will experience when they start work. In my day when one joined a firm as a young man or young woman, one expected to serve with it for 30 or 40 years, until one's normal retirement. That may have been rather unenterprising and in some cases decidedly dull, but it provided a considerable measure of security, and particularly financial security, in which to bring up a family.
The generation that will work in the 1990s will not have this sense of security. People will have to move from job to job as the work dictates. There is an increasing tendency for the major firms, and some of the minor ones, to operate with a hard core of permanent employees only and to cope with all service requirements and peak needs by the employment of contractors of various kinds. That makes commercial sense but for those employed by the contractors, it will mean a life of on-off employment and the instability and insecurity that goes with it. It is to be hoped that our young employees will be able to grapple with that. I must confess that it is not a prospect that I envy.
The essential dilemma of the Government is highlighted towards the end of the White Paper—2 million unemployed and 700,000 jobs. We must all feel that a considerable proportion of the 700,000 jobs could be filled by the 2 million unemployed. Over the last few decades we have taken a remarkably relaxed attitude towards those who wish to remain in idleness, waiting for an opportunity in their trade or profession to occur. But in a given region that may be totally unrealistic. No one wishes to compel anyone to accept a job they do not want. But is it right that the taxpayer should maintain such an individual in his voluntary idleness, simply because he will not do the work for which his experience and training particularly suit him? The Government have moved a little in the direction of encouraging or even pressurising the unemployed to seek work more actively. Any further steps they wish to take along that road would have my support.
I wish to make two brief points on the training aspect of the White Paper. One cannot but admire the 896 breadth and multiplicity of the agencies and bodies it is proposed to set up. I just wonder whether we are not spreading our resources a little too thinly. In the nature of things the people who can conduct training and sit on supervisory bodies, supervising the trainers and administrators, are fairly few and far between. To ask them to fill the positions which are foreseen in the White Paper may prove a little difficult. I am not at all sure that it would not be better to be less ambitious in the breadth of our training opportunities, a little narrower, with a little more concentration of the available personnel and money on somewhat more limited objectives.
In the training section there is emphasis on meeting local needs, having local administrators to assess them and to programme training towards them. Some decades ago when the Tyne or the Clyde meant shipbuilding, when parts of Yorkshire meant mining and when the West Midlands meant cars this would have made a lot of sense. Any local training body would have a fairly clear idea of where the majority of employees would go. But that scene has changed fairly dramatically in the last decade or more. Factories are put down in certain areas; they produce shoes, cars or whatever. After five or six years they fold up and are replaced by a computing centre, a theme park or anything else you like.
It seems to me that in those circumstances the only prudent course is to have a training programme which is not geared to current local needs but which looks ahead to changes in the work pattern, changes in industrialisation and services. It should prepare future employees to meet those changes as far as possible locally, within their own region.
In conclusion I think that this is an excellent White Paper, covering much of the ground which ought to be considered. I hope that in due course the Government will take the necessary steps to see that all or parts of it are properly implemented.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the White Paper covers a great many extremely important matters. It is impossible to deal with all of them adequately in a debate of this kind and I intend to concentrate almost entirely on the training aspect of the White Paper. I wish to comment on some of the points which have already been raised on other sections of the White Paper on the industrial relations approach of the Government. I suggest to the Government that their thinking about industrial relations has been conditioned almost entirely by the state of industrial relations under conditions of unemployment. There is nothing to suggest that they have done any thinking to decide how they will handle industrial relations issues when the balance of power changes—as it inevitably will if the Government's employment policies succeed—and we return to full employment or near full employment. The power of the trade unions will then be very greatly enhanced. Whatever one may think about the rights or wrongs of this, industrial relations are very much a matter of power bargaining. The unions have been in a powerless position because of high unemployment. Therefore, they have not been able to exercise any pressure. The Government are already concerned 897 about what they regard as excessive rises in pay, but that is due to two things, one of which is the shortage of skilled labour which flows from the neglect of training in the past by government but also by employers. I shall return to that point in a moment. Those are the very employers to whom the Government are going to entrust future training in this country. The second factor is that as employment improves, the power of unions grows greater and therefore the whole question of pay and excessive pay and the inflationary consequences of excessive pay come to the fore once again.
I see nothing here to suggest that the Government have thought out what kind of industrial relations they want to have under a full employment or near full employment economy. It is of the greatest importance to the success of the Government's plans that there should be an industrial relations programme. Simply to bash trade unions is no answer. We on these Benches have agreed that many of the changes that the Government made were necessary. But it is the absence of any appropriate industrial relations policy—we do not find any such policy at all in this White Paper—that, as we advance towards a more successful economy and one with full employment, gives one grave doubts as to what the future will hold.
In passing, I also wish to refer to the Government's approach to wages councils. Of course wages councils have their limitations, but surely we do not want a society in which in certain industries and occupations rates of pay are at such a low level that it is impossible for people to have a reasonable standard of life, comparable to that which is experienced by their fellows in other occupations. I know that the Government put forward the argument that such matters will be left to the market, and they will iron themselves out. But perfect markets do not exist and the market does not operate in the way the Government would like it to—that is, as if it were a purely mechanical model. There are so many obstructions in the operation of the market that the Government's argument is a false argument as regards practical policies.
A civilised society surely wants to see that no one is pushed below a level of pay which enables him to have a reasonable standard of living. However, it is probably true to say that the standard of living ensured by the wages councils is low. Nevertheless, I do not want to spend very much time this evening on those subjects. I wish primarily to direct my attention to the training aspect.
There are in the White Paper many statements and hopes about training that we must all applaud. It is a very good thing that the Government recognise, in words at any rate, that training is of the very greatest importance. One must say that in some ways this Government have done more—they have certainly spent more—on training than almost any of their predecessors of either party. But I find the sections on training deeply disturbing. They do not in any way, in my view, reflect the seriousness and the urgency of the training problems that we encounter. One can scarcely open a paper without seeing evidence of how far behind we are on education and training in this country in comparison with most of our competitors in the industrialised world.
898 One can see the difference between this country and Japan as regards the age at which youngsters in Japan stay on in full-time education. The resources and the money that have been put into training in France, Germany and America are much greater than in the UK. The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, said that a great many people could not be trained. I do not think there is anything peculiar about the inhabitants of the United Kingdom. In Germany, training is given to all except 9 per cent. of the population, I believe. Perhaps Germans are more trainable than the inhabitants of the UK, but I have never seen any evidence to suggest that that is necessarily so.
The fact is that if we do not catch up on training in this country—there is a very long way to go in that regard—our prospects of holding our own inside the Community after 1992 are poor. Our prospects of holding our own in competition with the Japanese, the Americans, the Koreans, the people from Taiwan, and perhaps before very long the Russians and the Chinese, are also very poor. I see nothing in this White Paper which matches the requirements we need and which deals with the urgency and the speed with which we need to take action if we are to have the kind of trained labour force that we need.
I remind the Minister that at the end of the 1970s, before the YTS programme was brought in, approximately 44 per cent. of school leavers in this country either became unemployed or went into a job in which they had no training. The comparable figure in France was 19 per cent. and in Germany was 9 per cent. Let us think for a moment of the backlog of untrained adults that that now represents and of the need to take urgent action—I stress the words "urgent action"—to redress that appalling imbalance between ourselves and our competitors. We need to give the people who have not had a training opportunity the chance to catch up. They need to do that in their own interests and we need to do it as a community in our own interests, if we a re not to be seriously defeated by the world competition that we face.
What is there in the White Paper that leads us to suppose that we shall bridge this yawning gap between ourselves and the other industrial countries? For some extraordinary reason the Government apparently believe that employers as a body have been converted to the need for training, and also that they know how to carry it out, to put it bluntly. The Government's own publications have made it abundantly clear that employers as a whole in the past have been woefully inadequate as regards training. I have had direct experience of this issue myself. I would be the first to say that among the best employers in this country some of the best training in the world is being done. But they are, and always have been, a small minority of the whole. Yet the Government say that employers can now be trusted to train their staff. After all, as has been said, it was a Conservative government which introduced the Industrial Training Act 1965 in order to enforce training developments. I believe that that was introduced under the noble Lord, Lord Carr of Hadley. However, I may have got that wrong.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, so it is the date that is wrong. Anyway, it was a Conservative government that introduced that measure because they knew that employers by themselves would not deliver the training. Why do the Government believe that employers have changed? Yet I see that the training and enterprise councils are to be put into the hands of employers.
