§ 3.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Austen Albu (Edmonton)
In discussing the Vote for the Ministry of Labour we have chosen the subect of apprenticeship and industrial training because it seems to us to be one of the gravest problems facing the country at present. If I may start with a quotation, it will be from a letter which I have only just received from a youth employment officer.
It reads:The latest financial news makes me (and no doubt every other youth employment officer) tremble in my shoes. If production is cut down I can see another recession coming like the one which began about October, 1957, and which caused school-leavers so many headaches and heartaches in 1959. Only, of course, it will be much worse next time because the big bulge' will start in a few months' time. God help us and the kids if the recession and the bulge coincide.That is the theme on which I want to open the debate. My friend's anxiety is supported by the figures which have 1563 been given from time to time by the Minister in reply to Questions in the House, and they make a grim comment on the optimism expressed by the present Minister of Power when he spoke in the last major debate on this subject on 30th April last year.
There are two main aspects of this problem and two considerations which we should bear in mind. The first is the social one, the problem of whether or not we shall be able to provide enough jobs, and adequate training in these jobs, for the boys and girls who will be leaving school in the next few years during the large increase in the number of school-leavers which is commonly referred to as "the bulge".
The second is whether or not the quality of the training which these boys and girls will get when they go into industry will be adequate for the task which faces our economy in the next few years, an economy which will increasingly face competition from gigantic market bases, large-scale investment and a high degree of scientific and technical advance. During the current year—and no doubt the Minister will draw attention to this when he replies—the situation may temporarily have been relieved by the temporary fall in the number of school-leavers and by the General Election boom, but now we are beginning to face the bulge of school-leavers in the next two or three years at exactly the time when Government action has been taken to reduce the level of economic activity. This is a very serious situation indeed.
By 1962, it is expected that there will be 494,000 15-year olds leaving school in England and Wales. The figures will start rising next year. This is an increase of nearly a half over 1956. The peak for the 16-year olds will be reached a year later, with 121,000. Here, the figure is about three-quarters over the 1956 figure. These are the years for us of challenge and of opportunity. They are a challenge, because if we do not cope with them successfully we shall do irreparable harm to the lives of the boys and girls and to the social future of the country. They are years of opportunity, because they give us a chance to make 1564 up the great backlog of training and education which we badly need to make up if we are to retain our industrial position in the world.
How is industry preparing to face this opportunity and this challenge? I must worry the Committee with a few figures because they provide the only way which one can demonstrate what is taking place. The number of boys who have been entering apprenticeship or other forms of skilled training during the last few years and who are going into skilled jobs has gone up from 93,200 in 1956 to 98,700 in 1959. The 1956 figure was a very low figure. In fact, the actual rise for boys has not been a rise in the proportion of those entering employment, but a very substantial fall, from 39 per cent. to 34 per cent. of all those entering employment. The number of girls has risen from 17,352 in 1956 to 20,631 in 1959. I suspect that this also represents a fall, but I have no information about the percentages. In any case, the numbers for girls are very small.
The figures for skilled training and apprenticeships for boys show a very serious fall, particularly because the apprenticeship market is very sensitive to economic conditions. In 1958, the number of school-leavers entering apprenticeships was the lowest for many years. The year 1959, when figures went up very substantially, was, of course, an economic boom year. Nevertheless, the figures for that year still show a fall when calculated as a proportion of those entering employment.
Another way of looking at this problem of the amount of facilities for training that are available and of what the industry is doing is to look at the trends in part-time day releases, because most firms that provide decent apprenticeship schemes allow their apprentices at least one day release every week. Here the figures are again very alarming. In England and Wales, in 1957–58, 33.2 per cent. of boys under 18 in employment were given day release. In 1958–59, the proportion had gone down to 31 per cent., and numbers had dropped from 192,000 to 187,000. The number of girls increased from 50,636 or 8.7 per cent., to 51,743, but that was a slight fall in proportion because the 1565 percentage was 8.5. The main apprenticeship trades are engineering, shipbuilding and building, but even in engineering and shipbuilding the proportion of boys released under part-time day releases has fallen substantially in England and Wales, from 73.9 per cent. to 58.5 per cent. Last year, in Scotland, the figure was as low as 53 per cent.
It is true that there is a very great variety—this is one of the problems—in the availability of apprenticeships and the amount of day release given as between different industries. It is not surprising that our nationalised industries do very well in this regard, as the figures for both apprenticeships and day release show—in the mining, gas and electricity industries, British Railways, and so forth. British Railways have first-class training workshops. I visited one at Crewe the other day However, I am sorry that British Railways could not bear the small cost of keeping on the 57 apprentice fitters which they recently sacked from the Doncaster works, thus not setting a very good example to private industry, which should also be doing better.
However, by and large, no doubt, the nationalised industries do very well, as do many of the large firms, which do more than their share of providing skilled workers to enter industry, but the great mass of small and medium-sized firms, even in engineering and shipbuilding, which are the main apprentice trades, do not—even building, in which fewer than half the firms operate the national joint apprenticeship scheme.
Not only do the opportunities vary greatly between industries. They vary greatly between different parts of the country. Last year, the proportion of boys entering employment who were able to obtain apprenticeships or training in skilled trades varied as much as from 23 per cent. in Wales and 32 per cent. in London and Scotland, to 42 per cent. in the East and West Ridings, and the proportion was very similar in the Northern region. In some cases these were very substantial falls in the proportions over the last few years, particularly in Scotland.
Unfortunately, even these figures may be exaggerated. The Committee over which the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) presided reported on the difficulty of obtaining accurate statistics 1566 about the number of apprenticeships or the requirements of industry over the next few years. These figures are obtained, I believe, from youth employment officers, or largely from them, and those officers have very great difficulty in obtaining hard information. Those officers are dealing with young men and women when they leave school at 15, and apprenticeship does not begin until the age of 16. Therefore, the youth employment officer has to guess or take the word of the young men and women about whether or not they will be apprenticed.
Many firms take on boys and girls—mainly boys—but if a trade recession comes along shortly afterwards they may refuse to indenture them at 16, although the boys and girls may be regarded as having entered apprenticeship. So the numbers will be less than at first sight they appear to be. Many firms take on several boys, but indenture very few of them. Yet those boys may well have told the youth employment officer that they were apprenticed. Consequently, the figures may be exaggerated. They are certainly inaccurate.
This is the situation which we are now facing. There certainly is not much sign of our getting even the 20 per cent. increase in the numbers of apprenticeships and trainees in skilled occupations which is supposed to be the target of the Industrial Training Council, a target which is based on nothing more than the rise in the number of school leavers, and one which most informed opinion would believe is completely inadequate, because we must cater not only for the increase in the numbers of school leavers, but for the increased proportion of those who leave school and obtain training in industry.
The situation from the point of view of the three interested parties is best summed up by the Crowther Report, in paragraph 509, which says:Prospects for the next five years can he looked at in three ways. From the point of view of the individual employer, they may not be unsatisfactory—he stands a fair chance of getting all the apprentices he can usefully train and of being able to select them much more carefully than he could in recent years.That merely means that there is a surplus of boys and girls coming on the labour market.From the point of view of an individual boy, the situation is alarming. Since the war, 1567 his elder brothers have progressively had a better chance of securing a job with day release—his own chance and his younger brother's look like being worse. From the standpoint of the State, the situation is also disquieting. It seems doubtful whether it can succeed even in holding the position to the present percentage figure of release. It looks to us as if a static situation, instead of the improving one to which we have become accustomed, is the best that we can hope for during the next five years.Later, in the paragraph, the Report says:One of our witnesses quoted to us the remark of a German industrialist—' We envy you your bulge'.The Report goes on:We trust that there may be no need to add 'But we are astounded at the way you have wasted the chance to build up your capital of skill'.I suggest that we are wasting our chance to build up our capital of skill.
Turning from what I regard as a very depressing and even alarming picture to the measures taken to deal with it, I would say right away that I consider this to be a Government responsibility on two grounds. The first is that the Government must be concerned with the social well-being of the young people who will be growing up into manhood during the next few years and will be the citizens of the future. Secondly, it must be a Government responsibility to ensure that our economy is adequately equipped with scientific and technical training, with skilled craftsmen with an appropriate level of education, and sufficient investment to cope with the highly competitive world which our exports and our industries will face in the next few years.
I believe that there is the beginning of a realisation of this on the Government side. An indication of this is the small scheme which the Minister of Labour announced in April to provide in Government training establishments a first-year apprentice training for apprentices from small firms. We must be clear about this and be careful that we do not confuse two things. We are not talking about pre-apprentice years; this is the first year of apprenticeship. I believe that it is, as such, a good idea, but the number of places which the Minister is providing—300. I believe—is utterly inadequate by comparison with the figures which I have quoted and will 1568 represent nothing more than a tiny pimple on the mountain of the problem which we are facing.
Apart from that, the Government have confined themselves to a grant to the Industrial Training Council of £75,000 to further the appointment of training development officers. This year's estimates contain the "magnificent" total of £35,000; that will not make a great impression on an already reluctant and apathetic industry.
Let us look at the first report of the Industrial Training Council, that for 1959, which has just been published. What has the Council succeeded in doing? It has appointed two training development officers and one assistant, and only one of the three has been appointed in a major manufacturing industry. It has set up an advisory service for small firms. I am tired of advisory services. We have had them all over industry during the last few years. I do not know what effect they have. The Council produces a great deal of propaganda material which I am sure will find its way to the place which most propaganda material sent through the post normally reaches.
The British Employers' Confederation, one of the bodies represented on the Industrial Training Council, has circularised a large number of its member firms to urge them to take on more apprentices during the bulge period. One hundred and fifty-four large companies have promised substantially to increase their numbers, but 147 companies said that they could not for various reasons associate themselves with the appeal made by the President of the British Employers' Confederation. So it does not look as if they will provide much in the way of increased numbers. The fact is that there are no signs in most parts of the country that adequate provision is being made or is likely to be made to deal with this serious situation.
Learning a skilled trade today depends on a number of chances. First, boys have much better chances than girls. It is time we began to look more seriously at the opportunities for skilled training for girls leaving school. The second is that the chances vary greatly in different parts of the country. They have a much better chance to get apprenticeships or a 1569 learnership for a skilled trade in Bradford than in Cardiff, or London, or Glasgow. The other thing, and this is quite important, too, is that there is a much better chance of getting an apprenticeship if the boy happens to know the foreman, the manager or somebody else in the firm. This does not necessarily mean that those who are most suited for training necessarily get it.
In a recent inquiry which was conducted by the youth employment officer who recently wrote to me it was found that, of 100 boys who were interviewed coming from secondary-modern schools and comprehensive schools, 54 said that they wanted craft apprenticeships. Of those 54, 49 actually got them. One-third of those who got them had not been considered by the youth employment officer and the education authority as really suitable for training through apprenticeship, while one-third of those who were considered suitable did not get apprenticeships.
This is an extremely inefficient way of going about the whole training problem, and it also leads to heartbreak. If we get many boys who really are suitable and who have the mental ability and adaptability to learn a skilled trade, and we shove them into some rather dead-end occupations, we shall merely break their hearts and may well turn them into delinquents. It seems to me that this is, socially as well as economically, an undesirable and inefficient arrangement.
A good apprenticeship scheme needs, first, a good system of selection. I do not mean that, initially, it should be a sort of 11-plus examination which should determine for ever what job a person is to have and what degrees of skill a boy or girl should have and be trained for finally. Hon. Members may have seen an interesting letter from Dr. Alec Rodger, a well-known psychologist, in The Times of 17th June, in which he appeared to favour an arrangement by which there could be tests at different levels of training before final decisions are made as to exactly what degree of training and what exact trade a boy or girl should enter.
There are some who say that there are not enough able youngsters, indeed, that there are not enough with the ability to train in this way. This is a defeatist and undemocratic argument, which has 1570 been applied to the universities, higher education and secondary education. We are always hearing it, but the fact is that it is completely untrue. Dr. Rodger went into some detail about it and points out that in two years' time there will be three able youngsters of 15 years of age for every two four years ago, and nobody can pretend that at present all those who leave school are getting the education and training—the Crowther Report strongly underlines this—of which they are capable.
I am convinced that we shall not get progress either in the numbers we require being trained, or in the quality of the training, unless the Government play a much larger part in the process; and in this I am supported by a very interesting recent memorandum, which I have no doubt the Minister has seen published by the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutes and the National Union of Teachers. I find myself in very substantial agreement with most of their proposals, and particularly I agree with them that the Government should accept a basic responsibility for ensuring that there are provisions in industry for training and that these are adequate. They suggest that in each industry, where it does not already exist, there should be established a joint national apprenticeship training council, composed of employers, employees and representatives of education and the youth service.
