HC Deb 24 February 1977 vol 926 cc678-9W
Mr. George Rodgers

asked the Secretary of State for Employment what was the outcome of the consultations on the consultative document "Training for Vital Skills"; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Booth

In July 1976, the Government and the Manpower Services Commission published jointly a consultative document "Training for Vital Skills" which set out as a basis for discussion a new scheme for the collective funding of initial training in transferable skills in certain selected occupations. The document also included a proposal that the operating costs of training boards should be financed by levies paid by employers.

A large number of comments and suggestions were received. Although many bodies expressed agreement with the objectives which the collective funding proposals were designed to achieve, the reaction to the particular proposals varied greatly.

The Government and the Manpower Services Commission have reached the view that there is not an agreed basis for proceeding with the collective funding proposals at the present time, but that, in view of the importance of ensuring that skill shortages do not impede industrial growth, it is essential to continue working for practical solutions to the problems which are generally acknowledged to exist. The Manpower Services Commission will therefore be establishing a task group under the chairman of the commission with the following terms of reference. To consider the range of possibilities for action which would help to ease problems arising from skill shortages; to examine in par titular the extent to which training measures and financial mechanisms can play a part in maintaining an adequate skilled workforce; and to pay special attention to the systematic recruitment of young people".

The task group, which will report in the autumn, will include representatives of the TUC and CBI as well as of education and industrial training boards. Among the initiatives being taken by the boards, the Engineering ITB is getting up a working party under the Chairman of the board to examine the issues in the engineering industry and to work in close liaison with the task group.

The Government attach high priority to the establishment of arrangements to help avoid industrial growth being impeded by skill shortages and it will consider with the Manpower Services Commission how best to make progress following the work of the group.

The consultative document also included a proposal that the operating costs of industrial training boards should in future be financed from levies paid by employers. This proposal was generally opposed. The Government have accepted that no changes should be made for the present in the arrangements for public landing of these expenses.