There are some employers who are extremely able at providing training and are convinced of its importance. But those of us who worked on the training boards under the Manpower Services Commission until we were ejected, with rather unseemly speed if I may say so, know that, while there were some extremely good employers on the boards, many of the best of them found it extraordinarily difficult to find the time to attend the boards. Those who found the time to come were not always the people whom we wanted to have. I suspect that that is likely to be the future pattern under the training and enterprise boards.
I am surprised at how little this capitalist employers' Government seem to realise that employers have a lot to do if they are to run successful businesses. They have to look at the application of new technology and the development of new markets. They have to spend a great deal of time in achieving success inside Europe and in the markets across the globe. They cannot run off to meetings and spend a great deal of time on training. But one needs to spend a lot of time on training if it is to be carried out properly. Employers will, of course, do the same old thing. They will send the people who can be spared. Those people will not be the people who will get training off the ground in this country. Why on earth is this matter going to be left to employers? I know some other persons will be brought in to help with training, but the whole emphasis of the White Paper is that it will be in the employers' interest to train, and that therefore they will do it. I hope that I am wrong, but I am deeply sceptical as to whether that will happen.
Let us consider just one example. It is well known that in the construction industry in this country it needs only a 1 per cent. increase in growth rates for the industry to run out of skilled personnel. I was told that by the construction industry during not the last slump but the one before the one before the last. Yet every single time there is a recession the industry cuts back on training and the minute the economy begins to lift it runs out of skilled workers and we are back where we were. How can it be right to leave it to those people to handle this enormously important and urgent issue of training?
Why on earth do the Government choose this of all moments to make the Engineering Industry Training 900 Board a non-statutory body? Will the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, tell us in some detail what are the achievements of those training boards which were abolished as statutory bodies and encouraged to set up on a non-statutory basis? I shall be very surprised if he can tell us of any great advance in very many of those bodies, although no doubt in some they have made considerable progress.
Let us consider in more detail the different groups of people for whom training is needed and the extent to which the proposals in the White Paper do not meet the requirements of those groups. Let us take the 16 to 18 year-olds presently catered for by the youth training scheme. We continually wonder whether the right hand of the Government knows what the left hand is doing.
I understand that the Secretary of State for Education in a speech the week before last said that up to the age of 19 youngsters should in future be regarded as being subject to education and training. I wondered then not only whether the right hand knew what the left hand was doing but whether the thumb knew what the index finger was doing. After all, Mr. Kenneth Baker produced a voluminous Education Reform Act only last year in which there was no reference to full-time education and training for 16 to 18 year-olds. It is very difficult to understand why, less than 12 months later he should have this rush of blood to the head and make that suggestion.
It is still more difficult to equate that with the White Paper, in which it is suggested that 16 to 18 year-olds may be subject to night working. I find the idea that they should do night work incompatible with the idea of those years being a period for education and training.
Turning to the suggestion that YTS should increasingly be the responsibility of employers, I see a number of serious difficulties. With improvements in the employment position youngsters will take jobs without training unless it is laid down very clearly that they have to be given training. That has already been happening. It was happening in the area in which I was involved, Buckinghamshire, where employment opportunities were increasing rapidly. School-leavers could go straight into jobs with no training, and in a great many cases they chose to do so. Employers were being exhorted to lay on training for people they took on direct from school, but that was not happening. What evidence is there that employers are converted to training? It should be compulsory.
On these Benches we have said for a long time that the years from 16 to 18 should be a period of training and education and should not be regarded as a period in which people will be primarily concerned with the production of wealth and doing a straightforward job regardless of training. There is a grave danger that instead of increasing its training component and providing better quality training, the youth training scheme will provide fewer people with such training as is available. All young people should be provided with a training component, combined with an educational component in the most appropriate manner.
I should like to turn now to the question of the employment of women. The noble Baroness, Lady 901 Turner, made a number of points about the need to encourage women back into the labour market. Perhaps I may ask the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, whether the Government have had second thoughts about the provision of finance for the training of older women. (By "older" I mean women who are young enough to be my granddaughters, who are in their early thirties, have had their children and want to come back into the labour market. They are still trainable.) Under the employment training scheme they are not eligible for that money because technically they are not unemployed.
The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, may agree with me that provision of finance may well be a better way of bringing women into the labour market than encouraging women with very small children to work, although I support the provision of creches. At least let resources be made available for training for women who want to return to the labour market. Those resources do not exist at present. The lack of them is restricting a very suitable source of labour which with a little effort would be brought back into the labour market.
There is also the question of older people. The noble Lord, Lord Elibank, also made the point that it is quite ridiculous in our present demographic situation that people should be regarded as beyond the pale above the age of 55. I have heard a lot of people above the age of 45 say that they have no hope of getting back into the labour market. It is not just the vanity of your Lordships' House that leads one to think that above the age of 45 one still has some slight contribution to make.
Will the noble Lord consider that it should become illegal to state age limits in advertisements. They discourage people from making an application. If people can make an application, it is possible—and this has happened to women in the past—that having got their foot in the door they may be able to convince the selection board that they will be quite useful. If one is banned from even getting there, one's skills and aptitudes will not become apparent to the employer. The time has come to take positive steps to see that older people are drawn back into the labour market. That means providing opportunities for training.
We need a programme in which at any age it is easy for people to obtain resources to retrain. We can learn from the Swedes in that respect. They have been very tough. They actively encourage people who are no longer useful in a particular industry to train for another occupation. They put a great deal of money into it. I have visited training institutions in Sweden where there have been two-year training programmes for people who have been made redundant elsewhere. That is the scale on which we need to think if we are to make use of older people whose jobs cease to be required. With the rapid changes in industry and technology that is happening all the time. There must be training opportunities throughout people's lives regardless of their age.
I have already said a great deal too much. Perhaps I may make one further point. We have the Department of Employment training scheme. We have seen that it has been only partially taken up and 902 places have not been filled. That means that resources which were earmarked for the scheme are not being used. In my experience those places are not being taken up in part because the additional money that people receive under a training scheme in comparison with being unemployed is so slight that lt is not worth their while to do so.
It is also true that certain groups of people—and I am thinking particularly of ethnic minority groups—need a longer period of training than is laid down in the employment traning scheme. Better resources are required to encourage people to participate. Money has been earmarked for training. Will the Government consider making a more generous payment to people on employment training schemes from the money which was allocated but which is not being used because people have rejected training? That would bring back into employment people in all the categories to which I have referred who will be needed in the economy but who at present are not being drawn back into the labour market.
The Government are right to say that this is an important subject. It is a vital subject and their contribution to the solution of the problems is totally inadequate.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, perhaps I may first express my appreciation, as other speakers have done, to my noble friend and colleague on the Front Bench, Lady Turner, for giving us an opportunity to debate this important document. I do not intend to use such a wide brush as the previous speaker and deal with the overall outlook but will restrict my remarks mainly to the building industry.
My noble friend referred to the engineering industry from which I originated. A couple of weeks ago I spoke at some length in your Lordships' House about the necessity to improve our performance in that industry if we were to compete with our major competitors in Europe and the world at large. One facet of the situation that is now appearing is that there such a shortage of highly skilled engineers that retired engineers of over 65 do not find age a barrier. People welcome them back because they need little if any training, perhaps only a short familiarisation course with the factory that recruits them.
I want to restrict my remarks to an industry for which the intentions of the document, if they are carried out, could prove disastrous. I refer to the building industry in general. This month's edition of National Builder states "The CITB (Construction Industry Training Board) wins government reprieve", without going into great detail as to what that means. I should like the Minister when he replies to give an indication of the Government's intentions as regards the Construction Industry Training Board.
It is quite ludicrous to go down the road that the Government at first suggested. Ample reasons are given for the fact that over 50 per cent. of building industry operatives are now self-employed. Over 600,000 people pay tax in two different ways which would not enable them to be part of any central scheme. Given the independent nature of the operatives and the manner in which many of them are 903 paid, they are not normally available to assist in the training of apprentices and other entrants to the industry.