On this, I have a comment to make. There are already over 100 such bodies with established schemes, but the trouble is that they are not operated by the firms within the industries. Very few of them are in active operation, and it seems that they never will be unless there is some kind of compulsion on individual firms, or some greater incentive provided by taxation or otherwise than at present exists.
There was also the suggestion of the A.T.T.I. that regional and district committees in this national joint scheme, would help, and I should like to suggest that the schemes for different industries should be linked through local committees of the industrial training council which, so far as I know, does not exist at present. The A.T.T.I. has also suggested that it should be obligatory on all firms to provide appropriate training for every entrant into a skilled or semi-skilled 1571 occupation, and here the appropriate training means more than the formality of signing indentures or calling the boy an apprentice.
Appropriate training today must, at least in the first year, mean that there should be training in special training workshops where proper tuition can be given by properly trained instructors. Any training scheme worth its salt should be under the charge of a proper training officer, who should not be, as at present, some sort of superannuated foreman or manager for whom the firm no longer has any use, or a retired Service Officer who has had no trainng whatever in training itself. He should be a person who has been properly trained to do the job, and there are people of that kind today.
In fact, one of the advantages at a different level of the Government's sandwich scheme—the diploma in technology scheme, where one part of the qualification has to be met by training in industry, is that the firms are being forced to look more closely at the type of training they receive. The colleges themselves are demanding that a lad should get proper training in the other half of the sandwich scheme, although that is at the professional level, but what applies there applies equally at the craft and technician level.
The training can adequately be given by the large firms, though there are many large firms in engineering which do not do so, particularly in shipbuilding, which is extremely backward in this regard, where too many young workers and apprentices are employed as cheap labour. The other smaller and medium-sized firms can find their way to do it by operating in group schemes, though there are not nearly enough of them. They are at least beginning to grow very largely encouraged by such bodies as the consultant firm of Industrial Administration running schemes for the Engineering Industrial Association, the Gloucestershire training group and now the Coventry Chamber of Commerce, and so on. These schemes are growing at much too slow a pace. Finally, there can be training in technical colleges or Government establishments, and the A.T.T.I. suggest that the cost of it should be shared. I believe that the Government will have to have far more of this 1572 sort of thing, partly by extending their own scheme to first-year apprentices and go much further if we are to catch up with the terrible backwardness with which we are now faced, and if we are to carry the scheme right on to give complete apprenticeship or training in some of the backward parts of the country.
We have to face the fact that there are many of the smaller firms which cannot afford to recruit the extra numbers, or provide adequate training for them in the numbers that will be required in the next few years and who will not train more than may be immediately needed for production. They certainly cannot provide the quality of training that is required and far too many of them use their apprentices at any rate in the first three or four years of apprenticeship as cheap labour.
May I now turn to the nature of the apprenticeship system itself and the quality of the training which it provides. It has not lacked examination during the last few years. There has been the committee under the hon. Member for Mitcham, the reports by Lady Gertrude Williams and Dr. Kate Liepmann, as well as the Crowther Report, which deals mainly with technicians and not so much with craftsmen, but which also contains interesting comparisons with what is done in other countries. All these reports are critical of our present arrangements, and I hope that both sides of industry will approach their study of our present apprenticeship system, both as to numbers and quality, with open minds.
The difficulty is to see the pattern of employment in the years ahead—how many skilled workers will be required, what degrees of skill, what trades and industries are likely to expand and what to contract, and what new processes are likely to be discovered and introduced into industry. I believe that if we can get away from the concept of apprenticeship as an entry into a trade or profession, and look upon it solely as training for a trade or profession, it would, perhaps, be easier to deal with.
I want to start with certain basic assumptions. The first is that in the future many of our individual craftsmen will have to be technicians, much more highly qualified and much more highly educated. Secondly, the number of both craftsmen and technicians—who may become more difficult to distinguish—will 1573 rise as our exports more and more become capital goods of an advanced design and requiring a high degree of scientific and technical skill in their manufacture.
Thirdly, well-trained and well-educated craftsmen are adaptable, especially if their education and training is broad, and we shall need adaptable craftsmen and technicians in the years ahead. Fourthly, we shall need a large number of what we call semiskilled workers. They, too, will need to be very adaptable, because the products and processes of industry will be subject to rapid change, which we must accept. They will need much better training and a continuance of education, like the craftsmen themselves, although their training need not be as long. The vast majority at present receive no training and no further education.
Fifthly, we have also to give much greater attention to the neglected occupations, of which agriculture is one, and certainly to the commercial occupations. The Meeking Report drew attention to this. In commercial education and training we are miles behind those who are likely to be our main competitors in the future, the countries of the Common Market in Europe.
Finally, there must be more opportunities for girls to train. I am sure that the only way to deal with this problem is to treat apprenticeship as a continuation of the educational process, with proper standards and proper qualifications.
It is sometimes said that the trade unions will never accept a system of qualifications, but in 1939, giving evidence to the I.L.O. inquiry on vocational education and apprenticeship, the T.U.C. agreed that it was desirable to co-ordinate and recognise certificates issued after examination on the termination of apprenticeships.
It may be that individual unions at present, would not go as far as that, but, certainly, we could see a great extension of the use of the City and Guild certificates. The City and Guilds are working out a very good scheme for craftsmen, not technicians but craftsmen, at a level which is exactly right, and we should do everything we can to encourage people to take those qualifications.
1574 There is a serious danger of our indulging in what my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Stechford (Mr. Roy Jenkins) said in a very different context last night was our national disease of complacency. We go on saying that British methods are the best. They are best, I suppose, because they enabled us to become the leader in the Industrial Revolution some time in the middle of the last century, when many of those methods were established. But, today, we have a great deal to learn from other countries who have picked up ideas and established methods of manufacture after ours were first established.
We need much more research into methods of training. The inquiries which I have mentioned were mostly conducted by economists and sociologists and, so far as I know, nothing has yet been done in the way of a study by educational psychologists. For that reason, and also because I would like to break down the educational and social barrier which exists between apprentices and students—because today there should be a continuous progress in the degrees of education and training received by boys—I should like to see responsibility for industrial training transferred from the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of Education.
After all, one half of the task is already in the hands of the Ministry of Education—the technical colleges are the responsibility of that Ministry. At present, we are falling down partly because responsibility is split. It is not because I have anything against the Ministry of Labour, but because I do not think that a Department which is concerned with employment conditions, as the Ministry of Labour is, is the right Department to deal with training which has become more and more an educational process.
It would have an added advantage, because the Ministry of Education would then retain responsibility for all youngsters between the ages of 15 and 16 during the difficult transition period before the school-leaving age is raised, but while more and more youngsters are voluntarily staying on at school.
During the next few years, the Government face a very grave responsibility. They have the responsibility of determining whether there will be jobs at all 1575 for those leaving school, or whether those leaving school are to have to stand around street corners, with the inevitable deterioration in their outlook and in their personalities, and whether they are to stand around without jobs.
Even if there are jobs, are they going to be the sort of heart-breaking dead-end jobs which many youngsters have to go into today, or jobs with adequate opportunities for training? That is something which is definitely a Government responsibility.
Lastly, will the quality as well as the quantity of training available match the needs of our industry in future, needs which many industrial employers do not yet themselves sufficiently recognise? It is only the most progressive employers who understand what will be the needs of the future. If we do not provide that sort of training, we shall certainly not be able to compete with our main competitors in the world, because we shall be able to do so in future only if we are able to produce and sell abroad specialised products of advanced design requiring great skill in manufacture.
So far as I can see, there has been no real recognition of these problems. The Government's approach is the laissez-faire one of leaving it to industry to solve their problems. I think that I have shown that industry is not solving these problems and has no intention of doing so. If nothing is done by the Government, there are ahead of us all the elements of a grave social disaster.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour (Mr. Peter Thomas)
First, may I say how much hon. Members on this side of the House welcome the debate. I agree with the hon Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) that this is a most important matter. It is extremely important, especially at this time, that we should not lose any opportunity to ventilate our views on the subject, because I am sure that our views, together with those of the people who are interested, can be of great assistance in overcoming what is clearly a problem in many cases.
Perhaps I can be permitted sincerely to congratulate the hon. Member on what was a most effective and informed 1576 speech. I attempted to take down many of the points he made, but he made so many that, I regret to say, I am not in a position to answer every question that he raised. However, I am in full agreement with him about many of the things he said, and my right hon. Friend will be addressing the Committee at the end of the debate.
The main point which the hon. Member put before us was that we must regard the problem facing us, that of training for skill, as the responsibility of the Government. He said that we had a laissez-faire approach to this matter because we were willing to allow the main responsibility to remain with industry. I should make perfectly clear at the outset what our view of the matter is. We feel that the responsibility for providing industrial training rests primarily with industry. That was the view, as the Committee will know, which was expressed by the Carr Committee.
We may have differences on this subject, but most hon. Members will agree that, in practice, over the bulge years which are now upon us, there is no alternative other than for industry to furnish the major effort.
The second matter is that although there is an obvious need, as the hon. Member proved, for a re-examination of training practice with a view to change and improvement, our traditional apprenticeship system should form the foundation of future training arrangements. At its best, that system produces a type of skill second to none in the world. There are some extremely fine training arrangements in the best of firms. The immediate problem is that the best in our system should be more widely spread.
The third matter is the need for quick progress, and, therefore, as we have the bulge on us next year, we must build up on that which exists. If we think in terms of making radical changes in our training system we may well cause disturbance in industry which might defeat the purpose of our activities.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the bulge, and that is the most important consideration. In fact, it was the anticipation of this unusual increase in the number of school leavers which was the main reason that prompted the inquiry of the sub-committee of the National Joint 1577 Advisory Council, which led to what is called the Carr Report. The bulge has roused varying reactions. I have been around the country since becoming Parliamentary Secretary and it is interesting to hear those reactions. They vary between expressions of very grave apprehension as to what will be the effect of this large number of school leavers on the labour market, and expressions of optimism and welcome at the golden opportunity to remedy deficiencies that exist in our manpower.
The Carr Committee's conclusion was that for the country as a whole the bulge will not present a problem of employment. But despite that firm conclusion a very large body of opinion is very seriously concerned about employment prospects for young people, particularly, as I found, in what can be called the more difficult areas. It was about this that the hon. Gentleman also expressed concern today.
It would be wrong to be over-optimistic about the matter, and I do not intend to be complacent. But events since the Carr Committee's Report have not given us cause to question its conclusion that the problem of the bulge is not one of employment. We have passed through what has been called the "little bulge"—the bulge of 1957 to 1959. During that time we absorbed into employment over 150,000 more young people than if the pre-bulge rate of school leaving had remained constant.
During that time there was a recession, and we are, therefore, able to test, to some extent, from past experience exactly what is the effect of a recession when we have a bulge. In January, 1959, for instance, which was at the height of the 1958–1959 recession, 88 per cent. of the school leavers at Christmas got into employment within a month. In January, 1960, when the economy was again fully on its feet, 90 per cent. of the school leavers who had left at Christmas were in employment within a month.
These are interesting figures in as much as they indicate that in a recession the people who suffer most—because at that time, in 1959, there was a certain amount of unemployment—are not the school leavers. There were, however, less favourable areas, I know quite a lot about these and I appreciate fully the feelings which people have expressed about them. 1578 They are areas like Scotland, Wales and the Northern region of England. Nevertheless, even in those difficult areas—which were going through great difficulties at the time—in January, 1959, 80 per cent. of the school leavers got into employment within one month of leaving school at Christmas. In the worst region, which was the Northern—I regret that it possibly still is—94 per cent. of the school leavers were in work by the middle of February, 1959.
Members have probably read the latest figures about school leavers at Easter. Over the country as a whole, 0.8 per cent. of the Easter school leavers were unemployed on 13th June. Even in the black areas, in the Northern region, all had been placed in work except 2.5 per cent. The June count of unemployment amongst youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18 is 11,700, but there were, at the same time, vacancies for 116,500. It is clear, therefore, that many areas face not a problem of absorption, but of a shortage of workers. Indeed, that applies to adults as well as to young people.
