HC Deb 07 November 1984 vol 67 cc2-3W
Mr. Gale

asked the Secretary of State for Employment if he will make a statement on information technology centres.

Mr. Peter Morrison

The first information technology centres were established just over three years ago. There are now more than 150 ITeCs in operation and it is planned to extend the total number of centres to 175. ITeCs have made a substantial contribution to training under the youth training scheme. They also provide an invaluable source of expertise in new technology and have the potential to play a wider role in the provision of training and related services in their localities. The changes which are now being made, and which are set out below, will help to encourage ITeCs to widen their activities in this way.

ITeCs are currently jointly funded by the Manpower Services Commission, the Department of Trade and Industry and individual scheme sponsors. For training carried by ITeCs under the youth training scheme, the commission funds trainee allowances and makes a substantial contribution to adult staff salaries, operating costs and capital costs. In addition, the Department of Trade and Industry makes available pump-priming funds over the first three years of each centre's existence to assist with capital purchases, software development and the payment of salaries sufficient to recruit and retain the necessary specialist adult staff.

It has been the intention from the start of ITeC programme that by the end of the first three yeas of operation each centre should be in a position to operate without further funding from the Department of Trade and Industry. Some centres coming to the end of their third year are not yet in that position. I am asking centres to move to it as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, I have agreed that the commission should provide any necessary additional adult staff salary support as a temporary measure for the period until 31 October 1985.

In addition, arrangements are being made to allow ITeCs to retain a proportion of any income which they generate as a contribution towards the cost of the replacement of capital equipment. Arrangements are also being made to allow ITeCs to use a further proportion of their revenues as a contribution towards salaries of adult staff from 1 November 1985. I am also examining certain technical rules which inhibit ITeCs from extending the range of their activities. Relaxation of such rules should significantly increase the potential of ITeCs to generate income.

Taken together, these changes should consolidate and increase the role of ITeCs in their localities and thus enhance our efforts to accelerate training in new technology.