In recent years the building industry has become increasingly fragmented. There are now some 175,000 firms in the industry of which only 25,000 pay a levy to the CITB as a result of the threshold for the levy payment being set at £15,000 annual labour cost. Of those 25,000 firms, only about 700 employ more than 100 people. The nature of employment in the industry means that there is substantial mobility of labour both between companies and between different parts of the country. That in turn means that an employer making the necessary investment to train craftsmen has no guarantee that they will remain with him after the training period. The training of operatives in construction takes a longer time, including periods both on and off site, before they become productive than is the case in other industries. For all those reasons, the proposed network of 100 local training and enterprise councils would be totally unsuited to the construction industry.
The Building Employers Confederation totally supports the industry retaining its statutory levy. It is quite clear that, if the levy were to be abolished or even substantially reduced, the amount of training would fall dramatically to the detriment of industry and in particular its standards and safety record. With regard to the CITB, the BEC is of the view that national training arrangements must be retained for the collection and dispersal of the statutory levy. However, the BEC believes that there must be a radical assessment of the role of the CITB and a substantial change in its structure.
At my request, the director of the BEC sent me its brief setting out its views, following a meeting only a couple of weeks ago of the Lords all-party building industry group with BEC representatives. However, I part company with the BEC on the suggestion that there should be a substantial diminution in the role of trade unions on any boards that carry on or are reformed. I believe that that would be a terrible mistake and blunder, bearing in mind—the BEC referred to this point in the brief—that this industry has by far the highest accident record of any industry in the country. It is significant that the statistics on the number of fatal accidents and serious injuries in the industry are not getting any better. We have learnt our lesson from accidents involving young people in other industries where fatalities occur even on training schemes. It would be a mistake to diminish the role of trade unions in this matter.
I have made personal contact with Mr. Albert Williams, the secretary of UCATT, which is the main building industry trade union. It is committed to training and believes that it is best equipped to look after the welfare of youngsters and play an overseeing role while they are training. I do not disagree with that for one moment. It is right to do that and UCATT should be allowed to retain its place because training schemes can function better and achieve a higher percentage of success if there is total 904 involvement of people in the industry. It would be a rather retrograde step to diminish the role of trade unions in this matter.
For the next four or five minutes perhaps I may refer to a section of the building industry to which the report does not refer, namely, local authority public works departments. For some reason—and I do not try to defend inefficient local works departments—the Government have appeared, through successive measures, to blacken public works departments, whether good or bad. The succession of measures that has been put through Parliament over the past three years has very much diminished the role of works departments and the opportunity for them to do work even for their own authorities. I think that that is a mistake. I have figures to show that 10 per cent. of the workforce in the building industry works for local authority public works departments; yet they train 20 per cent. of the total number of apprentices which is a substantially higher ratio than the private sector trains.
What do the people involved in that exercise say? They say that:Apprenticeships in the Building Maintenance Industry have been reduced.The competition regulations have severely cut back on the numbers of apprentices trained by local authorities. The costs of training have to be offset against tendered prices—so these are the first costs to be cut back.With the move towards 100 per cent. competition in October 1989, the market place will become even more competitive and local authorities who have been supportive of apprentice training will need to reconsider what they can afford without putting existing staff at risk.Operatives who train apprentices on site have to have a good skill expertise; such expertise is reducing as older tradesmen leave or retire from the industry. The cost of the time tradesmen spend teaching apprentices is now getting prohibitive and affects the direct works account and competitiveness.Assuming an apprentice ratio of 1 to 10 tradesmen and an equal mix of three and four year apprentices (i.e. carpenters/plumbers) an average apprentice costs £35,000. This would equate to a cost of 5 per cent. on turnover".I wish to make a special point to the Minister. In October of this year yet another set of regulations is to be moved in another place on behalf of the Secretary of State for the Environment. They will further restrict direct works departments, good or bad. I find it illogical that in the sector of the building industry which trains by far the highest ratio of apprentices who become skilled builders, the largest percentage of them do not stay in the public sector. They move on. Some people who have been very prominent in the private sector of the building industry started their training in local authority building departments. They have gone through the technical grades up to high managerial posts and have even controlled the building industry.
Will the Minister ask the Secretary of State in another place to consider this group of measures that he intends to activate in October of this year? It will mean that some of the small building departments in the public sector will not be able to train a single apprentice. That would be a sad loss to the industry as a whole. In 1990 the floodgates may open and it will be open house for builders from Europe to bid for every type of contract in the United Kingdom. To 905 compete successfully on an equal basis we ought to be training the maximum number of apprentices possible and not be hampering or reducing a sector that historically has done exceedingly well. I hope that the Government for once will become a little less political and will consider the facts as they stand. If they judge on merit I am sure that they will take the course I have suggested.
Last but not least, another group of people in the building industry has a special problem. I shall not go into details, but I have had correspondence from the Institute of Clerks of Works, which is a distinguished body of people. It is responsible in the main for the customer getting value for money. This body is having specific problems—I shall not go into them tonight; I have spoken for long enough—that clearly cannot be catered for in the Government White Paper. I leave the matter with the Minister. Perhaps the Government will backtrack on some of the issues on which the institute has been in contact with the Minister recently and will consider whether they can assist it.
If this group of people starts to diminish considerably, there will be no watchdogs to guarantee and guard quality. I know that there is a move in the building industry for self-certification, for builders to pass their own work. If I were having building undertaken I should wish for someone other than the builder who did the building to pass the work, which could be a recipe for disaster in certain circumstances.
However, I have spoken for long enough. Let me express my appreciation to my noble friend for enabling us to debate this very important subject.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, the television cameras stand on tripods, hooded like parrots. And is it not agreeable that we return to the aura of our erstwhile privacy? The only sobering thought I have as I look upon those red hoods is this: is that how the world sees the importance of this debate?
I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, for initiating the discussions. I know she will understand when I express my disappointment that there should be no reference to trade union cooperation in the training programme. I do not comment on the majority of her speech. It was a predictable attack upon the Government based upon a trade union brief, indicting the Government, curiously enough, for anti-union bias and with a reference to Poland thrown in for good measure. I do not enter into that discussion. There is no common ground here between us. There is nothing new; and there is no profit in it.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, as always, made some interesting and useful suggestions. However, when the noble Baroness stigmatized the White Paper—if I have understood correctly—in a final aside, as totally inadequate, that stigmatization was 906 wholly unwarranted either on her own or on any objective analysis. However, again there is little profit in argument along those lines.
Let us start on common ground—if we can find it. First, it is common ground that the prime function of a trade union is to protect the interests of its members. Secondly, there is the crucial importance of training. Thirdly, there is the equally great importance of trade union co-operation on training. Lastly, especially today, training, employment prospects and employment conditions do not lie any longer within the exclusive province of the trade unions which have a membership of about 10 million. It therefore follows that the Government's effective proposals on training must be of general application. In this sense, as I hope to develop if there is time, the heavy reliance on employers is not misplaced but is wholly requisite.
It may be common ground that it is the function of trade unions, to protect the interests of their members by all lawful means. The question is whether the interests are those of today or the long-term interests of tomorrow, and whether the short-term interests of the individual worker are not subsumed in the longterm interests of the whole of the membership, not only in attaining but also in retaining employment. If that long-term interest is the right approach, as I suggest it is—and for all I know it may be common ground between myself and the noble Baroness—then the key factor is training and investment in training, as was rightly said by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. This, particularly the investment side, has been well understood by the engineering industry in the shape of the Engineering Industry Training Board.
The Green Paper proposals do not appear to feature at any great length or in any particular detail. In section 6, the proposals on training, as the Motion recognises, have to be seen in perspective with the other proposals in the White Paper affecting employment in England and Wales. There is a totally different White Paper, Cmnd. 534, for Scotland called Scottish Enterprise, which is a new approach to training and enterprise creation. It is probably beyond the strict ambit of this debate, but the key question of training is common to all parts of the United Kingdom. It is therefore relevant to bear in mind that the Government have proposals which are specially designed and tailored to meet the very special needs in Scotland.
