HL Deb 26 February 1992 vol 536 cc263-5

2.45 p.m.

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are assisting companies that are reducing their workforces to maintain apprenticeship programmes.

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

My Lords, the Government are providing very considerable support to companies which are committed to training their young recruits. In this way we are supporting many employer-based apprenticeships and other forms of high quality training. The primary responsibility for managing their young trainees, however, rests with employers.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for that reply. Will he accept that it is vital for the Government's current policy to continue? Companies that employ apprentices must be helped because those apprentices in turn will be the craftsmen who will help us to get out of the recession. Will he confirm that the current policy of the Government will continue and that apprentices will be encouraged, acknowledging that they are the craftsmen of the future?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I am happy to confirm that government support will continue. There are around 300,000 people currently on the Government's youth training programme in Great Britain. Also, in January 1992 the CBI Industrial Trends Survey showed that 82 per cent. of firms expected to increase or maintain their investment in training over the next 12 months. I believe that that is a very good reply.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that response. With regard to employer-based training, is he aware that according to my information only 40 per cent. of placements are in practice employer based and that both the TUC and the CBI are concerned about the lack of employer placements in a time of recession? What can be done to assist employers in that situation?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that it is vital for YT placements to be backed up by opportunities for work placements. It is in the interest of employers to continue to train young people because industry will need their skills as the economy turns round. The Government look firmly to TECs to use their unique influence with their business colleagues to ensure that work placements are available.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the noble Viscount clear up a problem that has arisen in regard to the discrepancy between what we are told in the press and what we understand from Answers in your Lordships' House? We are constantly told by the press that the TECs are receiving and are expected to receive less money. The Government say that they are maintaining the money given to the TECs. Which is true? They cannot both be true.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, with regard to funding for youth training, the Government are investing the same amounts: £859 million in 1991–92, which includes £17 million extra from the Spring Supplementary Estimate, and £851 million in 1992–93. That indicates that the spending is roughly the same, bearing in mind that the staying-on rate at school has increased and that the number of young people is decreasing.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, will the noble Viscount be good enough to say something nice about the Construction Industry Training Board which is working hard, despite the present deep recession, and turning out quite a lot of people?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I shall be happy to say something nice about the CITB. Employers in scope of the CITB can claim grants from the CITB for trainees during the first two years of their training. It is greatly to the credit of the CITB that it announced a series of measures amounting to £6.5 million in July 1991 to counter the effects of the recession. I hope that that is nice enough for the noble Lord.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, will the Government bear in mind that existing apprentices are the craftsmen of the future? Would it not be good for our Government to work with the Trades Union Congress and the Confederation of British Industry? They know that if we do not look at our apprenticeship programme we shall have no specialist workers to produce the goods that will be badly needed to overcome the recession as we come out of it.

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, the Government recognise that they need to provide quality training for young people. That is why they have been developing a comprehensive system of national vocational qualifications. It is anticipated that by the end of the year about 80 per cent. of employees will have qualifications accredited in their area of competence.

Lord Rochester

My Lords, is not the true answer to the question asked by my noble friend Lady Seear that the Government maintain grants to TECs in absolute terms but not expenditure in real terms?

Viscount Ullswater

My Lords, I attempted to answer the question put by the noble Baroness by indicating that the staying-on rate at school is greatly increasing and that the number of youngsters applying for YT is decreasing. We are maintaining the same amount of money, which will be devoted to a smaller number of people.