Girls were mentioned by the hon. Gentleman. In all regions today vacancies for girls exceed the unemployed. In the Midland region the ratio is 40 vacancies to one girl unemployed; in Scotland, it is six to one; in the Northern region it is four to one; in Wales, where it always has been a problem, the ratio is three to one. But the House is probably more anxious about the prospects for boys. In areas of high employment the shortages are only a little less marked and the least favourable is, again, the Northern region. The number of unemployed boys exceeds vacancies by 100 to 86.
§ Mr. Stanley R. McMaster (Belfast, East)
Do my hon. Friend's statistics stretch to Northern Ireland?
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not cover Northern Ireland, because it is not within the ambit of our regional areas. I am sorry that I cannot give my hon. Friend the figures for Northern Ireland. I am very glad that I am not responsible for the situation there.
I mention all these figures to the Committee, but I do not want to minimise the situation. There are difficult areas and the situation is least favourable in 1579 the three regions which I have mentioned. Nevertheless, and, in particular, in the development districts, there has been a distinct improvement since last year. In Wales, the unemployment figure of young people between 15 and 18 has been practically halved. In Scotland, it has fallen by one-third. In the Northern region the signs of improvement, which are still somewhat tentative and recent, mean that the situation for young people is still a difficult problem.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
While not denying that the situation has improved, is not the hon. Gentleman aware that it is twice as bad as it was in 1957? Will he address himself to that point?
§ Mr. Thomas
We have had many questions about the situation in Scotland, and I appreciate the difficulties, but I am putting forward facts. I do not want to avoid the difficult areas. I could have put in figures for Britain as a whole, for that picture is one of very low unemployment and very many vacancies—almost ten vacancies to one person unemployed. The position in the difficult areas is clear. It is bound up with the general employment situation. It is not peculiar to young people.
The question everybody asks is this: what are the future prospects? As the hon. Member for Edmonton said, there will be a very steep increase in the number of school leavers in 1961–62. In 1961, the number of school leavers seeking work will amount to 660,000, which is 37 per cent. more than in 1956, and in 1962 it will probably be 720,000, which is almost a 50 per cent. increase over 1956. It is obvious that the prospects will depend primarily upon our ability to maintain an active and competitive economy and our success in steering industrial expansion to less favourable areas.
I do not want to introduce something which is alien to the general content of the debate, but I thought that the youth employment officer who wrote to the hon. Member was being a little pessimistic about the Chancellor's measures, which, as we see them, are aimed at steady expansion and steady prices, which will be far healthier and 1580 more helpful than allowing the growth in the economy to go beyond our resources, and lead to inflation.
In considering the absorption of the bulge into employment, the proportionate addition which the bulge will make to the general labour force gives a better indication of the size of the problem than a mere comparison between the annual leavers. By this yardstick the whole bulge, from 1956 to 1952, is likely to add between 3 per cent. and 4 per cent. to our labour force and, judged by the expansion of our working population in recent years, it should be absorbed without much difficulty. I say this because it is only right to endorse the Carr Committee's conclusion that the problem of the bulge is not so much one of employment as of the kind of employment and, in particular, whether there are sufficient training arrangements.
The hon. Member devoted the major part of his speech to that consideration. In the course of it he said that inquiries had been made, without very much success, to find out what skill was needed for the future, and possibly what numbers would be required. I agree that it has been found difficult to obtain a precise estimate of industry's future requirements of skilled workers, but I think that all hon. Members would agree with the Carr Committee's conclusion that industry will require all the skilled workers that the bulge can produce. If any evidence of that is required it can be found in the large and persistent unsatisfied demands for skilled workers which we find all over the country. I should have thought that that was striking evidence of the need to expand training for skilled occupations.
The hon. Member also talked about the progress that had been made. I do not want to pretend that progress has been other than somewhat disappointing in many ways. There is clearly a vital need for a determined and increased effort on the part of all concerned, in particular on the part of industry. Fortunately, this year gives us a slight breathing space, and it is important that the Government, the I.T.C. and the leaders on both sides of industry should use this interval in an effort to drive home to individual managements and union membership the fact that upon our investment in training hangs, to a large 1581 extent, the resilience and viability of firms in the long term, the future security of employment for their workpeople and, cumulatively, the economic wellbeing of the nation.
Having said that, I still think that the outlook is not as depressing as it was painted by the hon. Member. There have been some slight, but hopeful, signs of progress. In 1959, the downward trend in the numbers entering apprenticeships and similar industrial training was arrested. Although, during the first half of the year, there was a continuing decrease, which caused very great concern, at the end of 1959 the total of apprentices, among boys and girls, coming into industry was almost 9,000 more than in 1958.
As the hon. Member said, the increase in the number of boys was 5,500. It is true that because of the increased numbers coming on to the labour market—there were 46,000 more than in 1958—the percentage dropped from 34.4 to 33.6 in 1959. I have obtained the figures for girls, for which the hon. Member asked. The increase in that case was from 6.9 per cent. in 1958 to 7.4 per cent. in 1959. I agree with the hon. Member that, in the main, this was probably a reflection of the upturn in the economy, but I think that it was also a reflection of the efforts made to bring home to industry the lessons of the Carr Report.
The second helpful sign is that although the overall figures are small there has been a steady increase both in the number and percentage of youngsters from 15 to 18 years of age entering employment leading to recognised professional qualifications, which, especially in the case of boys, offer prospects of progressive careers.
Thirdly, there has been a steady increase in the quite high percentage of young people who have not taken up employment by the age of 18. In 1956, it was 21.4 per cent. and in 1958 it was 23.7 per cent. This reflects the extended use which is being made of the opportunities for higher education, and it is a reasonable assumption that this growing group of young people is taking jobs at a higher level of responsibility, and with better prospects of promotion.
The hon. Member mentioned the suggestions put forward by the A.T.T.I. I have seen the suggestions, and I would 1582 say that they are quite revolutionary, that they introduce an element of compulsion, and would not be appropriate for the present situation, with the bulge immediately in front of us. But I do not want to go into the matter in any more detail.
As for the I.T.C., that is a voluntary body composed of leaders of industry, and if we are to pursue a policy of persuasion I suggest that there is no better body to whom we can turn. It is difficult to see what body would have more influence with both sides of industry. Neither the British Employers' Confederation nor the T.U.C. has powers of control over the detailed policies of its constituent associations.
The 'hon. Member said that the president of the British Employers' Confederation wrote to large companies and asked them substantially to increase their intake of apprentices, and received 154 firm commitments—-but that, unfortunately, 147 said that they could not commit themselves. I suggest that a figure of 154 firm commitments is rather good, in that it must be extremely difficult for a firm to be able to say unequivocally what it will be doing in the future. There were 154 firms who were able to commit themselves, and another 62 who said that they were in sympathy with the aim. This surely demonstrates the power of persuasion lying with the president of the B.E.C.
§ Mr. Thomas
The firms were asked to commit themselves. That is a different thing altogether. It is to be hoped that all the firms will increase their intake of apprentices, but it is difficult for a firm to commit itself definitely to do so, and it is somewhat satisfactory to know that a large number of firms actually did commit themselves to do so.
There has been criticism of the I.T.C. Its activities are directed towards an expansion during the severe bulge years, starting in 1961. It would be premature to criticise this body until we have had an opportunity to assess the results of its efforts. The main problem lies with 1583 the smaller and medium-sized firms, as the hon. Member said.
Of the larger firms, those who have training facilities very often provide excellent training which could not be better. It is true that there are some small firms with equally good training facilities, but unfortunately, it is also true that there are many smaller firms who feel unable to do any training. It is in these firms that help is needed. There are exceptions, and despite what was said by the hon. Member for Edmonton I would include 'building as an exception. The smaller firms in building do a considerable amount of training. But the smaller firms in Britain are the biggest employers of skilled labour in the aggregate, and it is clear that great attention must be paid to the smaller and medium-sized firms.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the value of group apprenticeship schemes and joint training centres and I agree with what he said. I pay tribute to the associations that he mentioned and to others for their activities in enlarging these connections with the smaller firms. The practical difficulty is in the first year when training costs most and produces least. There is no doubt that things like pre-apprenticeship courses in technical colleges and first-year apprenticeships in the G.T.C.s would be of great value to these firms.
I am sure that the Committee will welcome the circular sent to all local education authorities yesterday by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education. In it he suggests ways in which the education service can co-operate with industry in providing increased opportunities for young people to train for skilled employment. It will be remembered that one of the three suggestions he makes is that technical colleges, in collaboration with both sides of local industry, should develop full-time courses of education and training covering the theoretical and practical work normally carried out in the first year of apprenticeship. This is something which we should all be delighted to see enlarged.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned the G.T.C. apprenticeship scheme, which he called a little scheme. We do not suggest that it is anything more. The Committee will recollect that it was said 1584 that this scheme is directed at the smaller firms. It is not intended to solve any problem numerically, but to offer a good example and to assist them in following the pattern of training. As I see it, it is also a good example of the way in which the Government can give a lead to industry to co-operate, as opposed to coercion or compulsion. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it obviously will not make a great numerical contribution, but it could do a great deal of good.
The Committee might be interested if I said something about this first-year training in G.T.C.s. Efforts to get employers to nominate recruits for eight engineering classes are at present in progress. There has been good local publicity for the scheme. A leaflet has been distributed to employers within the range of the G.T.Cs at which classes are to 'be started and they are encouraged to visit the G.T.C.s to discuss the scheme and to see the arrangements for it. Visits to firms thought to offer a potential field for the scheme are being made by youth employment officers.
It is perhaps too early to judge the full effect of this publicity, but we certainly hope that employers will respond well and make full use of the excellent facilities which we hope to provide. Discussions on the application of the scheme to building occupations have taken place with the National Joint Council of the Building Industry, which welcomed the scheme in principle, but thought that, in practice, firms would find it difficult to release apprentices for a whole year for centre training. The Department is exploring, with the industry, the possibility of finding a basis on which initial training of apprentices in G.T.C.s is likely to prove more attractive to the industry.
We have also put proposals for setting up classes in radio and television servicing and motor car repair to the joint bodies concerned. I hope that everyone will assist in getting a good response from industry. I think that this first-year training in our G.T.C.s could be a great help. I know that at the moment it is not intended to be more than a pilot scheme, and, therefore, it does not make a great numerical contribution. But if there is a good response, we shall be only too happy to consider its extention.
1585 At the Letchworth Staff College for Industrial Supervisors—this is some indication of our work in this matter—there has been an increased demand from industry for training places at the college and this demand has been sufficient recently to justify a small expansion. We have now a programme for 17 courses this year offering 454 places to member firms of the British Association for Commercial and Industrial Education, and the British Iron and Steel Federation, compared with 318 places in 1959; 253 in 1958; and 182 in 1957. Courses are fully booked until the end of September and a number of places are already reserved for courses at the end of the year.
While there is no certainty that all the supervisors are employed on apprentice training, priority is given to nominated apprentice instructors and indications are that nearly all, about 95 per cent., have such responsibilities. Inquiries from firms suggest that it is an apprentice training need which is creating this increase in demand.
The hon. Gentleman made an interesting suggestion that Government responsibility for apprenticeships should be a continuing educational process and should be transferred to the Ministry of Education. I do not think that it would be seemly for me to criticise it in any way.
§ Mr. Thomas
I do not feel that I am in a position to comment on this, but perhaps I may say one or two things.
The present position is that apprenticeship is considered primarily as a matter for settlement and regulation between the two sides of industry and Government responsibility for it rests primarily with the Ministry of Labour as a manpower and industrial relations question. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is to be expected—indeed, I hope that it will be so—that education will have a growing part to play in the sphere of industrial training.
This growth of the educational side of industrial training is already particularly marked above the craft level. I cannot see that this means that industrial training can be regarded in the near future or, indeed, in the foreseeable 1586 future as lying wholly, or even mainly, within the educational system.
§ Mr. Frederick Lee (Newton)
Will the hon. Gentleman promise faithfully to save the apprentices of the future from the present Minister of Education?
§ Mr. Thomas
I am not in a position to promise anything in this debate.
Particularly at the craft and lower levels an important and integral element of industrial training consists of practical experience and an acquaintance with the tempo and conditions of industrial life which are best acquired—indeed, they can only be acquired—in industrial employment. I think it right to say that apprenticeship cannot be regarded merely as a matter of imparting instruction and acquiring experience. The conditions under which apprenticeship training is given; the relationship between apprentice wages and the full rates; the numbers trained; the scope of training and the types of work to which it should give access are bound, at craft and lower levels to be a matter of joint concern to unions and employers. In a very real sense it is an industrial relations matter.