The Donovan Report, published over 20 years ago, shows that this problem throughout the United Kingdom is far from new. The report states that far too little attention had been paid to training and to co-operation on training on the part of the trade unions. I mention Donovan because at times I get rather tired of people suggesting that from where I speak, in the third row, I am biased against trade unions. I am not, but it is no use saying that.
I base the analysis that I am proposing to develop from now upon the Donovan Report which appears to be accepted by the trade union movement as wholly objective. In Employment for the 1990s the Government, by supplementing their existing policies on training to deal with the immediate problem of 907 unemployment, have taken a long-term view and a hard look ahead. Both on the action already taken and the proposed action to be taken, the Government are to be congratulated. The proposed action is but a delayed implementation of the Donovan recommendations.
The Donovan Report recognised the importance of industrial training which then rested largely in the hands of the industrial training boards and concluded that an urgent need existed to secure the rapid and general adoption of systems of training which accorded with the social and economic needs of a modern industrial society. Your Lordships can tell from the way that that is put together that those are not my words. At paragraph 357, Donovan concluded that any such system of training should incorporate four basic features, all of which are adverted to in the White Paper: first, objective standards for qualifications; secondly, recognition of standards as affording eligibility of work; thirdly, content and duration of training to ensure standards; and, finally, no artificial barriers to training or retraining, such as restrictive labour practices.
It was recognised by Donovan that there was a long way to go—that was a direct reference in context to the lack of trade union co-operation 20 years ago—together with the need for radical reform of training courses and methods of training, and the need for a sustained attack on outworn ideas and groundless preconceptions at all levels. It was doubted whether the urgency and scale of the problem had yet been appreciated. Those were not my words but Donovan's. The report was presented to Parliament in 1968, since when the problem has become more urgent and more intractable. The proposals of the White Paper at least recognise the magnitude of the problem. This is the first time that any government have set about recognising it and proposing how to deal with it. When I say "any government" I mean any Conservative or Labour government.
The criticism of the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—I hope I always try to meet her criticisms respectfully—that this White Paper is not geared to fit full employment, is not, with respect, understood.
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the noble Lord appears to be confused. 1 said about the Government's industrial relations policy that they had not geared themselves up for full employment because industrial relations under full employment present different problems from industrial relations when there is unemployment. I did not say that the policy was not related to the training programme.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. As I am not debating industrial relations policy, I must not take too much time. I am trying to debate the White Paper. I take it that the criticism that the White Paper is not geared to a position of full employment is no longer valid. The noble Baroness added, in the context of either the White Paper or industrial relations policy—I took this down—that it was just union bashing. I do not 908 understand how, in any constructive context, this paper can be regarded as union bashing.
As regards the artificial barriers to which Donovan referred, it is essential that the initiative of the White Paper should not be stultified by any restrictive labour practices. The initiative, which has not been specifically criticised, is the proposed introduction next spring of the new programme, "Business Growth through Training", mentioned at paragraph 6.24. I believe that that is an excellent step in the right direction, as is also the proposed three-year programme, referred to in paragraph 8.8. These afford an entirely new and relevant dimension of industrial training—an innovation for which surely any government could take credit.
As regards stultifying progress by restrictive labour practices, in this regard the Government have rightly reserved at paragraph 2.24 of the White Paper their position to introduce legislation, the hope being that that will not be necessary and that there will be full co-operation. The fact that some employers compound restrictive labour practices such as the closed shop, demarcation, over-manning and double-manning, only increases the evil.
In defining restrictive labour practices Donavan said at paragraph 330:Training is an area in which restrictive traditions have especially deep roots in British industry and where the pressure of technological advance makes the need for a radical change in outlook particularly urgent.In paragraph 332 he was referring all that time ago to the constant shortage in that context of skilled manpower in the post-war period.
I shall take only one more point and that is the question of the heavy reliance on employers—I apologise for having taken so long—which was criticised, and fairly criticised, by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. Surely the heavy reliance is entirely justified. The involvement of the employer starts at paragraph 2.13 and if we look carefully at the terms of the Motion it surely follows that, if the proposals in this White Paper are apt to improve training and if the prospect of employment is to advance, then the involvement of the employers could only tend to improve the employment conditions.
Against that—my appreciation may be wrong, but it is how I see it—at paragraph 2.30 there is this reliance on the employers and on de-regulation. It is simply not understood—and again this stems from the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear—what contribution can be made by a statutory body which could not be made by an independent non-statutory body, what difference it makes and what objection there is. For example, in the engineering industry, where 37 per cent. of employers expect shortages in skilled labour to limit their own output—and the levy order was agreed to only on the 20th of this month in your Lordships' House as an initial response—and where the regime that they propose to set up is wholly relevant, what is the point of objection? That is, I agree, but one example and, if training for the unemployed rests with the Government and training for the employed rests in the main with the employer, so be it. The Government recognise that, at all events, this has to 909 be a joint venture in which the hope must be that the trade union co-operation to which I have now referred four times in this speech should be at long last forthcoming.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Lord Blease
My Lords, I join other noble Lords in commending my noble friend Lady Turner on initiating this timely and important debate. I wish also to compliment my noble friend on the excellently argued and challenging opening speech that she made. I listened with interest to the forthright remarks of other noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I am almost tempted to follow the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, in dealing with aspects of the Donovan report that are included in this White Paper, but I propose that my remarks will be solely directed to the White Paper as it stands.
As a publication, the White Paper Employment for the 1990s is an attractively produced and well printed document. I should not like to go any further than that about its contents, but certainly its contents were never compiled for the ordinary person in the street or the ordinary worker who has to deal with the implications involved in this White Paper. However, as I read the opening pages of the paper my hopes and interests were raised when I noted the words on page 5 at paragraph 1.4:Three powerful forces in the 1990s will fundamentally alter our approach to preparing today's workers for tomorrow's jobs. These are demography, global competitive forces and the changing nature of employment itself.I wholeheartedly agree that these are three crucial factors for training and future employment. I am not sure that the three mentioned are meant to be exclusive, but I feel it is remiss not to include other equally fundamental forces, the forces of regional development and of government fiscal policies. Not only is the inclusion of these two basic forces unquestionable, but surely they give some reasoned weight to arguments for necessary changes in our approaches to training. Without going into the regions, we lose out, and, without the balance of what is required in terms of fiscal policy, employment and training become an absolute nonsense.
However, as I read and re-read the 60 pages of this government policy statement on employment, as one who has been directly involved in employment training matters for over 40 years, and who well remembers the publication of the Donovan report and what it implied to trade unions and others, my hopes sank as my disappointment at its contents rose.
I am bound to say that the style, content and principle make it one of the most uncompromisingly ideologically written government papers that I have encountered. It reads very much like a party political propaganda tract, rather than a reasoned government document primarily designed, I hope, to influence consensus decisions for the future wellbeing and prosperity of the people of this United Kingdom. It appears to me that whoever collated the contents of this White Paper had little knowledge of the labour market. Nor had they any practical experience of vocational training needs or of skills of workers and management, or of the general practice of industrial relations, particularly the 910 implementation of the quality and standards of industrial and vocational training to which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, referred.
I am not concerned about the sloganising of what is intended; I am more concerned about how matters are going to be implemented. Not only is the paper wildly inconsistent in its presentation of basic arguments but the phraseology used is sloganising. I should like to ask noble Lords to note the words in the conclusion on page 59:This White Paper has been about people and jobs",and on page 60:This White Paper has been about competitiveness and opportunity.It goes on to say:We stand at a parting of the ways. In one direction lie the behaviour and attitudes, the short-term planning and the easy options that have so bedevilled our performance in the past. In the other direction lie the new approaches, the new systems, the long-term planning, investment and professionalism which this White Paper has described".I do not know what has been happening over the past 10 years. Where has been the professionalism, the investment, the short-term planning and the performance that is being criticised here? Perhaps the Minister in his reply can explain two aspects of this matter. What are the proposals for future investment and training, and what is the meaning of the term used in the White Paper "to professionalism"? Does it mean professionalism in training or forms that will emerge from the implementation of the training?
