HL Deb 16 December 1991 vol 533 cc1011-2

Lord McCarthy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Why the number of workers on work-related government training schemes has been allowed to decline since September 1989.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Employment (Viscount Ullswater)

My Lords, experience has shown that other measures such as jobclubs and the job interview guarantee have for some unemployed people been even more effective than training in helping them to get jobs. That is why we have refocused our provision in favour of these measures over recent years. At the same time demographic changes and a welcome increase in school staying-on rates in full-time education account for a reduction in the numbers in youth training.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Is he telling us that he is satisfied with the situation, in that after rising for three years, there is now a tailspin reduction in the number of workers on government-related training schemes, so that in fact the number has been reduced by 20 per cent. in two years? Can he say whether the Government are satisfied with the situation?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the prime responsibility for training rests with the employers, who are actually spending over £20 billion per year on training. Recent CBI evidence suggests that overall employers are going to spend more on training next year than they have done this year. Between 1984 and 1990 the number of employees receiving job-related training in a given month has risen by 85 per cent.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, is the Minister aware that a great many of these schemes have a very poor reputation among young people as they are not perceived as providing genuine training? Does he agree that the Government should be doing something about that?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble Baroness. She mentioned in particular youth training. Sixty-six per cent. of all those completing their training gain a qualification. That is a great credit to the scheme. I know that those who have been interviewed suggest that the scheme was useful or very useful.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, does the Minister accept the principle that at a time of high and rising unemployment the Government should give a high priority to work-related training schemes in order to preserve the skills base of this country?

Viscount Ullswater

Yes, my Lords, I agree with the basis of that question. As I said in my original Answer, we do not believe that training is always the most effective way of helping people to get a job. The Government have introduced a wide range of measures to help about 840,000 people this year and up to a million next year. For example, the employment action scheme which has just been introduced is specifically designed to help people with current skills to keep them up to date so that, with the welcome upturn in the economy which is about to arrive, those people will go straight back into work.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, has the noble Viscount taken into consideration some of the recommendations of the CBI which point out that the vast increase in the number of industrial bankruptcies means a massive reduction both in the number of apprenticeships and in other forms of work? In other words, does he agree that as more industries become bankrupt unemployment is affected and it increases?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, in this Question we are dealing with training. I was able to quote the recent CBI evidence which suggests that more firms are undertaking more training.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, does my noble friend understand the charge made, I believe, by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, that these schemes do not provide genuine training? If he understands it, can he say whether there is any answer to the point?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I am distressed by any idea that training given either to the unemployed or to young people is not considered to be genuine. Most of it is work-related and is in place with employers. It is seen, especially for youth training, as a direct route into employment.

Lord McCarthy

My Lords, does the noble Viscount agree that when the Government introduced these measures they called them "work related schemes" because they were related to the volume of work? Does he further agree that the volume of work has now fallen? Most people would expect that, as the volume falls, the schemes would expand, but they have contracted. Therefore, can the Minister tell us how far the Government expect the schemes to contract still further as the level of unemployment rises still further?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord considers that training is the answer to everything. The Government are concerned to get back into work those who have been unfortunate enough to become unemployed. We consider that there are many opportunities other than training for securing that end. About 414,000 people in all left unemployment in October, which is more than in any month in the past three years. I hope that the noble Lord is not suggesting that that is not related to the effectiveness of the Government's varied range of help for the unemployed.

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