It is important, also, that industrial training should not be divorced from general employment considerations. To treat it merely as part of the education system would carry the risk of its being regarded as an end in itself—an entirely proper objective for general education—and not as a means to employment.
I regret that I have probably spoken far too long in this debate, but I am grateful to the House for having listened to me. I think that it can be said that we are all agreed about the vital need to provide more—and, in many cases, better—training facilities. Not only is there a social need, but an economic need. The stability and quality of our society is involved. The Government, particularly in the field of education and technical training, will certainly play their part. I hope that this debate will re-emphasise the call to industry that the opportunities presented by the bulge must not be missed.
§ 4.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I am sure all will agree that this is one of the most important debates 1587 which has taken place in this House for a very long time. This is an important and vital question. It would be desirable to have an annual report on the state of the educational training, technical, scientific and industrial craft training, in British industry. The subject is of such importance that it is worthy of that.
Some figures were given by the Parliamentary Secretary showing that there had been a check in the downward trend of entry of apprentices into industry. That is all very well, but I had the privilege—and it was a privilege—throughout my working life to have considerable experience of witnessing, and often working in, many apprenticeship schemes south of Scotland and all over the United Kingdom. When I see these figures of an upward trend of entry of apprentices to industry they do not give me any great pleasure.
A few years ago I was invited by two directors of a company, whose name I shall not mention, to give an opinion on an apprenticeship scheme they had recently inaugurated. They knew of my interest and experience in apprenticeship schemes in the past. They had a small company employing 3,000 or 4,000 men and women. I went through the scheme, read the literature, and talked to the one teacher they had. Then I went back to the board room and they asked me what I thought about the scheme. I said, "It is a very poor scheme. Not one of these boys is getting what I should call an apprenticeship training".
Fifty boys were merely being trained to produce that company's products. They were being trained to go out as service mechanics for the company's products. When they moved to another field and requisitions came for a new component to replace an old one, they would merely suggest replacing it with the one they had been trained to manufacture.
That is not an apprenticeship scheme, that is not training a boy to be a tradesman craftsman, mechanical, electrical or otherwise. It is strait-jacketed and too narrow. I could name a dozen apprenticeships schemes which I know very well indeed. One company has spent millions in the last fifteen years in building up a wonderful apprenticeship scheme. A group I know is the most successful 1588 organisation in the world in the manufacture of its particular product. No one in the United States, in Russia or anywhere else can touch it.
It attributes its success in large measure to the fact that, through its comprehensive apprenticeship scheme, it has produced the finest technicians and experts in the world. In 1917 it had a waiting list of 300 who wanted to get into its apprenticeship scheme. They came from all over England and there was a premium attached to the scheme. That trading concern had a sound training for apprenticeship. I have a dozen copies of the scheme's progress throughout the years. It was one of the finest engineering organisations in the country.
What is the position today? In Scotland it is heartbreaking. There are fifty boys leaving school at 15 years of age and there are half a dozen companies which want apprentices. One company wants five and other wants ten. The company with the best scheme in the area wants only ten apprentices. They get a fair training and the last few have to go to an institution where they are apprenticed; yes, but that is not really apprenticeship. It is not worth the paper it is written on. Hundreds of boys get into these so-called apprenticeship schemes and in the third year they are out on production. They have learned no more about engineering than they knew on the day they started. I have seen this all over the country.
Thousands of boys enter apprenticeship schemes in factories when they are 16 and never get the oportunity of rising about the pure craft level of a fitter or turner. They should be in good schemes of day release with adequate incentives. I am certain we lose thousands of good technicians, first-class men, because so many of our children are compelled to enter apprenticeship in industrial units which are not fit to accept them. The Crowther Report said that they are taken by industries which consider them useful—of course they are useful, to those industries.
There is far more at stake than this. Hon. Members opposite quite rightly talk about the difficulty of redeploying labour. We know there are a lot of problems outside apprenticeship training which frustrate the redeployment of labour. I can remember how when war broke out in 1939 fellows came to the 1589 workshops saying they had been apprenticed, but when they came into the tool rooms of munition factories to do some of the production engineering work which was called for it was revealed that they had had no training at all. Their range of experience was strictly limited.
Many industrial concerns, through group schemes, have overcome some of the difficulties which have arisen from poor apprenticeship schemes in some of our factories. This particularly applies to certain parts of the country. If a boy is apprenticed in the South and the Midlands, then even before he has finished his time he knows that he can read the advertisements for highly specialised technicians in the newspapers with some hope of being able to apply for those jobs. He can always consult his superviser about his future prospects. Supervisers and good shop stewards of the Amalgamated Engineering Union listen to these boys. We have experienced it. A boy may say, "I should like to go into metallurgy or to be a laboratory technician". Or he may wish to go into the drawing office or into design. If the boy shows responsibility and ambition, the good supervisers will do all they can to see that he has that opportunity.
As I know from experience, hundreds of boys move from the best apprenticeship schemes in the Midlands into a position in which they can confidently apply for many of the technical jobs advertised in the Observer every Sunday. How many apprentices on the Clyde or in the Welsh steelworks have the opportunity within their industries to consult the superviser or the shop steward or management? How many of them would ever be given an opportunity to widen their knowledge within their apprenticeships to enable them to move from one unit of production into others where perhaps more skill is needed? Very few indeed.
The Ministry of Labour has been responsible for apprenticeships. We have been told that our proposals are revolutionary. Hon. Members should bear in mind that my hon. Friends the Members for Edmonton (Mr. Albu), Newton (Mr. Lee), Burnley (Mr. D. Jones), Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) and myself have all been through good apprenticeship schemes. We were trained to be revolutionary. We were 1590 trained to scrap as quickly as possible a mechanism which was out of date and to replace it with one more appropriate to the economics of the system in which we worked. We are always revolutionary, because that was our training. We build a production unit, and as soon as we have finished it, we are busy thinking how we can improve it.
§ Mr. Bence
We always succeed. We never fail. The engineer has made not two blades of grass grow where one grew before; he has made thousands grow. He has given us washing machines, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners. Unfortunately, the building contractor cannot give the people the houses they want. If he could, we could certainly give the people everything else they want. We can give them motor cars and furniture but not houses, because the provision of houses is the job of another industry.
The time has come when the Ministry of Education must replace the Ministry of Labour in dealing with these schemes. I say that with all respect to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who is responsible for education in Scotland and who is present on the Government Front Bench. No doubt when this debate was mooted it was realised that the educationists ought to have something to say about it. No doubt the Joint Under-Secretary of State will tell us why he feels that they should have something to say about it.
In some areas a boy of 15 can leave school and enter an industrial apprenticeship scheme with the knowledge that he can get a degree. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton knows that. Boys can get to university through apprenticeship schemes and be assured that at the age of 21 or 22 they will have a full grasp and a wide knowledge of engineering techniques and processes.
But that does not apply to all apprentices. In some of these schemes, they can be the best boys in the world, but unless they can find an alternative institution where they can be trained, their careers are doomed. They do not have day relief. The curriculum and whole method of training is bad and the facilities are not available to them. I admit 1591 that many of the small firms could not afford to provide them, but is that any reason why they should be recognised as institutions in which a boy can be apprenticed? What would happen if someone started a school in Surrey, for example, simply with the desire to make money as easily as possible out of simple people, and awarded the children there a degree? There was a case in which somebody tried to do it, but the education authorities caught up with him.
It is equally wrong for a firm without the proper facilities for training to take young boys into so-called apprenticeship schemes and subsequently to give them a piece of paper certifying that they have served a five-year apprenticeship. The first year they are making tea. In the next year they are, perhaps, learning a bit of fitting. In the year after that they are in the shop helping another fitter, and in the fourth year perhaps they are doing a bit of fitting on their own.
§ Mr. Bence
I am more concerned at the moment with the boys themselves and with their parents, who are under the illusion that their boys are being trained as apprentices by an all-embracing training when often that is not the case and in fact they are being trained merely for a specific, specialised function in a specialised product, which is very bad indeed. I have seen this over the years, going back to 1919. I have seen men who have had so-called apprenticeship training entering an engineering plant and saying, "We have never done this before. This is not the kind of thing we made." The reverse has been the cause of the success of light engineering in the Midlands. I was trained to produce, or at any rate to tool, anything in metal.
§ Mr. C. Pannell
I do not want my hon. Friend to think that only engineering apprentices are in the difficulty of being specialised. I have met graduates in history who, when I have asked them one elementary question on the Industrial Revolution, have replied, "That is not my period, old man. I would not know anything about that."
§ Mr. Bence
That is true. Apprentices trained in light engineering in the advanced areas of London and the Midlands are never channelled so narrowly into a rut as dons, tutors and lecturers at universities are apt to channel some of their students, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton will agree. We never made that mistake in the large engineering establishments, but finances do not allow the little firms to give the wide training which can be provided by the larger institutions.
In justice to boys and their parents, the Ministry of Education should demand a standard to which boys should be trained before being turned out as so-called mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, fitters or turners. There should be an accepted standard. When a firm asserts the right to train boys and girls in trades, from which professional technicians can be very largely drawn, the Ministry of Education should take a hand in seeing that the firm is approved and provides a minimum training. It should ensure that a proper standard of training is carried out.
A boy who leaves a grammar school at 17 or 18 to go to a university to become an economist or an historian studies in accordance with curriculum supervised by the Ministry of Education. In the same way, a boy who leaves a secondary modern school to continue his education and training for his future life in industry should be satisfied that the institution to which he goes for his training can provide the proper standard and quality of training.
A young man going to a university can be confident that the education to be provided will be of high quality. To whichever university college he goes, he is certain that he will have the same qualities of learning and education as the young man who goes to another college or university 100 miles away. When boys leave school at 15 to go for apprenticeship training, it is a vastly different 1593 story. It is hit and miss and, unless they go to the large companies, much of it is a complete miss.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to apply himself to this problem. He should not consider merely the numbers entering apprenticeship training, whether they are rising or falling. It is the quality which matters in this age. From every 100 apprentices entering apprenticeship schemes we must find at least ten first class technicians. We must establish a movement from apprenticeship schemes to the universities. The sandwich schemes must be expanded. In Germany in the last century this was never divorced from education. In Russia today apprenticeship is a continuation of education. There is not much of which I approve in the Soviet Union, but wherever a boy in the Soviet Union is apprenticed, whether it is in Siberia or Armenia, he is certain that he will receive the same standard of training, and have the same access to learning and knowledge, as any other boy going to any institution in the Soviet Union.
I hope that the Ministry will do as I suggest, because in Wales and Scotland hundreds of boys now serving apprenticeships will gain from those apprenticeships very little knowledge and insight to fit them to cope with the increasing number of specialised techniques and trades operating in modern industry.
I was in an industrial plant not long ago. I left industry only ten years ago. I saw amazing processes. There have been revolutionary changes in the motor industry. The only boys who get sufficient training or have even an idea of those techniques are those trained by the motor manufacturers who have an interchange system.
We want training both in Wales and Scotland. We want our youths in Scotland to have the same training as those afforded in the best institutions in the Midlands. If we do not provide such training, it will become increasingly more difficult to spread the light engineering industry in Scotland. The figures for the last eight years show that apprenticeship in Scotland has been declining.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that we must not go too fast or must not do too much in case we disturb industry or cause some disturbance.
§ Mr. P. Thomas
I did not say that we must not go too fast. I said that we must not make radical changes from the tradition.
§ Mr. Bence
Is not that the same? This is where I disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Much needs disturbing in British industry. Dynamite should be put under much of it. There is not much wrong with radical treatment to get rid of something sick or ill. There is nothing like a little brimstone and treacle. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not be afraid of disturbing things. If they do not get disturbed now and again they begin to gather moss. If they are rolled too fast, they do not do anything. There is moss growing in some of our industrial institutions.
This morning I saw a technician from one of the largest light engineering manufacturers in the world. He is visiting this country. I have known him for a long time. He is a technician of the highest order. He said that Great Britain has cause for alarm because in Italy, France and Germany—throughout the Common Market—there is an intensive drive to create new capital and train more and more engineers and technicians.
A conscious effort is being made by Common Market countries. No one should believe that we are second either to Germany or France. In many cases they are second to us, but the effort is there. If we are to remain first in the field, as we are in many ways, we shall have to set a pace in this country of disturbing industry. We shall have to push on with the radical adoption of new methods of training of our boys and girls in British industry.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
It is with the greatest trepidation that I speak in this Chamber for the first time, and I hope that hon. Members will be good enough to forgive the many errors of form and substance that I may well corn-m i t. I am greatly encouraged, however, because I am confident that hon. Members on both sides will welcome what I wish to say about my predecessor, Sir Albert Braithwaite. I did not know Sir Albert personally, but I have learned a lot about him during the past two or three months. Every hon. Member has told me what a kind person Sir Albert was and has spoken of his sincerity.