Let us look at this partiing of the ways. One would have expected, with the new professionalism that has been suggested, that this new way would be clearly signposted. However, instead of a clear direction, the new approaches and new systems are described in a deluge of ugly acronyms. We have the TVEI (Training and Vocational Educational Initiative); NAFE (Non-Advanced Further Education); CPVE, YTS, JTS, ET and NVCQ. These are only a few of the new systems mentioned. I put this before a person who is professionally involved in training. He said, "I am going to have to set up a whole training programme to explain to people what this system means". Therefore the persons who will have to administer the training will need to be trained for years to get into the stride of what is meant by the organisations that have been set up.
What about the changes in administrative organisations? This matter is dealt with in section 6. The Training Agency is to replace the Training Commission, which itself replaced the Manpower Services Commission. It will be the NTTF, not the TA, which will set up the TECs, though the TVEI will stay with the DES, and the EEI with the DTI. It is difficult for a professional to obtain from that a flow chart of decision-making processes, and it may require another type of individual altogether to do so. These are the new systems and approaches which are to be owned, financed and managed by top-level management and employers who will also be involved in running their own respective organisations.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, questioned the basic principle of this involvement. The noble Baroness is quite right. In my experience there is no 911 doubt that those who attend training meetings, and others, unless they are professionals dealing with the task of training, are those who have a free afternoon or have been delegated to do something in this respect. Apart from that, what does the White Paper mean when it calls for partnership? It says on page 40, at paragraph 5.7:the Government hope to place 'ownership' of the training and enterprise system where it belongs—with employers".I am afraid that poor old Marx would turn in his grave if he saw that.
It is not only the tortuous manner in which the new approaches and systems are portrayed that is confusing, but there is the annoying divisiveness which is blatantly put forward in the White Paper. It blames trade unions and flays workers for shortcomings and for the present unemployment situation and the lack of suitable skills in the United Kingdom. I should like to ask noble Lords to look at this piece of strident phraseology and the narrow measured tone of the arguments presented on page 55. This has been mentioned already by the noble Lord, Lord Elibank. The White Paper says:However, there is evidence that a significant minority of benefit claimants are not actively looking for work. Some are claiming benefit fraudulently while working at least part-time in the black economy. Others seem to have grown accustomed to living on benefit and have largely given up looking for work, despite the high level of job vacancies which are increasingly available thoughout the country. Others believe, mistakenly, that they might be financially worse off taking a job or are relucant to travel daily more than a short distance to where jobs are available.The White Paper Training for Employment described the measures the Government are taking to tackle fraud and abuse of the social security system by those who are not genuinely available for work".I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, when he says that such things happen. I recognise that in all levels of our society there are people who are workshy and idle. They are not only in the rank of the employables, who are particularly mentioned. I know of no trade union that supports or approves fraud to any degree or quarter. What is deliberately one-sided and partisan is that nowhere in the White Paper is mention or condemnation made of the corrupt proprietors, the self-interested financiers or the wilful incompetent managers. They may be in a minority, but to have included that aspect would have balanced the remarks about trade unions and employees, and that would have made the document more credible. There is not a word about asset stripping or takeover bids or the moral duty of employers to consult with employees before the closure of factories or other establishments. Surely the White Paper should have made some reference to these matters in order to win confidence, cooperation and commitment from trade unions or employees.
My view is that this White Paper on employment in the 1990s as presented cannot be considered in a positive, constructive or reasoned manner without reference to serious omissions. At this time of the evening I wish to mention only two of those. The White Paper mentions the word "disabled" once only, and this is a great disappointment to people who seek to help the disabled obtain employment as well as to those who are physically disabled. Surely 912 there should have been a paragraph which made some helpful reference to show that those people are being thought of in this connection. I am very pleased that the noble Lord, Lord Elibank, mentioned the particular problems that those people have.
A number of crucial issues have been dismissed from consideration in the White Paper. There is no attempt to deal with the impact of the European Commission proposals for employment and social legislation. That is dealt with in an offhand way in two paragraphs and the crucial issues are completely dismissed.
A challenging discussion paper published on 12th December 1988 by the British Institute of Management is entitled The European Employer. It states that:The UK Government has been firm in its opposition to both the Fifth Directive and the 'Vredeling' Directive, arguing that the voluntary approach to employee involvement works well in the UK. However, with the exception of the requirement to make a statement in Annual Reports, the UK is alone in Europe without any national legislation in this area.The Fifth Directive, raised under Article 54 of the Treaty is, following the implementation of the Single European Act, able to be adopted by the Council of Ministers by a Qualified Majority and was timetabled by Lord Cockfield in his 'Internal Market' White Paper, for 1988. The European Company Statute is due to be adopted in 1990.Solutions will have to be found to resolve the uncompromising position of the UK Government towards both these drafts. Several have been suggested. The foremost suggestion was to restrict information and consultation rights of employees to the introduction of new technology".In the White Paper the Government have not faced up to the implications of training and employment as regards the EC and social policies.
I conclude by referring to the words recently spoken by Norman Willis, General Secretary of the TUC. Paraphrasing, he said that we must not and need not return to the practices of the 1960s and 1970s. We can make a fresh start on the basis of mutual respect and active co-operation. We can all—that is government, management and employees—join in a firm commitment to efficiency, competiveness and fair play. I hope that, with the interest at heart of employment in the 1990s, the Government will have a radical rethink about the White Paper.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, I should like to join other Members of your Lordships' House in congratulating my noble friend Lady Turner on seizing an initiative which the Government have not seized—providing an opportunity to debate the White Paper. It is right that we should look at what my noble friend has sought to do. It is not merely a debate on the contents of the White Paper: we must look at the terms of the Question:whether the proposals contained in the White Paper … are likely significantly to improve training".In a fair speech the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, stated that he believes that they will improve training. The Question also mentions,employment prospects and employment conditions",and draws attention to,the heavy reliance on employers, de-regulation and non-statutory bodies".913 For that reason we have been able to have a reasonably wide debate and not merely to ask what the White Paper states.
I believe that of all the spheres of interest and responsibility in your Lordships' House about which there should be a search for consensus, training and education for industry and for life should be paramount. I approach the issue not in a spirit of bitterness or partisanship. I took the time to look at the Government's proposals. I did so partly with exasperation and sadness. At the end of the day the Government have stated that they wish to give back responsibility to those people who failed to provide the answer in the 1950s—the individual companies and employers. They wish to remove the interest and responsibility for direction from the centre and give it back to those on the perimeter.
If the Government can prove that in this sphere such deregulation and decentralisation have worked, it would be worth considering, but they have not. I shall refer to the report of Mr. Robert Carr, as he then was—now a distinguished Member of your Lordships' House—because we owe a great debt to him. I wonder to what extent the Government paid tribute or reference to his findings in the 1950s. In developing my speech I shall draw attention to what he then said about the attitude of employers. I ask this simple question. What has changed over the past 30 years to give the Government confidence that now they can abandon their responsibilities without doing damage to the future economic wellbeing of the country?
I should like to declare a number of interests. I am a member of a trade union. For many years I have been a member of the National Association of Cooperative Officials. I am also associated with the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, a union that I am proud to mention. I always declare my interest in the Co-operative movement and the Open University. The latter has a great part to play not only in distance learning but in helping to make this plan a reality. However, there is not a word about it in the White Paper. Distance learning is mentioned but there is no reference or tribute to the value and quality of the work of the Open University.
We have been invited to look forward to 1992 and to what the Government say is the way ahead. Let us make no mistake: the White Paper is directed towards deregulating central control. The Minister nods his head—vigorously for him; gently but positively. The White Paper is about deregulation, so we return to the nexus of deregulating in respect of trade unions, wages and now business education. I believe that it is a sad moment.
In what I considered to be a brilliant speech, my noble friend Lady Turner referred to the concluding words of the report. She said that the intention of the White Paper was that our workforce should be tamed and not trained. I found those words prophetic and I felt most angry. There are people, organisations and institutions which want us to have a better training force. Sadly, I do not believe that that will be achieved as a result of the White Paper. Certainly we shall not achieve it by giving responsibility for 914 training the nation's manpower precisely to those people who have failed to train even their own staff.
The Government have produced a system for devolving the responsibility for the provision and funding of training back to individual companies. That is a retreat from the assumption of a central role for Government in skill identification and creation. I am sure that if I tried to catch the Minister's eye I should see him nodding his head in agreement with that statement.
