HC Deb 08 July 1981 vol 8 cc133-4W
Mr. Latham

asked the Secretary of State for Employment whether he will make a statement on the results of his Department in achieving the Government's policy programme since he answered a similar question from the hon. Member for Melton on 4 June 1980.

Mr. Prior

[pursuant to his reply,1 July 1981, c. 397]: Since 4 June 1980 my Department has continued to contribute towards the Government's central policy objective of achieving a sound economy, which is necessary to achieving a real and lasting increase in employment.

My Department, both directly, and through the Manpower Services Commission, continues to place particular emphasis on measures designed to help those groups hardest hit by unemployment. The estimated expenditure on these measures in 1981–82 will be almost £1 billion. 360,000 young people entered the youth opportunities programme in 1980–81 financial year and the programme has been expanded to provide places for 450,000 young people this year. We are giving urgent and sympathetic consideration to the commission's request for a further 100.000 places. Priority is also being given to improving and increasing the training element in schemes under the programme to make it a worthwhile start for young people's working lives.

We have throughout the year continued to provide help through the jab release arid temporary short-time working compensation schemes. We estimate that some 141,000 people were being helped by both schemes at the end of May 1981.

During the year the Manpower Services Commission launched a new programme—the community enterprise programme—designed particularly to help 25,000 adults who have been unemployed for some months by providing work for them on projects which will at the same time benefit the community.

My Department is also pursuing policies which look at the upturn in the economy and which are designed in particular to improve industrial training. The Manpower Services Commission published in July 1980 a report on its review of the working of the Employment and Training Act 1973. In the light of that report, I announced on 26 November that I had asked the commission to carry out a survey of the training arrangements in each sector of the economy. I now expect that the commission's report on this will be published before the Summer Recess. The Employment and Training Bill, which is now before Parliament, would enable me to act on the results of this review without being bound to act only in accordance with a recommendation from the commission. It would also permit the operating costs of industrial training board.; to be raised by levy on employers.

Together with my colleagues the Secretaries of State for Wales, Scotland and Education and Science I was Net), glad to give my support to the consultative document "A New Training Initiative" published on 21 May by the Manpower Services Commission. The achievement of the document's objectives—better arrangements for skilled training to agreed standards; improving the vocational education and training of all young people, and opening up more opportunities for adults to train—are crucial to the revival of British industry and to job prospects in the 1980s and beyond. In addition we have given whole-hearted backing to the consultative document "An 'Open Tech' Programme" which was published on 14 May by the Manpower Services Commission.

We also continue to pursue our objective of improving industrial relations. The Employment Act 1980 reached the statute book on 1 August and all the main provisions were brought into force by October 1980. We are carefully monitoring the operation of the Act. A Green Paper—Cmnd. 8128—on trade union immunities was published in January this year. The consultation period ended on 30 June and I am now assessing the comments I have received from over 200 organisations and individuals.

Throughout the year, my colleagues and I have taken every opportunity to encourage closer involvement of people in the decisions which affect them at their place of work.

Finally, my Department continues to make every effort to ensure that the services it offers are provided efficiently and cost-effectively.

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