1595 I believe that his judgment, particularly on industrial matters, was greatly respected, and there are probably few hon. Members who could have had so many friends as he had on both sides. Time and time again in the constituency I am told of his generosity, and the help that he was always ready to give; and his generosity was always without publicity, without condescension and without strings. I feel at once very proud and very humble to be following him as Member for Harrow, West.
The constituency which he served so well is an interesting one in the context of this debate, because we have virtually no industry in it at all. The industrious, self-reliant people who live there either go up to London or into the neighbouring constituencies for their work. The same appiles to the young school leavers in Harrow. They, too, have to look away from home to find the jobs into which they will fit best. I think they are lucky, because very often when there is one industry on the spot it is almost the accepted thing for the school leavers to enter it. In Harrow, the opportunities for school leavers are made very much wider.
Harrow is what is called a dormitory area, but judging from my correspondence since becoming a Member of Parliament I can assure the Committee that my constituents are not asleep. They are particularly awake to the opportunities they must find for school leavers in their own families and others in the area and are helped by the go-ahead youth employment and education staffs who pioneered the Harrow convention of local headmasters and industrialists. 'In Harrow, we are much more fortunate than are those people of whom the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) spoke. The grammar school sixth formers can often get university places, but the less able and those in the fifth forms and in the secondary modern schools who are able to take the extended course cam often find student or craft apprenticeships if they have a scientific background.
Nevertheless, there seem to be two groups of school leavers who often find themselves out in the cold. In the first group are the boys who are not academically minded, whose families 1596 cannot give them much help, who are late developers and are not able to take the extra course. We in Harrow have a particularly soft spot for late developers, remembering, as we do, the record of our most renowned apprentice, my right hon. Friend the Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill).
The danger is that these school leavers without many qualifications may enter industry in its lowest forms and for the rest of their lives feel inferior to their brighter colleagues who have been able to get industrial apprenticeships. It should be the country's ambition that every school leaver who enters industry should get some kind of training in it.
I understood the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East to suggest that every boy should have a craft apprenticeship or something similar. He expected most boys to get an apprenticeship. I do not think that that is possible, or even desirable, but they must have some kind of basic industrial training. I trust that I understood the hon. Member aright?
§ Mr. Page
Then I am wrong, and I am very sorry. I thought that that was the hon. Member's point.
As I was saying, these boys must have some kind of training that will make them flexible and adaptable and able to move about within industry with adequate knowledge and ability to engage in the less-skilled jobs in light engineering and similar industries Various experiments have been carried out on these lines, either on a day-release basis or, sometimes, on the basis of a term's release. The younger boys who are not taking up a craft apprenticeship are released by the firm to a technical college for something like twelve weeks running, and are there given a general "top-up" in the kind of skills and information that will be helpful to them in industry generally.
They are also helped to develop the mathematics and the English that they learned at school. I reserve my opinion, but I think that if all the industrial training were in the hands of the Ministry of Education there is a danger that boys who now feel that at last they have got rid of the school atmosphere and are going into the world on their own to try to make a name for 1597 themselves might feel that they were still in the school atmosphere and would lose the initiative they had when they first felt that they were on their own.
This was particularly mentioned to me a couple of weeks ago by someone who is running one of these courses. He told me that in their English school lessons a number of these boys found that Shelley's odes left them cold and they did not attempt to take any further interest in their English course. When, however, he handed them the petrol pump of a car and told them to dismantle it, reassemble it and then write a description of the method used, they suddenly found some point in being able to express themselves. If the Minister felt that such courses were possible of application. I wonder whether they could be run on a pilot basis in some of the Government Training Centres?
The other category which gets left in the cold, as the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) mentioned, are the school leavers with a non-scientific bent who have not the academic qualifications to get to a university or into a highly-qualified occupation or profession. These people often want to go into the commercial and administrative side of industry, and I think that managements are often extremely backward in their recognition of the various commercial qualifications that are now available.
A management very often gives absolutely no encouragement to what one might, perhaps, call young white-collar workers entering the firm, either to improve themselves by taking courses, or by giving them day release. I regret to say that in many cases managements ignore the value of such things as the National Certificate in Business Studies which, by their own efforts, some of these young people may take.
I believe that the managements in the largest firms are taking this commercial training seriously, but in many medium-sized and smaller firms such interest is quite unknown. In them, only in the production shop will one find the latest equipment and techniques being used. Their offices are very often still in the quill-pen stage. By denying to the office and commercial worker the status that should go with his responsibilities and qualifications, such firms are stretching very greatly the loyalty to the company 1598 that the office worker has so long traditionally given.
Finally, I should like briefly to look at the kind of industrial world that these school leavers will be entering. Since the war, we have seen the beginning of a new industrial revolution, and I think that ordinary people, particularly those like myself, who entered industry after the war, are not satisfied with the way in which it is organised at present. There is a real wish for a new climate in industrial relations, and I believe that that real desire will make itself felt. These people are extremely worried when they read that large numbers of people have been dismissed from a company's service because of redundancy. They are also extremely worried when they read that the unofficial strike of a few men has put thousands of their colleagues out of work.
I have studied with some care the industrial programmes of the different parties, and I think that although in the strategic field of publicly-owned or privately-owned industry there is a great deal of difference, in the tactical field of industrial relations and what can be done to improve them, there is much agreement.
Speaking as one who was until so very recently outside the House, looking in, I believe that there is no institution in the world more perfectly constituted than this House to give leadership to industry and those engaged in it. On both sides there are hon. Members of great knowledge, experience and prestige in all the different parts that go to make up our industry as a whole—the shareholders, the directors, the employees, the trade unions, the Government and the consumers. If all hon. Members on both sides of the House would give their blessing to measures that could improve industrial relations and the spirit of co-operation and mutual respect between those engaged in industry, this House could make no greater contribution to full employment, and full enjoyment throughout the lives of our young people, whose future we are discussing today.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Maryhill)
I am sure that those Members who have just heard the maiden speech 1599 of the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) will join with me most sincerely in extending to him our corporate congratulations on a first-class speech. He said that he hoped, like all of us have done, that he would be forgiven for any imperfection of form or substance. I personally did not hear any.
The hon. Member's speech was interesting and it was obvious that he knew something about the subject. Coming into the House of Commons as a result of a by-election, and following the former hon. Member for his constituency, his effort was all the more meritorious. I am sure that we all want to congratulate him. Whether on a subject like this, which is not contentious, or on more contentious subjects, we hope to have the pleasure of hearing the hon. Member in future debates.
The importance of apprenticeships depends upon the overall employment in the country as a whole. I was impressed, although not always in agreement with him, by the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, in which he underlined that fact. It is precisely because of the disparity and inequality of the dispersal of industry throughout the country that in Scotland at least we have this quarrel with the Government.
I do not want to give the impression introducing a nationalist note. Questions and Answers in the House have already, I hope, shown to the House and to the country the great feeling of distress and anger which prevails in Scotland because, although speeches are made like the one we had this afternoon from the Parliamentary Secretary, the method of assessing the improvement in the employment of young people and the number of apprentices is based far too often on what obtains in the south-east of England and in the Midlands. That is not a true comparison.
The attitude of the trade unions to apprenticeship will be measured in the future by the success or otherwise of the Government's own policy. I am quite sure that the trade union movement will co-operate and agree to review the circumstances of apprenticeship of five years or four years, whatever the case may be, provided that the Government will show an earnest of their sincerity in maintaining full employment and in 1600 not upsetting the economy every two or three years as they have been doing. Indeed, in the last week we had a further instance of it by the increase in the Bank Rate which has created lack of confidence not only among the trade unions, 'but among the employers themselves. If they could see for some years ahead a stable policy of full employment, I am quite sure that they would be willing to co-operate.
Apart altogether from present-day circumstances, I am one who believes that the changing pattern of society to which the hon. Member for Harrow, West referred—the new techniques and automation—will force the Government of the day, whether Labour or Conservative, to look at this question of consciously planning the future of industry and encouraging young people to take a much greater and more informed place in industry. For that reason, I think that the trade unions will be only too willing, for their part, to review the whole subject of apprenticeships.
I come now to the comparison between Scotland and the Midlands and South-East of England in the matter of employment. It is quite true, as the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government as a whole have claimed, that employment has improved in Scotland, even among young people. Of course it has. The point I wish to emphasise is that, although the figures have come down between March and April, the present figure for April is twice as high as it was in the corresponding month of 1957. That is a fact. There were 3,200 young people unemployed in Scotland in March, and the number has come down to 2,800, but that 2,800 still represents 25 per cent. of the total of boys unemployed in the whole country. That is the significant feature. In March, 1957, the proportion was only one-ninth. Today, it is a quarter. Again, I emphasise the importance of the employment position as a whole in any consideration of apprenticeship schemes.
One of the most significant answers which the Ministry of Labour gave in the House on this matter was given by the Parliamentary Secretary on 13th April this year, when he said that 37 per cent. of all men under 20 years of age in Scotland had been unemployed for six months or more, whereas in the Midlands the percentage was only 1.6. Another comparison given on the same 1601 day was that there were 37 unfilled vacancies for every 100 boys registered as unemployed in Glasgow, that is to say, there were three boys running after each job, whereas in Birmingham, a city of comparable size, there were actually 28 jabs for every boy.
These are the matters to which the Minister must pay close attention. Again, although the Parliamentary Secretary said, in introducing the figures, that 80 per cent., or 90 per cent. at one stage, of all boys and girls of 15 years of age had entered a job within one month, in Scotland the period is three months. Moreover—this is a most important point, and I reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) said in a most able speech—these 15-year-olds are entering jobs which are not always compatible with their ability and aptitude.
I am informed by the Glasgow Youth Employment Officer that, in 1955–56, 40 per cent. of our school leavers entered apprenticeships. In 1956–57, the percentage was down to 39.5. In 1958–59, it was 31 per cent. There has been a decrease of 10 per cent. in the number of young people entering apprenticeships within the last four years. Of course, the Government may argue that this downward trend is due to several factors. It could be due to the overall unemployment situation in Scotland and—I believe that this is the main reason—the unhealthy state of the order books of employers, or it could be due to the discontinuance of National Service, which means that new entrants are no longer needed to replace the time-served apprentices.
It could be due to the fact that, with fewer jobs available than hitherto, employers are more selective in choosing the right people, and therefore, there is less wastage. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton made this point, which is a very important one. Employers are not always getting the best men. I think that the hon. Member for Harrow, West referred to this in relation to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). We are not arguing that all boys should become apprentices, but it is true that employers are entitled to have the boys who have the aptitude and ability for the job and those boys ought to have every opportunity for training.
§ Mr. Bence
My words should not be interpreted as meaning that all boys should have apprenticeships. My point was that all boys who enter an apprenticeship should have the confidence and security of knowing that their apprenticeships in the institutions in which they are are as good as the apprenticeships of any other boys anywhere else.
§ Mr. Hannan
I think that the point has been made. In the Report of the Sub-Committee of the National Joint Advisory Council, of which the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) was chairman, which we know as the Carr Report. it was said, in paragraph 18, thatThe number of apprentices needs to be increased and the training of all brought up to the standard of the best.It is precisely here that some of us have a quarrel with the Government and, if I may say so, with all respect to the Carr Committee, the Report did not go far enough. There is no conscious planning in what the Carr Report suggests.
I believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton believes, that the Government, whether they like it or not, must in the future come down on the side of consciously organising this business, in conjunction with the Department of Education, from the earliest stage. I go even further than some of my hon. Friends and I say that 15 or 16 years of age is, perhaps, really too late. Young people now are growing up earlier and they are adults at 14. This is one of the reasons for the trouble about girls in uniform; they are already young women. There is a new attitude beginning to appear in the minds of our young people.
There are great differences in the courses open to young people after selection for the secondary modern school in the South and our junior secondary school in Scotland or for the senior schools and grammar schools. In the latter, the course open for the young person is quite clear; he can get his higher certificate and go on to university. We have failed for years to see that the pupil in the junior secondary school has a similarly clear-cut course open to him to achieve some technical training in accordance with his ability. I feel that there should be some test, though not necessarily a strict test, and the boy or girl in the junior secondary school or the 1603 secondary modern school should be encouraged to think that he or she is every bit as clever as his counterpart in the other schools.