We must look at the realities of the Issue. Earlier I made a kindly reference to the noble Lord, Lord Carr. We have to go back to the Carr Report of 1957. I certainly want to pay tribute to the good sense in that report. If the Government had studied that report and its recommendations they would have seen that it examined in depth the existing independent non-statutory bodies of that time.
The report criticised the diminishing intake of craft apprentices and the shortage of good training facilities for them. It concluded that to maintain the skilled labour force a ratio of one trainee to four adults in the construction industry was necessary. The Carr Report accepted that in the construction industry there are difficult operational circumstances which partly explain the inability of large firms to train proportionately by that numerical yardstick. That remains the situation today. The large firms still do not train sufficiently and proportionately.
The Carr Committee also thought that there were some firms that do not train apprentices because they find it cheaper to take on adults trained by others. That is where the Minister comes in. Not only has the position not changed since 1967, it has become even worse. The report found that the smaller firms bore an unfair share of training costs, and it concluded that the principle of a contribution towards training by those firms which are themselves unable to train was one that other industries should also consider. Of course following the Carr Report there was the establishment of the Construction Industry Training Board.
My noble friend Lord Dean referred to the desire—indeed, the desperate need—of the large employers of labour in the construction industry to retain, develop and use the Construction Industry Training Board. I ask the Ministry to take this opportunity to say something positive about the future of the Construction IndustryTraining Board. He knows that there is a need, outside this House, to have something more positive said than has appeared so far.
The Minister will also need to tell the House whether he can address himself to the whole question of industrial training boards. The White Paper stresses that the success of its proposals will depend on the voluntary commitment of employers. The Minister must look at the record of employers in the construction industry and others. While there has been something of a stick to train, does he really believe that there are employers in the real world—the world which my noble friend Lady Turner introduced so positively—who are straining at the leash to be relieved of regulation and want to spend their time and money providing industry in 915 Britain with a better training force? I do not believe that that is the situation.
Over 50 per cent. of the workforce in the construction industry is now self-employed or engaged in labour-only subcontracting. The figures are astounding. There were 1,059,000 directly employed operatives in 1960 and now there are only 542,000. In 1960 there were only 159,000 self-employed workers and now there are 540,000. Does the Minister believe that with the mix of employers and employees in the construction industry, for example, there will be a real drive from that tremendous growth in the self-employed and that they will give him what I believe he sincerely wants—a better trained force?
The Minister has a great many points to answer but I want to concentrate on one or two more aspects of what is contained in the White Paper. I have already referred to the Open University, and I use as my text paragraph 6.28 on page 51 of the White Paper. It states:The Government will also continue to play their part in pump-priming new and significant approaches to training and development of employees throughout their working lives. The most significant of these developments in recent years has been the introduction of open, distance and flexible learning".Rather sadly I have to say that an institution like the Open University is entitled to have some direct reference made to it, not only per se but also to its record in this field.
There are Members of this House not a million miles from where I am standing who can speak with as much authority as I can about the quality and calibre of the Open University. Earlier today I was speaking to the noble Lord, Lord Perry, the first vice-chancellor. It is 20 years since the Open University started. The noble Lord, Lord Perry, and I reminisced about its beginning. We note with sadness that we have since lost someone who played a major part in its development—Lady Lee. My noble friend Lord Wilson, the former Prime Minister, also played a major part in its development. There are people in the House, not only on these Benches but all round the House, who have been involved. I pay tribute to the support that the present Government have given to the Open University.
There is much that the Government can consider when looking at the Open University. For example, the National Training Task Force faces a challenge in ensuring parity of standards and quality of delivery across the TECs. The Open University with its regional framework could be a valuable means of achieving that. Localised training systems required by TECs could be served by means of negotiated, customised packages produced by desk-top publishing. Support systems could be provided by the Open University's 13 regional centres and 250 study centres. The Open University has a major small business project which is potentially important to many of the organisations considered by the White Paper. Therefore, the Open University is very suited to assist in employment training.
I realise that the Minister may not be able to reply to all points, but I hope that he and his colleagues will take them on board, however deep their consultation 916 before the White Paper was produced. I look upon it as a White Paper and not as a Bill in itself. I hope that the period of consultation is not at an end. I hope that points such as I have made tonight can be taken on board.
I give the House one or two views which I believe the Minister will not welcome. These are from employers in the real world. I declare an interest in my association with the Co-operative movement. The Co-operative Wholesale Society believes that the aims of the employer-led councils—that is, the training and enterprise councils, which are to have the full responsibility for local training will conflict with those of the National Retail Training Council's Retail Certificate which is to be launched in March of this year. I quote the words of the personnel director of the CWS, Mr. Viv Bingham. He has responsibility for perhaps 25,000 employees in that field and in the Co-operative movement per se, 100,000 employees. Mr. Viv Bingham says,
TECs would be tempted to reduce training periods or lower standards to fill local gaps in skills".He goes on to say:They may well say, 'Blow the Retail Certificate, we need checkout operators and we can train them in three hours flat'".The Minister needs to tell me—if not tonight, in a letter—whether he sees a collision course of some kind in that respect.
Finally, I want the Minister to take on board that this debate is not just about the White Paper but also about the whole nexus of the Government's attitude to deregulation and the effects on trade unionised industries. Reference was made to the wages councils by my noble friend Lady Turner. The Minister should take on board the damage that we as trade unionists believe that the Government have already done to young people in particular. In 1986 there was a major onslaught on the wages councils. There were a number of damaging effects on trade unionists. There was removal of the junior pay rates, with no legal minimum pay rate for anyone aged under 21; the setting of adult pay rates at 21 instead of at 18 or 19; the loss of legal holiday entitlement and holiday pay; the loss of shift pay such as double time for Sunday work; the loss of unsocial hours' pay and other premium payments; the setting of just one rate for an industry covered by a council; and also the abolition of skill differentials and London weighting.
I believe the Minister can recognise that when we are looking at the future health of British industry we on this side of the House—I do not wish to say that I speak for everyone here in toto; there are individuals—say that it is simply no good putting forward a White Paper that tells individual industries and employers, "Get on with it; we wish you well", if at the same time the Government are dismantling some of the protection that already exists.
Mr. Garfield Davies, who is the general secretary of the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, sees this in a very poor light. He says:Never again must we leave the poorest workers to the mercy of market forces".He said also:The Government states openly that by abolishing these wage-fixing bodies it expects employers to pay them even less. Ministers 917 claim that low wages create more jobs in these already low-paid industries. Their consultative document does not produce any evidence of this".That is a fitting point on which to conclude.
I do not believe that the White Paper produces any evidence for the belief that when the proposal begins to have an impact it will do what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, and I want—establish a better-trained workforce. I do not believe that it will do that. I do not believe that there is the will in many a boardroom to devote the time, the attention, the care and the skill necessary to provide a better workforce with the training that it needs. I look forward very much to hearing what the Minister has to say.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, the comprehensive White Paper, as my noble friend Lord Elibank called it, and the world importance of the White Paper implied by my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway, is the subject of the thoughtful Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Turner of Camden, this evening. It is about tackling the barriers which stand in the way of employment growth in the 1990s. As she said—and other noble Lords have referred to it—the Question has sprinted around the Order Paper in recent weeks. I too am glad that we are at last debating this important matter.
It is part of the continuing policy of this Government to create a freer labour market and to liberate the entrepreneurial spirit which has been a significant factor in the economic success of the past eight years. The House will allow me, I am sure, to set the White Paper proposals against a background of some eight years of sustained economic growth and the fastest growth in employment for 40 years.
The noble Lords, Lord Blease and Lord Graham of Edmonton, may relax. I am not going to be nearly so extensive about it as the White Paper is. There are now over 2 million more jobs than there were five years ago. The latest estimates show that the total workforce in employment is the highest ever, even if you knock off those on training schemes which we now add into the figures, as the noble Baroness will know. In this period Britain has produced as many new jobs as the rest of the European Community put together.
Of course we would like to see full employment. I am grateful that the noble Baroness, Lady Seear, believes that we are on the way there. I am delighted that she recognised that it is the success of the Government's policies which are moving us in that direction. But that is not enough, and that is why we have this White Paper. How can we move further along this road? I believe that the Government are very interested in the problems of full employment. But we have not yet got there. We have to continue along the road to achieve that goal.