There are different ways of being clever in this world. Heaven save us from all the university pundits. We have all enjoyed the description given by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill) of the blot on his examination papers. Many of us on these benches, and some on the benches opposite, have managed without such examinations. We have for too long concentrated on providing the best and, indeed, all the facilities for those who can go to university. I am not saying that they are getting too much. I hope that the Government will not think that I am suggesting a cut; we have enough cut already. What I want the Government to do is to pay more attention not only to the training, but to the recruitment of young people for apprenticeships.
What do the Government propose to do? Despite the pronouncements of the Carr Committee and despite the present shortage of skilled men, there are today fewer lads entering apprenticeships than for some years past. This is not due to less favourable employment opportunities because, even in 1956 and 1957, when industry was more buoyant, the tendency towards a decrease in apprenticeships was evident. There is a problem here which is made more urgent by the changes which automation is bringing, changes of which the trade union movement is only too well aware. I think that, with greater consultation, we ought to be able to tackle the matter in a more forthright manner.
The present Minister of Power, when in Glasgow at a conference, said that it was proving more difficult to find suitable jobs for young people. He said, however, that it was due to lack of economic activity rather than to an increase in the number of young people from the schools. Do the Government still stand by that statement, which was made only in January, 1959? In Scotland, there is less economic activity than in any other part of the country.
The Minister of Power went on to advise employers that in determining schemes they should not base their estimates on a recession, but that in any 1604 case the bulge in 1962 as compared with 1956 would be 35 per cent. in Scotland as against 50 per cent. for Great Britain. It is no consolation to us to know that there will be only a 35 per cent. as against a 50 per cent. increase in the bulge numbers when economic activity is so stagnant and there is no growth of industry to take up these people.
The Government and the Carr Committee have referred this matter to the Industrial Training Council. As is known, the youth employment committees are opposed to the suggestion, made by the secretary of the Industrial Training Council in Glasgow, that if young people could not find employment in Scotland, they should go to the Midlands. That was the worst taste or psychology that he could use. It is the same kind of attitude as was prevalent in the inter-war years, when young people left the Welsh valleys to come to London.
Think of the parents and of the young people who are growing up in their areas. Is it right that these young people of the age of 15 or 16 should leave home because of the attraction of jobs in the Midlands or London? If the Minister has not heard of the protests, I assure him that strong representations were made against that kind of approach.
The Industrial Training Council was set up more than a year ago. In an article in Education, Dr. Alexander had this to say:… some attempt should be made to build up a reservoir of skilled labour".He added thatthis, of course, is where the Industrial Training Council should be a power-house of ideas and action. In fact, it is not only moving at a snail's pace, but appears to be blissfully unaware that its exhortations are returning as empty echoes. …The £75,000 offered by the Government as a pool into which industries can dip for half the cost of appointing training officers is as yet untouched.Will the Minister confirm whether that is still the position? Dr. Alexander continued:Up to the September closing date there have been no takers, and the I.T.C. have now extended it indefinitely.That related to an advertisement for a full-time officer, since when an insipid leaflet has been issued.
Everybody would be glad if the presupposition of the Carr Report and of 1605 the Government that the existing slack in the economy would be invigorated were substantiated, but the action of the Government last week in raising the Bank Rate bodes very ill indeed.
I want, in conclusion, to refer to the position of further education in Scotland as compared with England and Wales. The White Paper on Technical Education in 1956 confirms that of every four young people taking technical education classes, only one in Scotland is granted day release. In shipbuilding and engineering, whereas 90 per cont. are on day-release in England and Wales, in Scotland the figure is only 16 per cent. These are deplorable figures. Relating the releases for boys under the age of 18 to the total number of those under 18 in Scotland and England, for example, the figures for the respective industries are as follows. In chemicals and allied industries, 9 per cent. get day-release in Scotland as against 65 per cent. in England and Wales. These figures are from Answers supplied by the Minister of Education for England and Wales and by the Scottish Office.
In construction work, whereas in Scotland 22 per cent. have day-release, the figure for England and Wales is 47.6 per cent., or more than double. In textiles, 3 per cent. get day-release in Scotland as against 14.6 per cent. in England and Wales. In agriculture, forestry and fisheries, the figures are 1 per cent. in Scotland and 4.4 per cent. in England and Wales; in the distributive trades, 3 per cent. in Scotland and 8 per cent. in England and Wales. The Scottish employers have a bad and depressing record in this respect, particularly in shipbuilding and engineering, whereas in the great public industries of mining and quarrying 50 per cent. of the boys get day-release.
The White Paper says thatAlthough the increase in the figures from 600 in 1939 to … 25,000 in 1954–55 represents substantial progress, development has not been as rapid or as far reaching as it ought to have been or as it has been in England, where 355,000 young people were released from their employment in 1954–55.Today—again, I agree with what the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland had to say the other day—although there has been an increase, it is nothing in comparison with what we ought to 1606 have had. The principal reason is that in Scotland our technical education started with central institutions and is not based on many local colleges.
The situation concerning day-release in Scotland is extremely bad, despite recent improvements. The Government must think again in new terms of linking up the junctions much better between the primary school and the junior secondary school and from the junior secondary school to the technical and commercial colleges. Some of us on this side believe strongly that what is now needed is the provision of junior technical colleges to provide courses to be linked with the junior secondary schools in Scotland and that a two-year course or something of that nature should be provided for our young people who leave school at the age of 15—possibly, pre-vocational courses—to be linked with the full apprenticeship course in agreement with the trade unions and the employers.
That is a brief outline. I know the difficulties. The Government will ask whether we want compulsion in this matter. The situation has reached the stage where some of us must speak out to both sides of industry, the trade unions and the employers. I do not want the boys aged 14 or 15 to have only industrial training—heaven forbid—but they must be trained for taking their part in the outside world. When their subjects of arithmetic, science, English and the rest are related to the actual job they do in the workaday world, these subjects will begin to live for them. As they are now treated, it is no wonder that a youngster says, "What is the good of all this to me? What is the good of algebra, science and mathematics to me?" Inside the factory the trade union shop stewards and journeymen can do much to encourage these young men and not to sneer, as too often happens, at the efforts of those at night school or on day-release.
These are some of the important matters about which many of us feel very strongly. I urge the Government to give serious consideration to the junction between the secondary modern school and the junior technical college from which the best products can go on to the technical colleges and to the higher reaches of technical training.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
First, I should like to add my congratulations to those of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) to my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) on his excellent maiden speech. I was particularly glad that he mentioned the question of training for the commercial and administrative functions in industry. This is important, and I am sure that it has been too much neglected, although steps are being taken to try to improve it. I have some knowledge of the excellent scheme of commercial apprenticeship which was launched a few years ago by the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, and, although the response to it is as yet disappointing, I hope that that and other schemes will be pushed forward and that a larger number of people will take advantage of it.
I was also glad that my hon. Friend had something to say about the hopes and aspirations of all those who work in industry and the need to develop cooperation and partnership between the different elements in industry. This matter is relevant to a debate on training because, although many other factors go towards the creation of this spirit in industry, I have always believed that training in itself helps to give those who work in industry a greater sense of purpose and well-being in their work. This is perhaps the foundation of the creation of the spirit of co-operation and good will.
It is two-and-a-quarter years since the Committee over which I had the honour to preside published its report. I can-not pretend to be satisfied with the progress which has been made since then and it is obvious that other hon. Members on both sides of this Committee are not satisfied. The question which we have to consider is what we are to do about it. How can we try to make further progress? The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) said that, in his opinon, the Government must in future play a much larger part. I think that he went so far as to say that the Government ought to take chief responsibility for training for skill. He coupled this general hypothesis with the specific suggestion that responsibility within the Government should be transferred from 1608 the Ministry of Labour to the Ministry of Education.
It has been said that this would be a rather revolutionary change. I think that, if anything, that is an understatement. The revolution would not be only or even principally within the Government. At least as great a revolutionary change would be required in the thinking of management and employers in industry. I suspect that it might involve the biggest revolutionary change in the thinking and attitude of trade unions.
§ Mr. Carr
I agree that they are often the greatest conservatives in the land. Their strength stems from that most excellent quality which so many of them possess.
We ought to guard against radical changes of this kind at present This was very much in the mind of my Committee when it recommended against trying to make revolutionary changes at this time. We must try to get results in the next few years. One thing is quite certain, as the Parliamentary Secretary said. If we try to bring about revolutionary changes in the system in the years 1960 to 1964, all that we are likely to achieve is a failure to build up and get working the new system which we want to create, while the old system will do less than it is doing now.
While I would not wish to see everything going on as it is and would not disagree with some of the things which I believe were in the mind of the hon. Member for Edmonton in getting the Ministry of Education to play a larger part, particularly in the first year of apprenticeship, I would be unable to support him in the radical solution which he propounded.
§ Mr. Albu
To avoid misunderstanding, I should say that I do not suggest that the Ministry of Education should undertake the training itself, although I want to see the Government establish more training centres. What I suggest is that Government responsibility for the problem of industrial training should be transferred from one Department to another.
§ Mr. Carr
I realise that, but, as the Parliamentary Secretary said, the point is that as long as the bulk of training 1609 for skill at apprenticeship level is done in industry it is part and parcel of industrial relations. I can see that there would be great difficulties and perhaps a great slowing-down if one were to make chiefly responsible any Government Department other than the Ministry of Labour. I would, however, welcome the Ministry of Education playing a more and more active part in helping us in this task.
I have no doubt that all members of my Committee were well aware that the recommendations which we made would, in themselves, get nothing done because they did not include compulsory power to force industry to adopt them. I do not see how they could have done so, and I still believe that we should have been wrong to try to introduce compulsive power into any of our recommendations. We recognised that we should have to depend on an increasing awareness in industry. The most I think that we hoped for was that our report might help to stimulate and concentrate that awareness and perhaps guide it in the best ways. We hoped that that, coupled with the increasing publicity which the whole subject was bound to receive, would stimulate the necessary action.
The only recommendation which we felt able to make to give a specific urge, a controlling hand if one likes, to the development of industrial training was that there should be set up what is now known as the Industrial Training Council. It was very gratifying indeed to all of us who worked on that Committee to find this recommendation being accepted and acted on so quickly. As hon. Members know, the Industrial Training Council was in being only three or four months after my committee produced its report. There can be few committees, as hon. Members will well know, which have had the pleasure of seeing one of their principal recommendations acted on in three or four months rather than three or four years. That was a good start.
Although I have heard, both outside and inside the Committee, a considerable amount of criticism of the work done by the Industrial Training Council, I do not associate myself with it. On the contrary, I should like to congratulate the Council on what it has done. But there is a sting in the tail of my praise. While I think that we can congratulate 1610 the Council on what it has done so far, the time is rapidly approaching when we must ask it to embark in new directions and to give an even more energetic and specific lead than it has done hitherto. I emphasise, however, that this is a matter of timing and in some of the suggestions that I shall now make I am not saying that I believe that the Council should have done all these things already. I am saying that the time is rapidly approaching when it should do them.
I should like to mention some of the actions which I believe should be taken and in which the Industrial Training Council must take first responsibility in giving a lead. First, the most important action that must be taken is to find a local focus and stimulus for increasing training for skill. Since my Committee's report appeared, inevitably I have been asked to speak on this subject in a large number of places throughout the country and I have done so. The more I have done this the more I have become aware of a need for a local focus. I have had the feeling that there are people who are seized of the problem and who want to do something about it, but did not know how.
Whatever the theory, it is no use saying to some firms, "You belong to a certain industry and your link goes back to London or to some other national centre," and saying to other firms in another industry, "Your link goes back somewhere else." This does not work in practice. This may be all right for big firms but very many, particularly the smaller firms, are not even members of their own employers' associations. Their centre of interest is local and it is most important to create locally points for stimulation and control over this matter.
Therefore, I would like to see the Industrial Training Council setting up local committees. They need not necessarily be exact counterparts of itself at national level—indeed, I do not think that they should be. The committees ought to cover the same areas as the Youth Employment Service areas, and certainly they ought to include the Youth Employment Service among their representation. Their first task should be to make a factual survey of the problem. One of the things I learned in going about the country and talking about the 1611 subject was the extent to which the scale of the problem varied from one area to another.
We generalise and talk about a 50 per cent. increase in school leavers entering an industry during a certain period. This is the average over the country, but I was startled by the deviations in certain localities. In some areas the problem is more severe than the average figures would indicate and in others it is much less severe.