I believe that pay and conditions should be geared to productivity and profits. Trade unions have a role and a responsibility in creating and retaining jobs. They as well as the Government will have to rethink their policies. I take the criticism of the noble 918 Baroness. Trade unions will have to rethink their policies for their members in full employment. Trade union membership has dropped substantially from 13.2 million in 1979 to just under 10.6 million. Trade unions need to know that they are still relevant to their members.
As I said, unemployment is now below 2 million; it is lower than it has been at any time over the past eight years. Over the past year unemployment has fallen here faster than in any other industrial country. Long-term unemployment is falling faster than general unemployment. There are fewer people out of work under the age of 25 than for over five years. Yet again the noble Baroness rehearsed the well-known criticism of oppositions that the figures had been fiddled. She was ably supported and rather noisily, I thought, from a sedentary position by the noble Lord, Lord Graham, when she made the point.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Yes, I was listening. The noble Baroness knows perfectly well that unemployment statistics have been adjusted to take account of the changes in the definition of employment so that underlying changes in employment and unemployment can be observed. The noble Baroness might also be interested to know about other estimates of unemployment. For example, the labour force survey also shows substantial falls in unemployment have been taking place. The level of unemployment in 1987 as recorded by the survey estimates shows that it was lower than the claimant count. I am sorry that I do not have more up-to-date figures than the 1987 labour force survey.
We can argue about figures all night but I do not believe that it would be very productive. The fact is that all regions have enjoyed substantial falls in unemployment. In recent months the largest falls in unemployment rates have been in the West Midlands and Wales. The central message of the White Paper Employment for the 1990s is that we now have a unique opportunity to make further progress in reducing unemployment and increasing employment. First, the reduction in the number of young people entering the labour market will create new job opportunities for groups such as women and older people, a point on which I believe every speaker agreed this evening.
Secondly, we now have a strong economy capable of generating wealth and employment. This White Paper is also about ensuring that we translate this employment opportunity into a reality The noble Baroness has picked up this theme by asking, in essence, whether there is a logical progression of thought through the White Paper. She has recognised that it is about increasing the demand for labour and increasing the supply of labour.in short, removing barriers to jobs. We all want to see unemployment continuing to fall. With 700,000 unfilled jobs and continuing economic growth, there is clearly scope for this to happen. But unemployment will not fall unless we continue to create new jobs.
People are indeed the key to greater economic success, as my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary pointed out the other day. The 919 noble Baroness, Lady Seear, is quite right to say that we need to provide more opportunities for young people, women returning to work, older people and those from ethnic minorities. Indeed, the demographic changes and the drop in the number of young people in the 1990s will make this absolutely essential. I very much hope that the TECs, about which I shall have a good deal to say later, will be in the vanguard of raising these issues and encouraging employers to act upon them in their communities.
The Government believe that older people have a valuable role to play and job centres a role to encourage employers not to impose unnecessary age restrictions on vacancies. Whether statutory arrangements in this area are appropriate is a matter which we shall be able to consider in the not too distant future.
At the same time we need to remember the lessons we have learnt over the past 20 years; that there is a clear connection between pay and jobs. Rapid growth in pay will result in a slower growth in employment. We must get away from outdated concepts like the annual pay round and the going rate. Indeed we need pay which reflects the local labour market and is geared to performance and profits. The Government believe that trade unions can have a useful role to play here. The Government's step-by-step approach to industrial relations has helped to return trade unions to their members and has been concerned primarily with the protection and promotion of trade union rights. It is quite inappropriate to compare the situation here with that in Poland. I can assure the noble Baroness that recent research from that well known Government supporter, the London School of Economics, in Unionisation and Employment Behaviour showed that trade unions could—
§ Baroness Seear
My Lords, the implication from the noble Lord was that the London School of Economics is definitely opposed to conservatism. The London School of Economics has in its ranks members of all parties. It is very out of date to suggest that it is a centre of revolution.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I was not suggesting that at all. The noble Baroness reads more into my words than I actually said. I said that it is a well-known Government supporter. I agree that there was a hint of irony in that comment because in the past a good many of its reports have been critical of the ideas of this Government. I recall that when I first came to the House there were certainly one or two comments from that quarter critical of the then Labour Government. I do not think that I need be criticised for making that point.
Unionisation and Employment Behaviour showed that trade unions had used their power in ways which adversely affected labour costs—for example, in productivity and jobs. In the Government's view, there are real questions whether a statutory system established to meet the demands of the heyday of the Edwardian era is relevant to determining pay in the 1990s.
920 I am not embarrassed that we are looking at this again after only four years. The previous changes have simply not worked out in practice. Economic and social conditions have been transformed since the system was introduced. We now have a comprehensive framework of in-work social security benefits. This system of in-work benefits provides direct help to people on low incomes who are in work. There were no benefits or support like family credit available in 1910.
The fact is that no one would create wages council machinery today. Anomalies abound. For example, people engaged in the production of clothing from woven materials such as cotton and wool are covered but those using the same processes on knitted fabrics are not. Sunday trading is analogous in this respect. And we all know what this House at least thinks of that.
§ Baroness Turner of Camden
My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that during the debate speakers on this side of the House indicated that wages councils were anomalous in some respects? We were complaining about the lack of any kind of minimum protection. We were not claiming that wages councils are perfect.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, the noble Baroness is protesting a little in advance of my argument.
I noted what was said by various noble Lords about wages councils. I was amazed by the linkage the noble Baroness appeared to make between low wages and the abolition of wages councils, as though this was like love and marriage—going together like a horse and carriage. If she really believes that, she has made an excellent case not for their retention but for their abolition. Let us go a little wider and look at the Official Report of another place. In answer to a Question for Written Answer to discover how many representations my right honourable friend had received on the future of wages councils following the publication of his White Paper Employment for the 1990s, we are told:Fifteen such representations have been received up to 10 January".—[Official Report, Commons, 17/1/89: col. 180.]The consultation document invites comments by 3rd February. I note that one of the favourite expressions of the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is, "What a deafening silence". I would not put it like that in this respect. I would say, "What an enormous outcry".
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, the noble Lord seeks to demonstrate that what he calls a poor response on the future of wages councils is a deafening silence. Does he not think that there may be a cynicism among trade unions? They may wonder, if this Government have listened so carefully to what they have been saying for years and have ignored it, what is the point of saying to them that while there may not be a case in toto for retaining wages councils there is a need to retain the nexus of protection. Protection is what we want. It is the abolition of protection which makes many of us despair.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, would like to add to that before I respond.
§ Lord Dean of Beswick
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. He tried to make the point that there appears to be no evidence that the reduction in the number of wages councils has adversely affected wage levels. He should make himself aware of the report issued only a few weeks ago by the Low Pay Unit, which shows clearly that the abolition of wages councils and the restriction of their powers has had a dramatic effect on wage levels at the lowest end of the scale, where people are already suffering low wages. The Minister should look into that report if he thinks otherwise.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, the questions are coming slightly in advance of my arguments. The point I was making to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, is that one can get all the things for which he is asking in other ways in the modern economic and social climate in which we find ourselves today. When I said that no one would create wages council machinery today to achieve desirable objectives—they were desirable at the time and they are to a large extent desirable now—I meant that we would not today be using that machinery. I stick by that point.
In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, I accept that the removal of the wages councils' minima will lead to a greater range of pay rates, but that does not mean that excessively low pay will be commonplace. For example, there are few cases of workers being paid significantly less than the wages councils' legal minima. Indeed, figures for this have been published in the past fortnight. This happens even now where employers are ignorant of the law in respect of their industry.
Two-thirds of wages councils' workers are paid above the minimum rate. Low pay does not necessarily mean low income. Many low paid workers are in households where there are other sources of income. There may be occupational pensions, disability benefits and so on. It is not the place of employers to pay higher wages than the job warrants because of workers' individual circumstances. There is a duty to do this but not on employers. It is the duty of the social security system to help those with heavy domestic reponsibilities which they cannot meet on their income. That is not—I knew this issue would arise; indeed, I was almost praying for it—subsidising bad employers. I note that a certain noble Lord wishes to intervene again, but perhaps I may finish the point that I was trying to make. After this interruption, I think that I had better stop giving way; otherwise, my injury time will be longer than my speech time. The point I was making was that this provision is not subsidising bad employers.