We must bring the problem down to a local level. A local inquiry must be conducted, not in the first place on an industry by industry basis. The inquiry should first find the number of children and then try to analyse the potential vacancies for children in the area. Only then should it break down the problem on an industry by industry basis. There may be other ways, but I suggest that having done this and having analysed the problem on a local basis, through the medium of these local committees, the Industrial Training Council should then appoint training officers at least to those areas where the problem shows itself to be particularly great. These local training officers not to an industry, but to an area. Until this is done we shall not have much progress.
Firms simply do not take much notice of written communications and circulars. They take notice when somebody appears on the doorstep seeking a personal interview with the managing director or, in the case, of large firms, with the personnel manager, with plans to do something about it. When firms are approached on that basis it is surprising how many participate and take action. I almost believe that the more circulars and leaflets are sent out the less action is achieved.
This leads me to the second point on which I should like to see more action. I do not want to hold up the point I am about to mention as a panacea for our problems, but if we are to have many more apprentices among many small employers one of the methods to be developed is group apprenticeship. This has been mentioned many times and always with approval in the House, but if one examines industry and particularly the engineering industry one finds that there is something sour about this subject. I 1612 do not want to point a finger because it might lead to trouble and make matters more difficult, but there is a certain amount of jealously between one association and another and this unfortunately holds up progress.
The Engineering Industries' Association, a relatively small association if not in numbers then in the character of the firms that belong to it, is not an employers' association but a trade association, and that is one of the difficulties. But this association, with its enthusiasm for group apprenticeships, has created about 18 groups in which between 500 and 600 apprentices are receiving training at the moment. Most of the apprentices receiving training in these group schemes are employed by very small firms. Judging from what I have seen of these schemes at work, they may not be ideal in every respect, but I believe that the firms in these group schemes are training apprentices and training them better than would have been the case had we been without these group schemes.
If a small body like this Engineering Industries' Association; with certain difficulties on which I will not enlarge, can get groups established, currently training between 500 and 600 people, then if the great Engineering and Allied Employers' Federation adopted the same idea with the same enthusiasm we should get not 500, but 5,000 extra apprentices. It must be done not by just sending out circulars, but by putting a man in the area and giving him the job of making personal approaches to firms which, potentially can do more training and saying to them, "I am the person who has come along to organise this. Will you join in?" If that approach is made, I think we shall be surprised at the many firms that respond.
§ Mr. James Boyden (Bishop Auckland)
Would the hon. Member not agree that his own Committee made very strong recommendations and suggestions about local committees and group apprenticeships in 1958 and that something has seriously gone wrong, since those suggestions have not been carried out? Would he not agree that the Ministry of Labour is at fault and has not got on with it very rapidly?
§ Mr. Carr
I think that the hon. Member has misunderstood. It was made 1613 clear that it was not for the Minister to set up these local committees but for industry, and it is industry that is failing, not the Government. Industry must be stimulated to take action. The Committee over which I had the honour to preside was, apart from myself, composed entirely of leading members of trade unions and employers. Some people may say that that was a weakness in the Committee, but I still regard it as a strength.
There are a number of other matters in which I should like to see the Industrial Training Council taking a more active lead in the near future. There is a growing urgency to identify the skills in which apprenticeship or some formal scheme of training either is available or should be available. I particularly emphasise the latter, because with the technological development, particularly that loosely described as "automation", coming upon us, the types and range of training which people will need will vary. I do not believe that this can be left to an industry-by-industry approach. Some overall body, such as the Industrial Training Council, must take responsibility for identifying both those skills for which formal schemes are already available and those trades for which they should become available in the near future.
Coupled with this, the Council should take a vigorous lead in persuading industries to look at their syllabus of training. That is another point which was mentioned in my committee's recommendations. I am not saying that in this country we should go quite as far as is done in Germany in dotting the i's and crossing the i's of the syllabus, but it would probably be very helpful if the syllabus for each trade was laid down much more specifically and centrally than it is at the moment.
Similarly, the Council should take the lead in encouraging each industry to set up a trade test of some kind, a subject which has been mentioned today, and something which I believe would do more than anything else to ensure that the quality of training which people got in different firms gradually reached a uniform standard. We want leadership in this from the Council, and then I believe some of the resistance to trade tests might begin to diminish.
1614 There is also the question of the length of training. Another recommendation by my Committee was that each industry should review the length of training appropriate to it. The length must depend on the syllabus. My Committee said that, rather than shortening the period of training, it would, in general, prefer to see the breadth of the syllabus increased because we wanted the training to be as wide as possible. I cannot 'believe, any more than the Committee indicated that it believed, that there is anything magical about five years or that five years is the right time for such a wide variety of different trades. Who is to give a lead about this? Are different industries looking at this? The Council should rapidly begin to prod, and prod vigorously, the various industries into looking into these things. Although I accept that it could not compel, I believe that serious prodding by the Council would produce results.
This leads me to speculate about the services which the Council will need if it is to do this work. The members of the Council are among the foremost leaders of the employers and the trade unions. That is a cause of great satisfaction. It means that both the organised employers and the trades unions are taking the matter seriously and putting their top men on the Council, but because they are the top men on both sides they are also extremely busy men.
I do not believe that the actual members of the Council can possibly be expected to give a great deal of time to this particular subject. When one has a Council of that kind, with top men who are limited in time, although great in influence, it is essential that they should be backed up not only by a secretariat which is well led—in its present secretary the Council is most fortunate—but by a secretariat which is adequate in size and power. If all the things about which I have spoken are to be done, there must be a secretariat attached to the Council which is capable of getting through a great deal of work, obtaining information and formulating recommendations to put before the very busy men who constitute the Council.
I do not believe that with its present secretariat—unless, that is, I have a wrong understanding of its size and powers—the Council will be able to do 1615 the sort of work that I have been suggesting. I feel that the secretariat must be considerably strengthened. The Council will still have no executive authority but it will have the working ability to seek information and to go prodding. If it is to make personal approaches to industries for information—that is much better than sending circulars—it must have people with time and authority who can go out talking to people. That may, unfortunately, be time-consuming, but my experience is that it is the only way to persuade people actually to get on with the job.
Finally, I have two other points right away from the field of the Industrial training Council. I should like to see more steps taken to enable first-year training of apprentices to be done outside industry. I welcome the scheme announced by the Minister of Labour for the Government training centres. It is only a pilot scheme, and my right hon. Friend has not claimed more than that, but it will be a move in the right direction. I should also like to see technical colleges developed to give on a much greater scale first-year training for apprentices. I very much welcome the circular which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Education has sent out in the last few days.
I believe that both these developments promise well for the future. However, they raise one other point. Are the courses for the Government training centres and first-year training courses in the technical colleges, as they develop, to be pre-apprenticeship courses or part and parcel of apprenticeship? In the sense that they must count as one full year of the apprenticeship period, I am sure that they ought not to be pre-apprenticeship courses. It would be ridiculous to give people training of that kind and then say "You must still go on and do your full five years in industry afterwards." Consequently, in that sense they must be part of apprenticeship and not pre-apprenticeship.
In another sense I think that the answer probably ought to be very different. I suspect that one of the difficulties that the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Education will find is that the courses will not be as well subscribed for as they ought to be so long as they are open only to boys and girls who have already been accepted as apprentices by 1616 specific employers. The trouble is that one first has to get an employer to accept and enter a boy or girl. Therefore, I feel that in the end these first-year courses will have to be made pre-apprenticeship in the sense that they will have to be open to boys and girls even though they may not already have been indentured by an employer. I think that in that way we shall be able to fill them, and in that way we shall be relieving the burden on industry, because if one goes to industry, even to small employers, with a boy and says, "Here is a boy who has already had a year's good training which counts as one year off his apprenticeship period" we shall find more employers willing to take them on.
§ 6.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
We are faced with a desperate shortage of skilled men in the engineering industry and, in relation to that, a desperate shortage of places for apprentices. That seems to be a remarkable contradiction. Indeed, it would be a very humorous one, were it not so tragic. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour frowning, but, nevertheless, I believe that is a fact. There is a shortage of skilled men. There is similarly a desperate shortage of posts for apprentices, which seems to suggest a very serious contradiction.
It has been said—I think the Minister believes his own utterances—that a good many of these shortages are due to the fact that small companies cannot possibly afford them. I cannot subscribe to that. It should be recognised that small companies employ skilled men, and as a consequence, they have obviously taken them as the result of the training given to them by other people. That seems to me to suggest that we are encouraging, or, at any rate, tolerating, a form of industrial cuckoos. On the one hand, we recognise that small companies have no training scheme, but we are complacent about the fact that they employ skilled labour. The House ought to be mindful of the fact that all too frequently these people who do not train these apprentices themselves are very often in a position in which they can offer the odd few coppers over the hourly rate to attract people to them, which must, inevitably, make for a good deal of disturbance in industry and add to industrial costs.
1617 I should like to come back to my first point, which is, in effect, that we, predominantly a manufacturing nation, can apparently waste so much of our youthful product, which, to me, seems to be a very serious indictment. With regard to group training schemes, which, I think, could make a marked contribution to the solution of the difficulties of the small company, it might be of interest if I quoted for my support as reputable, indeed as reasonable, a national trade union leader, possessed of tremendous moral courage, as the president of the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Speaking to our conference of apprentices which is held annually, he said:It is, however, a scandal and a massive indictment upon industry that the progress of group apprenticeship schemes is so lamentably slow. Apart from the reluctance of so many smaller employers to participate in such schemes, it is deplorable to contemplate the lack of encouragement given in employers' quarters where much more sense of human and national responsibility should be expected.That, I repeat, is from one of the most reputable trade union leaders in this country, and I think that it answers to a major degree the case about the inability of the smaller people to embrace proper apprenticeship schemes.
The truth is, I think, that the intention is not there, and as a consequence I believe that that indictment could not only be placed upon the smaller employer, but that it transfers itself, in my opinion, to the Government as well. After all, they are tolerant of this situation, and I am not pretending that I am telling the Committee anything that it does not already know, I am merely instancing this fact to show how, in my opinion, at at any rate, this situation is reacting not only upon the apprentices, not only upon the economics of the country, not only upon the young lad who wants to get into an apprenticeship, but is reacting similarly upon the good employer, for he knows perfectly well that he is spending money on training people and that a very large part of what he is spending he is going to lose when they finally complete their training.
In my opinion, all these facts add up to a situation which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) so very rightly said—I see the Parliamentary Secretary smiling, but I do not regard this as humorous—requires radical treatment and I agree 1618 with my hon. Friend. Radical treatment is required to pep these people into doing what is right and proper, not only for apprentices, but for the needs of the country, the development of our economy and the potential of our young people.
Further, I want to draw the attention of the Committee for a moment to the Reports of the Young Employment Committee for 1956–59, which give figures showing that in this year 358,000 boys and 343,000 girls will be available for industry. I ought to say here that I subscribe to the argument in favour of girls being considered for apprenticeships in industry. There seems to me to be no reason at all why they cannot be. Returning to the figures, those numbers will increase by 1962 to 475,000 boys and 454,000 girls, an overall increase of 228,000 people. I believe that the Ministry of Labour should be telling us now how many of these additional people who will be available for industry will, in turn, be given the opportunity of serving this country either as craftsmen or technicians; in short, how many are to be offered proper apprenticeships in the engineering industry.
I comfort myself with the observation that no less distinguished a person than the right hon. Member for Woodford (Sir W. Churchill), when speaking in his constituency—and I should imagine that there could be no greater guide, if either the Government or anyone else is prepared to listen to reason—told the country that he did not know who would win a hot war, but that he did know who was winning the cold war. He referred to the tremendous progress which Russia was making in training her youth. My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East said that it does not matter in what part of the Soviet Union anyone is living, because they all get the same training.
There are many features of the Soviet Union which we do not like, but that is one to which we can point in order to show how much and how lamentably we are lagging behind. My hon. Friend is perfectly correct when he says that it does not matter in what part of that vast country people are living, the training is the same, and they all finish up as very good technicians. They are not as we are, because they are much more 1619 self-supporting, but we should recognise the fact that they are much more successful in the tremendous availability of their raw materials, whereas we are so predominantly a manufacturing country.
I should like to make reference to the wages situation, and I agree that this might offer some kind of key. In relation to wages, these apprentices have a very unhappy history. I know quite a bit about them, because I have negotiated on their behalf, and I know how they feel. Those of us who are following events in the country today must similarly know how they feel, because they registered their feelings very recently in no uncertain way. That registration was quite unofficial, and there are people on the other side of the Committee who are always prepared to indict the trade unions, so that is why I say that this registration was unofficial.