Employers are in any case likely to be interested in getting the best people for the job, and not getting people who may be cheaper to employ because they would be entitled to social security benefits. I think that now is the time for the noble Lord to interrupt, if he so wishes.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, the noble Lord has sought to cover the point. Is he really saying that he accepts a system whereby the generality of taxpayer is there to top up the low wages paid by an employer who decides that that is the wage he can get the employee for? He is talking about subsidising poor or bad employers. By the very nature of employment, they are in the business of reducing their on-costs to the lowest possible level. Therefore, it is quite astounding for the Minister to say so cheerfully that the system has changed so that the generality of the taxpayer, by this raft of other benefits, is there to top up the very low wages which I can assure him are paid in many industries, not least in those of retailing and catering.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
Yes, my Lords, they are. However, surely the point is that they are not only paid in wages council industries. Moreover, the social security system, with all the debates we have had in Parliament, both during its preparation and now in its realisation, concerns low wage levels across the board. I see that the noble Lords again wish to intervene, but I must get on with what I intended to say. I am afraid that I must be hard hearted in this respect.
Ten years ago one of the most serious barriers to job growth was poor industrial relations. Over the past 10 years our industrial relations have been transformed. The number of strikes over the past three years has been lower than at any time since 1940. Further, many of the restrictive practices and demarcation rules which held back productivity in the 1970s have gone.
The White Paper makes it clear that the Government will take any further legislative steps which are needed on any aspect of industrial relations which constitute a barrier to employment. In particular, the Government are examining the operation of the pre-entry closed shop and reviewing the steps employers take to use the freedom the law has given them to end closed shop arrangements.
The challenge for employers in the 1990s will be to involve their staff directly in the economic success of their businesses. Indeed, I agree with my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway that the unions have an enormous role to play in that respect. However, having used the word "respect" it occurs to me that respect must exist on both sides. Moreover, one of the conditions, or preconditions, of the whole White Paper is that respect should exist on both sides.
Employers who are going to capitalise on the skills and enthusiasm of their staff will need to give them a direct stake in the performance of the business. The Government believe that the companies need the freedom to develop arrangements for staff involvement in ways which suit their own circumstances.
Governments neither create nor abolish unemployment; only employers and employees working in concert can do that. However, what governments can do is to create conditions in which employment can flourish. As regards putting moral pressures on to young mothers—which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Elibank—I do 923 not believe that that is what we are about. The White Paper intends to seek removal of barriers to employment of this group. Clearly, if there is no child care facility then that will constitute a barrier to employment in that particular case.
At present, it is interesting to note that 51 per cent. of the women in employment have dependent children. The absence of crèches, for example, does not seem to be deterring them. Nonetheless, I agree that it is—as I agreed with the noble Baronesses this afternoon—a barrier to employment.
I turn now to the White Paper's new proposals on training. Perhaps not suprisingly, as regards the issue of training, most noble Lords asked me about the CITB—the Construction Industry Training Board. As I said in answer to a noble Lord's Starred Question the other day, I am very much aware that the construction industry has continued to support a collective funding system as a result of several factors, including a highly mobile workforce, the growth of labour-only sub-contracting, the large number of small firms and the fluctuations in demand. We shall discuss such measures fully with the board chairman when looking at the new timescale for transition to a voluntary system. I am afraid that at this stage I cannot be more definite than that. However, when those discussions have taken place, I undertake to write to the noble Lords who are concerned about that issue, and I shall also place a letter in the Library.
The noble Baroness, Lady Seear, was worried that voluntarism—the non-statutory training boards—may not work. Indeed, I think that she put it even more strongly than that. The survey carried out earlier this year shows that the majority of non-statutory boards and organisations are effective. The shift to voluntarism means that discussion centres on the important training issues rather than the need for, or the size of, a levy. The non-statutory organisations recently announced the creation of the National Council of Industry Training Organisations to pull the non-statutory system closer together and bring weaker bodies up to scratch. The training agency will work closely with the council and some funds will be made available to assist new or struggling non-statutory training organisations (NSTOs).
I believe that direct labour organisations are a totally different matter. Just as the Government do not believe in general in being direct employers in such situations, we shall not allow local authorities to compete on unfair terms with the private sector. Indeed, there is an argument for stripping local authorities of direct employment in that area. However, the House will know that we have not gone anything like as far as that.
§ Lord Skelmersdale
My Lords, I am responding to a question which was put to me tonight; it would be purely hypothetical for me to respond to something on which discussions have not, so far as I know, even taken place.
924 I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dean of Beswick, that training in that area will not be affected by proposals in the White Paper. We recognise that we need a better trained, more flexible labour force. That is why the Government have invested record levels of expenditure in training and enterprise. But lack of training and lack of skills for many people are still today a real barrier to jobs. I think that my noble friend Lord Elibank, and the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, are right in that respect. There will inevitably be a number of untrainable people. Our job is to ensure that that figure is set at an absolute minimum.
I note what the noble Lord, Lord Blease, said about training for the disabled and about disabled people generally. Of course employment training provides many opportunities for the disabled, as indeed does the youth training scheme, which has special arrangements for disabled youngsters, as he will know. Therefore, I hope that there is no suggestion that disabled people fall into my noble friend's heading of "the untrainable".
I also noted the praise expressed for YTS by the noble Baroness, Lady Seear. However, what she reasonably asked about was the backlog. The answer is in in-work training and in ET. Recent research has shown that the best of British companies may stand comparison with the best in the world. But in terms of the breadth and depth of training, its quantity and standards, we still show up badly against our competitors in Europe and North America.
The present training arrangements, which have been in place for a generation now, have two main defects. First, there has been too much emphasis on national boards and insufficient attention to the local market. It is at the local level that skill needs are best assessed and practical solutions for meeting them best devised. Secondly, there has been too much emphasis on regulation and on statutory powers and not enough on enabling employers to deliver training in response to the needs of the economy.
Employers are the providers and the customers for training. The best and most successful employers in Britain provide training which compares favourably with the best in the world. The Government's aim is to involve the best firms in the running of the training and enterprise councils, together with individuals drawn from other community interests. In other words, most training will continue to be provided by employers. What the TECs will do is subcontract the training funded by the Government to the most appropriate trainers, whether they be non-statutory training boards, colleges of further education, the Open University, which was mentioned by one noble Lord, or other forms of training.
I had intended to say a great deal more but time is now pressing so I shall have to write rather more letters to noble Lords than I had originally intended.
The White Paper proposes a new and locally based framework to overcome defects by the introduction of the new training and enterprise councils. TECs will be private sector led and will be responsible for the training and enterprise strategy for their area. They will have a large budget to manage training programmes for young people and unemployed adults. They will also be responsible for small 925 business support and counselling. They will be responsible for providing and directing more private sector investment in training, vocational education and enterprise activities. That will help strengthen the local skill base and spur economic growth. Our objective is to set up about one hundred TECs over the next three to four years, eventually covering the country as a whole.
I do not believe that the winding up of the Training Commission was an over-reaction to events at the TUC as the noble Baroness, Lady Turner suggested. It was unjustifiable and unsupportable that members of the Training Commission, who were responsible for the approval of the training programme, should then oppose the scheme in the TUC. It is for those reasons that the Secretary of State decided to take back the powers to himself.
The White Paper is about the challenges and employment opportunities of the 1990s and about ensuring that we take them. We must continue to remove the remaining barriers to employment in pay bargaining, in industrial relations, and, above all, in training.
926 The White Paper's proposals on training are among the most radical that any government have laid before Parliament since the Second World War. The training and enterprise councils represent an important devolution of power away from Whitehall to the employer in the local labour market.
Finally, the White Paper has been criticised this evening more for what is not in it than for what is. I opened by saying that the rationale for the White Paper was barriers to employment. Some of the omissions that we have discussed are not in that category; but, in so far as there are some, I take the points seriously and shall pass them on to my right honourable friend.
The ideas contained in the White Paper have caught the imagination of employers and local communities up and down the country. What matters is that they are answering in the affirmative the Question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner.
§ House adjourned at three minutes past eight o'clock.