Nevertheless, let us have a look at the facts. Prior to 1937, these apprentices had no form of trade union representation at all. We in the A.E.U. were the first people ever to sign such an agreement. It was not a very handsome agreement, but, nevertheless, we had established some form of official recognition, to be given to these lads. From 1937 to 1943, this situation remained, and then another agreement was made. This agreement, fortunately, was not followed by unofficial strikes. It was during the war years, and an agreement was reached that at the age of 15, a young lad should be paid 22½ per cent. of the skilled rate, rising in graduated increases to 62½ per cent. of the skilled rate, at 20 years of age. Those facts explain why the lads feel that they are not having a square deal. The percentages have remained the same 17 years after the original agreement. The only difference has been a supplementary increase of 5s. 6d. at 15 years of age and 1 is. at 20 years of age, an agreement negotiated in 1953.
This year has seen the lads making further unofficial efforts to improve the position. Those of us who have negotiated these agreements and who appreciate their sanctity know that that sort of action cannot be taken, which is why these moves have been unofficial. Nevertheless, it is true that the moves have come from a deep-rooted objection to 1620 conditions, and especially to the present level of wages.
If I make a point of referring to wages, I ask the Committee to believe that wages are a factor of which employers are constantly taking advantage, because for every apprenticeship there are at least two or three applicants. In that unfortunate state of affairs, it is possible to damp down wages to the point where the lads are forced to the sort of situation which I have described.
Negotiations are now going on and I should hate to say anything which would interfere in any way with what I hope will be an amicable settlement, but I think that it can be said that the offer now is an increase from 22½ per cent. to 27½ per cent. at 15 and then in graduated segments to a maximum of 75 per cent. If that agreement is accepted, however, the supplements will be withdrawn.
That is not good enough. In terms of cash, it means 3s. 10d. at 15 and Us. 4d. at 20, and the increases will not apply to those apprentices who, by reason of good time-keeping, or any form of merit, or initiative, or piece rates, are already obtaining the equivalent. I am certain, for those reasons, that the shortage of vacancies is helping to bring about this situation, and I am sure that if there were more apprentices their ability to negotiate proper rates would be increased.
It is significant that the rates paid to an industry which is one of our largest exporting industries should be the lowest in the country. That is a salutary fact. It is a situation which the Government must end. Whether wittingly or otherwise, they are in some way to blame.
We recently saw an award made as the result of the recommendations of the Guillebaud Committee. If there is one situation which requires another Guillebaud Committee, it is the situation of apprentices in this country.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ The Minister of Labour (Mr. Edward Heath)
This has been a most interesting and valuable debate and I welcome it, as did my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. This is the first occasion for a year on which we have been able to discuss this most important subject of apprenticeships.
1621 We are trying to achieve results in this matter by providing information for everybody in industry, for employers and for trade unions, by using persuasion and influence wherever we can. Through the activities of the Industrial Training Council we are seeking to increase the number of apprenticeships and learner-ships and other forms of training for skill which are being provided, and to improve the standard of that training. As we are using these methods, the more discussion we have on the subject, the better. That is why I welcome the debate so much.
A number of detailed points have been raised and very useful suggestions have been made from both sides of the Committee, and I assure hon. Members that I shall examine all those suggestions most carefully. I was very glad that my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. John Page) took part in the debate and I congratulate him on his maiden speech. We were all glad that he should have shown an interest in these affairs and that he should have talked about some aspects of industrial relations. In offering my congratulations to him, I hope that he will maintain his interest in these subjects and that he will constantly take part in our discussions of them.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary described the position in great detail and I do not wish to go over the ground which he covered. Indeed, as this is only a half-day's debate, I have tried to leave as much time as possible for hon. Members to make contributions. My speech will, therefore, be brief. Nevertheless, I want to comment on some of the points which have been made and briefly to deal with one or two general themes.
Many hon. Members have spoken about the increased number of young people in employment in the three years 1961, 1962 and 1963 although not, of course, in the present year. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) mentioned a letter which he had received from a youth employment officer. Suggestions are often made about ways of dealing with the employment aspect of the problem, but I emphasise to the Committee that the answer to it must depend fundamentally, like all other employment, on a healthy, competitive and expanding economy.
1622 Fundamentally, the objective of the measures of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to maintain the economy expanding at a reasonable rate—not, as the hon. Member said, to cut it back. The objective is to maintain it in a position in which it can expand reasonably. If that is done, then we have every hope of absorbing the young people who will be coming from our schools in those three years.
Some of our difficulties at the moment spring from the fact that, compared with the number of vacancies, there is a shortage of labour in many parts of the country. If those additional numbers were coming forward now and in this summer, they would be able to fill some of the vacancies which we are wanting to fill and which the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Hannan) mentioned when giving his comparative figures of industrial areas.
Of course, there will be differences in different parts of the country, for several reasons. In the first place, there are differences in the bulge. In Plymouth and Mersey-side, for instance, the numbers are considerably greater than they are in some other parts of the country, and we shall see the same phenomenon later in the new towns.
As we know, the general employment position differs in different parts of the country, in the North-East and Scotland in particular. The numbers will vary with the different types of industry in different parts of the country. They will also vary with the situation in each—with whether it is an area of old or new industry, whether it is expanding or declining. Those factors are very relevant to the figures which the hon. Member for Maryhill gave about the rather steep decline of apprenticeships in parts of Scotland, which are caused by the decline in shipbuilding and ship-repairing in particular.
So, in the nature of things, we cannot achieve uniformity over the whole country in these industrial matters. There are bound to be variations and differences. I must emphasise that the objective of Government policy in the Local Employment Act so far has been, by inducing industry to go to certain areas, to try to iron out some of those differences. As that Act succeeds, so we shall see the numbers becoming more evenly spread in different parts of the country.
1623 Of course, the inducements to industries to go to these areas are there to be used. It is true to say that in a time like the present, when industry may find it more difficult to secure some of the capital it needs for expansion, the inducements being offered to go to the development districts, the difficult areas, become even more valuable than hitherto. The employment situation for young people is bound to depend greatly on the state of the economy, and we shall do our utmost to make sure that it will absorb the young people coming from school.
The need for more skilled men is very obvious. Nobody under-estimates this problem in any way, certainly not the Ministry of Labour. We recognise the tremendous challenge which lies in these young people leaving school and wanting training. We have a shortage, in particular, of skilled engineers and of skilled workers in the building trades. This emphasises the great need for these skilled men. I hope, therefore, that this present situation, and the measures I have mentioned, will not be interpreted as meaning that we do not require more skilled men in these industries.
Some of our difficulties arise in this situation because of this very shortage of skilled men. More unskilled men could be employed if they were available. I hope that employers and unions will not say that the numbers of skilled men should be allowed to decrease. I hope that they will recognise that in the long term their interests and those of the nation lie in allowing the number of skilled men to increase.
§ Mr. D. Jones
I do not think that the Minister is being fair to the unions. The number of skilled people can increase now almost ad infinitum by their registration, so it is not fair to give the impression that the unions are in any way holding back an influx of skilled men. That is not the case.
§ Mr. Heath
I hope I did not give that impression. I did not intend to, and I do not wish to be unfair to anybody. But mental attitudes do change in industry, depending on the state of the economy. I expressed the hope that these modern views would persist, although, alas, there are some places in industry where they do not. 1624 I turn now to the question of responsibility for dealing with these matters. The hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Albu) said he placed the responsibility for this firmly on the shoulders of the Government. He did not elaborate very clearly exactly what he meant by this. He made one or two suggestions. He mentioned, for example, the selection of apprentices going into firms. We would all welcome the best possible means of selection to get the best qualified young people. Was he emphasising the need for firms to look at their own processes of selection, or was he implying that the Government should accept responsibility, and that the Government should set up some organisation which would say who was going to be an apprentice and the firms to which he should go? There is a fundamental difference between those ways. If he suggests that firms Should look at their own procedures, then I agree wholeheartedly and we will do everything to encourage them to do so.
He also suggested that this responsibility should pass to the Ministry of Education. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) dealt with this very adequately. I do not wish to go into this argument because I do not want to give an impression that there is any departmental dispute about this. The Minister of Education and I are anxious to ensure the best possible results. There is the closest co-operation between the two Departments. Indeed, the circular just issued by the Ministry of Education on this subject bears witness to that, as does the fact that the Youth Employment Service is administered very effectively jointly by us. I can assure the House that we shall continue to have the closest co-operation on these matters.
We have adopted some of the suggestions made in the debate a year ago. I gladly acknowledge that. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has referred to the training at Letchworth. It was suggested in last year's debate that this should be increased, and it has been increased by 50 per cent. That is the sort of thing that the Government ought to do and will try to do increasingly, because it is the sort of thing which has a multiplier effect. We train people who then train others, and so it spreads. We were grateful for that suggestion for an increase.
1625 The idea of an initial apprenticeship training scheme was made last year. That has been adopted by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Education in the circular that he will send out. The idea of Government training centres was also discussed and that, too, was adopted in the statement that I made in April.
The hon. Member for Edmonton criticised us for not starting with a much bigger scheme. We considered this at length and looked at it as clearly as we could, but I believe it is right that we should start in a comparatively small way and build up. A great deal is involved in this, such as equipment, buildings and instructors. I believe it should be developed in that way rather than by starting off with a large scheme, for the reasons mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham. We operate the new procedure in a way in which small firms can take part, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned. We have created our customers, and as they come forward we will consider the question of expansion.
§ Mr. Heath
Under the present arrangements, we take the people who have already been accepted as apprentices by firms. The process of selection, in so far as there has been any, for initial apprenticeships has been gone through by the time they want to go to a centre under the present arrangements. Any selection, if there were a shortage of places available, would be made after selection for apprenticeship.
Some hon. Members have had a great deal to say about the Industrial Training Council. Some were congratulatory and some critical. I am sure that the I.T.C. will welcome the remarks. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I will take an early opportunity of talking to the chairman of the Council about what has been said. I welcome in particular the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham. I also welcome the suggestion he made that there should be local organisations similar to the I.T.C. In Cardiff such an arrangement has already been set up and I understand that it is working successfully.
1626 Last week I saw some representatives from the City of Glasgow and they asked me to consider whether a similar organisation could be created either for Scotland of for Glasgow. We are examining that proposal. Then there is the fundamental question of what powers it is to be given. There we have the support of the Carr Report and both sides of the industry. They come down in favour of persuasion.
That was also the view taken by the hon. Member for Edmonton in last year's debate, although some of his hon. Friends have differed today. I welcome the points made about the I.T.C. and the suggestions as to how it can improve things. I also agree that now is the time when we can make further progress, because it is in the summer of next year that the large numbers will be coming forward.
I have very little time left to deal with the other points raised. I know that some hon. Members and some educationists in the country are unhappy because they would like to think that in industrial training the offering of places should be similar to that at universities and other higher institutions of education. They would feel happier if they could see the way ahead much more clearly.
I understand that, but I do not think that under the present arrangements within industry we shall ever have quite that sort of fixed arrangement. At times both sides of industry naturally find difficulty in committing themselves as far ahead as would enable that to be done. I appreciate the point of view of some hon. Members. I hope that they will not think that because exact preplanning is not possible, we are not doing everything we can to see that When the time comes the places will be there. But it is a very real question whether we should continue to develop in this way, or take over and carry out the operation ourselves. That would be the ultimate outcome if we were to choose any alternative arrangement.
Two other suggestions were made. One was that each industry should have an apprenticeship council, and that it should be made compulsory. At the moment about 120 industries have apprenticeship organisations. Each one does not necessarily cover the whole of its industry. They were built up or 1627 revived after the war by youth employment officers, largely with the help of the training department of the Ministry of Labour. It is possible to encourage those industries which have not already got them to have them, but whether they should be made compulsory by law is a different question.
There is also the problem of providing appropriate training, again by compulsion. The implication of this is that we should have a complete Government system of inspection and training in industry. So far, this has also been left to industry, through the bodies which industry sets up to examine these matters and the other matters mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham. That I would gladly encourage, but to make it compulsory is part of a different approach to the whole question.
In conclusion, we are acting in the way I have described to persuade and help industry to tackle this problem vigorously and provide the places which are required. I hope that industry will study carefully the views expressed in this House today, and will take them seriously to heart and try to follow them. I am sure that if they do, it will be in the long-term interest of those whose livelihood is in industry as well as in the interests of the nation as a whole.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again—[Mr. Gibson-Watt]—put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.